Hawker Hurricane Airplane Videos and Airplane Pictures

Hawker Hurricane Video - Pathe Newsreel Introducing Hawker Hurricane

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Hawker Hurricane Picture

Warbird picture - Hawker Hurricanes in formation

Warbird picture - H is for Hurricane, British children's alphabet book from the Second World War
H is for Hurricane, British children's alphabet book from the Second World War


Hawker Hurricane Aircraft Information

Picture - Hurricane Mk I (R4118), a Hurricane from the 1940 Battle of Britain, still flying

RWarbirdd picture - Airplane picture - Hurricane Mk I (R4118), a Hurricane from the 1940 Battle of Britain, still flyingole - Fighter
Manufacturer - Hawker Aircraft
Gloster Aircraft Company
Canadian Car and Foundry
Austin Motor Company
Designed by - Sydney Camm
First flight - 6 November 1935
Introduced - 1937
Primary user - Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Produced - 1937-1944
Number built - 14,000

The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. Some production of the Hurricane was carried out in Canada by the Canada Car and Foundry Co Ltd.

The 1930s design evolved through several versions and adaptations, resulting in a series of aircraft which acted as interceptor-fighters, fighter-bombers (also called "Hurribombers"), and ground support aircraft. Further versions known as the Sea Hurricane had modifications which enabled operation from ships. Some were converted as catapult-launched convoy escorts, known as "Hurricats". Together with the Spitfire, the Hurricane was significant in enabling the Royal Air Force (RAF) to win the Battle of Britain of 1940, accounting for the majority of the RAF's air victories. About 14,000 Hurricanes were built by the end of 1944 (including about 1,200 converted to Sea Hurricanes and some 1,400 built in Canada), and served in all the major theatres of the Second World War.

Warbird picture - Planform view of R4118, a preserved Hurricane from the 1940 Battle of BritainPicture - Planform view of R4118, a preserved Hurricane from the 1940 Battle of Britain

Design and development

The Hurricane was developed by Hawker in response to the Air Ministry specification F.36/34 (modified by F.5/34) for a fighter aircraft built around the new Rolls-Royce engine, then only known as the PV-12, later to become famous as the Merlin. At that time, RAF Fighter Command comprised just 13 squadrons, each equipped with either the Hawker Fury, Hawker Hart variant, or Bristol Bulldog – all biplanes with fixed-pitch wooden propellers and non-retractable undercarriages.[1] The design, started in early 1934, was the work of Sydney Camm.

Sydney Camm's original plans submitted in response to the Air Ministry's specification were at first rejected (apparently "too orthodox," even for the Air Ministry). Camm tore up the proposal and set about designing a fighter as a Hawker private venture. With economy in mind, the Hurricane was designed using as many existing tools and jigs as possible (the aircraft was effectively a monoplane version of the successful Hawker Fury); and it was these factors that were major contributors to the aircraft's success.

Warbird picture - The last Hurricane ever built, of 14,533. A Mk IIc version, originally known as "The Last of the Many" and owned by Hawker, this aircraft is now flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial FlightPicture - The last Hurricane ever built, of 14,533. A Mk IIc version, originally known as "The Last of the Many" and owned by Hawker, this aircraft is now flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Early design stages of the "Fury Monoplane" incorporated a Rolls-Royce Goshawk engine, but this was replaced shortly after by the Merlin, and featured a retractable undercarriage. The design came to be known as the "Interceptor Monoplane," and by May 1934, the plans had been completed in detail. To test the new design, a one-tenth scale model was made and sent to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington. A series of wind tunnel tests confirmed the aerodynamic qualities of the design were in order, and by December that year, a full size wooden mock-up of the aircraft had been created.[1]

Warbird picture - Sea Hurricane Mk IB in formation, December 1941Picture - Sea Hurricane Mk IB in formation, December 1941

Construction of the first prototype, K5083, began in August 1935 incorporating the PV-12 Merlin engine. The completed sections of the aircraft were taken to Brooklands, where Hawkers had an assembly shed, and re-assembled on 23 October 1935. Ground testing and taxi trials took place over the following two weeks, and on 6 November 1935, the prototype took to the air for the first time, at the hands of Hawker's chief test pilot, Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) P.W.S. Bulman.[2] Flight Lieutenant 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.[3]

Warbird picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865 (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight), the last Hurricane produced. It is in the "Night Intruder" scheme of the aircraft of Czech pilot Karel Kuttelwascher of 1 Squadron in 1942.Picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865 (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight), the last Hurricane produced. It is in the "Night Intruder" scheme of the aircraft of Czech pilot Karel Kuttelwascher of 1 Squadron in 1942.

