The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft of the 1930s–40s that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. for service with the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was overshadowed in the public consciousness by the Supermarine Spitfire's role during the Battle of Britain in 1940, but the Hurricane inflicted 60 percent of the losses sustained by the Luftwaffe in the engagement, and fought in all the major theatres of the Second World War.
|National origin||United Kingdom|
|First flight||6 November 1935|
|Introduction||25 December 1937|
|Primary users||Royal Air Force|
|Number built||14,487 (UK and Canada)|
|Variants||Hawker Hurricane variants|
|Developed into||Hawker Henley|
The Hurricane originated from discussions between RAF officials and aircraft designer Sir Sydney Camm about a proposed monoplane derivative of the Hawker Fury biplane in the early 1930s. Despite an institutional preference for biplanes and lack of interest from the Air Ministry, Hawker refined their monoplane proposal, incorporating several innovations which became critical to wartime fighter aircraft, including retractable landing gear and the more powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The Air Ministry ordered Hawker's Interceptor Monoplane in late 1934, and the prototype Hurricane K5083 performed its maiden flight on 6 November 1935.
In June 1936, the Hurricane went into production for the Air Ministry; it entered squadron service on 25 December 1937. Its manufacture and maintenance was eased by using conventional construction methods so that squadrons could perform many major repairs without external support. The Hurricane was rapidly procured prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, when the RAF had 18 Hurricane-equipped squadrons in service. The aircraft was relied on to defend against German aircraft operated by the Luftwaffe, including dogfighting with Messerschmitt Bf 109s in multiple theatres of action.
The Hurricane was developed through several versions, into bomber-interceptors, fighter-bombers, and ground support aircraft as well as fighters. Versions designed for the Royal Navy known as the Sea Hurricane had modifications enabling operation from ships. Some were converted as catapult-launched convoy escorts. By the end of production in July 1944, 14,487 Hurricanes had been completed in Britain, Canada, Belgium and Yugoslavia.
During the era in which the Hawker Aircraft company developed the Hurricane, RAF Fighter Command comprised just 13 squadrons, equipped with the Hawker Fury, Hawker Demon, or the Bristol Bulldog, all biplanes furnished with fixed-pitch wooden propellers and non-retractable undercarriages. At the time, there was an institutional reluctance towards change within the Air Staff; according to aviation author Francis K. Mason, some senior figures were prejudiced against the adoption of monoplane fighter aircraft, while mid-level officers were typically approachable on the subject and design concepts that made use of such configurations.
In 1934, the British Air Ministry issued Specification F.7/30 in response to demands within the Royal Air Force (RAF) for a new generation of fighter aircraft. Earlier, during 1933, British aircraft designer Sydney Camm had conducted discussions with Major John Buchanan of the Directorate of Technical Development on a monoplane based on the existing Fury. Mason attributes Camm's discussions with figures within the RAF, such as Squadron Leader Ralph Sorley, as having provoked the specification and some of its details, such as the preference for armaments being installed within the wings instead of within the aircraft's nose.
Camm's initial submission in response to F.7/30, the Hawker P.V.3, was essentially a scaled-up version of the Fury biplane. However, the P.V.3 was not among the proposals which the Air Ministry had selected to be constructed as a government-sponsored prototype. After the rejection of the P.V.3 proposal, Camm commenced work upon a new design involving a cantilever monoplane arrangement, complete with a fixed undercarriage, armed with four machine guns and powered by the Rolls-Royce Goshawk engine. The original 1934 armament specifications for what would evolve into the Hurricane were for a similar armament fitment to the Gloster Gladiator: four machine-guns, two in the wings and two in the fuselage, synchronised to fire through the propeller arc. By January 1934, the proposal's detail drawings had been finished, but these failed to impress the Air Ministry enough for a prototype to be ordered.
Camm's response to this rejection was to further develop the design, during which a retractable undercarriage was introduced and the unsatisfactory Goshawk engine was replaced by a new Rolls-Royce design, initially designated as the PV-12, which went on to become famous as the Merlin engine. In August 1934, a one-tenth scale model of the design was produced and dispatched to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington. A series of wind tunnel tests confirmed the aerodynamic qualities of the aircraft were in order, and in September 1934, Camm again approached the Air Ministry. This time, the Ministry's response was favourable, and a prototype of the "Interceptor Monoplane" was promptly ordered.
Prototype and trials
In July 1934 at a meeting chaired by Air Commodore Tedder, Air Ministry Science Office Captain F.W. ("Gunner") Hill presented his calculation showing that future fighters must carry no fewer than eight machine guns, each capable of firing 1,000 shots a minute. Hill's assistant in making his calculations was his 13-year-old daughter. Of the decision to place eight machine guns in fighters, Keith says 'The battle was brisk and was carried into very high quarters before the implementing authority was given. My Branch had made out a sound case for 8-gun fighters and if this recommendation had not been accepted and we had been content with half-measures, it might indeed have gone ill for us during the late summer of 1940'. Present at the meeting was Squadron Leader Ralph Sorley of the Air Ministry's Operational Requirements branch, who played an important role in the decision. In November 1934, the Air Ministry issued Specification F.5/34 which called for new fighter aircraft to be armed with a total of eight guns. However, by this time, work had progressed too far to immediately modify the planned four-gun installation. By January 1935, a wooden mock-up had been finished, and although a number of suggestions for detail changes were made, construction of the prototype was approved, and a new specification (F.36/34) was written around the design. In July 1935, this specification was amended to include installation of eight guns.
By the end of August 1935, work on the airframe had been completed at Hawker's Kingston upon Thames facility and the aircraft components were transported to Brooklands, Surrey, where Hawker had an assembly shed; on 23 October 1935, the prototype was fully re-assembled. Ground testing and taxi trials took place over the following two weeks. On 6 November 1935, the prototype K5083 took to the air for the first time at the hands of Hawker's chief test pilot, Flight Lieutenant George Bulman. Bulman was assisted by two other pilots in subsequent flight testing; Philip Lucas flew some of the experimental test flights, while John Hindmarsh conducted the firm's production flight trials. As completed, the prototype had been fitted with ballast to represent the aircraft's armament prior to the acceptance of the final multi-gun wing armament.
By March 1936, the prototype had completed ten flying hours, covering all major portions of the flight envelope. Early testing had gone reasonably well, especially in light of the trial status of the Merlin engine, which had yet to achieve full flight certification at this time and thus severe restrictions had been imposed upon use of the engine. In early 1936, the prototype was transferred to RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, to participate in initial service trials under the direction of squadron leader D. F. Anderson. Sammy Wroath, later to be the founding Commandant of the Empire Test Pilots' School, was the RAF test pilot for the Hurricane: his report was favourable, stating that: "The aircraft is simple and easy to fly and has no apparent vices" and proceeded to praise its control response.
In the course of RAF trials, despite the Merlin engine proving to be problematic, having suffered numerous failures and necessitating several changes, enthusiastic reports were produced in the aircraft and its performance figures. The trials had observed the aircraft to possess a maximum level speed of 315 mph (507 km/h) at an altitude of 16,200 ft (4,900 m), a time-to-climb to an altitude of 15,000 ft (4,600 m) from takeoff of 5.7 minutes, and a stalling speed of 57 mph (92 km/h) (only marginally higher than the Gladiator biplane), the last achieved using its flaps.
In the course of further testing, it was found that the Hurricane had poor spin recovery characteristics, in which all rudder authority could be lost due to shielding of the rudder. Hawker's response to the issue was to request that spinning tests be waived, but the Air Ministry refused the request; the situation was resolved by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), who established that the aerodynamic problem had been caused by a breakdown of the airflow over the lower fuselage, and could be cured by the addition of a small ventral fairing and extension of the bottom of the rudder. This discovery had come too late for the changes to be incorporated in the first production aircraft, but were introduced upon the 61st built and all subsequent aircraft.
In early 1936, the Hawker Board of Directors had decided, in the absence of official authorisation and at company expense, to proceed with issuing the design drawings to the production design office and to commence tooling-up for a production line capable of producing a batch of 1,000 Hurricanes.
In June 1936, the Hurricane was formally ordered into production, the Air Ministry having placed its first order that month for 600 aircraft. On 26 June 1936, the type name "Hurricane", which had been proposed by Hawker, was approved by the Air Ministry; an informal christening ceremony for the aircraft was carried out during the following month during an official visit by King Edward VIII to Martlesham Heath.
