Ultra-Micro Spitfire Mk.lX
|During the Second World War the advances in technology made by one country were soon caught up with or overtaken by those of the opposing country. This was never more clearly demonstrated than in the development of fighter aircraft that strove to gain that all-important "air superiority" over opponents.
Britain and the RAF's answer to the German Luftwaffe's introduction of designer Kurt Tanks "Butcher Bird", the Focke-Wulf 190, was the Mk IX Spitfire. This was initially a stop-gap project to put the new Merlin two-stage supercharged engine into a Mk V airframe.
However, such was the success of the Mk IX it was kept in production far longer than anyone imagined and formed the bulk of Fighter Command's equipment during the middle war years. The Mk IX came in several versions; low altitude combat with clipped wings, high altitude with extended wing-tips and the mass-produced normal fighter version.
Normal armament was two cannons and four .303 calibre machine-guns, although the "E" wing was introduced on the Mk IX giving an armament of two cannons and two heavy calibre .50 machine-guns that gave much better range and penetrating power than the earlier rifle calibre machine-guns. At medium and high altitude the Mk IX was superior to the FW190, although the Focke-Wulf excelled at low altitude. Later "long-nosed" versions of the FW190 regained the edge over the Mk IX but by then still improved Spitfires were waiting in the wings to regain mastery of the air.
It was the Mk IX that began the process of establishing air superiority for the Allies over Europe, an air superiority extended and maintained by the long range American P47 Thunderbolt, P51 Mustang and P38 Lightning fighters.
Thought by many RAF pilots to be the best Spitfire ever made, some 5,665 Mk IX Spitfires were produced by wars end.