Though faster and more advanced than the RAF's current front line biplane fighters, the Hurricane's design was already outdated when introduced. It employed traditional Hawker construction techniques from previous biplane aircraft, with mechanically fastened, rather than welded joints. It had a Warren girder-type fuselage of high-tensile steel tubes, over which sat frames and longerons that carried the doped linen covering.[4] An advantage conferred by 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 the groundcrew at the airfield. An all metal structure, as with the Spitfire, damaged by an exploding cannon shell required more specialised equipment to repair.[5] The old-fashioned structure also permitted the assembly of Hurricanes with relatively basic equipment under field conditions. Crated Hurricanes were assembled 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.

Initially, the wing structure consisted of two steel spars, and was also fabric-covered. "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 only required three hours' work per aircraft."[6] 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.[2] "The metal skinned wings allowed a diving speed that was 80mph (129 km/h) higher than the fabric-covered ones. They were very different in construction but were interchangeable with the fabric-covered wings, and 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."[6]

Warbird picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk.II of 232 Squadron shot down on 8 February 1942 during the Battle of SingaporePicture - Hawker Hurricane Mk.II of 232 Squadron shot down on 8 February 1942 during the Battle of Singapore

One of Camm's priorities with the new fighter 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 wingroots were coated with strips of non-slip material.

Warbird picture - Hurricane Mk I (R4118)Picture - Hurricane Mk I (R4118)

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 the Hurricane, as well as the Spitfire, was also to be used as a night-fighter. The Hurricane proved to be a relatively simple aircraft to fly at night and was to be instrumental in shooting down several German aircraft during the nocturnal hours. From early 1941 the Hurricane would also be used as an "intruder" aircraft, patrolling German airfields in France at night in an attempt to catch night bombers during takeoffs or landings.


Warbird picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IIA at the National Museum of the United States Air ForcePicture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IIA at the National Museum of the United States Air Force

The Hurricane was ordered into production in June 1936, mainly due to its relatively simple construction and ease of manufacture. As 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 be able to enter production smoothly, while the Hurricane used well-understood manufacturing techniques. This was true for service squadrons as well, who 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.

The maiden flight of the first production aircraft, powered by a Merlin II engine, took place on 12 October 1937. The first four aircraft to enter service with the RAF joined No. 111 Squadron RAF at RAF Northolt the following December. By the outbreak of the Second World War, nearly 500 Hurricanes had been produced, and had equipped 18 squadrons.[7]

Warbird picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IIB Z5140Picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IIB Z5140

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, which also built 300 Hurricanes. Another was David Rosenfield Ltd, based at Barton aerodrome near Manchester.[8]

In all, some 14,000 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes were produced. The majority of Hurricanes were built by Hawker (which produced them until 1944), with Hawker's sister company, the Gloster Aircraft Company, making (2,750) most of the rest. As described, the Austin Aero Ltd built 300. Canada Car and Foundry in Fort William, Ontario, Canada, (where the Chief Engineer, Elsie MacGill, became known as the "Queen of the Hurricanes") was responsible for production of 1,400 Hurricanes, known as the Mk X.

In 1939, production of 100 Hurricanes was initiated in Yugoslavia by Zmaj and Rogozarski. Of these, 20 were built by Zmaj by April 1941. One of these was fitted with a DB 601 and test flown in 1941.[9]

Warbird picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IV KZ321 (The Fighter Collection)Picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IV KZ321 (The Fighter Collection)

A contract for 80 Hurricanes was placed with Fairey's Belgian subsidiary Avions Fairey SA for the Belgian Air Force in 1938. Three were built and two flown by the time of the Blitzkrieg in May 1940.[10]

Operational history

Battle of France

In response to a request from the French government for 10 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.

