Recently I wrote about the Bf109G-6 Collector Plane and how it’s actually a fairly popular choice on late war oriented servers like Combat Box. I thought it’d be an interesting follow up to find out how another aircraft, the Spitfire Vb, would fare in the same situation. Last night I put that to the test with some interesting results!
Early model Spitfire’s in late war battles?
The Spitfire V first arrived into combat in 1941 and though some modest updates through the following years allowed it to remain a competitor through 1943, by 1944 the aircraft was very clearly outdated and it was superseded by the Spitfire IX (first appearing in 1942 but not appearing in strength until late 1943 and 1944).
The Spitfire Vb, a Collector Plane in the IL-2 series, came with IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte and represents the modest number of Spitfire V’s that the Soviet Union received and used in battle for a few months of 1943. Right now, the Spitfire Vb has no historical use in the late war Battle of Bodenplatte (with the Mark V being completely phased out of front line use in in this area), however, I think we’ll see this Spitfire mark a few more times when Battle of Normandy comes out.
More to the point, servers like Combat Box, have made the Spitfire Vb available in these late war scenarios to open up the number of players who can join in. If you own Battle of Kuban Premium but don’t yet have Battle of Bodenplatte, you still have a way in. If you own the Spitfire Vb as a Collector Plane you also have a way in.
So, how much of a disadvantage are you in when flying this outdated Spitfire in a late war scenario?
Old dog, same tricks
Taking the Spitfire Vb into late war battles is interesting to me because the challenges that you face in the 1943 Battle of Kuban era that I’m used to taking the Mark V into combat with are still there in 1945 air battles. The differences are somewhat magnified but not as much as I had expected.
Nearly every fighter you go up against will have a marked speed advantage so turning and running is not an option. Neither is a co-altitude chase. If a Fw190D-9 or Bf109K-4 decides to turn and run, there’s very little chance you’ll be able to catch them before they are out of range.
That said, using altitude and surprise attacks you can still effectively bounce an enemy fighter by using a power dive and trying to find the edge of maximum speed and maximum effective maneuvering. This is exactly what I did when I shot down a pair of Bf109G-14’s on Combat Box last night. With speed and surprise, I was able to get into a good position to attack and then when they realized they were being chased… their evasive turn (probably a mistake) made it easy to hit them with full guns.
The Spitfire Vb retains a turn advantage against everything it goes up against so while that Fw190 or Bf109 may have advantages in most attributes, turn is still very much in the Spitfire’s pocket.
When equipped with the Merlin 45 engine (optimized for low altitudes) and running at maximum boost at sea level, the Spitfire Vb is also only 7km/h slower than the Merlin 66 equipped Spitfire IX also running at full out. However, neither Merlin 45 nor Merlin 46 is any way competitive with the Mark IX (or any of the opposing fighters) at higher altitudes so stick under 10,000 feet.
Is it competitive? Can you effectively use it? Is it fun?
That leaves me with three remaining questions and the first is around competitiveness. In a even fight there is very little a Spitfire Vb can do to be better than its opponent except in turn rate where the Spitfire is superb no matter which model. Unfortunately, turn fighting only can get you so far against a faster climbing and disciplined opponent.
Fortunately, WWII air battles are rarely fought evenly and so an aircraft like the Spitfire Vb which is at a disadvantage but with very good handling and decent speed and acceleration attributes can pull off a few surprising maneuvers against opponents that are unsuspecting.
In all of my battles I was able to maintain high speed by staying above the fight, going in at higher speeds (and being careful not to overspeed or black out) and use energy advantage to either turn that into an angles fight against fighters not expecting me. Or if the situation doesn’t work out then I can still use speed to climb back up to altitude – the Spitfire V may not be as fast as other aircraft during this era but it’s not bad either!
So, while the Spitfire Vb in these fights is not especially competitive, it is capable enough to be effective in the right situation. Even better, flying the Spitfire Vb is a lot of fun with light handling that is even better than the heavier and more powerful Spitfire IX.
So, while not competitive, I was able to walk away with a couple of kills in the Spitfire Vb online and it was fun to use so if this is one of your entry points into IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte, I think you can have a good time here. It’ll be a little more historically relevant and a bit more competitive in the forthcoming Normandy scenarios too so it’ll be good to see the Spitfire V a little bit more in the future. Maybe they can throw us in some clipped wings sometime?