Spitfire in the desert.

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Spitfire in the desert.

Berichtdoor Tandorini » 29 jan 2009, 20:40




Reginald Mitchell must have turned in his grave when the Spitfire was fitted with Vokes filter.

The Spitfire was the principal Allied fighter that could cope with the Luftwaffe’s BF109 fighters in the early and mid phases of the Second World War. The arrival of the Spitfire in the Mediterranean and North Africa severely eroded the BF109's superiority in those theatres and forced Germany to produce new variants of the Messerschmitt. It was the Spitfire that received the glory during and after the Second World War and it was the plane that the German pilots most feared until the arrival of the American P51 Mustang and the Typhoon. It was the arrival of Spitfires in Malta that kept the Islands hopes alive and allowed it to withstand one of the most violent sieges ever witnessed. The Spitfire, like its enemy the BF 109 had many variants and this proved the planes relatively simple yet very effective design that was able to be modified continually have a lasting effect upon the Second World War. In the Desert War the Spitfire was used for many roles, much like the Hurricane including Photo reconnaissance, fighter, fighter-bomber and tank destroying sorties. Most feared as a fighter the Spitfire had a lengthy career which continued well after the end of the war. The ability to turn tighter than the BF109 was crucial in ensuring the Spitfires success in the Mediterranean and North Africa.


The Mk VB(trop) (or type 352) could be identified by the large Vokes air filter fitted under the nose; the reduced speed of the air to the supercharger had a detrimental effect on the performance of the aircraft, but the decreased performance was considered acceptable. This variant was also fitted with a larger oil tank and desert survival gear behind the pilot's seat. A new "desert" camouflage scheme was applied. Many VB(trop)s were modified by 103 MU (Maintenance Unit-RAF depots in which factory fresh aircraft were brought up to service standards before being delivered to squadrons) at Aboukir, Egypt by replacing the Vokes filter with locally manufactured "Aboukir" filters, which were lighter and more streamlined. Two designs of these filters can be identified in photos: one had a bulky, squared off filter housing while the other was more streamlined. These aircraft were usually fitted with the wide blade Rotol propeller and clipped wings.


Mk VC and VC(trop) (types 349 and 352/6) As well as having most of the standard Mk V features this version had several important changes over the earlier Mk Vs, most of them modifications which were first tested on the Mk III:

The Type C wing "Universal" wing was used.

The structure was re-stressed and strengthened.

A deeper radiator fairing was fitted under the starboard wing, and a larger oil cooler, with a deeper, kinked air outlet, to port.

The Mk VC introduced the new windscreen design first used on the Mk III. Some Mk VBs also used this windscreen.

More armour plating was added, protecting the bottom of the pilot's seat and the wing ammunition boxes.

The elevator horn balances were increased in area.

One VC(trop) BP985 was modified by 103 MU as a high altitude fighter capable of intercepting the Ju 86P photo reconnaissance aircraft which were overflying Allied naval bases in Egypt. This aircraft was stripped of all unnecessary weight, including all armour plating and the Hispano cannon and the compression ratio of the Merlin 46 was increased by modifying the cylinder block. A four bladed de Havilland propeller was fitted along with an "Aboukir" filter, a larger 9.5 gallon oil tank and extended wingtips.[32]

The first Spitfires to be sent overseas in large numbers were Mk VBs; many of these were built as VC(trop)s. With the advent of the Mk IX to RAF service few of the Mk VC saw combat over Europe, with the majority of them being used either in North Africa and the Mediterranean or in the Far East.


In 1943 five Spitfire VIs (BS106, BS124, BS133, BS134 and BS149) were converted to improvised PR Mk VIs by 680 Squadron in Egypt. These aircraft had been "tropicalised" using the same bulky Vokes filter and other equipment used by Spitfire VB Trops, as well as being painted in a "desert" camouflage scheme.
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