A State of Confusion - MK IX OR MK XVI?

Article by Phil Scallan.

The Spitfire Mk XVI and why was SAAF 5518/TE213, an MK IX HFIX, often mistaken for one?

The late production MK IX Spitfires are externally very similar to the MK XVI Spitfire. Still, those late production MK IX’s fitted with the Merlin266 built by the US Packard Motor Company were designated MK XVIs to differentiate them from those with British-built Rolls Royce Merlin 66s. The Merlin 266, a low-rated Merlin 66 began reaching England in quantity in 1944 and was installed in production MK IXs from September 1944. The two engines differed enough to require separate servicing tools and parts.

Among the changes incorporated by Packard, which was built to metric measurements, was an electro-hydraulically operated supercharger gear (compared to electro-pneumatic British engines). The inter-cooler header tank was integral with the power unit rather than bulk head mounted, and the oil piping run was modified.

So why would one mistake 5518 for a MK XVI? From February 1945, the low-back and bubble canopy was standard on the MK XVI, and most MK VI’s had the clipped ‘e’ wings for the low-level role. 5518 has both these features. A total of 1053 MK XVIs were built. The bubble canopy was a development from the P-51 Mustang and finally gave the Spitfire Pilot a rear hemisphere view. Incidentally, both the MK XVI and SAAF 5518 are products of Castle Bromwich.