Supermarine Spitfire IX / VELVETA for Israel LIMITED EDITION 1:48
In September 1941, a hitherto unknown German radial engine fighter appeared in the west European sky. The new airplane wassuperior to British fighters, most distressingly to the Spitfire Mk.V. The German design was soon recognized as the Focke-Wulf Fw 190A. The losses suffered by the RAF over western Europe rose rapidly and the crisis was serious enough that the RAF ceased the majorityof daytime operations in November, 1941. The next attempt to resume these types of sorties was made in March 1942. Loss ratesremained unacceptably high and the RAF was forces to stop ops once again. All this was thanks to the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A. The firstresponse to the new German weapon was the Spitfire Mk.VIII, but the design changes were so complex that initiating timely productionwas not possible. In June, 1942, a German pilot landed by mistake on a British airfield delivering a completely intact Fw 190 fighter intoRAF hands. Comparative trials between the Focke-Wulf and Spitfire Mk.V began almost immediatelly. These mock encountersconfirmed the situation over the front – the chances of a British fighter surviving an encounter with the Fw 190 were slim. The only Britishfighter aircraft deemed suitable to oppose them were the Spitfire Mk. VII and VIII powered by the Merlin 61 engine. As mentioned abovethese were some time away of being ready for series production. But there was another way of getting a powerful fighter quickly -by mating the Merlin 61, with its two-stage supercharger, with the fuselage of the Spitfire Mk.Vc. Two Mk.Vc airframes, AB196 andAB197, were selected for this purpose and were strengthened with modified longerons to accommodate the more powerful and heavierengine. The example was finished on February 26 and the second on March 27, 1942. Flight trials were succesful and the order forseries production was issued almost immediately. Series production began in June 1942 and the first Mk.IXs found their wayto No. 64 Squadron in July. Performance improved significantly in comparison to the Mk.V. A top speed of 409 mphat 28,000 feet was higher by 40mph, and the service ceiling rose from 36,200 to 43,000 feet. The Mk.IX could climb at 4,000 feet perminute. The RAF finally had a fighter aircraft capable of opposing the Fw 190 A. Three main versions of the Mk IX were produced. TheF.IX was powered by the Merlin 61 and was the only version on the assembly line in early 1943. The next version was the LF Mk.IXpowered by the Merlin 66. This engine was designed to do its best at low altitudes. The third version, manufactired along with the LF, wasthe high-altitude HF Mk.IX with the Merlin 70. The majority of Mk.IXs manufactured were equipped with the so-called 'C' wing. Four20mm cannon or two 20mm cannon and four .303 machine guns could be installed in the wings. From 1944, the strengthened 'E' wingwas produced. Four .303 machine guns were replaced with two .50 heavy machine guns. Bomb racks for 250lb bombs were fitted undereach wing typically. The Mk.IX became the second most numerous version of the Spitfire with a total of 5653 examples being built. TheMk.IX began to replace the Mk.V from June, 1942. Thanks to the new fighter, the RAF was ready to fight against the Luftwaffe overoccupied Europe. Spitfire Mk.IXs served with the RAF to the end of war. In the postwar era, foreign air forces flew this version as well.Czechoslovak, Norwegian, Danish, and Canadian air forces operated numbers of Mk.IXs and they were not alone. Spitfires would findthemselves in combat again. Czechoslovakia sold its Spitfire Mk.IXs to Israel in 1948 and these aircraft formed the backbone of thenewly born Israeli air force in the fight against their Arab neighbours.The Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX was the first Israeli fighter aircraft with a truly significant combat capability allowing the pilots of theCheyl Ha’Avir (Israeli Air Force) to swing the decisive battles fought against the Arab states in Israel’s favour immediately after theformation of the nation in 1948-49. The pilots of what at the time was the only fighter squadron of the Israeli Air Force, the 101st Tajeset,scored 26 victories in all, fourteen of which are credited to the Spitfire. The enemy aircraft that were encountered included seven MacchiMC.205V and three Spitfires from the Egyptian Air Force along with three Spitfires and one Tempest of the Royal Air Force.As a comparison, the Avia S.199 was credited with six confirmed and one probable kill, and the Mustang five kills. Kills from the cockpitsof Israeli aircraft were generally scored by foreign volunteers, known in Israel by the acronym MACHAL (Mitnadvei Chuc L’Arec)because at the time, Israel had a shortage of its own qualified pilots. Noteworthy among them were two Canadians, John FrederickMcElroy, DFC & Bar, an ace with 14.5 kills to his credit from the Second World War and Joseph Doyle with two Second World War kills,and Chalmers H. Goodlin, who worked with Bell and was involved with the first supersonic aircraft, the Bell X-1. Another huge influencethat the Spitfire brought with it to Israel was the ability to train the first generation of Israeli pilots. They flew the Spitfire, and in some caseswent on to have remarkable careers in the Israeli Air Force, such as Ezer Weizman (Commander of the Israeli Air Force and futurePresident), Dany Shapiro (long term Cheyl Ha‘ Avir test pilot and later with Israeli Aircraft Industries) and Modi Hod (another leader in theIsraeli Air Force). In the years between 1948 and 1956, the Israeli Air Force saw the service of some ninety Spitfires Mk. IX of varioussubtypes. Aircraft numbered 2001 to 2090 have been documented. The most common of these have been the LF Mk.IXe. These weredelivered to the tune of 62 aircraft from Czechoslovakia and the Cheyl Ha‘ Avir pressed into service, or at least recorded, 57. OtherLF Mk.IXe aircraft came with several HF Mk.IXe or F Mk.IXc from a thirty plane delivery from Italy. Also pressed into service were twoaircraft assembled from wrecks with wings from IXc aircraft. The aircraft built from wrecks were serialed 2001 and 2002, aircraft fromCzechoslovakia 2003 to 2059, and the Italian aircraft 2060 to 2090. Some aircraft, such as 2090, never reached Cheyl Ha’Avir serviceand went directly from the depository to Burma in a thirty plane deal in 1954. In the Cheyl Ha’Avir, Spitfires first found their way to the101st Tajeset in 1948, with which they fought in the War of Independence and served there until 1953 as trainers for israeli pilots. In thetrainer role, they were subsequently used by two other units, 105th Tajeset from 1950 until 1956 and 107th Tajeset in 1953/54. Theyserved until 1956, when the last sixteen of the airworthy examples were retired. To this day, only twelve Spitfires that flew in Israel havebeen preserved. Some are even airworthy, while the rest are museum displays or are stored in various facilities around the world.