The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force and other Allied countries before, during, and after World War II. Many variants of the Spitfire were built, using several wing configurations. It was the only British fighter produced continuously throughout the war. The Spitfire remains popular among enthusiasts; around 70 remain airworthy, and many more are static exhibits in aviation museums throughout the world. During the Battle of Britain (July–October 1940), the public perceived the Spitfire to be the main RAF fighter. In fact the more numerous Hurricane shouldered more of the burden of resisting the Luftwaffe. The Spitfire was a better fighter aircraft than the Hurricane. Spitfire units had a lower attrition rate and a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes, probably because of the Spitfire's higher performance. During the battle, Spitfires were generally tasked with engaging Luftwaffe fighters—mainly Messerschmitt Bf 109E-series aircraft, which were a close match for them. After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane as the principal aircraft of RAF Fighter Command, and was used in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific, and South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire operated in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber, and trainer, and it continued to do so until the 1950s. The Seafire was an aircraft-carrier-based adapted version of the Spitfire, used in the Fleet Air Arm from 1942 until the mid-1950s. The original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW). It was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Merlins and, in later marks, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp (1,745 kW). As a result, the Spitfire's performance and capabilities improved over the course of its service life.
The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft of the 1930s–40s which was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. for service with the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was overshadowed in the public consciousness by the Supermarine Spitfire during the Battle of Britain in 1940, but the Hurricane inflicted 60 percent of the losses sustained by the Luftwaffe in the engagement, and fought in all the major theatres of the Second World War. The Hurricane originated from discussions between RAF officials and aircraft designer Sir Sydney Camm about a proposed monoplane derivative of the Hawker Fury biplane in the early 1930s. Despite an institutional preference for biplanes and lack of interest from the Air Ministry, Hawker refined their monoplane proposal, incorporating several innovations which became critical to wartime fighter aircraft, including retractable landing gear and the more powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The Air Ministry ordered Hawker's Interceptor Monoplane in late 1934, and the prototype Hurricane K5083 performed its maiden flight on 6 November 1935. The Hurricane went into production for the Air Ministry In June 1936 and entered squadron service in December 1937. Its manufacture and maintenance were eased by using conventional construction methods so that squadrons could perform many major repairs without external support. The Hurricane was rapidly procured prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, when the RAF had 18 Hurricane-equipped squadrons in service. The aircraft was relied on to defend against German aircraft operated by the Luftwaffe, including dogfighting with Messerschmitt Bf 109s in multiple theatres of action. The Hurricane was developed through several versions: bomber-interceptors, fighter-bombers, and ground support aircraft as well as fighters. Versions designed for the Royal Navy known as the Sea Hurricane had modifications enabling operation from ships. Some were converted as catapult-launched convoy escorts. By the end of production in July 1944, 14,487 Hurricanes had been completed in Britain and Canada, with others built in Belgium and Yugoslavia.
The Hawker Typhoon is a British single-seat fighter-bomber, produced by Hawker Aircraft. It was intended to be a medium-high altitude interceptor, as a replacement for the Hawker Hurricane, but several design problems were encountered and it never completely satisfied this requirement. The Typhoon was originally designed to mount twelve .303 inch (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns and be powered by the latest 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) engines. Its service introduction in mid-1941 was plagued with problems and for several months the aircraft faced a doubtful future. When the Luftwaffe brought the new Focke-Wulf Fw 190 into service in 1941, the Typhoon was the only RAF fighter capable of catching it at low altitudes; as a result it secured a new role as a low-altitude interceptor. The Typhoon became established in roles such as night-time intruder and long-range fighter. From late 1942 the Typhoon was equipped with bombs and from late 1943 RP-3 rockets were added to its armoury. With those weapons and its four 20mm Hispano autocannons, the Typhoon became one of the Second World War's most successful ground-attack aircraft.