The British Supermarine Spitfire was the only fighter aircraft of the Second World War to fight in front line service, from the beginnings of the conflict, in September 1939, through to the end in August 1945. Post-war the Spitfire's service career continued into the 1950s. The basic airframe proved to be extremely adaptable, capable of taking far more powerful engines and far greater loads than its original role as a short-range interceptor had allowed for. This would lead to 19 marks of Spitfire and 52 sub-variants being produced throughout the Second World War and beyond. The many changes were made in order to fulfil Royal Air Force requirements and to successfully combat ever-improving enemy aircraft. With the death of Reginald J. Mitchell in June 1937, all variants of the Spitfire were designed by his replacement, Joseph Smith, and a team of engineers and draftsmen.
These articles present a brief history of the Spitfire through all of its variants, including many of the defining characteristics of each sub-type. This article deals with Spitfires powered by early Rolls-Royce Merlin engines which mostly utilised single-speed, single-stage superchargers. The second article describes Spitfire variants powered by later Merlins, with two-stage, two-speed superchargers, while the final article describes the Spitfires powered by Rolls-Royce Griffon engines.