Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb Trop

The Spitfire saw service with a variety of users.  But this major wartime user may surprise some readers. Who would put stars on a Spitfire?

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After the jump, an American Spit.

Lend Lease didn’t just flow one way.  Although the intent was to provide all the various allied nations with weapons and equipment from American industry, on occasion, the U.S. had needs that they expected their allies to help with.  When American Fighter Groups started organizing in Britain in 1942, it was quickly recognized the Spitfire was the best Allied fighter in theater.  Not only that, it would be the easiest fighter to maintain until the whole American supply and support system could reach full effectiveness.

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American aircraft in North Africa often carried the Stars and Stripes, as there was concern that some of the locals might not recognize the US national insignia. Also note the yellow outline of the insignia. This and the red spinner were carried by all Allied aircraft in North Africa for a while.

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I think the British Tropical colors are their most appealing color scheme. That’s Dark Earth and Middlestone over Azure Blue.

So while many British squadrons worldwide were flying Tomahawks and Kittyhawks, it was arranged for three American Fighter Groups to get Spitfires. Two of these groups, the 31st and 52nd, were deployed first to Gibraltar, then North Africa after the Allies invaded in November of 1942.  These groups would advance with allied armies through Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, participate in the the invasion of Sicily summer of 1943, then move to Italy late that year.

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British aircraft carried roundels on both wing upper surfaces.  When the 52nd Fighter Group inherited this aircraft they painted out the starboard roundel, and modified the port one into the US insignia (ish).

British aircraft carried roundels on both wing upper surfaces. When the 52nd Fighter Group inherited this aircraft they painted out the starboard roundel, and modified the port one into the US insignia (ish).

Eventually they would re-equip with Mustangs to participate in the strategic bombing campaign from Italy.  The Spitfire period of their operations lasted two years.

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The C.202 and American Spitfire would have faced off over North Africa in late 1942/early 1943.

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Generally they equipped with slightly obsolete, even worn out examples of the British fighter.  They also received less recognition, both official and unofficial while fighting with foreign hand me downs.  This example is from the Tamiya kit with Third Group decals.  It is a Vb “Trop”, which means it has a tropical air filter under the nose to protect the engine from too much sand intake.  Of interest is the obviously painted over British markings, and generally badly worn aircraft.  It was flown by Major Robert Levine who had three kills.

Up Next: Curtiss Hawk 75N  

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About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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5 Responses to Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb Trop

  1. Theresa says:

    What an interesting point of history on this plane. I never knew it flew under USAAF banners.

    • atcDave says:

      We used a few British types, Beaufighter, Mosquito, and PR Spitfires and Mosquitos.

      There’s a funny story I’d read about a big todo if the Eighth Air Force would use Black Widows or Mosquitos as its main night fighter. The Mosquito was faster, with a better rate of climb, and everyone knew it. So the Eighth was pushing for Mosquitos. The British, who had taken delivery of thousands of American aircraft, really couldn’t say no if a couple squadrons worth of Mosquitos were requested.
      Well it was decided there would be a big fly off between the two types. Officers flew in from Washington, Northrop reps were there, in addition to Eighth Air Force and RAF. Well apparently, on the day of the big competition, the BRITISH Mosquito crew lost to the Black Widow in every contest. Funny that.

      But seriously, the U.S. and British alliance was very close and very cooperative. But it did really strain British resources when we did use their aircraft. So in most cases, we only used them until we could get an acceptable American type to take its place.

  2. Pingback: Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXc | Plane Dave

  3. andrew says:

    Hi Dave…great piece…I’m about to make the Tamiya 1/48 to this version and was looking for help on the colour scheme? I have got decals from AML. You mention Azure blue, dark earth and middle stone which are all enamels…any advice for Humbrol Acrylic please?

    Love your build.

    Andrew, Scotland

    • atcDave says:

      The Tamiya kit sure is a joy to build, excellent model!

      I’m not as familiar with Acrylic paints, but it does look like Humbrol has at least some of those at Sprue Brothers. Also, Vallejo has an Acrylic line with many specialized colors. I would guess in Scotland Hannants might be your best resource for these brands?

      Azure Blue is close to a few other blues. Its a vivid blue, as military colors go. But its close to British PRU Blue; Russian Underside Blue; maybe even US Navy Blue-Grey.
      Dark Earth is a pretty standard Dark Brown, it should be pretty easy to substitute from any paint line.
      Middle Stone is a little more interesting. It might be close to RLM 79 Gelb, just a little more yellow. It also might be close to both British and German desert armor colors; again, just a little more yellow.
      I’ve been using Model Master Enamels, but the line has shrunk a lot the last few years. Many of the “slow movers” have been cut; like ALL the French colors. So I may be doing a lot of substituting and mixing in the future.

      Have fun!

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