In October 1939 a trainee pilot, Roland Beamont, had his first flight in a Hurricane:

Then, with tail trimmer set, throttle and mixture lever fully forward...and puffs of grey exhaust smoke soon clearing at maximum r.p.m came the surprise! There was no sudden surge of acceleration, but with a thunderous roar from the exhausts just ahead on either side of the windscreen, only a steady increase in speed...In retrospect that first Hurricane sortie was a moment of elation, but also of relief. Apart from the new scale of speeds that the pilot had to adapt to, the Hurricane had all the qualities of its stable, secure biplane predecessor the Hart, but enhanced by livlier controls, greater precision and all this performance.[11]

Warbird picture - Hurricane Mk IV, armed with RP-3 rocketsPicture - Hurricane Mk IV, armed with RP-3 rockets

Beamont subsequently flew operationally with 87 Squadron, claiming three enemy aircraft during the French campaign

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, 1g 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.[12]

In May the following year, 3, 79 and 504 Squadrons reinforced the earlier units as Germany's Blitzkrieg gathered momentum, and on 13 May 1940, a further 32 Hurricanes arrived. All 10 requested Hurricane squadrons were then operating from French soil and felt the full force of the Nazi offensive. By 17 May, the end of the first week of fighting, only three of the squadrons were near operational strength, but despite their heavy losses the Hurricanes had managed to destroy nearly double the number of German aircraft.

Warbird picture - Canadian-built Hurricane Mk XII painted to represent Hurricane Mk IIB Z5140 of 126 Squadron RAFPicture - Canadian-built Hurricane Mk XII painted to represent Hurricane Mk IIB Z5140 of 126 Squadron RAF

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.[13] He subsequently went on to become one of the RAF's first fighter aces of the war, being credited with 16 kills. On 7 June 1940 Kain got word that he was to return to England for "rest leave" at an OTU; on leaving his airfield, he put on an impromptu aerobatic display, and lost his life when his Hurricane crashed after completing a loop and attempting some low altitude "flick" rolls.[14]

On 27 May 1940, 13 aircraft from 501 Squadron intercepted 24 Heinkel He 111s escorted by 20 Messerschmitt Bf 110s, and during the ensuing battle, 11 Heinkels were claimed as "kills" and others damaged, with little damage to the Hurricanes.[15]

Warbird picture - Fleet Air Arm Sea HurricanePicture - Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricane

Initial engagements with the Luftwaffe 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 obsolescent.[6]

At the start of the war, the engine ran on the then-standard 87 octane aviation spirit. From early 1940, increasing quantities of 100 octane fuel - imported from the U.S. - became available.[16][17] In February 1940, Hurricanes with the Merlin II and III engines began to receive modifications to allow for an additional 6 lbf (27 N) of supercharger boost, for five minutes, (although there are accounts of its use for 30 minutes continuously). The increased supercharger boost, which increased engine output by nearly 250 hp (190 kW), gave the Hurricane an approximate increase in speed of 25 mph (40 km/h) to 35 mph (56 km/h), under 15,000 ft (4,600 m) [18] 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 lbs./sq.inch "emergency boost", the Merlin III was able to generate 1,310 hp (977 kW) at 9,000 ft (2,700 m).[19]

Flt Lt 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[20]. 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...[18]

Warbird picture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IVRP with Yugoslav Air Force markings, Museum of Aviation in Belgrade, Belgrade, SerbiaPicture - Hawker Hurricane Mk IVRP with Yugoslav Air Force markings, Museum of Aviation in Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia

Gleed ran out of ammunition before he could shoot the 109 down although he left it heavily damaged and flying at about 50 feet.[21]

Hurricanes equipped from the outset with Rotol constant-speed propellers were delivered to RAF squadrons in May 1940, with deliveries continuing throughout the Battle of Britain; the Rotol propeller transformed the Hurricane's performance from "disappointing" to one of "acceptable mediocrity", and modified aircraft were certainly much sought after among squadrons equipped with aircraft having the older de Havilland two-position propeller.[22]

Battle of Britain

At the end of June 1940, following the fall of France, the majority of the RAF's 36 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 highest number of RAF victories during this period, accounting for 1,593 of the 2,739 claimed.

