|The Hawker Hurricane was
the first fighter monoplane to join the Royal Air Force and the
first combat aircraft adopted by that arm capable of exceeding 300
m.p.h. in level flight. The Hurricane shouldered the lion's share
of Britain's defense during the " Battle of Britain".
Often underrated in favor of the Spitfire , the Hurricane was the
main victor of the Battle of Britain. The Royal Air Force had at that
time 32 Hurricane squadrons, compared with 19 Spitfire squadrons. This
meant that 620 Hurricane and Spitfire fighters (with another 84
assorted fighters like the Gloster Gladiator) had to face the
German air threat of 3,500 bombers and fighters. During the "Battle of
Britain", along with the Spitfire , it helped to force the Luftwaffe
to use the Bf 109 to protect the poor performing twin engine Bf 110
The synthesis of many years' intimate experience of fighter biplane
design translated into the modern formula; a compromise between
tradition and requirements born of a new era in air warfare--such was
the Hawker Hurricane. The first fighter monoplane to join the Royal
Air Force and the first combat aircraft adopted by that arm capable of
exceeding 300 m.p.h. in level flight, the Hurricane shouldered the
lion's share of Britain's defense during the " Battle of Britain", and
was largely responsible for the successful outcome of this conflict
for the defending forces, equipping more than three-fifths of R.A.F.
Fighter Command's squadrons. The Hurricane also proved to possess an
astounding propensity for adaptation, and the multifarious roles that
it undertook earned for it the distinction of being the most versatile
of single seat warplanes to emerge from the Second World War.
The Hurricane was the work of Sydney Camm, who began its design in
1934. The prototype first took to the air on November 6,1935, at
Brooklands, and the initial production Hurricane I entered RAF service
in December 1937, with No 111 Squadron. Powered by the famous
Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, it became the first RAF monoplane
fighter with an enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriage, its
first fighter capable of a level speed in excess of 483 km/h (300
mph), and its first eight-gun fighter.
Under the command of Sqn. Ldr. J. W. Gillan, No. 111 Squadron quickly
settled down with its new monoplanes, and on February 10, 1938, the
commander personally demonstrated the prowess of the Hurricane by
flying from Edinburgh to Northolt at an average speed of 408 m.p.h.
Even with a stiff tail-wind this was a remarkable performance.
Squadrons were rapidly equipped with the Hurricane--thanks to the
foresight of the Hawker Aircraft directors--and at the time war was
declared, on September 3, 1939, just short of 500 Hurricanes had been
delivered and eighteen squadrons had been equipped. These were all of
the Mark I type, armed with eight 0.303-in. machine-guns but having
alternative propeller installations: a Merlin II engine driving a
Watts two-blade fixed-pitch wooden propeller, or a Merlin III of
similar power having a standardized shaft for de Havilland or Rotol
three-blade metal propellers. The Hurricane I, at 7,127 Ib. all-up
weight, possessed a maximum speed of 325 m.p.h. at 17,500 feet, a
range of 700 miles at 200 m.p.h. at 15,000 feet, a service ceiling of
36,000 feet, and the ability to climb to 20,000 feet in 9 minutes.
|Hawker Aircraft Limited
evolved from Sopwith and had spent its entire life in
developing single engined warplanes. None was to achieve more fame
than the Hurricane.
The early history of the Hurricane is an interesting parallel in
many ways with that of the Supermarine Spitfire with which it was to
form an immortal partnership; but while the Spitfire was an entirely
new conception based on specialized experience, the Hurricane was the
logical outcome of a long line of fighting aircraft. Thus, although
the two airplanes met broadly the same requirements, they represented
entirely different approaches to the same problem. The two approaches
were reflected to an interesting degree in their respective
appearances; the Hurricane workmanlike, rugged and sturdy, the
Spitfire slender and ballerina-like. One was the studied application
of experience, the other a stroke of genius.
Early in 1934 Sydney Camm, chief designer of Hawker Aircraft, learned
of the work being undertaken by Rolls-Royce to develop a powerful new
engine, then known as the PV-12. At that time the Hawker design
team had been working on a fighter project known as the Fury
Monoplane which had been designed around the 660 h.p.
Rolls-Royce Goshawk steam-cooled engine. As the new engine offered
a substantial improvement in performance, the projected fighter was
re-designed for the new power plant. In view of Air Ministry interest,
project design work was rapidly completed, stressing commencing in
March 1934, and work on detail drawings beginning in May.
