WWII photo reconnaissance: why Spitfires?
I know that other aircraft were used in photo reconnaissance flights. But, for the life of me, I can't figure out why they might have used Spitfires at all. Yes, it was a wonderful fighter, but fighter maneuverability works against it as a photography platform. The early Spitfires also lacked endurance.
Seems to me that for aerial photo reconnaissance during war, you want a long-range, stable platform with some self-defense capability, and maybe speed to flee if that seems the better course. Those requirements suggest that you convert medium and heavy bombers, like DeHavilland Mosquitos or B-17s. (The Mosquito *was* produced in a photo reconnaissance version.)
To my question, then: Why convert a home defense fighter like a Spitfire, badly needed for home defense, to a reconnaissance role? What unique value would a Spitfire bring to that mission?
The longer range bombers would work in the map making role, but the converted Spitfires would excel at the quick in-and-out tactical missions.
(Now that Wikipedia is back, I can also see that the Mosquito was fast, but not quite as fast as the Spitfire, and had a good service ceiling, though a bit lower than the Spit. But it wasn't available early in the war. Later on, it was an effective photo reconnaissance plane.)
It seems clear that the Spitfire was the best choice for bringing back the pilot and his film at the time. Yes, there was a high price to pulling a thousand of the best Allied air-superiority fighters off of the air-to-air mission for photo reconniassance; a price justified by the value of the intelligence they brought back.
My candidate aircraft, the fast and stealthy DeHavilland Mosquito, did not become operational until later in the war. It took still longer before it proved itself in deep penetration missions. Had it been available earlier, its greater range might have made it the first choice for photo reconnissance.