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  1. Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine - History Learning Site
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The Merlin was a liquid-cooled V engine and was first used in a Hawker Hart biplane in February In the same year the Air Ministry issued a directive that required a new fighter aircraft that could fly at a minimum speed of mph. The two companies that best responded to this requirement were Supermarine and Hawker.

Both companies developed their prototypes around the Merlin. In both companies received orders for their aircraft — the Hurricane and the Spitfire — from the Air Ministry.

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Early production Merlins had numerous problems that led to their reliability being questioned. The leaked their coolants and the cylinder head frequently cracked. The engine was constantly improved. In , a highly modified Spitfire was fitted with a strengthened Merlin engine that in a test generated hp.

Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine - History Learning Site

There are records of the Lancaster bomber losing an engine but being able to carry on flying on just three Merlin engines left at full throttle. One weakness of the early Merlin engines was the lack of power generated by its supercharger, especially at lower altitudes. Hooker solved this and the new engine with his improvements was the Merlin XX.

The increased extra power was to be of great importance to the Spitfire and Hurricane during the Battle of Britain where a great deal of combat was below feet — an altitude at which the previous supercharger had not worked very well. However, the supercharger of the XX still weakened at higher altitudes.

Offsetting this was the fact that the Spitfire could dive at speeds that would tear the wings off the German craft. And another plus for Britain was radar. The British excelled here and could spot invading aircraft before they reached England.

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But — and it was a big but — success in gunning down the invaders depended on how quickly the British fighter crews could scramble and climb to altitudes at which they could dive on the approaching German planes. And here fuel became a critical factor. To reach its peak on takeoffs and in climbs, needed a better fuel, one that wasn't available. On balance, with both sides using 87octane gasoline, the Nazis appeared the likely victors. Enter Dr. But early tests showed that, when it was burned in the Merlin, the engine gave an erratic performance under normal operating conditions; that is, with both rich and lean mixtures of fuel required at different times.

Sweeney had a tall order: Improve on what was then the best.

Working mainly at Esso laboratories in Baton Rouge, La. Sweeney's team brushed aside thoughts of failure and concentrated on putting together a new blend of fuel. You did it.

Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine

For months, the team tried one fuel mixture after another. In England, Mr. Ogston worked with a group that observed the field tests of each mixture. The results were fed back to Dr. Sweeney and his researchers. The key development came, Dr. The resulting fuel, according to Mi.

Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine

Holt, while not a researcher on the team, kept in touch and contributed advice as one of Standard Oil's top chemical engineers. By March of , the R. The Battle of Britain began in July, Millions of barrels of BAM were consumed. And the amazing British victories in the Battle of Britain — with Spitfires and Hurricanes climbing above the Nazi planes and diving to the counterattack—are now history.

The Germans, historians report, did not discover the British fuel secret until a few weeks before the battle ended. In September, , one report has it, a crippled Spitfire on bomber escort went out of control over Belgium and German technicians swarmed over the wreck. They were further chagrined to discover that their best fighter, the Messerschrnitt E, could not use the superior British fuel because its engine was not sufficiently supercharged.

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Not many people knew at the time what he meant by his remark about the fuel. The war was still on, and details of the new gasoline were still secret.

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But Dr. Sweeney, Mr.

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