The final Merlin-engined Mark of Supermarine’s famous product entered service in October 1944 and remained in service until well into the post-War period.
Let’s look at a late War Spitfire.
The Spitfire Mk XVI came about purely because of concerns Rolls-Royce couldn’t meet demand for all the Merlin and Griffon engines being used by a variety of aircraft types as the War reached its climax.
Packard Motor Company in the US was starting to produce license built Merlins, identical to the current 60 Series except for Imperial gauge tooling in place of Metric. These were tagged as 260 Series engines. The Spitfire Mk IX had become the main British fighter at the mid-point of the War, and more of it was always needed.
The simplest description of the Spitfire Mk XVI is that it was a Mk IX with the Packard Merlin engine. There are a few other specific comments we can make about the type however, mostly related to the RAF having specific needs by the time the type entered service; that is, later Mk IX and Mk XVI Spitfires were used primarily for close support. The first feature is very slightly enlarged upper nose cover and under-wing radiators; this accommodated a revised accessory lay-out and became standard on later built Mk IXs too. All Mk XVIs used the Merlin 266 engine, this was specifically boosted for low altitude service which makes them all technically “LF” fighters. Related to the LF aspect, they were all produced with the low-altitude clipped wing (this improved speed and rate of roll). [Although the Mk XVI shown here had the normal type tips fitted, perhaps pilot preference, for shorter take-off runs and better turning performance] All Mk XVI also had the pointed style rudder.
Finally, all Spitfire Mk XVI were produced with the “e” wing. By late-War all Mk IX were also being built with this wing. Specifically, this did away with the fittings for two .303 Brownings in each wing and instead offered an option on the inner gun mount of a 20 mm cannon or .50 machine gun. All Mk XVI were produced with the 20 mm cannon on the outer mount, and a .50 on the inner mount.
Readers familiar with the type may know there was one other feature common to most Mk XVIs that isn’t shown here, but of course there’s still one more Spitfire “on my workbench” for this theme build… [gee, did I just spoil something?]
This particular Spitfire was flown by Squadron Leader Henry Zary of RCAF 403 Squadron in the closing weeks of the War. Henry Zary was a New Yorker who joined the RCAF in 1941. Summer of 1944 he scored 4 kills in a Spitfire Mk IX. At the end of 1944 403 Squadron switched over to all Mk XVI Spitfires; because the need for different tool kits and spare parts it would always be one or the other, never mixed. I’m not sure when Henry Zary was made commander of that Squadron, but he was by the end of the War, and it was in this aircraft, on April 21, 1945 that he scored his 5th and final kill.
Of course this is the Eduard kit again. A funny thing, they did the late Merlin Spitfire (VIII, IX and XVI) about ten years ago and the earlier Spitfires (I, II and V) just recently. A lot of parts and parts break down is identical or very similar between the kits. But a few tweaks, mostly about ease of assembly, have been made during the long gap. I found it most noticeable in the exhausts, the assembly process used on these late Merlin Spitfires is almost comically fiddly and ridiculous. The more recent kits are vastly improved in that regard.
But overall not a big deal, this is a well engineered and well made kit. Especially with all the extra goodies in this dual-combo boxing like canopy masks and photo-etch instruments and other details.