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The Supermarine Spitfire was designed by the Schneider Cup winning Reginald J Mitchell and first flew in March 1936. The aircraft was originally going to be called the Shrew but was quickly renamed as the Spitfire. The Spitfire used a unique elliptical wing shape that combined with innovative sunken rivets gave the aircraft a high top speed than most, if not all, other fighters of the time. The Spitfire was constantly developed during its life in service with multiple air arms around the world and whilst initial versions were powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin, latter versions used the far more powerful Griffon engine. In total 20,351 Spitfires were built and remained in military service until 1961 when the type was retired by the Irish Air Corps.
The Spitfire entered RAF service in 1938 and very shortly after saw combat the following year against the Luftwaffe. The final RAF operational sorties were flown over Malaysia as part of the Malayan emergency in April 1954. Up until the recent shoot down of a drone over Syria by an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon, the last officially accredited air to air kill by an RAF aircraft was by a Spitfire over Egypt in 1948. During 1962 the RAF faced a situation over Malaysia and Indonesia where Malaysian based RAF English Electric Lightnings would possibly need to engage Indonesian P-51 Mustangs in air combat. In order to test the Lightnings effectiveness, the BBMF flew one of their Spitfires (PS853) in mock-combat dogfights against them.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will once again be displaying in the skies above RAF Fairford providing a living reminder of the sacrifice and heroism shown by RAF and Commonwealth pilots throughout the Second World War. The BBMF currently operate six Spitfires including PS853 and one of these aircraft will perform alongside the Flights Lancaster and one of their Hurricanes.