Warbird picture - A Hawker Hurricane on display at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian InstitutionPicture - A Hawker Hurricane on display at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution

As a fighter, the Hurricane had some drawbacks. It was slower than both the Spitfire I and II and the Messerschmitt Bf 109E, and the thick wings 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 when the fighting occurred 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 easily evade the Hurricane.[23] In September 1940 the more powerful Mk IIa series 1 Hurricanes started entering service although only in small numbers.[24] This version was capable of a maximum speed of 342 mph.[25]

The Hurricane was a steady gun platform[26], and had demonstrated its ruggedness, as several had been badly damaged, yet returned to base. But, whilst it was sturdy and stable, the Hurricane's construction had made it dangerous in the event of the aircraft catching fire; the wood frames and fabric covering of the rear fuselage meant that fire could spread through the rear fuselage structure quite easily. In addition the gravity fuel tank in the forward fuselage sat right in front of the instrument panel, without any form of protection between it and 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 a fire-resistant material called Linatex.[27] Some Hurricane pilots also felt that the fuel tanks in the wings, which although they were protected with a layer of Linatex, were vulnerable from behind and it was thought that these, not the fuselage tank, were the main fire risk.[28]

One lesson learned in combat had been that even eight .303 machine guns would not guarantee a successful kill in the fast-moving air combats that were taking place. In spite of this, during the month from 10 July to 11 August, for example, RAF fighters fired at 114 German bombers and shot down 80, a destruction ratio of 70%. Against the Bf 109, the RAF fighters attacked 70 and shot down 54 of these, a ratio of 77%. Part of the success of the British fighters was possibly due to the use of the de Wilde incendiary round.[29]

As in the Spitfire, the Merlin engine suffered from negative-G cut-out, a problem not cured until the introduction of the Miss Shilling's orifice in early 1941.

The only Battle of Britain Victoria Cross, and the only VC awarded to a member of Fighter Command during the war[30], 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 a blazing inferno, engaged the enemy, and may have shot the Bf 110 down.[31][32]

Night fighters and Intruders

Following the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane continued to give service, and through the Blitz of 1941, was the principal single-seat night fighter in Fighter Command. F/Lt. Richard Stevens claimed 14 Luftwaffe bombers flying Hurricanes in 1941.

1942 saw the cannon-armed Mk IIc perform further afield in the night intruder role over occupied Europe. F/Lt. Karel Kuttelwascher of 1 Squadron proved the top scorer, with 15 Luftwaffe bombers claimed shot down.

North Africa

The Hurricane Mk II was hastily tropicalised following Italy's entry into the war in June 1940. These aircraft were initially ferried through France by air to 80 Squadron in Egypt to replace Gladiators. 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.42s.

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 (.79 in) cannon and a 500 lb (230 kg) bombload.

During and following the five-day El Alamein artillery barrage that commenced on the night of 23 October 1942, six squadrons of Hurricanes 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, ten lorries, five half-tracks, a gun and trailer, and a wireless van on 10 March 1943, with no losses to themselves.[33]

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 three weeks. (According to myth, after the first one was lost, the remaining three were named “Faith, Hope and Charity”; in reality, there were at least six Gladiators.) 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.[34]

The increasing number of British aircraft on the island, at last, prompted the Italians to employ German Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers to try and 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.[35]

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. In relation to this second intensive assault on Malta, Wing Commander P.B. "Laddie" Lucas is quoted as saying:[36]
“ - For weeks a handful of Hurricane IIs, aided by Group Captain A.B. Woodhall's masterly controlling, had been meeting, against all the odds, the rising crescendo of Field Marshal Kesselring's relentless attacks on Grand Harbour and the airfields. Outnumbered, usually, by 12 or 14 to one and, later – with the arrival of the Me 109Fs in Sicily – outperformed, the pilots of the few old aircraft which the ground crews struggled valiantly to keep serviceable, went on pressing their attacks, ploughing their way through the German fighter screens, and our flak, to close in with the Ju 87s and 88s as they dived for their targets. - ”

—Wing Commander P.B. "Laddie" Lucas D.S.O., D.F.C.

