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In early 1941, the Luftwaffe was still on the offensive over Britain. The British cautiously started offensive daylight operations of their own on 10 January 1941 naming them “Circus”. Between January and May 1941 only 12 were conducted.

When Operation Barbarossa started in June 1941, the British saw the opportunity to be more aggressive. The bulk of the Luftwaffe moved to the East and to the Mediterranean. Fighter Command responded launching 15 ‘circuses’ during this month. Overall, the British performed more than 100 circuses in 1941.

In the meantime, both the Germans and the British had introduced improved fighters. The Luftwaffe deployed the Bf 109E-7 and F-2 in the first quarter of 1941. The RAF introduced the Hurricane Mk II at about the same time. The Spitfire Mk II (which entered service in the second semester of the previous year) was the most numerous model in the British arsenal (on British soil). The Spitfire Mk V, the newest British fighter, reached the squadrons in February 1941 and by July one quarter of all Spitfire squadrons had the type.

By this later date, the best fighters in service in Germany and England were the Bf 109F-2 and the Spitfire Mk Vb respectively.  While during the Battle of Britain the Bf 109E-4 and the Spitfire Mk I had equivalent performance (both have a score of 96) there is no doubt that the Mk V surpassed the F-2 (score of 107 vs 100). Both had the same max. speed; but the Spitfire was much more maneuverable and had vastly more firepower. The only advantage of the 109F-2 was its climb rate.

The F-4 and the Fw 190A-1 and A-2 did not enter in service until later in the year. Nevertheless, despite better fighters Fighter Command failed to achieve air superiority over France and came worse off in terms of losses by a wide margin. We will follow up with this topic in a later post.

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