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Supermarine Spitfire (fighter)

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The Supermarine Spitfire was the principal British air superiority fighter of the Second World War, and still regarded as one of the more elegant looking aircraft. While many think of it as dominating the Battle of Britain, and it certainly was active in that battle, the Hawker Hurricane destroyed a larger number of German bombers.

Spitfires went through many upgrades, and had an inherently more powerful design than the Hurricane. It was capable of high speed and altitude, especially when in a weight-reduced reconnaissance version. The aircraft had an exceptionally long service life; it was the only fighter in production at the start and end of the war. Serving with a number of nations, the last combat Spitfire retired in 1955, impressive for an aircraft that first flew in 1936.

While the Spitfire could be used in ground attack, like the P-51, it was liquid-cooled and vulnerable to groundfire. Air-cooled aircraft such as the P-47 would not lose coolant and overheat from a single hit. Spitfires, like P-51s, were best at high altitude.