Supermarine designer Reginald Mitchell created a small, graceful, elliptical-wing fighter with eight guns in the wings that were able to fire without being hindered by the propeller. The immortal Spitfire thus became not merely one of the best-performing fighters of all time, but also one of the best-looking. Although never a long-range aircraft, the Spitfire was a champion in an air-to-air duel. Spitfires were routinely dived at velocities approaching the speed of sound, faster than any German jets.
Merlin and Griffon engines were used in the two dozen principal versions of the Spitfire. Later Spitfires introduced a bubble canopy that made one of history's most beautiful aircraft even more appealing. The carrier-based Seafire was a winner in its own right, serving valiantly on convoy routes during World War II. The Seafire 47, the final version, was even used in the early stagesof the 1950-53 Korean War.
Early Griffon-engined Spitfires were based on the Merlin-powered Mk V with it's clipped wingtips. They were used as the Mk XII from 1943 to engage Fw 190s on missions over England, and later to intercept V-1 flying bombs. Then the more powerful 60-series Griffon was combined with the Spitfire VIII airframe and a five-blade propeller to produce the Mk XIV. The similar Mk XVIII had a longer fuselage and strengthened wing, while the Mk XiX was an unarmed reconnaissance variant.
Meanwhile, a major redesign including a new wing, had taken place to improve maneuverability with the more powerful engine. This, the Mk-21 was to have been the main production version, but development was protracted. The war in Europe was almost over by the time it was ready for production and only a few hundred were completed.
The two final models were the Mk 22, with a bubble canopy, and the Mk 24, with a new tail. Many of the later models remained in RAF service after 1945, others served even longer with smaller air forces.