The Spitfire Mk.VIII was a victim of timing.
In September 1941, the Luftwaffe’s new fighter, the Fw 190, made its operational debut, and quickly outclassed the RAF’s Spitfire Mk.V. That same month, a potential answer, the upgraded Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 engine, made its first flight. The engine was a stunner, and work began at once redesigning the airframe to accomodate the larger, heavier 61.
The new design, designated the Mk.VIII, was intended to be the RAF’s answer to the formidable Fw 190.
This is where the timing thing comes in. In July 1942, while the Mk.VIII was still in development, the Spitfire Mk.IX debuted. Intended as a stopgap until the Mk.VIII arrived, the Mk.IX combined a Mk.V airframe with the new Merlin 60/70 series of engines destined for the VIII. It outperformed everyone’s expectations, and soon assumed a place as Britain’s front-line fighter.
By the time the Mk.VIII entered service in June 1943, it was relegated to the Mediterranean and the Far East, where it served with the RAF, RAAF, and even equipped USAAF fighter squadrons in Italy until it was replaced throughout 1944 by the P-51 Mustang.
For this rather epic – I can’t think of any other word to describe Tamiya’s effort with this masterful kit – build, I’m planning to go with the markings of one of those USAAF Spitfires – “Fargo Express”, flown by Captain Leland Molland of the 308th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Group, 15th Air Force.
Between the tropical camoflage, American markings, and yellow theater bands, it should be a pretty interesting scheme when all is said and done.
Stay tuned. This one’s going to be a ride!