(15) Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX

Color profiles: Janusz Światłoń, captions: Tomasz Szlagor
Free decals for all 20 painting schemes in 3 scales.

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Mark IX came into being as an impromptu countermeasure against Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A, the new, superb German fighter. The first Mk IX was basically a slightly strengthened Mark Vc airframe coupled to a heavier and more powerful Merlin 61 engine (fitted with a two-stage supercharger and intercooler). A four-bladed propeller was installed to harness the increased horsepower. Apart from the longer nose profile, Mk IX’s another distinctive feature was a revised system of underwing radiators (which featured two symmetrical, oblong section radiator housings, one under each wing). Early-production Mk IXs retained the rounded fin and rudder tip of the Mark V. However, the torque produced on take-off by the new, powerful engine was so great that it was necessary to introduce the broad-chord, pointed-tipped rudder. Early Mk IXs, fitted with the ‘C’ type wing, were armed with two 20 mm Hispano cannons and four 0.303-in machine guns. Many late-model Mark IXs, fitted with the ‘E’ type wing (which was introduced in 1944), exchanged the ineffective 0.303s for two 0.50-in Browning machine guns (one per wing), mounted inboard of the 20 mm cannons. A few late Mk IXs had the cut-down rear fuselage and teardrop hood seen on other late-mark Spitfires.
The Mk IX lost nothing of the Spitfire’s famed manoeuvrability, whilst it offered a much better rate of climb and speed than Mark V. At heights above 20,000 feet Mk IX was outstandingly better than its predecessor. A comparative trial revealed that Mark IX and Fw 190 were closely matched as regards performance. So great was the Mk IX’s success that the aircraft, which was conceived as a stopgap solution, eventually became the second-most produced Spitfire variant. Throughout its service life the Mk IX was extensively modified, both internally and externally. The three main sub-variants were: F Mk IX (powered by 1,565 hp Merlin 61 or 1,650 hp Merlin 63 engines), LF Mk IX (1,580 hp Merlin 66) and HF Mk IX (1,475 hp Merlin 70). The LF (Low-Altitude Fighter) variant, which entered service in early 1943, frequently featured the so-called clipped wings (reduced wingspan for enhanced manoeuvrability). Initially (and unofficially) the standard F variant was referred to as ‘Mk IXa’, and the LF variant as ‘Mk IXb’.
The LF designation was in itself somewhat misleading, for this variant attained its maximum speed at 22,000 ft (the standard F variant at 28,000 ft).
Series production of the standard Mk IX went underway in June 1942. No 34 Sqn RAF at Hornchurch was selected as the first for conversion, taking deliveries the same month. No 611 Sqn RAF followed the suit in July, Nos 401 and 402 (Canadian) Squadrons in August, and No 133 (US Eagle) Squadron in September. In the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations the premier unit to re-equip with Mk IXs was No 81 Sqn (in January 1943), at that time stationed in Algeria, followed shortly by No 72 in Tunisia. In spring 1943 also 31st and 52nd Fighter Groups USAAF, the two American Spitfire outfits operating in the theatre, took deliveries of Mk IXs (and operated them well into 1944, before converting to P-51 Mustangs).
Most Mk IXs which saw service in World War II were finished in the Day Fighter Scheme, introduced by the RAF in the ETO (European Theatre of Operations) in August 1941, and in the MTO (Mediterranean Theatre of Operations) in 1943. The scheme consisted of Dark Green and Ocean Grey colours on the upper surfaces, and Medium Sea Grey on the undersides; propeller spinner, fuselage band and code letters were pained in Sky colour. Still, in the MTO some Mk IXs sported the RAF Desert Scheme of Dark Earth/Middle Stone on the upper surfaces, with Azure Blue undersurfaces. All Allied single-engined fighters in the MTO, including RAF and U.S. Spitfires, had their spinners painted in red (although there were some exceptions). The yellow outline to the U.S. national insignia was introduced in October 1942, prior to American landings in North Africa (operation “Torch”). The short-lived, Insignia Red border to U.S. national markings came in June 1943, and was replaced with Insignia Blue in mid-August of the same year.

 Spitfire Mk IXc (BS403) coded ‘UZ-K’ of No 306 (Polish) Sqn.  [Painted by Janusz Światłoń]

Spitfire Mk IXc (BS556) coded ‘RF-G’ of No 303 (Polish) Sqn.  [Painted by Janusz Światłoń]

Spitfire LF Mk IXc (SM147) coded ‘Z’ of No 73 Sqn RAF.  [Painted by Janusz Światłoń]

Spitfire LF Mk IXe (PV181) flown by W/Cdr Rolf Arne Berg, the CO of No 132 (Norwegian) Fighter Wing; the aircraft carried his initials.  [Painted by Janusz Światłoń]