A key reason for the aircraft's appeal was its relatively simple construction and ease of manufacture. In comparison to the Supermarine Spitfire, it was significantly cheaper and involved less labour, requiring 10,300 man hours to produce versus 15,200 for the Spitfire. As a large-scale war was looking increasingly likely, and time was of the essence in providing the RAF with an effective fighter aircraft, it was unclear if the more advanced Spitfire would enter production smoothly, while the Hurricane made use of well-understood manufacturing techniques. This factor was equally applicable for its use within service squadrons as well, which were experienced in working on and repairing aircraft whose construction employed the same principles as the Hurricane, and the simplicity of its design enabled the improvisation of some remarkable repairs in squadron workshops. A fabric-covered wing patterned upon traditional Hawker designs was initially adopted in order to speed up production; a higher-performing stressed-skin metal wing took its place in late 1939.
On 12 October 1937, the maiden flight took place of the first production Hurricane I, which was powered by a Merlin II engine and flown by Flight Lieutenant Philip Lucas. Production deliveries had been delayed by roughly six months due to a decision to equip the Hurricane only with the improved Merlin II engine, while the earlier Merlin I had been prioritised for the Fairey Battle and the Hawker Henley. By the following December, the first four aircraft to enter service with the RAF had joined No. 111 Squadron, stationed at RAF Northolt. By February 1938, No. 111 Squadron had received 16 Hurricanes. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, over 550 Hurricanes had been produced, which had equipped a total of 18 squadrons, while a further 3,500 aircraft were on order.
During 1940, Lord Beaverbrook, who was the Minister of Aircraft Production, established an organisation in which a number of manufacturers were seconded to repair and overhaul battle-damaged Hurricanes. The Civilian Repair Organisation also overhauled battle-weary aircraft, which were later sent to training units or to other air forces; one of the factories involved was the Austin Aero Company's Cofton Hackett plant. Another was David Rosenfield Ltd, based at Barton aerodrome near Manchester.
A major manufacturer of the Hurricane was Canadian Car and Foundry at their factory in Fort William, Ontario, Canada. The facility's chief engineer, Elsie MacGill, became known as the "Queen of the Hurricanes". The initiative was commercially led rather than governmentally, but was endorsed by the British government; Hawker, having recognised that a major conflict was all but inevitable after the Munich Crisis of 1938, drew up preliminary plans to expand Hurricane production via a new factory in Canada. Under this plan, samples, pattern aircraft, and a complete set of design documents stored on microfilm, were shipped to Canada; the RCAF ordered 20 Hurricanes to equip one fighter squadron and two more were supplied to Canadian Car and Foundry as pattern aircraft but one probably did not arrive, while the other was sent back to Britain in 1940. The first Hurricane built at Canadian Car and Foundry was officially produced in February 1940. As a result, Canadian-built Hurricanes were shipped to Britain to participate in events such as the Battle of Britain.
Overall, some 14,487 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes were produced in England and Canada. The majority of Hurricanes, 9,986 were built by Hawker (who produced the type at Brooklands from December 1937 to October 1942 and Langley from October 1939 to July 1944), while Hawker's sister company, the Gloster Aircraft Company, constructed 2,750. The Austin Aero Company completed 300 Hurricanes. Canada Car and Foundry was responsible for the production of 1,451 Hurricanes.
In 1939, production of 100 Hurricanes was initiated in Yugoslavia by Zmaj and Rogožarski. Of these, 20 were built by Zmaj by April 1941. Recognising that the supply of British-made Merlin engines might not be guaranteed, it was decided to fit one of the Yugoslavian Hurricanes with a Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine instead; this aircraft was test flown in 1941. In 1938, a contract for 80 Hurricanes was placed with Fairey's Belgian subsidiary Avions Fairey SA for the Belgian Air Force; it was intended to arm these aircraft with an arrangement of four 13.2 mm (0.52 in) Browning machine guns. Three were built and two flown with this armament by the time of the Blitzkrieg in May 1940, with at least 12 more constructed by Avions Fairey armed with the conventional eight rifle calibre machine gun armament.
The Hawker Hurricane is a low-wing cantilever monoplane outfitted with retractable undercarriage and an enclosed cockpit for the pilot. A clean, single-seat fighter, it was developed to provide a competent combatant for aerial combat against the latest fighter designs that were emerging amongst the air services of other powers of the era. The Hurricane was initially armed with an arrangement of eight remotely-operated wing-mounted Browning machine guns, intended for conducting rapid engagements. The Hurricane was typically equipped for flying under both day and night conditions, being provided with navigation lights, Harley landing lights, complete blind-flying equipment, and two-way radios. Upon its entry to service, much of the performance data was intentionally concealed from the general public, but it was known that the type possessed a speed range of 6:1.
Though faster and more advanced than the RAF's current front line biplane fighters, the design of the Hurricane's construction was already considered to be somewhat outdated when introduced to service and resembled those used on the earlier biplanes. Hawker had decided to employ its traditional construction techniques instead of radical measures such as the adoption of a stressed-skin metal exterior. The primary structure comprised a Warren truss box-girder that made use of high-tensile steel longerons and duralumin cross-bracing, which were mechanically fastened instead of welded. Over this, a secondary structure composed of wooden formers and stringers gave the fuselage a rounded external shape, which carried a doped linen covering. The majority of the external surfaces were linen, save for a section between the cockpit and the engine cowling that used lightweight metal panels instead.
Similarly, a simple steel tube structure in the nose of the fuselage was used to support the engine; detachable panels across the cowling provided access to most of the engine's areas for inspection or adjustment purposes. Installed underneath the fuselage, the liquid-cooled radiator has a rectangular opening to its aft; this is covered by a hinged flap via which the pilot was able to actively vary the cooling level. An atypical feature for the era was the use of Tungum alloy pipes throughout the cooling system.
Initially, the structure of the Hurricane's cantilever wing consisted of two steel spars, which possessed considerable strength and stiffness. The wing was described by aviation publication Flight as being relatively straightforward to manufacture, employing simple vertical jigs to attach the two spars, after which the wing ribs would be installed using horizontal bolts, forming separate units between the front and rear spars. Hydraulically-actuated split trailing edge flaps were present on the inner end of the wings. The original wing was predominantly fabric-covered, like the fuselage, while some use of lightweight metal sheets was made upon the exterior surface of the inner wing and its leading edge. The majority of the Flight control surfaces, such as the Frise-type ailerons, also had fabric coverings.
An all-metal, stressed-skin wing of duraluminium (a DERD specification similar to AA2024) was introduced in April 1939 and was used for all of the later marks. "The metal skinned wings allowed a diving speed that was 80 mph (130 km/h) higher than the fabric-covered ones. They were very different in construction but were interchangeable with the fabric-covered wings; one trials Hurricane, L1877, was even flown with a fabric-covered port wing and metal-covered starboard wing. The great advantage of the metal-covered wings over the fabric ones was that the metal ones could carry far greater stress loads without needing so much structure beneath." Several fabric-wing Hurricanes were still in service during the Battle of Britain, although a good number had had their wings replaced during servicing or after repair. Changing the wings required only three hours work per aircraft.
The Hurricane was furnished with a laterally-retracting undercarriage, the main undercarriage units being able to slide into recesses within the wing. Hinged telescopic Vickers-built legs are attached to the bottom boom of the wing's forward spar, but with a complex "pintle" angle setup within the wing at the top of the strut, to allow the strut to be perpendicular to the thrust line when extended, and angling rearwards as it retracted to clear the forward spar. A hydraulic jack served to actuate the undercarriage, with the carefully set "pintle" angle of the strut's upper ends assisting in the folding and pivoting the legs as to reposition the wheel unit rearwards as well as inwards in order to clear the front spar when retracted. Two separate hydraulic systems, one being power-operated and the other hand-operated, are present for the deployment and retraction of the undercarriage; in the event of both failing, pilots can release the retaining catches holding the undercarriage in place, deploying the wheels to the 'down' position using weight alone. A wide wheel-track was used to allow for considerable stability during ground movements and to enable tight turns to be performed.
The prototype and early production Hurricanes were fitted with a Watts two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. Flight commented of this arrangement: "Many have expressed surprise that the Hurricane is not fitted with variable-pitch airscrews". The original two-bladed propeller was found to be inefficient at low airspeeds and the aircraft required a long ground run to get airborne, which caused concern at Fighter Command. Accordingly, trials with a De Havilland variable-pitch propeller demonstrated a reduction in the Hurricane's take-off run from 1,230 to 750 ft (370 to 230 m). Deliveries of these began in April 1939: this was later replaced by the hydraulically operated constant-speed Rotol propeller, which came into service in time for the Battle of Britain.
Camm's priority was to provide the pilot with good all-round visibility. To this end, the cockpit was mounted reasonably high in the fuselage, creating a distinctive "hump-backed" silhouette. Pilot access to the cockpit was aided by a retractable "stirrup" mounted below the trailing edge of the port wing. This was linked to a spring-loaded hinged flap which covered a handhold on the fuselage, just behind the cockpit. When the flap was shut, the footstep retracted into the fuselage. In addition, both wing roots were coated with strips of non-slip material.
