The Spitfire IX in Battle of Bodenplatte

The charge made by a few have suggested that Bodenplatte’s forthcoming Spitfire IX is outdated and obsolete at the time of the Battle of Bodenplatte. That would be inaccurate at best, so let’s have a look at the Spitfire IX.

A brief history of the Spitfire IX

SpitfireIXe-wip-2
Clipped wings for the Spitfire IX confirmed.

The Spitfire IX is a type that saw multiple changes and improvements from its early introduction in 1942 and final use in 1945.

The earliest Spitfire IX models were actually converted Mark V airframes modified to have the new more powerful Merlin 60 series installed. This was all in response to the appearance of the FW190A on the Western Front and the dire need for a Spitfire that had the speed to be able to keep up. The planned Spitfire VIII was a year away from production so the IX was rushed to service.

Early Spitfire IXs were fitted with the Merlin 61 engine giving the aircraft superior performance and speed over the Spitfire V, particularly at high altitudes. This engine was later superseded by the Merlin 63 and Merlin 63a allowing for higher boost. The definitive version, however, was the Spitfire IX fitted with the Merlin 66 which began to appear in squadrons in 1943. The Merlin 66 had its supercharger geared so as to be faster than the FW190A at all altitudes. This reduced its extreme high altitude performance slightly but speed and climb at all other altitudes improved.

SpitIX611b.jpg
611 Squadron from Biggin Hill  in 1942 flying early Spitfire IX models. Note the rounded tails.

Getting the naming schemes right

This Merlin 66 version of the Spitfire IX came into use before official nomenclature could be established. This fighter was listed in many pilots logs throughout the war as a Spitfire IX-B to mark the upgraded Merlin 66 engine. This created considerable confusion and continues to. The B normally indicating a B-type wing but in not in this case. No Spitfire IX models were ever fitted with the B type wing.

The official naming system came up with a F, LF, and HF denoting regular, low, and high altitude optimized Spitfires in terms of their engines and officially the Merlin 66 equipped Spitfire IX was called the LF.IX with either the C or E type wings fitted.

The C-type wing was a modification from the B with allowance for the original outboard Browning .303 machine guns and with space open for four 20mm cannons (two in each wing). The E-type wing is the same wing structurally as the ‘c’ type but armed differently. On the E-type the .303 machine guns in the wings are removed. Instead, the Hispano Mark II 20mm cannons with 120 rounds (twice the capacity of the Vb) are moved to the outboard positions and the inboard positions are fitted with Browning M2 .50cal machine guns. This was a more typical arrangement of a 1944 and 1945 Spitfire.

SpitfireIXe-wip-1
Note the cannon barrels in the outer positions on this E-type winged Spitfire IX.

The Spitfire coming with Battle of Bodenplatte

We’re getting a Spitfire LF.IXe.  This is a late series Spitfire IX typically built starting in the spring and summer of 1944 with a Merlin 66 engine running at the standard +18lbs of boost. Some of the key identifying features include the pointed tail for added stability and the positioning of the 20mm cannons – in this case in the outboard position denoting an E-type wing. The inboard positions have, as previously mentioned, Browning .50cals so the weight of fire on this fighter is higher and the firepower itself is more concentrated.

Let’s compare some basic performance values as well:

Spitfire IX (Merlin 61 at +15lbs):

  • Maximum rate of climb in M.S. supercharger: 3200 ft.min at 13,500 ft
  • Maximum rate of climb in F.S. supercharger 2540 ft/min. at 25,900 ft.
  • Maximum true air speed in M.S. supercharger 380 1/2 m.p.h. at 15,400 ft.
  • Maximum true air speed in F.S. supercharger 403 m.p.h. at 27,400 ft.

Spitfire IX (Merlin 66 at +18lbs):

  • Maximum rate of climb in M.S. supercharger: 4700 ft/min at 7000 ft.
  • Maximum rate of climb in F.S. supercharger 3860 ft/min.at 18,000 ft.
  • Maximum true air speed in M.S. supercharger 384 m.p.h. at 10,800 ft.
  • Maximum true air speed in F.S. supercharger 407 m.p.h.at 22,000 ft.

Later models of Spitfire IX with the Merlin 66 achieved much higher climb rates and slight improvements in airspeed values throughout the range except at the very highest altitudes.

Performance data available from SpitfirePerformance.com.

Here are some of the possible modifications:

  • Engine mod at +25lbs of boost for even better low altitude performance (up to 24mph increase at sea level and low altitudes)
  • Mark II GGS lead computing gunsight
  • 250lb and 500lb bombs for fighter-bomber missions
  • Clipped wings

Will we get all of these features? We don’t know for sure on all of them but we are confirmed now for the clipped wings. I suspect we will see at least some of them. Should the Spitfire IX get the +25lb boost you’ll see a fighter with incredible low altitude performance.

