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 (1939-1945) WWII Battles    
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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/15/2017 9:17:01 PM
A big problem for this great RAF Fighter, during dog fights,

& other combat situations!!?

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And how it shaped up against Germany's #1 Fighter!
Quite a problem, what say you?
MD

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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

James W.
Ballina, Australia
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Posts: 674

Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/15/2017 9:40:02 PM
Not a real problem, for experienced pilots..

One expert ace - Adolf Galland, actually asked his boss - if he could have Spitfires for his outfit, & he wasn't flying Hurricanes...

Spitfire & Bf 109 were unusual in being pre-war designs that both proved good enough/expedient to allow continuous production & development, throughout the war..

They were usually a fairly even match, performance-wise, when flown by capable pilots - who could properly use the positive aspects of his machine..

David Isby published a book detailing this, 'Spitfire VS Bf 109, The Decisive Duel' & has a site with various original source documents available for view.

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anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/16/2017 11:06:45 AM
Spitfire Oh Spitfire
A beautiful plane.
Scourge of the Nazis
And Hitler’s bane.

Spitfire Oh Spitfire
Your pilots, heroes of the free.
Pretty as a butterfly
With the sting of a bee.

Anon

Regards

Jim

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Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 549

Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/16/2017 7:58:11 PM
Not a fatal flaw. Simply an operational characteristic. Also, negative G maneuvers are not all that common, one reason aircraft are stressed for higher positive G loads.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 4:37:01 AM
The engines on the early marks of Spitfire had a problem with negative G because it had a standard, gravity fed carburetor which caused it to cut out in a steep dive. British engineers fixed it with a "floating" carburetor- which generally cured this problem.

Regards

Jim
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James W.
Ballina, Australia
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 6:41:19 AM
'Miss Shilling's orifice' - as it were..

Spitfires were at a disadvantage versus the 109/190 when it came to diving though, & the German - firing pass followed by a dive away tactic - was always problematic for the Spit boys..

Ironically, Spitfire pilots used this same tactic effectively against the more nimble Nippon fighter opposition, out east...

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Posts: 549

Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 8:53:33 AM

Quote:
The engines on the early marks of Spitfire had a problem with negative G because it had a standard, gravity fed carburetor which caused it to cut out in a steep dive. British engineers fixed it with a "floating" carburetor- which generally cured this problem.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


So too did early Hurricanes. The answer is, instead of pushing the nose down to enter a dive, resulting in negative G, to roll inverted and pull the nose through to maintain positive G.
Actually, a bigger limitation on early Spitfires was the lack of a constant speed prop.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 9:16:55 AM
My thanks for your interest and input Jim.So far as I am aware,all Spitfire Mki were fitted with the De Haviland three bladed Rotol "partly" variable pitch propeller by June/July 1940-and performance figures increased.

Regards

jim
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Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 11:32:12 AM
The original fixed pitch propellers were initially replaced with two setting (fine or course) variable speed props, which did help, although these were still no substitute for a true constant speed prop.
One problem with a fixed prop, apart from engine effeciency, is that air loads will effect the speed of the engine. In a high speed dive, for example, the force exerted on the propeller will cause the engine to speed up. The pilot may be forced to reduce power to avoid an overspeed. Not the best course of action with an enemy fighter on your tail. With a constant speed prop, the blades automatically adjust pitch to maintain the desired engine speed and power.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 12:00:06 PM

Quote:
One problem with a fixed prop, apart from engine effeciency, is that air loads will effect the speed of the engine. In a high speed dive, for example, the force exerted on the propeller will cause the engine to speed up.


I am intrigued Jim-do please explain just how "the force exerted on the propeller causes the engine to speed up"-is this a windmill effect wherein the propeller "drives" the engine.???

regards

jim
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Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 1:03:33 PM
Basically, yes. That's why on multi-engine aircraft it is important to "feather" a dead engine by pointing the blades directly into the air stream. That way, they stop turning and do not drive the engine, which with the engine not generating power creates enormous drag.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 1:45:20 PM
Many thanks Jim-I've enjoyed the learning curve-my uncle- a Flight Engineer on Lancasters in WW2 did explain the business of "feathering"but i was only a tennager just- at 14; but was and am still fascinated by aircraft-during the war I lived near a Nightfighter OTU flying Beaufighters-many crashed and burned.