An advantage of the steel-tube structure was that cannon shells could pass right through the wood and fabric covering without exploding. Even if one of the steel tubes were damaged, the repair work required was relatively simple and could be done by ground crew at the airfield. Damage to a stressed skin structure, as used by the Spitfire, required more specialised equipment to repair. The old-fashioned structure also permitted the assembly of Hurricanes with relatively basic equipment under field conditions. Crated Hurricanes were assembled at Takoradi in West Africa and flown across the Sahara to the Middle East theatre and, to save space, some Royal Navy aircraft carriers carried their reserve Sea Hurricanes dismantled into their major assemblies, which were slung up on the hangar bulkheads and deckhead for reassembly when needed.
In contrast, the contemporary Spitfire used all-metal monocoque construction and was thus both lighter and stronger, though less tolerant to bullet damage. With its ease of maintenance, widely set landing gear and benign flying characteristics, the Hurricane remained in use in theatres of operations where reliability, easy handling and a stable gun platform were more important than performance, typically in roles like ground attack. One of the design requirements of the original specification was that both the Hurricane and the Spitfire were also to be used as night fighters. The Hurricane proved to be a relatively simple aircraft to fly at night, and shot down several German aircraft on night raids. From early 1941 the Hurricane was also used as an "intruder" aircraft, patrolling German airfields in France at night to catch bombers taking off or landing.
By the middle of 1938, the first 50 Hurricanes had reached squadrons and, at that time, it had been assessed that the rate of production was slightly greater than the RAF's capacity to introduce the new aircraft, which had already been accelerated. Accordingly, the British government gave Hawker the clearance to sell excess aircraft to nations that were likely to oppose German expansion. As a result, there were some modest export sales made to other countries; at the earliest opportunity, a former RAF Hurricane I was dispatched to Yugoslavia for evaluation purposes. Shortly after this evaluation, an order for 24 Hurricane Mark Is for the Royal Yugoslav Air Force was received; this was followed by the purchase of a production licence for the Hurricane by Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia Hurricanes saw action against the Luftwaffe during the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941 by the Axis powers.
To the end of August 1939 seven ex RAF Hurricanes had been sent to South Africa, while another 13 ex RAF Hurricanes were sent to Turkey, 13 Hurricanes had been built for Belgium, 21 for Canada including 1 as a pattern for Canadian Car and Foundry, 1 for Iran, 1 for Poland, 3 for Romania and 12 for Yugoslavia. All the built for export aircraft were taken from the RAF order and so all originally had an RAF serial. Further exports were done in the final 4 months of 1939 and early 1940.
Hurricane production was increased as part of a plan to create a reserve of attrition aircraft as well as re-equip existing squadrons and newly formed ones such as those of the Auxiliary Air Force. Expansion scheme E included a target of 500 fighters of all types by the start of 1938. By the time of the Munich Crisis, there were only two fully operational RAF squadrons of the planned 12 to be equipped with Hurricanes. By the time of the German invasion of Poland there were sixteen operational Hurricane squadrons as well as a further two more that were in the process of converting.
Owing to the Hurricane's rugged construction, ease of maintenance and repair in the field, and its docile landing and take-off characteristics, coupled with a wide-track undercarriage, it was selected to go to France as the principal RAF fighter. Two Hurricane squadrons, No. 1 and No. 73, formed 67 Wing of the Advanced Air Striking Force, while two more, No. 85 85 Sqn and No. 87, formed 60 Wing of the Air Component, BEF.
While the two squadrons of No. 60 Wing had their Hurricanes painted in the standard colour scheme and markings of Home-based fighters, those of No. 67 Wing differed considerably. It was probably because No. 1 and No. 73 Squadrons were operating in close proximity to French fighter squadrons that these units painted Red, White and Blue stripes over the entire height of the rudders on their Hurricanes in a similar manner to the standard French AF National markings.
As the French squadrons were not familiar with the [British] use of code letters, and there could have been cause for error in aircraft identification, both Hurricane squadrons removed their Squadron identification letters, leaving the grey-painted aircraft letter aft of the [fuselage] roundel. The decision to adopt these special changes in markings seems to have been made at 67 Group HQ (the immediate command authority for the two squadrons involved) to suit local circumstances.
On 24 August 1939, the British government gave orders partially to mobilise and No. 1 Group RAF (Air Vice-Marshal Patrick Playfair) sent its ten Fairey Battle day-bomber squadrons to France, according to plans established by the British and French earlier in the year. The group was the first echelon of the RAF Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF) and flew from bases at Abingdon, Harwell, Benson, Boscombe Down and Bicester. The group HQ became the AASF when the order to move to France was received and the home station HQs, 71, 72 74–76 Wings. As part of the AASF, No. 1 and No. 73 Squadrons Fighter Command operating Hawker Hurricanes were also sent to France (No. 1 to Berry-au-Bac, north-west of Paris; No. 73 to Rouvres) and assigned escort duties independent of the Air Component BEF.
The Hurricane had its first combat action on 21 October 1939, at the start of the Phoney War. That day, "A" Flight of 46 Squadron took off from North Coates satellite airfield, on the Lincolnshire coast, and was directed to intercept a formation of nine Heinkel He 115B floatplanes from 1/KüFlGr 906, searching for ships to attack in the North Sea. The Heinkels, which were flying at sea level in an attempt to avoid fighter attacks, had already been attacked and damaged by two Spitfires from 72 Squadron when six Hurricanes intercepted them. The Hurricanes shot down four of the enemy in rapid succession, 46 Squadron claiming five and the Spitfire pilots two.
In response to a request from the French government for the provision of ten fighter squadrons to provide air support, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander-in-Chief of RAF Fighter Command, insisted that this number would deplete British defences severely, and so initially only four squadrons of Hurricanes, 1, 73, 85 and 87, were relocated to France, keeping Spitfires back for "Home" defence. The first to arrive was No.73 Squadron on 10 September 1939, followed shortly by the other three. A little later, 607 and 615 Squadrons joined them.
After his first flight in October 1939, Hurricane pilot Roland Beamont subsequently flew operationally with 87 Squadron, claiming three enemy aircraft during the French campaign, and delivered great praise for his aircraft's performance:
Throughout the bad days of 1940, 87 Sqn had maintained a proficient formation aerobatic team, the precise flying controls and responsive engines permitting precision formation through loops, barrel rolls, 1 g semi-stall turns and rolls off half-loops ... My Hurricane was never hit in the Battles of France and Britain, and in over 700 hr on type I never experienced an engine failure.
While the opening months of the war were characterised by little air activity in general, there were sporadic engagements and aerial skirmishes between the two sides. On 30 October 1939 Hurricanes saw action over France. That day, Pilot Officer P. W. O. "Boy" Mould of 1 Squadron, flying Hurricane L1842, shot down a Dornier Do 17P from 2(F)/123. The German aircraft, sent to photograph Allied airfields close to the border, fell in flames about 10 mi (16 km) west of Toul. Mould was the first RAF pilot to down an enemy aircraft on the European continent in the Second World War. According to Mason, the experiences gained in these early engagements proved invaluable in developing tactics which became tried and tested, and rapidly spread throughout Fighter Command.
On 6 November 1939 Pilot Officer P.V. Ayerst from 73 Squadron was the first to clash with a Messerschmitt Bf 109. After the dogfight, he came back with five holes in his fuselage. Flying Officer E. J. "Cobber" Kain, a New Zealander, was responsible for 73 Squadron's first victory on 8 November 1939 while stationed at Rouvres. He went on to become one of the RAF's first fighter aces of the war, being credited with 16 kills. On 22 December the Hurricanes in France suffered their first losses: three of them, while trying to intercept an unidentified aircraft between Metz and Thionville, were jumped by four Bf 109Es from III./JG 53, with their Gruppenkommandeur, Spanish Civil War ace Captain Werner Mölders, in the lead. Mölders and Leutnant Hans von Hahn shot down the Hurricanes of Sergeant R. M. Perry and J. Winn for no loss.
Battle of France
In May 1940, Nos. 3, 79 and 504 Squadrons reinforced the earlier units as Germany's Blitzkrieg gathered momentum. On 10 May, the first day of the Battle of France, Flight Lieutenant R. E. Lovett and Flying Officer "Fanny" Orton, of 73 Squadron, were the first R.A.F pilots to engage enemy aircraft in the campaign. They attacked one of three Dornier Do 17s from 4. Staffel/KG 2 that were flying over their airfield at Rouvres-en-Woevre. The Dornier went away unscathed, while Orton was hit by defensive fire and had to force land. On the same day the Hurricane squadrons claimed 42 German aircraft, none of them fighters, shot down during 208 sorties; seven Hurricanes were lost but no pilots were killed.
