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Estonian Type 332 Spitfire

Started by comrade harps, January 12, 2023, 04:45:11 AM

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comrade harps

Supermarine Type 332 Spitfire
a/c 5, 2 Eskadrill, Estonian Air Force
Ämari, Estonia, winter 1941-42
Personal mount of Colonel Konstantin Vassiljev

In 1920 each of the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania achieved their independence from Soviet Russia. Declaring themselves as neutral in the ongoing series of Soviet civil wars, they cooperated in defence and economic matters in recognition if their individual vulnerability. Taking a pro-Western diplomatic position but ridding themselves of White Russian terrorists, they proved to be a stable and unthreatening neighbour to the Reds.

The 3 nations formed the Baltic Economic Community (BEC) in 1933 in response to the ravages of the Great Depression. Despite prolonged discussions, the authoritarian regimes of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania failed to conclude a military alliance, but did leverage the terms of the BEC to find common ground in the acquisition of arms. In 1936, 9 Supermarine Walrus aircraft amphibious aircraft were collectively ordered, with 3 being supplied to each nation. This association with Supermarine put the BEC members in a privileged position to be introduced to other Supermarine products, including their new fighter design, the Spitfire. A Baltic delegation was informally briefed on the Spitfire in early June 1936, as the Foriegn Office was yet to approve the type for export. Nethertheless, the Baltic representatives made it clear that they viewed the Spitfire as superior to the rival Hawker Hurricane and openly spoke about the possibility of license production. The BEC was the first foriegn customer to open negotiations when export discussions were officially permitted from 1 June 1938. An order for 36 Type 332 Spitfires (12 for each country), with an option for a further 36, was placed in August. The Type 332 differed from RAF-standard Spitfire Mk.1s in having FN Browning machine guns instead of Brownings made by BSA in Britain; in recognition of the cold Baltic climate, hot air from the engine was pumped into the wings to keep these guns from freezing (a feature later adopted for all other Spitfire). All were to be built in the BEC with final assembly at Riga, Latvia, by Valsts elektrotehniskā fabrika (VEF).

This decision caused some dissatisfaction at the state-owned company, as they were in the process of designing their own series of fighters. The prototype VEF I-16, a low-wing monoplane of wooden construction with a fixed undercarriage and Czech-built Walter Sagitta V-12 engine, was due to roll out in 1940. However, the I-16 had been rejected as obsolete by the Latvian Air Force in mid-1938 when the opportunity to acquire Spitfires arose. VEF's Chief Designer responded by recasting the I-16 as a private venture "experimental fighter" to test technologies for his next fighter project, the VEF I-19. A single I-16 was built and test flown in 1940, its performance comparing poorly to that of the Spitfire. A low-wing monoplane of wooden construction with a Merlin engine, the proposed I-19 featured retractable landing gear and a tear drop shaped canopy. The I-19 was assessed as having some advances over the Spitfire, but wouldn't be available for production until 1942 at the earliest. At best, the I-19 was a potential Spitfire replacement, but events overtook it and the project was canceled in late 1941 (despite proposed variations with the DB601 or DB605) before the first prototype was completed.

The licencing agreement included provisions for iterative improvements and technology transfers to enable the VEF Spitfires to keep pace with Supermarine's delivery standards. This saw early examples completed with the Aero Products 2 blade propeller and flat perspex canopy, but later examples were built with the 3 bladed de Havilland propeller and bulged canopy. Where possible, in-service aircraft were similarly upgraded to maintain fleet consistency. The first VEF built Spitfire was test flown on 3 April 1939 and on the 24th the option for a further 36 was taken up.