Spitfire_Mk_IXe_412_Sqn_armed_with_a_250-lb_GP_bombs_at_B80_Volkel.jpg
RCAF 412 Squadron Spitfire IXe with two 250lb bombs and a single 500lb bomb taxies out.

Spitfire IX vs XIV vs XVI

There’s been lots of debate in the community about the Spitfire IX, the XVI and the XIV. Let’s clear some stuff up on all of those.

Of the 20+ Spitfire squadrons in use during the Battle of Bodenplatte on January 1, the majority of them were equipped with the late model Spitfire IX that I’ve been talking about. By March the majority were equipped with the very similar Spitfire XVI.

The Spitfire XVI was used extensively by the RAF in 1945 and this mark of Spitfire is identical to the late series Spitfire IX in all but one way. The XVI had a Packard produced Merlin 266. The engine was made in the US and made to US measurements but was otherwise the same as the Merlin 66. Some very late examples of the XVI had a cut down fuselage and a bubble canopy and these began to appear in March and April of 1945.

Together the Spitfire IX and its twin the XVI made up the majority of the Spitfire force in 1944 and 1945. The Spitfire XIV, arguably the ultimate Spitfire of the war, had 6 squadrons in use by the end of the war and made up a smaller percentage.

The developers, wisely I think, chose the type with the most relevance being equipped by the most number of squadrons and used in the most number of ways.

The Spitfire XIV is not on the Battle of Bodenplatte aircraft list but I could easily see it becoming a popular Collector Plane being offered in the same way that the La-5FN and Bf109G-6 were offered.

In conclusion

No, the Spitfire we’re getting is not a 1942 obsolete fighter. It’s very much in its element in late 1944 and early 1945 equipping dozens of squadrons and performing at very high levels at even the standard +18lbs of boost.

Sharing little with the earliest Spitfire IX models, we getting a late war version well suited to the kind of combat that we typically see. High rates of agility and especially the superior turn and climb will make the Spitfire IX a very dangerous fighter to contend with and may very well be the best fighter available should it comes with both the +25lb engine boost and a gyro stabilized gunsight.

Advertisements

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Habsburger says:

    I’m very happy that Bodenplatte’s coming next. The massive leap in aeroplane performance across the board is going to be really interesting, like comparing Kuban’s pleasant to fly yet slow and outdated Spitfire V to the IX. Somehow I’m having trouble even imagining a Spitfire faster than a Focke-Wulf!

    In a forum poll people didn’t really seem all that excited about the Spitfire IX and the Bf 109 G14 (in comparison to!!) the rest of the Bodenplatte lineup, with P-47, P-38 and Me 262 being the most anticipated. I got the impression from forum threads that IX and G14 would be underdogs compared to the other planes, but I’m glad to hear this might not be the case 🙂 Who doesn’t love a Spitfire?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      While people get excited about some planes over others, I think they will eventually come back to the types that work for them in the air. That’s happened with the Yak-7 versus P-39. Everyone was talking about the P-39. While they still are… all of the threads about the Yak-7 are how surprisingly good it is and how much they are flying it. Completely went under the radar for months before.

      The Spitfire IX has the advantage of being absolutely beautiful (versus the Yak-7s rather utilitarian looks) and I think people will ultimately fly it a lot more than they are talking about it or voting about it. When you want to just hop in a dogfight duel like Berloga and fly in circles at low altitudes… the Spitfire will be king.

      Like

  2. superetendard3 says:

    I would really like to get a bubble canopy Spitfire, I know it is unlikely to happen because of the significant extra work in the 3D model, but it fits the similar 1945 timeframe as the 150 octane fuel, and other possible mods like the C3 fuel + MW 50 setting for the 109 K-4 and Gyro gunsight for the Fw 190 D-9 and Me 262 for example.

    Another modification that we might not be getting is the AS engine for the 109 G-14, this engine utilizes the supercharger of the larger DB 603 engine (used in the Me 410 and Do 217) to increase high altitude performance (at the expense of low altitude performance), but it isn’t as easy as the engine changes in the Spit Mk V or Mk IX, the Bf 109 G-14/AS had the later type cowling found in the Bf 109 G-10 and K-4, replacing the round bulges for a more streamlined cowling, (yet still wider than the original 109 at the MG section), so it’s a similar case to the bubble canopy in the Spitfire.