On October 23,1935, the prototype fighter, bearing the serial number
K5083, was moved from Kingston to Brooklands for its first flight,
which was effected on November 6 with P. W. S. "George" Bulman, the
company's chief test pilot, at the controls. As measured at Brooklands,
the prototype's loaded weight was 5,416 lb. The Hawker monoplane was a
clean aircraft. Its tubular metal construction and fabric covering
were similar to those of the earlier Fury fighter biplane, and
many of its contours, particularly the tail surfaces, were
characteristic of earlier Camm designs. The continued adherence to
fabric covering was viewed with misgivings by some, and was, in fact,
soon to be supplanted by metal skinning for the wings; but this
seemingly dated feature was linked with what were for that time
ultra-modern items such as a fully retractable under-carriage and a
sliding cockpit canopy. For its first flight the fighter was powered
by a Merlin "C", the name that had earlier been bestowed upon
the PV-12, which drove a Watts two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden
During the Battle of Britain, which began in earnest on August 8,1940,
Hurricanes concentrated mainly on the destruction of the German
Heinkel He 111 and
Dornier Do 17 bombers. These were the
aircraft that would cause the most damage if allowed to get through.
The only Victoria Cross ever awarded to a Fighter Command pilot was
won by Ft Lt James Nicolson, a Hurricane pilot of No 249 Squadron who,
on August 16,1940, while attacking a German aircraft in front of him,
was pounced on from above and behind by other German aircraft.
Nicolson's aircraft caught fire, but he continued his attack until he
had shot down his original target, then parachuted to safety. The
highest scoring Allied pilot of the battle - a Czech named Sergeant
Josef Frantisek, who claimed 17 victories - was also a Hurricane
|When it became clear that
the Hurricane was becoming outclassed as a pure fighter, other
duties were assigned to it. The 'Hurribomber' fighter-bomber came
into being, carrying either two 113 kg (250 lb) or two 226 kg (500
lb) bombs under its wings.
When it became clear that the Hurricane was becoming outclassed as
a pure fighter, other duties were assigned to it. In October 1941 the
'Hurribomber' fighter-bomber came into being, carrying either two 113
kg (250 lb) or two 226 kg (500 lb) bombs under its wings. The Mk IID
of 1942 was fitted with two 40 mm cannon for tank busting and two
machine-guns, and was operated mainly in North Africa against Rommel's
desert forces and in Burma against the Japanese. Other Hurricanes
carried rocket projectiles as alternative ground attack weapons.
The year 1943 saw two important developments in the Hurricanes
history--the introduction of the Mark IV and the adoption of the
Hurricane to fire rocket missiles or, as they were initially known,
"unrifled projectiles". The Hurricane IV differed from the Mark II in
two respects: it used a Merlin 24 or 27 which developed 1,620 h.p. for
take-off, and it featured "low attack" or universal armament wings.
These wings were derived from those fitted to the Hurricane IID and
could carry the 40-mm. Vickers or Rolls Royce cannon, bombs,
drop-tanks or rocket projectiles. The Hurricane IV was in service by
March 1943 and was operational in the Middle and Far East theatres
until the end of the war, and in Europe until the end of 1944. The
development of the aircraft rocket had introduced a new factor in the
use of aircraft as ground-assault weapons, and the Hurricane IIB and
IIC were the first single-seaters to employ the rockets operationally.
After extended trials at the A. & A.E.E. and elsewhere with rockets
launched from Hurricanes (commencing with Z2415 which was fitted with
three launching rails under each wing early in 1942), No. 137 Squadron
took its rocket carrying Hurricanes into action for the first time at
the beginning of September 1943. Hurricane IIBs, IICs, and IVs were
fitted with four rockets under each wing.
Perhaps the most important sub-variant was the Sea Hurricane. This
operated from aircraft carriers, being fitted usually with catapult
spools and arrester hook. However, most Sea Hurricanes were not
newly-built fighters but converted RAF types, and were deployed
originally not for aircraft carrier operations but to protect merchant
shipping. To combat German maritime-reconnaissance bombers, some ships
were converted into CAMs (catapult aircraft merchantmen) which meant
that a Hurricane fighter could be launched from the ship when danger
approached. The biggest problem was that the fighter could not re-land
on board, and so the pilot had to ditch it in the sea. The main areas
of operation for the 'Catafighters' were in the Mediterranean and
Baltic, but by 1943 the Sea Hurricane had all but disappeared from
|A late series Hurricane
IIC with two 44 gallon auxiliary drop tanks.
Of the 14,533 production Hurricanes built, some had gone for
service with other air forces. In particular, nearly 3,000 were
dispatched to the Soviet Union to aid its fight against the Germans on
the Eastern Front. The first Hurricane sorties in Russia were made on
September 11,1941 in defense of Murmansk, pilots from France, Britain
and America helping the Soviets in their task.