On 12 May several Hurricanes units were committed to escort bombers. That morning, five Fairey Battle volunteer crews from 12 Squadron took off from Amifontaine base to bomb Vroenhoven and Veldwezelt bridges on the Meuse, at Maastricht. The escort consisted of eight Hurricanes of 1 Squadron, with Squadron Leader P. J. H. "Bull" Halahan in the lead. When the formation approached Maastricht, it was bounced by 16 Bf 109Es from 2./JG 27. Two Battles and two Hurricanes (including Halahan's) were shot down, two more Battles were brought down by flak and the fifth bomber had to crash-land. The 1 Squadron pilots claimed four Messerschmitts and two Heinkel He 112s, while the Luftwaffe actually lost only one Bf 109.
On 13 May 1940, a further 32 Hurricanes arrived. All ten requested Hurricane squadrons were then operating from French soil and felt the full force of the Nazi offensive. The following day, Hurricanes suffered heavy losses: 27 being shot down, 22 by Messerschmitts, with 15 pilots killed (another died some days later), including Squadron Leader J. B. Parnall (504 Sqn), and the Australian ace Flying Officer Les Clisby (1 Sqn). On the same day, 3 Squadron claimed 17 German aircraft shot down, 85 and 87 Squadrons together claimed four victories, while 607 Squadron claimed nine. During the following three days (15–17 May), no fewer than 51 Hurricanes were lost, in combat or in accidents.
By 17 May, the end of the first week of fighting, only three of the squadrons were near operational strength, but the Hurricanes had managed to destroy nearly twice as many German aircraft. On 18 May 1940, air combat continued from dawn to dusk; Hurricane pilots claimed 57 German aircraft and 20 probables (Luftwaffe records show 39 aircraft lost). The following day, 1 and 73 Squadrons claimed eleven German aircraft (three by "Cobber" Kain and three by Paul Richey). On these two days Hurricanes suffered heavier losses, with 68 Hurricanes shot down or forced to crash-land due to combat damage. Fifteen pilots were killed, eight were taken prisoner and eleven injured. Two-thirds of the Hurricanes had been shot down by Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Bf 110s.
In the afternoon of 20 May 1940, the Hurricane units based in northern France were ordered to abandon their bases on the continent and return to Great Britain. On the same day, "Bull" Halahan requested the repatriation of the pilots serving in 1 Squadron. During the previous 10 days, the unit had been the most successful of the campaign; it had claimed 63 victories for the loss of five pilots: two killed, one taken prisoner and two hospitalised. 1 Squadron was awarded ten DFCs and three DFMs during the Blitzkrieg. On the evening of 21 May, the only Hurricanes still operational were those of the AASF that had been moved to bases around Troyes.
During the 11 days of fighting in France and over Dunkirk from 10 to 21 May, Hurricane pilots claimed 499 kills and 123 probables. Contemporary German records, examined postwar, attribute 299 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed and 65 seriously damaged by RAF fighters. The last 66 Hurricanes of the 452 engaged during the Battle of France left France on 21 June; 178 were abandoned at several airfields, notably Merville, Abbeville, and Lille/Seclin.
During Operation Dynamo (the evacuation from Dunkirk of British, French and Belgian troops cut off by the German army during the Battle of Dunkirk), the Hawker Hurricanes operated from British bases. Between 26 May and 3 June 1940, the 14 Hurricane units involved were credited with 108 air victories. A total of 27 Hurricane pilots became aces during Operation Dynamo, led by Canadian Pilot Officer W. L. Willie McKnight (10 victories) and Pilot Officer Percival Stanley Turner (seven victories), who served in No. 242 Squadron, consisting mostly of Canadian personnel. Losses were 22 pilots killed and three captured.
On 27 May 1940, in one of the final mass encounters of the Blitzkrieg, 13 Hurricanes from 501 Squadron intercepted 24 Heinkel He 111s escorted by 20 Bf 110s; during the ensuing battle, 11 Heinkels were claimed as "kills" and others damaged, with little damage to the Hurricanes. On 7 June 1940, "Cobber" Kain, the first RAF ace of the war, got word that he was to return to England for "rest leave" at an Operational Training Unit. On leaving his airfield, he put on an impromptu aerobatic display and was killed when his Hurricane crashed after completing a loop and attempting some low altitude "flick" rolls.
Initial engagements with the Luftwaffe had showed the Hurricane to be a tight-turning and steady platform, but the Watts two-bladed propeller was clearly unsuitable. At least one pilot complained of how a Heinkel 111 was able to pull away from him in a chase, yet by this time the Heinkel was obsolete. At the start of the war, the engine ran on standard 87 octane aviation spirit. From early 1940, increasing quantities of 100 octane fuel imported from the U.S. became available. In February 1940, Hurricanes with the Merlin II and III engines began to receive modifications to allow for an additional 6 psi (41 kPa) of supercharger boost for five minutes (although there are accounts of its use for 30 minutes continuously).
The extra supercharger boost, which increased engine output by nearly 250 hp (190 kW), gave the Hurricane an approximate increase in speed of 25 to 35 mph (40 to 56 km/h), under 15,000 ft (4,600 m) altitude and greatly increased the aircraft's climb rate. "Overboost" or "pulling the plug", a form of war emergency power as it was called in later Second World War aircraft, was an important wartime modification that allowed the Hurricane to be more competitive against the Bf 109E and to increase its margin of superiority over the Bf 110C, especially at low altitude. With the +12 psi (83 kPa) "emergency boost", the Merlin III was able to generate 1,310 hp (980 kW) at 9,000 ft (2,700 m).
Flight Lieutenant Ian Gleed of 87 Squadron wrote about the effect of using the extra boost on the Hurricane while chasing a Bf 109 at low altitude on 19 May 1940: "Damn! We're flat out as it is. Here goes with the tit. A jerk – boost's shot up to 12 pounds; speed's increased by 30 mph. I'm gaining ground – 700, 600, 500 yards. Give him a burst. No, hold your fire you fool! He hasn't seen you yet..." Gleed ran out of ammunition before he could shoot the 109 down although he left it heavily damaged and flying at about 50 ft (15 m).
Hurricanes equipped with Rotol constant-speed propellers were delivered to RAF squadrons in May 1940, with deliveries continuing throughout the Battle of Britain. According to aviation author David Donald, the Rotol propeller had the effect of transforming the Hurricane's performance from "disappointing" to "acceptable mediocrity"; modified aircraft were reportedly much sought after among squadrons which had also been equipped with Hurricanes that were fitted with the older de Havilland two-position propeller.
Battle of Britain
At the end of June 1940, following the fall of France, 31 of Fighter Command's 61 fighter squadrons were equipped with Hurricanes. The Battle of Britain officially lasted from 10 July until 31 October 1940, but the heaviest fighting took place between 8 August and 21 September. Both the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hurricane are renowned for their part in defending Britain against the Luftwaffe; generally, the Spitfire would intercept the German fighters, leaving Hurricanes to concentrate on the bombers, but, despite the undoubted abilities of the "thoroughbred" Spitfire, it was the "workhorse" Hurricane that scored the higher number of RAF victories during this period, accounting for 55 per cent of the 2,739 German losses, according to Fighter Command, compared with 42 per cent by Spitfires. On 8 August 1940, Hurricanes of No. 145 Squadron were recorded as having fired the first shots of the Battle of Britain. The highest scoring Hurricane squadron during the Battle of Britain was the No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron. This squadron also had the distinction of having the highest ratio of enemy aircraft destroyed to own losses suffered.
As a fighter, the Hurricane had some drawbacks. It was slightly slower than both the Spitfire I and II and the Messerschmitt Bf 109E, and the thicker wing profiles compromised acceleration; but it could out-turn both of them. In spite of its performance deficiencies against the Bf 109, the Hurricane was still capable of destroying the German fighter, especially at lower altitudes. The standard tactic of the 109s was to attempt to climb higher than the RAF fighters and "bounce" them in a dive; the Hurricanes could evade such tactics by turning into the attack or going into a "corkscrew dive", which the 109s, with their lower rate of roll, found hard to counter. If a 109 was caught in a dogfight, the Hurricane was just as capable of out-turning the 109 as the Spitfire. In a stern chase, the 109 could evade the Hurricane.
