The Supermarine Spitfire was a British single-seat fighter, used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries during the Second World War, and into the 1950s. It was produced in greater numbers than any other Allied design. The Spitfire was the only Allied fighter in production at the outbreak of the Second World War that was still in production at the end of the war.
Produced by the Supermarine subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrongs, the Spitfire was designed by the company's Chief Designer R. J. Mitchell, who continued to refine the design until his death from cancer in 1937; the position of chief designer was then filled by his colleague, Joseph Smith. Its elliptical wing had a thin cross-section, allowing a higher top speed than the Hawker Hurricane and many other contemporary designs.
The distinctive silhouette imparted by the wing planform helped the Spitfire to achieve legendary status during the Battle of Britain. There was, and still is, a public perception that it was the RAF fighter of the Battle, in spite of the fact that the more numerous Hurricane shouldered a great deal of the burden against the potent Messerschmitt Bf 109. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire saw service during the whole of the Second World War and subsequent years, in most theatres of war, in several roles and in many different variants.
The Spitfire will always be compared to its main adversary, the Bf 109: both were among the finest fighters of their day, although the Spitfire ultimately proved to be a more flexible and tractable design, and kept its superb handling qualities through every permutation, although increased torque reaction from higher powered engines could cause 'swing' on take-off.