Regards

Jim
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Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 2:22:35 PM
The drag from a dead engine which failed to feather, perhaps due to loss of hydraulic fluid, could be enormous. Think a steel plate the diameter of the propeller hanging in the wind. It was the difference between getting home, or going down.

BTW, as regards windmilling, back before electric starters, when engines had to be started by "propping" by hand, a stopped engine could be started (with enough altitude) by diving fast enough to get the propeller turning.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 2:39:42 PM
I have seen photos of bombers which managed to struggle home in the most desperate states-even an engine hanging out of a nacelle must have needed a Herculean effort from the pilots or pilot and F.Eng to keep it flying.

I bet that diving to get the motor running was hair raising.

Ron my uncle told me on one trip home from the Ruhr-they took a hit on the port inner which caused the undercarriage to drop on that side-he said it was a mammoth task to manually pump the wheel up sufficiently to reduce drag and crash landing was a nightmare; but they survived.Pilot DFC and Ron a DFM (NCO)

Regards

Jim
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brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/17/2017 9:22:48 PM
Just a point. Lots of good comments here about an aircraft I love dearly.

But there was no fatal flaw. There were weaknesses and strengths which defined the a/c, just as there were weaknesses and strengths with the Bf-109. But both were incredibly strong, adaptable and increasingly sophisticated a/c that lasted through the war. No a/c with a "fatal flaw" can last anywhere near that long in combat.

The video links are good and for the most part fair, but I think more time should have been spent during the comparison on the duration of firepower. No question that the Bf-109 cannon were superior to the eight Spitfire .303 mg. A strike by a 20 mm canon was punishing, compared to the impact of a .303 mg strike. But the actual number of cartridges was relatively small on the Bf-109Es and early Bf-109Fs, which were the Luftwaffe a/c during the Battle of Britain, and even the Spitfire only carried something like 8 seconds worth of ammunition with all eight guns firing.

Step further, the eight .303 mg on the Hurricane were probably more effective than those on the Spit, at least at the time of the Battle of Britain. It all had to do with placement of the guns, flexibility of the wing, thickness of the wing-root and the like.

I'm not an aeronautical engineer. But I think something magical happened in the mid-1930s that gave the world a series of brilliant fighter a/c. My guess is that engineers and designers, in the shift from bi-plane designs stressing manouverabilty to the metal monoplanes stressing speed, simply got it right the first time. Spitfire, Hurricane, Bf-109, Fw-190, P-51 Mustang, Mitsubishi -0 (the Zero) were all brilliant a/c. The best of them (and that would only drop the Zero) were capable of what at the time seemed like infinite adaptation.

The Soviets developed some great a/c as well, but later in the war and often designed for different functions.

Sorry, a bit of a ramble. But I think my point valid. We can't talk about fatal flaws in any of these a/c. We can only talk about their relative strengths and weaknesses. And when we do that, we have to look at the scores of different "Marks" (versions) of the a/c.

Cheers
Brian G
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James W.
Ballina, Australia
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E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 674

Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 1:46:48 AM

Quote:
My thanks for your interest and input Jim.So far as I am aware,all Spitfire Mki were fitted with the De Haviland three bladed Rotol "partly" variable pitch propeller by June/July 1940-and performance figures increased.

Regards

jim
--anemone


Jim, FYI, the de Havilland company was in competition with Rotol, which was a joint venture between Rolls-Royce ( Ro), & Bristol (tol) as a prop concern.

The Spitfire began with a 2-blade prop, & went through 3-4-5-blade props as power was eventually more than doubled, with the final Seafire 47 running 6 ( 3 X 2 contra-prop)..


One stupid cock-up which did needlessly cost lives was the decision to standardise prop rotation in British aero-engines, so the later Griffon-powered Spits had
props spinning opposite from the Merlin jobs, - which required opposite rudder trim for take-off - something missed in certain circumstances by veteran Spit pilots..

Why the Merlin, which was made in far larger numbers than any other British aero-engine, was not required to comply with the revised reg's is a scandal..