The Hurricane was a steady gun platform, and had demonstrated its ruggedness as several were badly damaged yet returned to base. But the Hurricane's construction made it dangerous if it caught fire; the wood frames and fabric covering of the rear fuselage allowed fire to spread through the rear fuselage structure easily. In addition, the gravity fuel tank in the forward fuselage sat right in front of the instrument panel, without any form of protection for the pilot. Many Hurricane pilots were seriously burned as a consequence of a jet of flame which could burn through the instrument panel. This became of such concern to Hugh Dowding that he had Hawker retrofit the fuselage tanks of the Hurricanes with Linatex, a self-expanding rubber coating. If the tank happened to be punctured by a bullet, the Linatex coating would expand when soaked with petrol and seal it. However, some Hurricane pilots felt that the fuel tanks in the wings, although they were also protected with a layer of Linatex, were vulnerable from behind, and it was thought that those, and not the fuselage tank, were the main fire risk.
From 10 July to 11 August 1940, RAF fighters fired at 114 German bombers and shot down 80, a destruction ratio of 70 per cent. Against the Bf 109, the RAF fighters attacked 70 and shot down 54 of these, a ratio of 77 per cent. It has been suggested that part of the success of the British fighters was possibly due to the use of the de Wilde incendiary round.
The Hurricane with the highest number of kills during the Battle of Britain was P3308, a Mk1, flown between 15 August and 7 October 1940 by RAF (auxiliary) pilot Archie McKellar of 605 Squadron. He is credited with 21 kills, 19 of those in a Hurricane during the Battle of Britain. On 7 October he is credited with shooting down 5 Bf 109s, making him one of only two RAF pilots (the other one was Brian Carbury of New Zealand) to become an Ace in a Day during the Battle of Britain. During his brief fighting career, McKellar earned the DSO, DFC & Bar. McKellar has remained in relative obscurity in Battle of Britain history, as he was killed in action one day after the date set by the War Ministry (after the War) as the official end date for the Battle of Britain. He was killed on 1 November 1940 while taking on a superior number of Bf 109s.
As in the Spitfire, the Merlin engine suffered from negative-G cut-out, a problem not cured until the introduction of Miss Shilling's orifice in early 1941.
The only Battle of Britain Victoria Cross, and the only one awarded to a member of Fighter Command during the war, was awarded to Flight Lieutenant Eric Nicolson of 249 Squadron as a result of an action on 16 August 1940 when his section of three Hurricanes was "bounced" from above by Bf 110 fighters. All three were hit simultaneously. Nicolson was badly wounded, and his Hurricane was damaged and engulfed in flames. While attempting to leave the cockpit, Nicolson noticed that one of the Bf 110s had overshot his aircraft. He returned to the cockpit, which by now was in an inferno, engaged the enemy, and may have shot down the Bf 110.
Night fighters and intruders
Following the Battle of Britain the Hurricane continued to give service; through the Blitz of 1941 it was the principal single-seat night fighter in Fighter Command. F/Lt. Richard Stevens claimed 14 Luftwaffe bombers flying Hurricanes in 1941. In 1942 the cannon-armed Mk IIc performed further afield, as a night intruder over occupied Europe. F/Lt. Karel Kuttelwascher of 1 Squadron proved the top scorer, with 15 Luftwaffe bombers claimed shot down.
1942 also saw the manufacture of twelve Hurricane II C(NF) night fighters, equipped with pilot-operated Air Interception Mark VI radar. After a brief operational deployment with No. 245 and No. 247 Squadron RAF during which these aircraft proved too slow for operations in Europe, the aircraft were sent to India to serve with No. 176 Squadron RAF in the defence of Calcutta. They were withdrawn from service at the end of December 1943.
A Hurricane Mk I undertook tropical trials in Sudan in mid 1939, and a number were hastily tropicalised following Italy's entry into the war in June 1940. These aircraft were initially ferried through France and Malta by air to 80 Squadron in Egypt, replacing Gladiator biplanes. The Hurricane claimed its first kill in the Mediterranean on 19 June 1940, when F/O P.G. Wykeham-Barnes reported shooting down two Fiat CR.42 Falcos.
Hurricanes served with several British Commonwealth squadrons in the Desert Air Force. They suffered heavy losses over North Africa after the arrival of Bf 109E and F-variants and were progressively replaced in the air superiority role from June 1941 by Curtiss Tomahawks/Kittyhawks. However, fighter-bomber variants ("Hurribombers") retained an edge in the ground attack role, due to their impressive armament of four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon and a 500 lb (230 kg) bomb load.
From November 1941, beginning in the Libyan desert, it had to face a new formidable opponent: the new Regia Aeronautica Macchi C.202 Folgore. The Italian aircraft proved superior to the Hawker fighter and, thanks to its excellent agility and a new, more powerful inline engine licence-built by Alfa Romeo, could outperform it in a dogfight.
During and following the five-day Second Battle of El Alamein artillery barrage that commenced on the night of 23 October 1942, six squadrons of Hurricanes, including the 40 mm (1.57 in) cannon-armed Hurricane Mk.IID version, claimed to have destroyed 39 tanks, 212 lorries and armoured troop-carriers, 26 bowsers, 42 guns, 200 various other vehicles and four small fuel and ammunition dumps, flying 842 sorties with the loss of 11 pilots. Whilst performing in a ground support role, Hurricanes based at RAF Castel Benito, Tripoli, knocked out six tanks, 13 armoured vehicles, 10 lorries, five half-tracks, a gun and trailer, and a wireless van on 10 March 1943, with no losses to themselves.
Defence of Malta
The Hurricane played a significant role in the defence of Malta. When Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940, Malta's air defence rested on Gloster Gladiators, which managed to hold out against vastly superior numbers of the Italian air force during the following 17 days. Initially there were six Gladiators, though after a while, only three were able to be flown at any one time because of a shortage of spare parts, and for whatever reason (five different explanations have been given), they became known as "Faith, Hope and Charity". Four Hurricanes joined them at the end of June, and together they faced attacks throughout July from the 200 enemy aircraft based in Sicily, with the loss of one Gladiator and one Hurricane. Further reinforcements arrived on 2 August in the form of 12 more Hurricanes and two Blackburn Skuas.
The increasing number of British aircraft on the island, at last, prompted the Italians to employ German Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers to try to destroy the airfields. Finally, in an attempt to overcome the stiff resistance put up by these few aircraft, the Luftwaffe took up base on the Sicilian airfields, only to find that Malta was not an easy target. After numerous attacks on the island over the following months, and the arrival of an extra 23 Hurricanes at the end of April 1941, and a further delivery a month later, the Luftwaffe left Sicily for the Russian Front in June that year.
As Malta was situated on the increasingly important sea supply route for the North African campaign, the Luftwaffe returned with a vengeance for a second assault on the island at the beginning of 1942. It wasn't until March, when the onslaught was at its height, that 15 Spitfires flew in off the carrier HMS Eagle to join with the Hurricanes already stationed there and bolster the defence, but many of the new aircraft were lost on the ground and it was again the Hurricane that bore the brunt of the early fighting until further reinforcements arrived.
Air defence in the Soviet Union
The Hawker Hurricane was the first Allied Lend-Lease aircraft to be delivered to the Soviet Union with a total of 2,952 Hurricanes eventually delivered, becoming the most numerous British aircraft in Soviet service. Many Soviet pilots were disappointed by the Hawker fighter, regarding it as inferior to both German and Soviet aircraft.
During 1941, Mk II Hurricanes played an important air defence role when the Soviet Union found itself under threat from the approaching German Army, who were advancing across a broad front stretching from Leningrad and Moscow to the oil fields in the south. Britain's decision to aid the Soviets meant sending supplies by sea to the far northern ports, and as the convoys would need to sail within range of enemy air attack from the Luftwaffe based in neighbouring Finland, it was decided to deliver a number of Hurricane Mk IIBs, flying with Nos. 81 and 134 Squadrons of No. 151 Wing RAF, to provide protection. Twenty-four were transported on the carrier Argus, arriving just off Murmansk on 28 August 1941, and another 15 crated aircraft on board merchant vessels. In addition to their convoy protection duties, the aircraft also acted as escorts to Soviet bombers. (See Operation Benedict.)
Enemy attention to the area declined in October, at which point the RAF pilots trained their Soviet counterparts to operate the Hurricanes themselves. By the end of the year, the RAF's direct role in the region had ended, but the aircraft themselves remained behind and became the first of thousands of Allied aircraft that were accepted by the Soviet Union. Although Soviet pilots were not universally enthusiastic about the Hurricane, twice Hero of the Soviet Union Lt. Col. Boris Safonov "loved the Hurricane", and RAF Hurricane Mk IIB fighters operating from Soviet soil in defence of Murmansk, destroyed 15 Luftwaffe aircraft for only one loss in combat. However, in some Soviet war memoirs, the Hurricane has been described in very unflattering terms.
