The Spitfire-The World's Finest Fighter In all the annals of aerial warfare no finer fighter aeroplane ever existed than the Supermarine Spitfire. Here Mr Grenville Manton describes their capacities in October 1940. The unremitting havoc the Spitfires and their pilots have poured into the enemy, the terrible toll they have taken of Messerschmitts, Heinkels and Dornier’s in a few brief but breathless months, have aroused the admiration of the civilized world. And a fearful respect is held by Nazi airmen for that sleek, pugnacious monoplane. Yet though no German fighter can compare with the Spitfire it is not a recently evolved machine, but something of a veteran. Back in 1936 the prototype powered with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of 1,030 hp. first appeared. Its designer was the late Mr R J Mitchell, whose brilliance and genius resulted in those wonderful Schneider Trophy racing seaplanes, the S.5 and S.6. In a way the Spitfire is a descendant of those machines and its success is a legacy of the triumphs of its predecessors which were built specially for the Schneider contests thirteen years ago. In its design and appearance the Spitfire is perfectly orthodox. There is nothing freakish or unusual about it. It looks what it is, a beautifully proportioned, clean-lined monoplane. It is of stressed skin construction with a cantilever wing covered with alloy sheet. The tail unit, too, is cantilever, and with the exception of the rudder and elevators, which are covered with fabric, the covering is of aluminium alloy sheet. The fuselage is built of metal, the framework being covered with an alloy skin which is attached with flush rivets to give a completely smooth surface. As on all modern fighting planes, the undercarriage is of the retractable type, the wheels and legs being tucked away into the underside of the wings when the machine is in flight. The retraction is controlled by an hydraulic system and there is also an emergency hand device. Housed in the Spitfire's forbidding nose is its Rolls-Royce Merlin 12-cylinder Vee liquid cooled engine of 1,250 hp. The radiator is of special design and is housed in a duct beneath the starboard wing. The motor drives a Rotol three blade controllable pitch airscrew, the hub of which is fitted with a spinner. In front of the pilot are two petrol tanks, which together hold 85 gallons. It Fires Over 20 Rounds a Second The fuel is fed to the engine by pumps, and starting is effected by an electric starter and a manually operated turning gear. The pilot sits in an enclosed cockpit, which is fitted with a sliding glass batch and a hinged panel in the side of the fuselage. The wind shield fixed to the front of the cockpit is fitted with bullet-proof glass and there is a "fire-wall" arranged immediately behind the engine. The armament of the Spitfire comprises eight machine-guns, all located in the wings, four on each side of the fuselage. These guns, which, with a rate of fire of 1,300 rounds per minute, are capable of producing a most shattering effect on enemy machines, are Brownings. They work on the barrel recoil principle, and because they are mounted outside the propeller arc, they can be fired at maximum speed. This is not possible with guns which fire through the propeller, as they have to be synchronised in order to, avoid certain inevitable damage to the blades by bullets. In the equipment of the Spitfire a lot is squeezed into a little space. Besides having the full complement of normal flying and blind-flying instruments it carries a radio set, oxygen equipment for high altitude flying, a first-aid outfit, parachute flares and landing lights for night operations. When, in July, 1938, the first batch of Spitfires was delivered to a fighter squadron, a new milestone was reached in the history of the Royal Air Force. It marked the extinction of the trusty and well-tried biplane fighter and opened up fresh developments in aerial warfare. When it was first introduced, though everyone was impressed by its tremendous speed; there were doubts expressed as to its suitability for service as a standard fighter. It was suggested that its immensely high speed would make it difficult to manoeuvre in combat, that it would be ineffective in "dog-fights" because it would be unable to twist and turn nimbly. Pilots, it was thought, would find it difficult and tricky to fly. But months of war have proved all these contentions to be wrong. The Spitfire is easy and pleasant to fly, and it is used at night as well as by day. And, as has been proved again and again in the fighting over England, it has superlative qualities as a fighting machine. The Germans know this well, as many who have been shot down have revealed in explaining their defeat by such wards as "Spitfire…too. good" As time has passed modifications have been made to the machine, each one adding to its speed and fighting power. At first, when it was fitted with a two-blade fixed pitch wooden airscrew, its speed was 362 m.p.h at 18,500 feet. Then by using a de Havilland controllable pitch airscrew the speed was raised to 367 m.p.h. Changes were then made to the engine, a new fuel was employed, the Rotol airscrew was adopted, and the speed rose to 387 m.p.h. Experts, ever striving for further improvements, have lately made it faster and more formidable than ever. And so the Spitfire remains, after four years, the swiftest and most deadly fighting aeroplane of the war against Hitler. Its companion, the Hurricane, is equally remarkable in its own field and it has received much less than it’s due from the public. This is partly because of the attention focussed on the somewhat faster Spitfire by the funds raised for it all over the country and Empire.