Although VEF and its Baltic subcontractors were nicely building up their capacity to construct all 72 Spitfires on schedule, problems were on the horizon. On 3 September 1939 Britain had declared war on Germany due to its invasion of Poland. German troops were soon at Lithuania's Polish border and the Nazi Foriegn Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was making it clear that Hitler wanted the Baltic states to join the Axis Alliance. In these circumstances, the continued delivery of vital British-supplied components such as Rolls Royce Merlin engines and the de Havilland props were in jeopardy. Reiterating their neutrality, the Baltic states made arrangements for the British products to transit neutral Norway and Sweden to avoid interception by the Kriegsmarine, but deliveries were slowed as production for the RAF took priority, forcing VEF to roll out several incomplete airframes. When Norway was invaded by the Nazis in April 1940 the supply chain from Britain was cut, causing VEF's delivery of complete Spitfires to cease at 57 aircraft. Needing alternatives if production was to continue, VEF contacted Europe's only other Spitfire licensee, Bulgaria's DAR, to see if they could be of assistance. DAR replied that it was well behind VEF in its progress towards production and asked VEF for help with supplying blueprints and jigs. With VEF seeking alternative engines, including Swedish-built Pratt & Whitney R-1830-SC3-G Twin Wasps and Germany's Daimler-Benz DB601, the Latvian company was in no position to help DAR, especially as the Baltic governments were now demanding more Spitfires beyond the 72 ordered. However, no progress was made in obtaining a suitable engine and, by the end of 1940, VEF was focused on the maintenance, repair and overhaul of the existing Baltic Spitfire force.

By June 1941 the 3 Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were isolated and under great threat. The Moscow Pact's Red Army was mobilising and Germany was massing its forces in occupied Poland, threatening to invade any or all that impeded its inevitable eastward expansion. Both the Reds and the Nazis were demanding rights of passage through the Baltic states if war broke out. On 18 June, the Estonian government secretly agreed to facilitate the transit of German military units through its territory. On the 20th, Latvia signed a secret Memorandum of Nonaggression with Germany that permitted the stationing of German troops on Latvian soil. Lithuania signed a similar secret Agreement on Mutual Interests on the y21st. On 22 June, the Axis Powers launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Moscow Pact nations. Within hours Luftwaffe aircraft were transiting the airspace of the Baltic states without incident and Wehrmacht troops and equipment were being offloaded at Baltic ports and peacefully crossing the Lithuanian border from Poland. On the 25th, Red saboteurs torched the VEF factory at Riga, destroying most of the company's Spitfire production assets, including several incomplete airframes and a large stock of spare parts. Bulgaria's DAR would have to build their Spitfires without VEF's help.

Whereas the Baltic states deployed volunteer infantry battalions to join the Axis in the war against the Reds (notably participating in the Siege of Leningrad), the Baltic Spitfires stayed home to perform air defence. The 3 Baltic air forces had 43 airworthy Spitfires between them on 22 June 1941, a total that was only going to decline as attrition and spares shortages took their toll. Lithuania was the first to replace its dwindling Spitfire force with Bf 109s, receiving 16 ex-Luftwaffe E-7s in early 1942, followed by G-2s and G-6s in 1943-44. The surplus Lithuanian Spitfires were sold to Estonia, as were the survivors of Latvia's fleet when they were replaced by Bf 109F-4s early 1942; G-2s and G-6s followed.

Thus it was Estonia that preserverred with the VEF-built Spitfires the longest. Through a process of acquisitions from Latvia and Lithuania, cannibalism of airframes and some local component manufacture, the Estonian Air Force maintained a single squadron armed with Spitfires until February 1943, after which a staff flight flew with the type for a further 4 months. Monthly Estonian Air Force reports from 1942 note that 2 Eskadrill's number of combat ready Spitfires varied from a maximum of 10 in February to as few as 5 in December. They were replaced by Bf 109s, with F-4, G-2 and G-6 models delivered.

Taken together, the Spitfire pilots of the Baltic states claimed 96 Red aircraft shot down, of which 73 were officially credited. A detailed postwar analysis of these claims comparing them against Red documents puts the number at 67. Of the 67 confirmed kill total, 32 were bombers or twin-engined torpedo-bombers, 23 were fighters, 9 were flying boats and 3 were photo reconnaissance aircraft. Even at this lower number, the pilots of the 57 completed VEF Spitfires had a better than equal kill/loss ratio, with the same analysis attributing 23 Baltic Spitfire losses to Red aerial victories. Additional losses were experienced through accidents and friendly fire. Although the Reds were supplied with British and US built Spitfires, these were not stationed near the Baltic.

The leading Baltic Spitfire ace was the Estonian Colonel Konstantin Vassiljev. Between 25 June 1941 and 2 February 1943, Col. Vassiljev claimed 26 aerial kills flying Spitfires with 2 Eskadrill, but the postwar analysis credits him with 20. These were made up of 8 bombers (including twin-engined torpedo-bombers), 9 fighters, 2 flying boats and a single
photo-recon plane. He claimed a further 9 victories (7 confirmed postwar) before being killed in a Bf 109 F-2 on 21 May 1943.