The "Soviet" IIB Hurricane as a multi-role fighter-bomber had quite a few drawbacks. First of all, it was 25–31 mph (40–50 km/h) slower than its main opponent, the Bf 109E interceptor, at low and medium height, and had a slower rate of climb. The Messerschmitt could outdive the Hurricane because of the thicker wing profile of the British fighter. But the main source of complaints was the Hurricane's armament. On occasion, the eight or 12 small-calibre machine guns did not damage the sturdy and heavily armoured German aircraft; consequently, Soviet ground crews started to remove the Brownings. Retaining only four or six of the 12 machine guns, two 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Berezin UBs or two or even four 20 mm (0.79 in) ShVAK cannons were substituted, but overall performance deteriorated as a result.
The British archives file AIR 22/310 reports 218 mark IIA sent to the Soviet Union or handed over, 22 lost before arrival, 1,884 mark IIB sent or handed over, 278 lost before arrival, 1,182 mark IIC sent or handed over, 46 lost before arrival, 117 rejected, 60 IID sent or handed over, 14 rejected, 30 mark IV handed over, total 3,374 Hurricanes sent or handed over, 346 lost before delivery, 2,897 accepted by the Soviets, 131 rejected.
Following the outbreak of the war with Japan, 51 Hurricane Mk IIBs en route to Iraq were diverted to Singapore; 10 were in crates, the others partially disassembled, these and the 24 pilots (many of whom were veterans of the Battle of Britain), who had been transferred to the theatre, formed the nucleus of five squadrons. They arrived on 13 January 1942, by which time the Allied fighter squadrons in Singapore, flying Brewster Buffalos, had been overwhelmed during the Malayan campaign. The fighters of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force, especially the Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar, had been underestimated in its capability, numbers and the strategy of its commanders.
Thanks to the efforts of the 151st Maintenance unit, the 51 Hurricanes were assembled and ready for testing within 48 hours and of these, 21 were ready for operational service within three days. The Hurricanes were fitted with bulky 'Vokes' dust filters under the nose and were armed with 12, rather than eight, machine guns. The additional weight and drag made them slow to climb and unwieldy to manoeuvre at altitude, although they were more effective bomber killers.
The recently arrived pilots were formed into 232 Squadron and 488 (NZ) Squadron, flying Buffaloes, converted to Hurricanes. On 18 January, the two squadrons formed the basis of 226 Group; 232 Squadron became operational on 22 January and suffered the first losses and victories for the Hurricane in Southeast Asia. Between 27 and 30 January, another 48 Hurricanes Mk IIB arrived with the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, from which they flew to airfields code-named P1 and P2, near Palembang, Sumatra in the Netherlands East Indies.
Because of inadequate early warning systems (the first British radar stations became operational only towards the end of February), Japanese air raids were able to destroy 30 Hurricanes on the ground in Sumatra, most of them in one raid on 7 February. After Japanese landings in Singapore, on 10 February, the remnants of 232 and 488 Squadrons were withdrawn to Palembang. Japanese paratroopers began the invasion of Sumatra on 13 February. Hurricanes destroyed six Japanese transport ships on 14 February but lost seven aircraft in the process. On 18 February, the remaining Allied aircraft and aircrews moved to Java, with only 18 serviceable Hurricanes out of the original 99. That month, 12 Hurricane Mk IIB Trops were supplied to the Dutch forces on Java. With dust filters removed and fuel and ammo load in wings halved, these were able to stay in a turn with the Oscars they fought. After Java was invaded, some of the New Zealand pilots were evacuated by sea to Australia.
When a Japanese carrier task force under the command of Admiral Chūichi Nagumo made a sortie into the Indian Ocean in April 1942, RAF Hurricanes based on Ceylon saw action against Nagumo's forces during attacks on Colombo on 5 April 1942 and on Trincomalee harbour on 9 April 1942.
On 5 April 1942, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, led a strike against Colombo with 53 Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers and 38 Aichi D3A dive bombers, escorted by 36 Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters. They were opposed by 35 Hurricane I and IIBs of 30 and 258 Squadrons, together with six Fairey Fulmars of 803 and 806 Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. The Hurricanes mainly tried to shoot down the attacking bombers, but were engaged heavily by the escorting Zeros. A total of 21 Hurricanes were shot down (although two of these were repairable), together with four Fulmars and six Swordfish of 788 Naval Air Squadron that had been surprised in flight by the raid. The RAF claimed 18 Japanese aircraft destroyed, seven probably destroyed and nine damaged, with one aircraft claimed by a Fulmar and five by anti-aircraft fire. This compared with actual Japanese losses of one Zero and six D3As, with a further seven D3As, five B5Ns and three Zeros damaged.
On 9 April 1942, the Japanese task force sent 91 B5Ns escorted by 41 Zeros against Trincomalee port and the nearby China Bay airfield. A total of 16 Hurricanes opposed the raid, of which eight were lost with a further three damaged. They claimed eight Japanese aircraft destroyed with a further four probably destroyed and at least five damaged. Actual Japanese losses were three A6Ms and two B5Ns, with a further 10 B5Ns damaged.
The battles over the Arakan in 1943 represented the last large-scale use of the Hurricane as a pure day fighter. But they were still used in the fighter-bomber role in Burma until the end of the war and they were occasionally caught up in air combat as well. For example, on 15 February 1944, Flg Off Jagadish Chandra Verma of No. 6 Squadron of the Royal Indian Air Force shot down a Japanese Ki-43 Oscar: it was the only RIAF victory of the war. The Hurricane remained in service as a fighter-bomber over the Balkans and at home as well where it was used mainly for second-line tasks and occasionally flown by ace pilots. For example, in mid-1944, ace Sqdn Leader 'Jas' Storrar flew No 1687 Hurricane to deliver priority mail to Allied armies in France during the Normandy invasion.
Aircraft carrier operations
The Sea Hurricane became operational in mid-1941 and scored its first kill while operating from HMS Furious on 31 July 1941. During the next three years, Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricanes were to feature prominently while operating from Royal Navy aircraft carriers. The Sea Hurricane scored an impressive kill-to-loss ratio, primarily while defending Malta convoys, and operating from escort carriers in the Atlantic Ocean. For example, on 26 May 1944, Royal Navy Sea Hurricanes operating from the escort carrier HMS Nairana claimed the destruction of three Ju 290 reconnaissance aircraft during the defence of a convoy.
Top scoring Hurricane pilots:
- Squadron Leader Marmaduke "Pat" Pattle, with 35 Hawker fighter victories (out of career 50 total, with two shared) serving with No. 80 and 33 Squadrons. All of his Hurricane kills were achieved over Greece in 1941. He was shot down and killed in the Battle of Athens.
- Wing Commander Frank Reginald Carey claimed 28 air victories while flying Hurricanes during 1939–43,
- Squadron Leader William "Cherry" Vale totalled 20 kills (of 30) in Greece and Syria with No. 80 Squadron.
- Czech pilot Fight Lieutenant Karel Kuttelwascher achieved all of his 18 air victories with the Hurricane, most as an intruder night fighter with No. 1 Squadron.
- Pilot Officer V.C. Woodward (33 and 213 Squadrons) was another top-scoring ace with 14 (out of 18 total, three of which are shared)
- Flying Officer Willie McKnight scored at least 17 victories in Hurricanes.
- Flight Lieutenant Richard P. Stevens claimed all of his 14.5 enemy aircraft flying the Hurricane.
- Richard "Dickie" Cork was the leading Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricane ace, with nine destroyed, two shared, one probable, four damaged and seven destroyed on the ground.
- Czech pilot Josef František, flying with 303 Polish Squadron, shot down at least 17 enemy aircraft over southeast England during September–October 1940.
- Polish pilot Witold Urbanowicz, flying with 303 Polish Squadron, had 15 confirmed kills and one probable during the Battle of Britain.
- Wing Commander Ian Gleed claimed most of his 13 victories while flying Hurricanes with No. 87 Squadron RAF from the Battle of France through the end of 1941.
- Wing Commander Mark Henry Brown scored 18 victories with No. 1 Squadron. He was the first Canadian ace of the Second World War and was killed on a strafing mission in Sicily in November 1941.
- Hurricane Mk I
- First production version, with fabric-covered wings, a wooden two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller (first 435) or three blade two -pitch propeller, powered by the 1,030 hp (770 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk II (first 364) or III engines and armed with eight .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns. Produced between 1937 and 1939.
- Hurricane Mk I (revised)
- A revised Hurricane Mk I series built with a de Havilland or Rotol constant speed metal propeller (from mid 1940), metal-covered wings, armour and other improvements. A total of 4,200 mark I were built, 1,924 by Hawker, 1,850 by Gloster Aircraft Company and 426 by Canadian Car and Foundry between December 1937 and July 1941. The Canadian Car and Foundry Hurricanes were shipped to England to be fitted with engines.
