Reviewing the Spitfire Vb

I haven’t done an aircraft review in a while but I intend to do a little catching up on that over the next couple of weeks. The Spitfire Vb was added to the second gen IL-2 series earlier in the summer and its made a dramatic impact on the series.

The Russian Spitfire

SpitfireVb-smokeypullaway
Almost 200 Spitfire Vb’s entered into Russian service

Although never regarded with the same kind of adoration that it received from the pilots in the Royal Air Force, the Spitfire Vb did see some service on the Russian front and specifically in the Kuban battle. It’s very much at home flying over the mountains, beaches and rivers of the Kuban map.

Flying from the airbase at Krasnodar, Spitfire Vb’s fought during the spring and summer of 1943 and put in an acceptable performance. Crews were unfamiliar with the Spitfire and its Merlin engine was sensitive to the primitive conditions. Nonetheless, it caused quite a stir when the first Spitfires appeared in combat against the Germans such was the reputation of this aircraft.

Spitfire Vb models shipped to the Kuban for combat were mostly fitted with the high altitude optimized Merlin 46 engine. This gave the Spitfire excellent mid-altitude performance in the 10,000-20,000 feet range and even higher. The Merlin 45 was optimized for somewhat lower altitude although it shouldn’t be compared to the Merlin 45M which was a low altitude screamer (these Spitfires usually had clipped wingtips).

Raw performance

Stall

Spitfire Vb
Indicated stall speed in flight configuration: 137..144 km/h
Indicated stall speed in takeoff/landing configuration: 129..135 km/h

Bf109G-4
Indicated stall speed in flight configuration: 165..175 km/h
Indicated stall speed in takeoff/landing configuration: 154..167 km/h

Versus its closest competitor in the IL-2: Battle of Kuban release, the Bf109G-4, has a significantly higher stall speed.

Climb

Spitfire Vb

Merlin 46 engine:
Climb rate at sea level: 12.9 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 13.1 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 12.0 m/s

Merlin 45 engine:
Climb rate at sea level: 14.5 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 14.7 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 11.4 m/s

Bf109G-4
Climb rate at sea level: 20.1 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 18.9 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 15.4 m/s

The Bf109G-4 has superior climb rate over the Spitfire Vb no matter which engine version is equipped.

Speed

Spitfire Vb
Merlin 46 engine:
Maximum true air speed at sea level, 3000 RPM, boost +9: 457 km/h
Maximum true air speed at sea level, 3000 RPM, boost +16: 515 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 7400 m, 3000 RPM, boost +9: 597 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 5000 m, 3000 RPM, boost +16: 604 km/h

Merlin 45 engine:
Maximum true air speed at sea level, 3000 RPM, boost +9: 480 km/h
Maximum true air speed at sea level, 3000 RPM, boost +16: 535 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 6000 m, 3000 RPM, boost +9: 590 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 3500 m, 3000 RPM, boost +16: 596 km/h

Bf109G-4
Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Emergency: 540 km/h
Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Combat: 517 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Combat: 564 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 7000 m, engine mode – Combat: 640 km/h

With the Spitfire being able to sustain its +16lbs of boost for longer than the Bf109G-4 can sustain Emergency power at 1.42 ATA the Spitfire Vb is actually quiet a danger at low levels using both engines. The lower altitude Merlin 45 pulls quite a lead and is only 5km/h slower than the G-4 in Emergency power mode.

At medium altitudes the Merlin 46 version is still somewhat competitive but as altitude increases the Bf109 reigns supreme while the Merlin 45 equipped Spitfire is considerably slower.

The Spitfire F.IX with its Merlin 61 is more of a contemporary of the Bf109G-4 while the Spitfire Vb is somewhat obsolete (being a 1941 design with some enhancements for 1943).

Turn times

Spitfire Vb
Merlin 46 engine:
Maximum performance turn at sea level: 25 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 30 s, at 260 km/h IAS.

Merlin 45 engine:
Maximum performance turn at sea level: 22 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 28.2 s, at 260 km/h IAS.

Bf109G-4
Maximum performance turn at sea level: 21.2 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 27.2 s, at 270 km/h IAS.

According to the data, the Bf109G-4 in theory has a better maximum performance turn. In practice the opposite is true. The Spitfire retains elevator authority through a wide range of speeds while the G-4 sees its elevator stiffen up at speed. With its neutral stability the Spitfire can rapidly dig into a turn and pull lead on any Bf109 with ease. Spitfire pilots will find that they can out turn nearly any fighter in the game especially in short combat turns.

The airplane, the legend

The Spitfire is a true legend of a fighter and its one that I’ve grown up hearing stories about. Flying the Spitfire in any sim is a true pleasure just by association but when the developers get the flight modeling accurate the Spitfire becomes even more of a joy to fly and that is the case with IL-2: Battle of Kuban’s Spitfire Vb.

 

SpitfireVb-guards-ju88victory
Guards squadron Spitfire Vb scores a Ju88 kill.

In and out of combat the Spitfire is well behaved and easy to fly. Controls are sensitive on the elevator while roll rate is somewhat less effective. Pulling the Spitfire into turns and loops can be done with relative ease and there are few aircraft that handle as capable and as sensitively as the Spitfire. Stalls are there but the aircraft communicates with you right up to the point where the wing drops – and even then it doesn’t drop by too much. You can nearly always regain control.

If that sounds a lot like pilot memoirs of the Spitfire, you wouldn’t be wrong. This is one of the best representations of the type in a series. Long discussions are no doubt likely on the differences between Spitfire IX unveiled in DCS and Spitfire Vb for IL-2: Battle of Kuban. Both are incredible.

The Spitfire in Combat

In combat you are best to enter with as much speed as possible. The Spitfire’s sensitive controls generally work well at higher speeds and the Spitfire does some with a bit of a speed disadvantage versus the German opposition. Its always preferable to have altitude advantage over the faster climbing Bf109.

No Bf109 or FW190 can realistically out turn a Spitfire but they can dive away. In close combat the Spitfire is supremely capable and a capable and dangerous opponent.

The Spitfire’s twin Hispano 20mm Mk II cannons are potent and extremely powerful. They do come with a downside: Ample recoil can sometimes throw off aim. Also, the Spitfire Vb is fitted with only a 60 round drum which is good for 9 seconds of fire. It goes by quickly so precision aim is required.

Browning .303 machine guns in the outer wings are your backup weapons but they are only of moderate use against fighters. Against bombers you essentially need the Hispano cannons.

spitfireVb-kubanvictory
An FW190 burns after being hit by this Spitfire V

A little long in the tooth

Compared to the more contemporary Spitfire F.IX and the even later LF.IX models that began to appear in 1943, the Spitfire Vb is a little long in the tooth. Its Merlin 45 and Merlin 46 equipped engine does allow for +16lbs of boost which is consistent with Spitfire V models in 1943 so you’re getting as much as the Spitfire V can give.

Given that the Spitfire V is a little obsolete by 1943 its actually quite good. Its fun and easy to fly, powerfully armed, and it has a beautiful cockpit with great visibility. Online the Spitfire V is appearing in very good numbers and its reputation overall seems to be one of a capable fighter. It hasn’t tipped the balance towards the Allies but it does offer another credible fighter to combat the Germans in 1943.

Overall report

Pros

  • Legendary British fighter lives up to its reputation as a capable fighter
  • Excellent maneuverability
  • Heavy firepower
  • Excellent low and very good high altitude performance (compared to Russian contemporaries)

Cons

  • Ammo capacity is limited
  • No ground attack options available

Screenshots

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