Air defence in Russia

Mk II Hurricanes played an important air defence role in 1941, when the Soviet Union found itself under threat from the German Army approaching on a broad front stretching from Leningrad, Moscow, and 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 Russian bombers. Enemy attention to the area declined in October, at which point the RAF pilots trained their Soviet counterparts to operate the Hurricanes themselves and, by the end of the year, the RAF's role had ended, but the aircraft remained behind and became the first of thousands of Allied aircraft that would be accepted by the Soviet Union.[37]

Burma, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies

Following the outbreak of war with Japan, 51 Hurricane Mk IIs were sent in crates to Singapore, with 24 pilots, the nucleus of five squadrons. They arrived on 3 January 1942, by which time the Allied fighter squadrons in Singapore, flying Brewster Buffalos, had been overwhelmed in the Malayan campaign. The Imperial Japanese Army Air Force's fighter force, especially the Nakajima Ki-43, had been underestimated in its capability, numbers and the strategy of its commanders.[38]

Arriving by sea in crates, 51 Hurricanes were assembled in 48 hours and ready for testing. Twenty-one were ready for service within three days, thanks to the efforts of the 151st Maintenance unit. The Hurricanes suffered in performance. The crews equipped them with 12, rather than eight machine guns. This made them slow to climb and unwieldy to manoeuvre, although they were more effective bomber killers.[39]

The recently-arrived pilots were formed into 232 Squadron. In addition, 488(NZ) Squadron, a Buffalo squadron, converted to Hurricanes. On 18 January, the two squadrons formed the basis of 226 Group. 232 Squadron became operational on 20 January and suffered the first losses and victories for the Hurricane in East Asia.

Between 27 and 30 January, another 48 Hurricanes (Mk IIA) arrived with the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, from which they flew to airfields code-named P1 and P2, near Palembang, Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies.

Because of inadequate early warning systems, 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. However, 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. By this time, only 18 serviceable Hurricanes remained out of the original 99.

After Java was invaded, some of the pilots were evacuated by sea to Australia. One aircraft which had not been assembled, was transferred to the RAAF, becoming the only Hurricane to see service in Australia, with training and other non-combat units.


Hurricane Mk I (R4118)
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIA at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIB Z5140
Hawker Hurricane Mk IV KZ321 (The Fighter Collection)
Hurricane Mk IV, armed with RP-3 rockets
Canadian-built Hurricane Mk XII painted to represent Hurricane Mk IIB Z5140 of 126 Squadron RAF
Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricane

Hurricane Mk I
First production version, with fabric-covered wings, a wooden two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller, powered by the 1,030 hp (768 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk II 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, metal-covered wings, armour and other improvements. In 1939, the RAF had taken on about 500 of this later design to form the backbone of the fighter squadrons.

Hurricane Mk IIA Series 1
Hurricane Mk I powered by the improved Merlin XX engine. This new engine used a mix of 30 per cent gycol and 70 per cent water. Pure glycol is flammable, so not only was the new mix safer, but the engine also ran approximately 70°C 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.[40] First flew on 11 June 1940 and went into squadron service in September 1940.

Hurricane Mk IIB (Hurricane IIA Series 2)
The Hurricane II B were fitted with racks allowing them to carry two 250 lb or two 500 lb bombs. This lowered the top speed of the Hurricane to 301 mph (484 km/h), but by this point mixed sweeps of Hurricanes protected by a fighter screen of Hurricanes were not uncommon. The same racks would allow the Hurricane to carry either two 45-gallon (205 l) drop tanks, more than doubling the Hurricane's fuel load.[41]

Hurricane Mk IIA Series 2 was equipped with new and slightly longer propeller spinner and new wing mounting 12 .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns. The first aircraft were built in October 1940 and were renamed Mark IIB in April 1941.

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.[42]

Hurricane Mk IIC (Hurricane Mk IIA Series 2)
Hurricane Mk IIA Series 1 equipped with new and slightly longer propeller spinner and new wing mounting four 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannons. 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 lb (230 kg) or 250 lb (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."

Hurricane Mk IID
Hurricane Mk IIB conversion armed with two 40 mm (1.57 in) AT cannons in a pod 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 (3,874 kg).[43] The weight of guns and armour protection marginally impacted the aircraft's performance. These Hurricanes were nicknamed "Flying Can Openers", perhaps a play on the No. 6 Squadron's logo which flew the Hurricane starting in 1941.

Hurricane Mk IIE
Another wing modification was introduced in the Mk IIE, but the changes became extensive enough that it was renamed the Mk IV after the first 250 had been delivered.

