Why the Merlin engine was essential to the war
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People might wonder if Britain could have won the war without a Lancaster, a Mosquito, or a Mustang. But they all have one thing in common – and it’s the engine that powers them: the Rolls-Royce Merlin.
In all its production life, over 50 different Merlins were produced. The initial variant offered just over a thousand horsepower but improvements to its design would see the Merlin offer 2,050 hp by the end of the war.
“One of the first things that was done at the beginning of the war was that a complete set of Rolls-Royce Merlin engine drawings was flown to America – just in case anything did happen back here.”
The fastest plane it had ever powered was the de Havilland Hornet, which was built too late to see action. Hornets were made to take on the Zeros in the Pacific theater; fitted with two 2,050hp Merlins, both with a two-speed, two-stage supercharger, the Hornet was just about the fastest production piston engine fighter ever made.
By late 1942 to mid-1943, Merlin engines were powering some of the most magnificent airplanes of the Second World War. And as you can imagine, the demand was huge: Rolls-Royce in England, Ford at Trafford Park, and Packard in the United States were all mass-producing the Merlin engine.