| Continued from above… monoplane & the true hero of the Battle of Britain. |
The Hawker Hurricane was a major milestone in the evolution of British fighter planes. Monoplanes weren't new to the type, but the Hurricane set new standards of armament and performance in one stroke. When it appeared in 1935, with eight guns, it was the world's most heavily armed fighter, and it was Britain's first to exceed 300mph.
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 escort fighter.
|August 1940 brought what has become the Hurricane's shining moment in history: The Battle of Britain. RAF Hurricanes accounted for more enemy aircraft kills than all other defenses combined, including all aircraft and ground defenses. Later in the war, the Hurricane served admirably in North Africa, Burma, Malta, and nearly every other theater in which the RAF participated. |
Delivery of the Hurricane to the squadrons began at the end of 1937, and in 1940, the plane went on to play a major role in the Battle of Britain. Although much of that glory must be shared with the Supermarine Spitfire, the Hurricane did the majority of the defensive work. There were 32 Hurricane squadrons in the battle (compared to 19 Spitfire squadrons), and the Hurricane's simple structure enabled damaged aircraft to be repaired more quickly. Its easy-maintenance features also reduced turnaround time.
Design of the Hurricane began in January 1934, as a private venture by the Hawker Aircraft Company of Kingston-On-Thames, when Sidney Camm became aware of a new 910hp Rolls-Royce engine that was being developed. Camm sought to design a new monoplane to capitalize on this advanced engine, which was later ordered into production as the famous "Merlin."
Previous Hawker fighters had all been biplanes, and the new Hurricane was a prime example of a transitional design. The details of the fuselage, tail, nose and radiator of the monoplane closely resembled those of the biplanes, but its major difference was the fitting of a metal-frame, fabric-covered monoplane wing that contained an inward-retracting landing gear. In September 1934, Hawker showed drawings of the new design (which used two nose guns and one gun in each wing) to the Air Ministry. An official specification was written to cover the design, and on January 10, 1934, a contract for a prototype was awarded.
During construction, the armament was revised to use eight .303-rifle-caliber machine guns that were entirely enclosed in the thick wing. The prototype flew on November 1, 1935, and demonstrated a high speed of 315mph at 16,200 feet (5,000 meters). Production orders followed for a total of 3,759 Hurricane Is, and later models brought the total number of Hurricanes to 14,557.
During the production of the Mark I, the Hurricane adopted several significant state-of-the-art improvements. The wing structure was changed to all-metal; constant-speed propellers were adopted, and armor for the pilot and fuel tanks was added. For service in North Africa and in the Middle East, a "tropicalized" version was developed that featured dust filters for the engine air intake and other details that were dictated by operations and maintenance in desert conditions. Hurricanes were also adapted to naval operations from aircraft carriers by the fitting of arrester hooks, and operated under the name "Sea Hurricane."
The appearance of the 1,280hp Merlin XX engine with a two-stage supercharger resulted in the major Hurricane model-the Mark II-which had many variants, mostly in the arrangement of armament. Two different wings were built, one for 12 .303 guns (Mark IIB) and the other for four 20mm cannon, plus hard points for up to 500-pound bombs (Mark IIC). The Mark IIA had the original eight-gun wing, the Mark IID had two 40mm cannon that were mounted below the wing.
As a fighter, the Hurricane was generally surpassed by the German Messerschmitt 109. As the Hurricane was improved, so was the 109. The Hurricane was outclassed as an interceptor fighter by mid-1942, but with the new wing and heavier armament, it became a highly successful low-level fighter-bomber and tank buster.
Some 2,952 Mark IIs and IVs were supplied to Russia during the War, and this produced quite an oddity. Hawker sold 12 Hurricanes to Finland in January 1940 during that country's first war with Russia, and by the time of the second, or "Continuation," war, the Russians also had Hurricanes. Further, in a reversed Lend-Lease operation, Britain supplied Hurricanes to American fighter squadrons that arrived in Europe and North Africa but were not yet equipped with American fighters.
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This Rugged RAF fighter ranks with the most important aircraft designs in military aviation history
The Hurricane took Britain's fighter force belatedly out of the biplane era and gave the RAF a machine with which to combat the fast-emerging might of the Luftwaffe. The year 1937 was a key time in fighter development on both sides of the Channel. In Germany the Messerschmitt Bf 109B, armed with three 7.9 mm machine guns or two machine guns and one 20 mm cannon, entered service and soon proved its worth in the Spanish Civil War. By contrast the British had the ponderous Gloster Gladiator, a biplane. But two new British types were on the way, and by the eve of the Battle of Britain the RAF's front-line strength of 1,200 included 800 Hurricane and Spitfire monoplane single-seat fighters, both armed with eight .303 inch caliber machine guns. First to enter service was the Hurricane, in December 1937. The prototype had first flown in November 1935, and made a great impression with its speed, being the first British fighter capable of more than 300 mph. Powered initially by a Merlin II engine, these squat and punchy machines nevertheless lacked the speed of the Messerschmitt Bf 109E, and in the Battle of Britain they served principally as interceptors, engaging German bombers before they got to their target cities. At the same time they could and did outmaneuver Goering's less successful Me 110 fighters.
From 1940 the Hurricane was up-armed to carry twelve Browning .303 inch machine guns in the Mk IIB, and four 20 mm cannon in the Mk IIC; these entered service in 1941, in which year fighter-bomber versions of each were introduced, carrying two 250 lb bombs beneath the wings. In 1942 a ground-attack Hurricane went into service, swooping over the Western Desert to smash enemy tanks with its twin 40 mm cannon which were slung under the wings. Later came rocket-carrying versions. The 'Hurricat', a naval fighter launched by catapult, protected scores of convoys in the Baltic and Mediterranean, while the Sea Hurricane operated from carriers, fitted with conventional arrester gear.
Length: 32 ft 3 ins. Span: 40 ft 0 ins. Combat weight: 8,2501b. Crew: One. Top speed: 339 mph. Ceiling: 36,000 ft. Range: 470 miles. Figures for Hurricane Mk IIB.