In 1943, the USAAF 8th Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign was failing in the face of severe losses. Despite the RAF having a vast fighter fleet in the UK, they could offer only limited range escort to the bombers. It is generally believed that the Spitfire’s radius of action could not be increased thereby precluding its use as long-range escort. In fact, this was not only potentially possible but was actually achieved by the Americans. Yet the example was not followed with any energy owing to a narrow doctrinal mind-set in the Air Ministry and elsewhere. This lecture outlines the context of the 8th’s campaign and the actual work and potential options for developing the Spitfire as a long-range escort. This could have been achieved around one year before the P-51 Mustang was fielded in this vital role thus possibly advancing the success of the daylight offensive.
Paul Stoddart, Operational Analyst, UK MoD
Paul Stoddart served in the RAF from 1983 to 1991 as an aerosystems engineer officer and has worked for the MoD since 1993 after a short stint as a journalist on a car magazine. His work has included the Tornado successor study at Farnborough, managing the Harrier and Sea Harrier trials programmes at Boscombe Down and the Advanced Command & Staff Course at the Joint Services Command & Staff College. He is currently an analyst and scientific adviser for the RAF. He is a Fellow of the RAeS and a member of the RAeS Air Power Group committee.
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