The Hawker Hurricane was the first monoplane fighter to enter service with the RAF. It was also the first RAF fighter to exceed 300 mph in level flight. The Hurricane was the most numerous RAF fighter during the Battle of Britain and it accounted for many more enemy aircraft than its stable mate, the Supermarine Spitfire. It was a very ruggedly built aircraft and could tolerate a lot of damage, a big advantage in a dogfight.
Hurricane Mk I
Rolls-Royce Merlin II liquid-cooled V-12 rated at 1,030 hp (768 kW)
4m (13ft 1 1/2in)
Empty - 2,605kg (5,745lbs) - Loaded - 3,480kg (7,670lbs)
547 kph (340 mph)
10,970m (36,000 ft)
8 x .303in Browning machine guns mounted four in each wing
In 1925 the talented Sydney Camm was appointed Chief Designer at Hawker. He had realised that biplane designs were at their zenith and became increasingly concerned with monoplane design. In 1933 Camm's team produced a monoplane design, adapted from the Hawker Fury biplane, utilising a 660 hp Rolls Royce Goshawk engine. At this time the much more powerful Rolls-Royce PV-12 was in development rated at 1,100 hp. This was the engine to become the famous Merlin and Camm produced plans for a monoplane built around it. The design was known as the Interceptor Monoplane and incorporated new ideas such as retracting landing gear and an enclosed cockpit.
Camm's new design was submitted to the Air Ministry on September 4th 1934 and work on a mock up started shortly afterwards. On February 21st 1935 approval was given for a prototype, serial number K5083. It was to be armed with four machine guns, two in the fuselage and one mounted in each wing, subsequently changed to eight .303in Browning machine guns, mounted four in each wing.
K5083 took to the air for the first time on November 6th 1935 and spent the next eight months conducting trails. Generally the aircraft was liked, being easy to fly and lacking any adverse characteristics, but the Merlin engine proved to be troublesome and was subject to replacement ending up with a Merlin II.
The prototype was officially approved on June 27th 1936, but even before that, on June 3rd, an order was placed for six hundred aircraft.
The change to the Merlin II caused a number of modifications to the airframe and it wasn't until late 1937 that the Hurricane MKI went in to full production. Initial aircraft were built from fabric covered metal frames. Development continued and later production aircraft were fitted with a metal covered wing. Armour protection was added behind the pilot and the engine exhausts were modified increasing the speed by an extra two miles per hour.
By September 1939 the RAF had 497 Hurricane MKI in service equipping eighteen squadrons.
On September 15th four squadrons, No's 1, 73, 85 and 87, moved to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force's Air Component. These were joined by three more squadrons, No's 3, 79 and 505, when Germany launched its offensive against France in May 1940. Nearly two hundred were lost when the Germans swept through France, many damaged aircraft having to be left behind before they could be shipped back to the UK.
By the time the Luftwaffe started its attacks on shipping in the English Channel there were twenty six squadrons equipped with hurricanes. When pitted against the bf109E the Hurricane was at a slight disadvantage regards performance but was much more ruggedly built enabling it to survive dogfights more successfully and return to base for repairs.
Normally the Hurricanes were directed against the Luftwaffe bombers where its eight Browning machines guns were very effective. By the end of the daylight phase of the Battle of Britain Hurricanes had accounted for around 57% of German aircraft shot down.
Hurricanes from 601 (County of London) Squadron scramble from Tangmere during a raid by the Luftwaffe during 1940
After the Battle of Britain the Hurricane continued to serve as a night fighter during the 'Blitz'.
The Hurricane MKII was tropicalised by the addition of filters to serve in the North African desert against Italian forces. Once Messerschmitt bf109 E and F variants arrived in Africa the Hurricanes started to suffer losses. They were replaced by Curtiss Tomahawks and Kittyhawks and, by replacing the eight .303in Brownings with four 20mm canon and the addition of bomb racks, were converted to the ground attack role, becoming known as Hurribombers.
Hurricanes were prominent in the early defence of Malta. Four Hurricanes joined six aging Gloster Gladiator biplanes and fought off a much larger Italian force of over 200 aircraft throughout July 1940. Malta was subsequently reinforced with more Hurricanes, which bore the brunt of the defence against attacks by the Luftwaffe until into 1942 when Spitfires started to arrive on the island.
Almost 3,000 Hurricane MKII's were supplied to Russia under the Lend Lease agreement. Two RAF squadrons, No's 81 and 134, served with No. 151 Wing providing protection to convoys heading to Murmansk and escorting Russian bombers. By the end of 1941 the British pilots had pulled out handing the Hurricanes over to Russian squadrons.
Hurricanes served in the far east from bases in Singapore, Dutch East Indies and Sumatra. The first 50 or so aircraft arrived in Singapore in early January 1942. At the end of January another 48 arrived in Malaysia. By the end of Feb only one aircraft survived, being taken into service by the Royal Australian Air Force.
Hurricane Mk I
The MK I was the first production version. The early production aircraft, between 1937 and 1939, were powered by the 1,030 hp (768 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk II or III engines driving a wooden two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The wings were covered with fabric. Armament consisted of eight .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns, four mounted in each wing. Later production aircraft, built after 1939 were fitted with a de Havilland or Rotol constant speed metal propeller. The wings were covered in metal. Armour protection was added for the pilot behind the seat.
Hurricane Mk II
The Hurricane Mk II was powered by the improved Merlin XX engine. The fuselage had to be lengthened by 4 1/2" to accept the new engine. The MkII went into squadron service in September 1940. The Hurricane Mk II B was fitted with racks on the wings allowing two 250 lb, two 500 lb bombs or two 450 gallon (205 litre) drop tanks to be carried. The first Mk II B's aircraft were built in October 1940.
Tropicalised versions for use in North Africa used Vokes and Rolls Royce engine dust filters that required a new air scoop at the front under the engine.
The Hurricane Mk II C (Hurribomber) had a new wing design that mounted four 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannons and a 500 lb (230 kg) or 250 lb (110 kg) bomb or extra fuel tanks. This type performed mainly in the ground attack or night fighter role. Hurricane Mk II D was armed with two 40 mm (1.57 in) Anti-Tank cannons in a pod under each wing and a single Browning machine gun in each wing loaded with tracers for ranging. The first Mk II D's were delivered in early 1942.
Hurricane Mk III
The Hurricane Mk III designation was reserved for Hurricanes fitted with the Packard built Merlin engines. None were produced.
Hurricane Mk IV
The Hurricane Mk IV introduced the "universal Wing", a single component capable of mounting: two 250 lb 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 Brownings were fitted in the wings for range finding. The Mk IV was powered by the Merlin 24 or 27 engines rated at 1,620 hp (1,208 kW).
Hurricane Mk V
The Hurricane Mk V was the final variant but only three were built.
Hurricane Mk X - Mk XII
The Hurricane Mk X to Mk XII were all Canadian built aircraft powered by Packard Merlin 28 or 29 engines.
The Sea Hurricane Mk IA was a standard Mk I converted for launching from a catapult. These were operated by the Merchant Navy and Fleet Air Arm to provide air cover for the Atlantic convoys. Once launched the pilot was expected to ditch the aircraft or bail out and wait to be rescued by a ship. If the pilot was lucky land would be within range where he could land or bail out without having to get wet. The Sea Hurricane Mk IIB, Mk IC, Mk IIC and Mk XIIA were fitted with an arrestor hook for recovery on an escort carrier.