Hurricane Mk T.IIC
Two-seat training version of the Mk. IIC. Only two aircraft were built for the Persian Air Force.

Hurricane Mk III
Version of the Hurricane Mk II powered by a Packard-built Merlin engine, intending to provide supplies of the British-built engines for other designs. By the time production was to have started, 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 lbs or 500 lbs (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 to aid aiming of the heavier armament.[44] The new design also incorporated the improved Merlin 24 or 27 engines of 1,620 hp (1,208 kW), equipped with dust filters for desert operations. The Merlin 27 had a redesigned oil system that was better suited to operations in the tropics, and which was rated at a slightly lower altitude in keeping with the Hurricane's new role as a close-support fighter. The radiator was deeper and armoured. Additional armour was also fitted around the engine.[45]

Hurricane Mk V
The final variant to be produced. Only three were built and it never reached production. This was powered by a Merlin 32 boosted engine to give 1,700 hp at low level and was intended as a dedicated ground-attack plane to use in Burma. All three prototypes had four-bladed propellers. Speed was 326 mph (525 km/h) at 500 ft, which is comparable with the Hurricane I despite being one and a half times as heavy.[45]

Hurricane Mk X
Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. Powered by a 1,300 hp (969 kW) Packard Merlin 28. Eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns mounted in the wings. In total, 490 were built.

Hurricane Mk XI
Canadian-built variant. 150 were built.

Hurricane Mk XII
Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. Powered by a 1,300 hp (969 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 (.79 in) cannon.

Hurricane Mk XIIA
Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. Powered by a 1,300 hp (969 kW) Packard Merlin 29, armed with eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns.

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 crews were entirely civilians and whose Hurricanes were crewed and serviced by RAF personnel, or Fighter Catapult Ships, which were Naval Auxiliary Vessels crewed by Naval personnel whose aircraft were operate by the Fleet Air Arm. These were cargo ships equipped with a catapult for launching an aircraft, but without facilities to recover them. Thus, if the aircraft were not in range of a land base, pilots were forced 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. On the other hand, ditching the Hurricane was problematic too. The radiator housing acted as a water brake, pitching the nose of the fighter downwards when it hit the water, while also acting as very efficient scoop, helping to flood the inside of the the Hurricane so that a quick exit was advisable before the plane sank.[45] Then the pilot had to be picked up by the ship. In all, more than eighty 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.[42] They were informally known as "Hurricats".

The majority of the aircraft modified had suffered wear-and-tear from 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. A total of 50 aircraft were converted from Hurricane Mk Is.

Sea Hurricane Mk IB
Hurricane Mk IIA Series 2 version equipped with catapult spools plus an arrester hook. From October 1941, they were used on Merchant aircraft carrier (MAC ships), which were large cargo vessels with a flight deck enabling aircraft to be launched and recovered. A total of 340 aircraft were converted.

Sea Hurricane Mk IC
Hurricane Mk IIB and Mk IIC version equipped with catapult spools, an arrester hook and the four-cannon wing. From February 1942, 400 aircraft were converted.

Sea Hurricane Mk IIC
Hurricane Mk IIC version equipped with naval radio gear; 400 aircraft were converted and used on fleet carriers.

Sea Hurricane Mk XIIA
Canadian-built Hurricane Mk XIIA converted into Sea Hurricanes.

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 A.&A.E.E.,(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
In Egypt, the Service Depot at Heliopolis converted some Hurricanes Is for the role. The first three were converted in January 1941. Two carried a pair of F24 cameras with 8in focal length lenses and the third a vertical and two oblique F24s with 14 in 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, while 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 (563 km/h) and was able to reach 38,000 ft (11,580 m).[41]

Hurrican 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.[41]


The Hawker Hurricane, due to its rugged construction and ease of maintenance, enjoyed a long operational life in all theatres of war, flown by both the Axis and Allies. It served in the air forces of many countries, some "involuntarily" as in the case of Hurricanes which either landed accidentally or force-landed in neutral countries.


Of the 14,000 Hurricanes that were built only 12 survive in airworthy condition worldwide, although some museums have a few examples on static display.