- Hurricane Mk IIA Series 1
- Hurricane Mk I powered by the improved Merlin XX engine with two-speed supercharger. This new engine used a coolant mix of 30 per cent glycol and 70 per cent water. Pure glycol is flammable, so not only was the new mix safer, but the engine also ran approximately 21 °C (70 °F) cooler, which gave longer engine life and greater reliability. The new engine was longer than the earlier Merlin and so the Hurricane gained a 4.5 in "plug" in front of the cockpit, which made the aircraft slightly more stable due to the slight forward shift in centre of gravity. First flew on 11 June 1940 and went into squadron service in September 1940. Hawker built 418 and Gloster Aircraft Company 33.
- Hurricane Mk IIB (Hurricane IIA Series 2)
- A few were fitted with racks allowing them to carry two 250 lb (110 kg) or two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs. This lowered the top speed of the Hurricane to 301 mph (484 km/h), but by this point mixed sweeps of Hurricanes carrying bombs, protected by a screen of fighter Hurricanes were not uncommon. The same racks allowed the Hurricane to carry two 45 imp gal (200 l) drop tanks instead of the bombs, nearly doubling the Hurricane's fuel load.
- Hurricane Mk IIA Series 2 was equipped with a new and slightly longer propeller spinner, and 4 additional wing-mounted .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns; for a total of 12 guns. The first aircraft were built in February 1941 and were renamed Mark IIB in April 1941. A total of 3,050 IIB built to November 1942, 1,883 by Hawker, 867 by Gloster Aircraft Company and 300 by Austin Aero Company.
- Hurricane Mk IIB Trop.
- For use in North Africa the Hawker Hurricane Mk IIB (and other variants) were tropicalised. They were fitted with Vokes and Rolls-Royce engine dust filters and the pilots were issued with a desert survival kit, including a bottle of water behind the cockpit.
- Hurricane Mk IIC (Hurricane Mk IIA Series 2)
- Hurricane Mk IIA Series 1 equipped with new and slightly longer propeller spinner, and fully replaced the machine-gun armament with four 20 mm (0.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannons, two per side. Hurricane IIA Series 2 became the Mk IIC in June 1941, using a slightly modified wing. The new wings also included a hardpoint for a 500 or 250 lb (230 or 110 kg) bomb and, later in 1941, fuel tanks. By then performance was inferior to the latest German fighters, and the Hurricane changed to the ground-attack role, sometimes referred to as the Hurribomber. The mark also served as a night fighter and intruder with about three quarters converted to fighter bombers. There were IIC 4,711 built by Hawker between February 1941 and July 1944.
- Hurricane Mk IID
- Armed with two 40 mm (1.57 in) anti-tank autocannon in a gondola-style pod, one under each wing and a single Browning machine gun in each wing loaded with tracers for aiming purposes. The first aircraft flew on 18 September 1941 and deliveries started in 1942. Serial-built aircraft had additional armour for the pilot, radiator and engine, and were armed with a Rolls-Royce gun with 12 rounds, later changed to the 40 mm (1.57 in) Vickers S gun with 15 rounds. The outer wing attachments were strengthened so that 4G could be pulled at a weight of 8,540 lb (3,870 kg). The weight of guns and armour protection marginally impaired the aircraft's performance. These Hurricanes were nicknamed "Flying Can Openers", perhaps a play on the logo of No. 6 Squadron, which flew the Hurricane starting in 1942. A total of 296 built by Hawker from January 1942 to February 1943
- Hurricane Mk IIE
- Mk IIE, this designation was used by the Ministry of Aircraft Production in 1942 and 1943 for mark II factory fitted with wing racks, 270 delivered according to the Ministry, the RAF used the IIB or C designation. The Mk IIE was not an early mark Mk IV.
- Hurricane Mk T.IIC
- Two-seat training version of the Mk. IIC. Only two aircraft were built, for the Imperial Iranian Air Force.
- Hurricane Mk III
- Version of the Hurricane Mk II powered by a US Packard-built Merlin engine, intending to enable supplies of the British-built engines for other designs. By the time production was to have started, British Merlin production had increased to the point where the idea was abandoned.
- Hurricane Mk IV
- The last major change to the Hurricane was the introduction of the "universal Wing", a single design able to mount two 250 or 500 lb (110 or 230 kg) bombs, two 40 mm (1.57 in) Vickers S guns, drop tanks or eight "60 pounder" RP-3 rockets. Two .303 in (7.7 mm) Brownings were fitted to aid aiming of the heavier armament. Despite persistent reports actually fitted with the same Merlin XX as the mark II. All Merlin 27 were modified to Merlin 25 and used in Mosquitoes, there were only 16 production Merlin 24 by the time over 300 mark IV had been delivered. The individual aircraft cards held by the RAF museum reports the final mark IV had Merlin XX. The radiator was deeper and armoured. Additional armour was also fitted around the engine. 524 built by Hawker between December 1942 and March 1944.
- Hurricane Mk V
- The final variant to be produced. Only one was built and 2 mark IV converted, and the variant never reached production. This was planned to be powered by a Merlin 27 but also tested with a Merlin 32 boosted engine to give 1,700 hp (1,300 kW) at low level and was intended as a dedicated ground-attack aircraft to use in Burma. All three prototypes had four-bladed propellers. Speed was 326 mph (525 km/h) at 500 ft (150 m), which is comparable with the Hurricane I despite being one and a half times as heavy.
- Hurricane Mk X
- Canadian-built variant. Canadian Car and Foundry report building a total of 975 mark II airframes for Holland (1), the RAF (575) and RCAF (400), between July 1941 and May 1943. The mark X designation has been used by the RAF for Canadian Car and Foundry built mark I but it is usually defined as mark II airframes fitted with a Merlin 28. About two thirds of the Canadian Car and Foundry built mark II airframes shipped to Britain did so without an engine, the remainder being fitted with Merlin 28 in Canada, but the engine was near automatically removed upon arrival and a Merlin XX fitted instead and the aircraft called mark II by the RAF. Apart from some test flights in Canada and England no Hurricane flew powered by a Merlin 28. Canada only imported 285 Merlin 28 for Hurricanes, all of which were shipped to Britain either as a separate engine or attached to a Hurricane.
- Hurricane Mk XI
- Canadian-built variant. Designation used for 150 aircraft from the RCAF mark XII order sent to Britain, these aircraft had their Merlin 29 removed and were either shipped without an engine or fitted with a Merlin 28. Fitted with Merlin XX on arrival in Britain and called mark II by the RAF.
- Hurricane Mk XII
- Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. Powered by a 1,300 hp (970 kW) Packard Merlin 29. Initially armed with 12 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns, but this was later changed to four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon.
- Hurricane Mk XIIA
- Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. An order for 400 mark II airframes for the RCAF powered by a 1,300 hp (970 kW) Packard Merlin 29, armed with eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns, production starting in June 1942. 150 sent to Britain in 1943 either engineless or fitted with a Merlin 28. Also a batch of 30 RAF order mark II airframes retained in Canada in late 1941 and initially fitted with Merlin III became mark XII when later fitted with Merlin 29.
- Holland standard Hurricane.
- Canadian built variant. RAF serial airframe AM270 was completed around early March 1942 to Dutch standards, including US built Merlin, instruments and gun sight, as the prototype of an order for the Netherlands East Indies (KM/KNIL). Given the Dutch serial HC3-287, its subsequent fate is unclear beyond being used by Canadian Car and Foundry for test flying. AM270 was also used by the RAF for a Consolidated San Diego built Catalina, creating a further level of confusion.
- Sea Hurricane Mk IA
- The Sea Hurricane Mk IA was a Hurricane Mk I modified by General Aircraft Limited. These conversions numbered approximately 250 aircraft. They were modified to be carried by CAM ships (catapult-armed merchantman), whose ships' crews were Merchant Marine and whose Hurricanes were crewed and serviced by RAF personnel, or Fighter Catapult Ships, which were Naval Auxiliary Vessels crewed by naval personnel and aircraft operated by the Fleet Air Arm. These ships were equipped with a catapult for launching an aircraft, but without facilities to recover them. Consequently, if the aircraft were not in range of a land base, pilots had to bail out or to ditch.
- Both of these options had their problems—there was always a chance of striking part of the fuselage when bailing out, and a number of pilots had been killed in this way. Ditching the Hurricane in the sea called for skill as the radiator housing acted as a water brake, pitching the nose of the fighter downwards when it hit the water, while also acting as a very efficient scoop, helping to flood the Hurricane so that a quick exit was necessary before the aircraft sank. Then the pilot had to be picked up by a ship. More than 80 modifications were needed to convert a Hurricane into a Sea Hurricane, including new radios to conform with those used by the Fleet Air Arm and new instrumentation to read in knots rather than miles per hour. They were informally known as "Hurricats".