    We didn’t see the Bf 109 G-14/AS model when they showed them in the last DD, that’s what makes me think we might not be getting it… unless they are waiting to make the model of the K-4 and then sort of adapt it’s late cowling to the G-14 model? I hope we get it in the end, as it was really common, around half of the Bf 109 G-14s in Bodenplatte were of the AS variant (a quarter of all the 109s), more common than the Bf 109 K-4 for example.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      The AS engine for the Bf109G-14 was something that I had been researching for a separate post about the Bf109G-14. That definitely gives me some more stuff to talk about.

      The 3D model changes, and they are somewhat significant, make me wonder if we’ll see this mod or not. It seems like the team is able to invest in the changes if they are fairly simple (the clipped wings of the Spitfire are pretty straightforward for example) but they may not want to for more extensive changes like a differently shaped cowling.

      Unless… as you say, they come back and do it after the K-4 is completed. Is it the same cowling?

      Thanks for sharing! Great points!

      Like

      1. superetendard3 says:

        I looked abit into the late cowlings and apparently there were three different types with slight differences, the type 90, type 100 and type 110. I don’t know which one characterized each variant, but apparently some models could use different cowlings, depending on which factory they were built, like the G-10 for what I have seen.

        I don’t know for sure if the G-14/AS could use the very same one as the K-4. I’ll have to ask the 109 experts in the community ^^

        Liked by 1 person

  3. 79vRAF says:

    All the arguments and points made are perfectly valid. The issue is that the Luftwaffe aircraft are the last and ‘best’ in the line like the Fw190D-9 and the 109K-4. I would’ve thought that they would make up a similar proportion of the Luftwaffe fighter force to the Spitfire Mk XIV in the RAF. That’s where the disparity really comes in. A 25lb boost Spitfire would be great, I remember it joining IL2 1946 and it was great.

    It would be nice, for a change, to have a Mk XIV in a sim that’s not a user mod but from the developers. It’ll be fine as a collector aircraft, but a shame that it has to go down that route.

    I’m sure it will all be fine in single player too, it’s multiplayer where only the D9 and K4 will be taken that it starts to cause a problem, most of the servers don’t restrict aircraft to the historical proportions. I’m sure the Mk IX will get kills against all aircraft it just feels like a missed opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I agree. I’m a huge fan of the Spitfire in general and I’ve really wanted to fly a Spitfire XIV again for a very long time. I even tried to support two separate efforts to get the Spitfire XIV into IL-2: 1946 as an official aircraft.

      I just don’t want people to think that we’re getting something that can’t compete or is somehow out of place from a historical point of view.

      In a future Career mode, it will be up against more FW190A-8 and Bf109G-14 than Bf109K-4 and FW190D-9s… At least in the first chapters of the battle.

      Like

      1. 79vRAF says:

        I must say that I feel the RAF appears under represented in BoBP, I understand why, but it almost feels like they should give an option of purchasing Allied aircraft only, Luftwaffe aircraft only or get this set. If you go for one side or the other you get more aircraft for that side – innevitably some would buy both and some would go for the standard mix. I’d love to see aircraft like the Mosquito and Typhoon, B-25 and B-26. I’m not that interested in flying the American fighters (I know there will be a huge number that are and respect that).

        I realise that this would all be a lot more work for them, and it is just me ding a normal flight simmer wish list! Never mind! Keeping fingers crossed for Spitfire Mk XIV collector aircraft.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        I hear you! If we had the Typhoon, Mosquito and Spitfire XIV on top of the two were getting… that’s the dream for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Francesco Kasta says:

    Has anybody read “The Big Show (Le Grand Cirque)” by Pierre Clostermann?
    There’s lots of Spitfire goodness packed in that book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Multiple times! A great read.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Blue 5 says:

    I totally agree. The XIV would have been a poor choice as it and the Tempest V were minority aircraft. People have got knickers in twists over not having a ‘XVI’, without realizing that a XVI is a IX under a different designation (as you correctly point out).

    The big question is 18lb vs. 25lb boost, but even if only the former it will still be quick as you like and good climb at slow speed, close to the K-4 and D-9 even if not having total superiority over either.

    Also, it will be far easier – and quicker – to develop, so we should get it some time this summer.

    Pilots also claimed they ‘enjoyed’ the late IXs over the XIVs as aircraft, even if the XIVs were better performers. VIIIs were the prettiest, though..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      The VIII is easily the most beautiful of all of the Spitfires… its a good crowd to be in!

      I talked about this weeks ago in another post but my guess is that we’ll see a Spitfire XIV Collector Plane before Bodenplatte is officially done. It’d be a great seller on its own and lots of people would love to have it in the hangar. But I don’t think it will overshadow the Mark IX either as that type will definitely have its own set of charms.

      If we get a +25lb boost option plus gyro gunsight plus the clipped wings… Well, we’d have a low altitude dogfighter with few equals.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s