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 5:44:38 AM
It was the recommendation of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, that British piston-engines should rotate anti-clockwise. However, the Merlin was very much the "odd one out" among contemporary engines - whether that could be described as a whim of the RR designers I don't know

Regards

Jim.
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James W.
Ballina, Australia
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 6:13:53 AM
AFAIR Jim, the rotation standardisation was an AirMin directive, but R-R had such clout as to enable invoking an 'out' - based on the Merlin pre-dating it..

R-R did however, build 'handed' Merlins - counter-rotating - for the de Havilland Hornet, which used a brace of 'em..

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 6:22:31 AM
That is good enough for me James-so that is put to bed.As a matter of interest (off piste) were Lancaster pairs of Merlins on either wing- contra rotating.???

Regards

Jim
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James W.
Ballina, Australia
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 6:28:18 AM
Negative Jim, for bombers this was frippery, only twin engine fighters built with intention to 'mix it' with the best - got that attention to detail..

( USAAF P-38, & P-82, as well as Hornet)..

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 6:45:52 AM
I remember my uncle who was a Lanc. F/Eng.- aged aged 36-saying the motors were started from port outer across-why I do not know-do you??

Regards

Jim
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James W.
Ballina, Australia
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 6:48:30 AM
It'll be in 'the book' Jim, if you are interested in the 'gospel', since 'Pilots Notes' are likely available online if you look..

anemone
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 6:54:27 AM
Just an off the cuff query James

regards

jim
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James W.
Ballina, Australia
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 6:58:55 AM
I'd only be guessing at what was the technical reason for doing so, Jim, often different engines drove discreet accessories, like hydraulic/pneumatic/electric stuff..

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 2:03:10 PM
Or it could simply be that's how they were numbered, and it was less confusing to start them in that order. Probably also safer for the ground crews.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

MikeMeech
UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 2:22:43 PM
Hi

Looking at photos of various single seat fighters it appears the Merlin on Spitfires turns in the same direction as US engined single seat fighters, also apparently most if not all Soviet, German, Italian and Japanese fighters.

Mike

anemone
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 2:37:57 PM
Hello Jim-your answer makes good sense-particularly when all (including ground staff) know the engine starting order; and yes it is easy to remember.When I was in the Air Training Corps (Cadets) at an RAF station in 1947- I was allowed into the cockpit of a Lancaster for start up; and remember the formula-amazing how odd things such as that- stay in the memory

Regards

Jim
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MikeMeech
UK
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 5:59:16 PM

Quote:
It was the recommendation of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, that British piston-engines should rotate anti-clockwise. However, the Merlin was very much the "odd one out" among contemporary engines - whether that could be described as a whim of the RR designers I don't know

Regards

Jim.
--anemone

Hi

According to the wartime book 'Aeronautical Engineering' edited by R A Beaumont, page 350 (in the Airscrews chapter):

"There is no standardisation of directions of rotation, but most British engines use left-hand airscrews with the notable exception of the Rolls-Royce types. The reverse is true of American engines."

According to 'British Piston Aero-engines and their Aircraft' by Alec Lumsden, a total of 168,040 Merlin variants were produced, 165,000 by the end of the European War in 1945, 55,523 variants by Packard in the USA included. It also states that:

"It is worth mentioning that the Merlin was produced in larger numbers than any other piston engine the World has seen and this includes all the big American radials."

As I have mentioned the Merlin rotated in the same direction as the American engines on single-seat fighters, handy when the Mustang went from Allison to Merlin, some was more in line with the US and other countries than other British engines of the time.

Mike

James W.
Ballina, Australia
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Posts: 674

Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/18/2017 10:08:54 PM

Quote:


As I have mentioned the Merlin rotated in the same direction as the American engines on single-seat fighters...

Mike
--MikeMeech


Except the P-38 Lightning, Mike - as previously noted, its Allison mills were 'handed' - to offer the thrust 'neutrality' allowed by counter-rotation..


Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Posts: 2144

Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/25/2017 1:13:58 PM
So the Spitfire has no major flaw?
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brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
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Re: The Spitfires fatal flaw!?
Posted on: 3/25/2017 7:36:06 PM
Dave, there will always be some nitpicking about any a/c, and there will always be offsets between pros and cons with any a/c. Cost, stability, flight envelope, utility, adaptability, weaponry ... most of these are trade-offs against each other. And often, once a negative is uncovered, the a/c will carry that negative forever ... even if the negative is removed. Examples:
• B-24: weak wing-root
• Halifax: tendency to go into fatal spins
Those are bombers, of course, but their reputations defined them, because their positive features didn't seem to overcome their reputations. Even so, neither a/c was seen as having a "fatal flaw". They were simply "known for" losing wings and spinning in. The B-24 had a much greater range than the B-17. The Hally had a slightly better survival rating than the Lancaster. Those features may have saved both a/c from retirement or reassignment. (As it it, the Hally was slowly weaned from major bombing and directed towards mining and minor raids. Except, perhaps for RAF Bomber Command 6 (RCAF) Group, where in 1945 10 of 14 squadrons were still equipped with Hallys. Lotta stories still to be told there, IMHO).

For me, a truly fatal flaw would pull an a/c out of production, or at least cause it's intended use to alter dramatically. The only WW2 a/c that comes to mind as being fatally flawed was the Fairey "Battle", an RAF light bomber built for all the wrong reasons. Classified as a bomber on RAF rolls, the Battle made the numbers look good to a British government which was trying to match the Luftwaffe in number of a/c on active duty in the cheapest possible way. Underarmed, underpowered, underbombed, the Battle was a disaster and really only lasted 6 weeks in combat conditions in May-June 1940. That's not strictly true, because Battle squadrons were retained to be used against invasion barges should Operation Seelöwe be initiated. After that, it became a target tug in short order. Maybe the Battle was obsolescent by 1939, and it only took war conditions to demonstrate the fact. That certainly happened with other a/c, including the Vickers Wellesley, another RAF single-engined bomber with little armament, small bomb load, but a rather extraordinary range. But crews sent to Battle squadrons weren't receiving postings. They were receiving death notices. The a/c was that bad.

I'm in no way qualified to comment on Soviet a/c, and my interest is in the ETO. But with only one exception (and that a bizarre one), off-hand I can think of no single-engined fighter on either side that had a fatal flaw. Limitations, yes. Early armament for Spits and Hurricanes and vastly increased wing stress on the Bf-109 (whose design success hinged on the thinness of the wing, which is why (amongst other reasons) the Bf-109's undercarriage (considered by some a weakness of the a/c) was mounted in the fuselage. The P-51 (I believe it was given the name Mustang by the British) was not much to write home about until it was married with the Packard version of the RR Merlin and some external tanks, but then it became brilliant. The rugged P-47 went through numerous upgrades, and remained a plane popular with those who flew her.

On the other side, the Fw-190 was brilliant from its inception, and it just kept getting better. A truly tiny fighter (originally less than 30' long), it was incredibly field adaptable. It was fast, and was one of the few a/c that remained under continuous development as things got more difficult for the Luftwaffe. The final (and little known) extension of the Fw-190 was the Ta-152. complete with pressurized cabin, whose performance numbers beggared most Allied a/c of similar vintage (i.e.,1945 or very late war).

There is an interesting situation arising in the US, Dave, that may make this issue more relevant. The F-35 will be a great a/c if it makes it to operational status in its current form. I'm saying "if" rather than "when" because of current issues in the US and because of the existence of what I consider to be the rather sweet F-22 "Raptor". Point is that according to latest news, a pilot's helmet for the F-35 runs to US$400,000. That is, quite frankly, obscene, at least on the face of it. My questions might involve how a lack of such a helmet might affect F-35 performance (is this an option the US will not provide for nations commiiting to purchase the F-35). Or whether the helmets are reprogrammable at a reasonable cost ("Dropped my helmet, sir. I can no longer fly"!)?

The point, of course, is whether the outrageous cost of what were once non-essentials (a helmet, for heaven's sake!) could become a fatal flaw for the F-35. There are some fine a/c out there with a much better price-tag and with almost the same capabilities as the F-35. I'm not doubting its possible capabilities (but I'd like to see some demonstration at active squadron level), but if the F-35 is too much a/c at too much money, then could you consider its rather steep cost might become "a fatal flaw"?

Cheers
Brian G

---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

 (1939-1945) WWII Battles    
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