The aircraft modeled here was frequently flown by Colonel Vassiljev and was said to be his favourite Spitfire. The 55th Spitfire from the VEF production line, it was built to a standard equivalent to the RAF's Spitfire 1a and was 1 of just 3 to feature a bulged canopy. The Latvian and Lithuanian Spitfires were delivered in a camouflage of dark green and black green over blue in a pattern that was similar to that applied to contemporary RAF Spitfires. The Estonian aircraft also had blue undersurfaces, but their uppers and sides featured a black green and dark grey scheme. This was in recognition of their air superiority duties over the Gulf of Finland. The Estonian Spitfires were painted with disruptive applications of white wash during the winters of 1941-42 and 42-43. This proved to be suitable for both over land and maritime operations, as the Gulf of Finland iced over in winter. The yellow Axis identification bands were added on 23 June 1941. As the yellow fuselage band covered some of the white 3 digit side number (the last 3 of each plane's serial number), the Estonians repainted their Spitfires with single or 2 digit tactical numbers. These numbers were in yellow to visually reinforce their yellow quick identification markings. This aircraft originally wore the number 185 on its fuselage, but as a deception measure in the interests of operational security this was abbreviated to the single digit 5. It is modeled as photographed at Ämari, Estonia, sometime during the winter of 1941-42. This aircraft was grounded in January 1943 after an engine fire.



As expected, a great aircraft and story  ;D
My deviantart page:

PS: Not my art, not very good at drawning :P


Looks very good in that scheme.

Reality is an illusion caused by an alcohol deficiency


Agreed...very nice mate ..love the camo  ;D  ;D  :thumbsup:
If it aint broke ,,fix it until it is .
Over kill is often very understated .
I know the voices in my head ain't real but they do come up with some great ideas.
Theres few of lifes problems that can't be solved with the proper application of a high explosive projectile .

comrade harps

I finally built a Spitty without bells and whistles. OK, it's got the canopy bulge and 3 props, but to me that is the classic Battle of Britain Spitfire. The 2 prop flat tops are like a preproduction series.

All my other Spits have the likes of cannon, dust filters,  extended wingtips, clipped wingtips, 4 or 5 or contraprops, bubble canopies, bombs, rockets or drop tanks. Finally l've gone basic BoB era Spitfire.

And what's a camouflage type that you rarely see on a Spitfire? Winter!

The markings are actually from Botswana, but the Estonian markings are the same colours and similarly triangular, just of a different order from outside to centre.

The Estonian Spitfire is a popular whif trope. The starting point is what if the RW Estonian Type 332 order was delivered? I just had to push the order forward a bit and figure out how they could be built at a time that Supermarine was flat out with RAF orders.

Thank you for your appreciation of my first 2023 build. La Nina summers are the best summers.

comrade harps



Congratulations! :thumbsup:

Google Translate tells me that, in Estonian language, Twin-Spitfire is Kaksik-Spitfire: <_<

= link http://www.kristofmeunier.fr/spitharps-twin.jpg
[the word "realistic" hurts my heart...]


Great job Comrade.
Particularly the paintjob.  Is it borrowed or of your own invention?


- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..


comrade harps

Quote from: Tophe on January 13, 2023, 02:18:38 AMCongratulations! :thumbsup:

Google Translate tells me that, in Estonian language, Twin-Spitfire is Kaksik-Spitfire: <_<

= link http://www.kristofmeunier.fr/spitharps-twin.jpg

That is trippy  :blink:

comrade harps

Quote from: zenrat on January 13, 2023, 02:52:57 AMGreat job Comrade.
Particularly the paintjob.  Is it borrowed or of your own invention?

l think it's to do with the limitations of my paint brush skills. That and my aesthetic for curves.


Quote from: comrade harps on January 13, 2023, 04:51:25 AMThat is trippy  :blink:

Uh, I should confess I did not know the word trippy, not even its translation in French ("trippant"). But Google translate explains and then I understand: "resembling or inducing the hallucinatory effect produced by taking a psychedelic drug.". Good for a whatif thing! Thanks!
[the word "realistic" hurts my heart...]


I do like that, especially the camouflage scheme  :thumbsup:  :thumbsup:
Decals my @r$e!