Specifications (Hurricane Mk.IIC)

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[46]

General characteristics

- Crew: 1
- Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.84 m)
- Wingspan: 40 ft 0 in (12.19 m)
- Height: 13 ft 1½ in (4.0 m)
- Wing area: 257.5 ft² (23.92 m²)
- Empty weight: 5,745 lb (2,605 kg)
- Loaded weight: 7,670 lb (3,480 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 8,710 lb (3,950 kg)
- Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce Merlin XX liquid-cooled V-12, 1,185 hp (883 kW) at 21,000 ft (6,400 m)


- Maximum speed: 340 mph (547 km/h) at 21,000 ft (6,400 m) [47]
- Range: 600 mi (965 km)
- Service ceiling: 36,000 ft (10,970 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,780 ft/min (14.1 m/s)
- Wing loading: 29.8 lb/ft² (121.9 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.15 hp/lb (0.25 kW/kg)


- Guns: 4 × 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannon
- Bombs: 2 × 250 lb (110 kg) or 500 lb (230 kg) bombs

Related development

- Hawker Hotspur
- Hawker Typhoon

Comparable aircraft

- Curtiss P-36
- Curtiss P-40
- Heinkel He 112
- Macchi C.200
- Messerschmitt Bf 109
- Miles M.20
- Morane-Saulnier M.S.406
- Polikarpov I-16
- Supermarine Spitfire
- Yakovlev Yak-1
- Rogozarski IK-3



1. a b Bader 2004, p. 36.
2. a b Cacutt 1989, pp. 204–212.
3. Bader 2004, pp. 37, 40.
4. Flight 1938, pp. 467-472.
5. "Best of Battle of Britain." Air & Space February–March 2008, p. 4.
6. a b c Hiscock 2003, p. 12.
7. Bader 2004, p. 41.
8. "History of R4118." ferrarifunday.co.uk, 21 March 2008. Retrieved: 25 August 2009.
9. Unreal aircraft
10. Prototype aircraft: The Hawker F.36/34 "Interceptor Monoplane" Hurricane. Retrieved: 5 March 2009.
11. Beamont January 1994, pp. 17, 18.
12. Beamont January 1994, p. 19.
13. Burns 1992, pp. 56-57.
14. Burns 1992, pp. 165-167.
15. Bader 2004, pp. 50–55.
16. Wood and Dempster 1990, p. 87.
17. National Archives AVIA 10/282 Minutes of Oil Policy Committee meetings (2 April, 18 May, 7 August 1940) Retrieved: 15 June 2009.
18. a b Gleed 1942, p. 61.
19. Harvey-Bailey 1995, p. 155.
20. Note: This was the pilot's term for the Boost Cut-Out Control which was adjacent to the throttle lever.
21. Note: Gleed rose through the ranks to become a Wing Commander flying Spitfire VBs over North Africa; he was shot down and killed by Oblt. Reinert on 16 April 1943. Gleed was credited with 15 victories.
22. Donald 1999, p. 38.
23. Bungay 2000, pp. 264–267.
24. Ramsay 1989, pp. 415, 516, 526, 796.
25. Mason 1991, pp. 279, 300.
26. Bungay 2000, p. 82.
27. Bungay 2000, pp. 77, 197–198.
28. Bungay 2000, p. 198.
29. Bungay 2000, pp. 200–201.
30. Ramsay 1989, p. 306.
31. Ramsay 1989, pp. 306-313, 362.
32. Note: As far as can be determined, no Messerschmitt Bf 110 crashes on land for 16 August 1940 can be attributed to Nicholson, although Nicholson himself believed the 110 had crashed into the sea. Ramsay 1989, p. 311.
33. Bader 2004, pp. 165–167.
34. Shores et al. 1987, pp. 43–47. Note: This was code-named Operation Hurry. These aircraft were flown off the carrier HMS Argus.
35. Bader 2004, pp. 125–127.
36. Bader 2004, pp. 147–155.
37. Bader 2004, pp. 135–137.
38. Cull and Sortehaug 2004
39. Shores 1992, p. 297.
40. Hiscock 2003, p. 16.
41. a b c Hiscock 2003, p. 18.
42. a b Hiscock 2003, p. 19.
43. Hiscock 2003, p. 17.
44. Mason 1991, p. 285.
45. a b c Hiscock 2003, p. 20.
46. Bridgman 1946, pp. 128–129.
47. 320 mph (514 km/h) at 19,700 ft (6,000 m) with two 250 lb (110 kg) bombs


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