Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVIe

A different look appeared for the last Merlin Engined Spitfire produced during the War.

Let’s take a brief look at the end of the line.

Obviously the last big change here was switching to a bubble canopy. As there was no change in engine, airframe or armament the designation did not change. Just another Mk XVI as far the mechanics were concerned! It may be worth mentioning the same thing happened with the Mk IX and parallel Griffon Engined Mk XIV; switch to a bubble canopy during production not indicated by designation. One source claims that by February 1945 all production across all Marks had been converted over to the bubble canopy. I believe Mk IX production was wrapping up by then anyway, so only a small number of those were effected. Without digging too deep (!), I’ll say its usually safe to assume if you see a Merlin Spitfire with a bubble; its most likely a Mk XVI.

As mentioned in my previous, more detailed Mk XVI post, all (most? My usual Spitfire production qualifier applies. “all” should always be read as “as far as I know”!) of this Mark were delivered with clipped wingtips. But clipped, standard or extended was an easy switch often done in the field. So that previous Mk XVI had standard tips swapped in, here I am finally showing one with the more common clipped tips. This provides a slight boost of speed (less drag) and improved rate of roll; but slightly reduced overall maneuverability. Generally, the clipped tips were considered most desirable for low altitude work.

The Model 266 Packard Merlin engine was specifically boosted for best low altitude performance.

This particular aircraft was attached to 485 (New Zealand) Squadron. Organizationally this was an offshoot of the “Empire Air Training Scheme”, an agreement reached between Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in December 1939. Under this plan, training schools established in all these locations would feed pilots into Great Britain. Those students would then be organized into squadrons by nationality, that were nominally a part of their home armed forces but were under the command and control of the RAF for the duration of the War in Europe. I’ve seen this squadron simply listed as a RNZAF Squadron. But at least for the duration of hostilities, it was a little more complex than that!
485 Squadron was first declared operational on March 1, 1941. They participated in attempts to stop the Channel Dash, air cover of Dieppe, and fighter escort for daylight tactical bombers operating over the continent. In February 1944 they were assigned to the 2nd Tactical Air Force for the rest of the War. This meant more tactical bomber escort, and their own fighter bomber missions especially involving close support after Overlord. That also meant an early assignment to a base in France.
In February 1945 the squadron was briefly withdrawn back to Britain to re-equip with Tempests, but much to everyone’s relief the RAF changed their mind and Spitfire XVIs were issued instead. Squadron Leader Stan Brown commented because of the Packard built engine the Mk XVI was 20 knots slower than the Mk IX, but the engine was more reliable and longer lasting. I suspect he is exaggerating both the plus and minus of the engine (I don’t believe there were significant operational differences). But I have seen other comments that pilots could hear the difference between the engines. In April 1945 the squadron was moved into Germany (which is where this particular aircraft was photographed), where they remained until the squadron was disbanded in August of that year.

The bomb load never seems very Spitfire-like! But late-War Mk XVI would have often operated this way.

485 Squadron is credited with 10717 sorties, 63 enemy aircraft destroyed and 25 probables. Later historians have credited them with 72 aircraft destroyed. Of course their real effect was against trains, trucks and other transport. 39 pilots were killed in action. The Air Force Museum of New Zealand had a Spitfire Mk XVI on display in these markings.

This is the Eduard kit with Aeromaster decals. No problems with either product, apart from noting the Eduard kit is complicated!

Two Spitfire Mk XVI. Different canopy and clipped vs standard wingtips makes no difference in designation.

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; 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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10 Responses to Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVIe

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:


    No problems with either product, apart from noting the Eduard kit is complicated!

    Why I am not surprised…

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Lovely build.

  3. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I have this one in my collection.

  4. jfwknifton says:

    The last photograph shows two aircraft which surely shold have had some kind of difference in their mark numbers, if only an “a” or a “b”.

    • atcDave says:

      I know, it’s funny. The different wingtips is really superficial though, just an easily bolted on change.
      The canopy change is more substantive. Obviously some new engineering. But apparently TPTB felt it made no operational or maintenance difference, so no change!

  5. Pingback: Theme Build 5 – Complete | Plane Dave

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