- The majority of the aircraft modified had suffered wear-and-tear serving with front line squadrons, so much so that at least one example used during trials broke up under the stress of a catapult launching. CAM Sea Hurricanes were launched operationally on eight occasions and the Hurricanes shot down six enemy aircraft for the loss of one Hurricane pilot killed. The first Sea Hurricane IA kill was an Fw 200C Condor, shot down on 2 August 1941.
- Sea Hurricane Mk IB
- Hurricane Mk I version equipped with catapult spools plus an arrester hook. From July 1941 they operated from HMS Furious and from October 1941, they were used on merchant aircraft carrier (MAC) ships, which were large cargo vessels with a flight deck fitted, enabling aircraft to be launched and recovered. A total of 340 aircraft were converted. The first Sea Hurricane IB kill occurred on 31 July 1941 when Sea Hurricanes of 880 squadron FAA operating from HMS Furious shot down a Do 18 flying-boat.
- Apart from the conversions in Britain 50 Sea Hurricane IB were built in Canada and delivered in late 1941 and early 1942. Initially fitted with a Merlin III, they became Mk XIIA when later fitted with a Merlin 29.
- Sea Hurricane Mk IC
- Reported to be a Hurricane Mk I version equipped with catapult spools, an arrester hook and the four-cannon wing. Despite persistent reports of hundreds converted from early 1942 only two test examples actually done.
- The Sea Hurricane I used during Operation Pedestal had their Merlin III engines modified to accept 16 psi (110 kPa) boost, and could generate more than 1,400 hp (1,000 kW) at low altitude. Lt. R. J. Cork was credited with five kills while flying a Sea Hurricane I during Operation Pedestal.
- Sea Hurricane Mk IIC
- 60 built by Hawker between November 1942 and May 1943, version equipped with naval radio gear; other standard mark IIC were converted and used on fleet carriers. The Merlin XX engine on the Sea Hurricane generated 1,460 hp (1,090 kW) at 6,250 ft (1,900 m) and 1,435 hp (1,070 kW) at 11,000 ft (3,400 m). Top speed was 322 mph (518 km/h) at 13,500 ft (4,100 m) and 342 mph (550 km/h) at 22,000 ft (6,700 m).
- Note the RAF reports as of end June 1944 a total of 378 conversions to Sea Hurricane I, less any conversions back to standard Hurricanes, and no conversions to Sea Hurricane II
- Sea Hurricane Mk XII
- 50 Canadian built Sea Hurricane I delivered in late 1941 and early 1942. Initially fitted with Merlin III as mark I, they became Mk XII when fitted with Merlin 29.
- Hillson F.40 (a.k.a. F.H.40)
- A full-scale version of the Hills & Son Bi-mono slip-wing Biplane/monoplane, using a Hawker Hurricane Mk I returned from Canada as RCAF ser no 321 (RAF serial L1884). Taxi and flight trials carried out at RAF Sealand during May 1943, and at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down from September 1943. The upper wing was not released in flight before the programme was terminated due to poor performance.
- Hurricane Photo Reconnaissance
- The Service Depot at Heliopolis in Egypt converted several Hurricanes Is for photo reconnaissance. The first three were converted in January 1941. Two carried a pair of F24 cameras with 8-inch focal length lenses. The third carried one vertical and two oblique F24s with 14-inch focal length lenses mounted in the rear fuselage, close to the trailing edge of the wing, and a fairing was built up over the lenses aft of the radiator housing. A further five Hurricanes were modified in March 1941, and two were converted in a similar manner in Malta during April 1941. During October 1941 a batch of six Hurricane IIs was converted to PR Mark II status and a final batch, thought to be of 12 aircraft, was converted in late 1941. The PR Mark II was said to be capable of slightly over 350 mph (560 km/h) and was able to reach 38,000 ft (12,000 m).
- Hurricane Tac R
- For duties closer to the front lines some Hurricanes were converted to Tactical Reconnaissance (Tac R) aircraft. An additional radio was fitted for liaison with ground forces who were better placed to direct the Hurricane. Some Hurricane Tac R aircraft also had a vertical camera fitted in the rear fuselage, so to compensate for the extra weight either one or two Brownings or two cannons would be omitted. Externally these aircraft were only distinguishable by the missing armament.
Due to its lightweight, yet robust, construction and ease of maintenance, the Hurricane had a long operational life in many theatres of war. It was also built by, or exported to, several other countries. The Hurricane was unusual in that it was flown operationally by both the Allies and the Axis during the war. In some cases (e.g., Portugal and Ireland) the Hurricane was pressed into service after being forced to land in a neutral country.
In 1939 Latvia ordered and paid for 30 Hurricane fighters, but due to the start of the Second World War later that year, the aircraft were never delivered.
Of more than 14,583 Hurricanes that were built, approximately seventeen (including three Sea Hurricanes) are in airworthy condition worldwide, although many other non-flying examples survive in various air museums.
Specifications (Hurricane Mk.IIC)
- Crew: One
- Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)
- Wingspan: 40 ft 0 in (12.19 m)
- Height: 13 ft 1.5 in (4.001 m)
- Wing area: 257.5 sq ft (23.92 m2)
- Airfoil: root: Clark YH (19%); tip: Clark YH (12.2%)
- Empty weight: 5,745 lb (2,606 kg)
- Gross weight: 7,670 lb (3,479 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 8,710 lb (3,951 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin XX V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine, 1,185 hp (884 kW) at 21,000 ft (6,400 m)
- Propellers: 3-bladed
- Maximum speed: 340 mph (550 km/h, 300 kn) at 21,000 ft (6,400 m)
- Range: 600 mi (970 km, 520 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 36,000 ft (11,000 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,780 ft/min (14.1 m/s)
- Wing loading: 29.8 lb/sq ft (145 kg/m2)
- Power/mass: 0.15 hp/lb (0.25 kW/kg)
- Guns: 4 × 20 mm (0.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannon
- Bombs: 2 × 250 or 500 lb (110 or 230 kg) bombs
- Hawker Hurricane in Yugoslav service
- Flying Legend Hawker Hurricane Replica
- Hawker Henley
- Hawker Hotspur
- Hawker Typhoon
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era
- Curtiss P-36 Hawk
- Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
- Heinkel He 112
- IAR 80
- Macchi C.200
- Messerschmitt Bf 109
- Miles M.20
- Morane-Saulnier M.S.406
- Polikarpov I-16
- PZL.50 Jastrząb
- Rogožarski IK-3
- Supermarine Spitfire
- Yakovlev Yak-1
- List of fighter aircraft
- List of aircraft of the United Kingdom in World War II
- List of aircraft of World War II
- List of most produced aircraft
- Mould was shot down on 1 October 1941 by Italian Macchi MC.202s north of Malta and declared "missing in action".
- The Heinkel He 112 was never operational in France.
- J. B. Parnall was the first RAF flight commander to be killed in action during the war.
- Australian ace Les Clisby was credited with 16 individual air victories, one shared and one not confirmed. Postwar research reduced his score to nine individual kills and three shared. According to some sources, he was killed on 15 May 1940.
- This was the pilot's term for the Boost Cut-Out Control which was adjacent to the throttle lever.
- Gleed rose through the ranks to become a wing commander flying Spitfire VBs over North Africa; he was shot down and killed by Oberleutnant Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert on 16 April 1943. Gleed was credited with 15 victories.
- As far as can be determined, no Messerschmitt Bf 110 crashes on land for 16 August 1940 could be attributed to Nicholson, although Nicholson himself believed the 110 crashed into the sea.
- This was code-named Operation Hurry. These aircraft were flown off the carrier HMS Argus.
- Soviet Hurricanes were fuelled with 95 octane avgas, not the 100 Octane fuel that the Merlin XX was designed to use.
- Soviet pilot Nikolai G. Golodnikov remembered: "The Hurricane's engine was powerful, but it couldn't stand long periods of work at maximum regimes and would quickly break down. The engine worked very clean, it had exhaust stacks and flame suppressors, mounted like mufflers. This was very comfortable as the flames did not blind the pilot. Our planes were much worse in this respect. But at negative G-forces the engine choked. There was no compensating tank. This was very bad because we had to execute any manoeuvre with positive G-forces. It had a very thick wing profile and poor acceleration characteristics. It was not slow in responding to the control stick, but everything happened smoothly, slowly. It had good lifting strength and was very good in horizontal manoeuvrability. But the Hurricane was very poor in vertical manoeuvre, due to thick wing profile. We mostly tried to impose a battle in the horizontal plane and would not go into a vertical one. The Hurricane burned rapidly — and to cinders like a match — as it had dural covering only on the tail and wings, the rest was percale."
- Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942 records 28 Sea Hurricane victories against eight losses during Operation Harpoon and Operation Pedestal.
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