Forming the backbone of RAF Fighter Command during the early stages of the Second World War the Hurricane was the unsung hero of the Battle of Britain. Serving in almost every theatre of war the type
would fulfil a variety of different roles, with one of the more successful variants being the Hawker Hurricane Mk IID 'Tank Buster' which would earn the nickname 'Flying Can Openers'.
First flight 6th November 1935
Entered service 15th December 1937
Total built 14,583
In 1933 Sydney Camm, Hawker's chief designer, discussed with the Air Ministry the prospect of a monoplane fighter. This aircraft was to be based on the Hawker Fury biplane and powered by a
Rolls-Royce Goshawk. However the Air Ministry rejected the design. So Camm and his team went away and set about improving the aircraft's design. This aircraft, known as the Fury monoplane, would be
based around the 1,000-hp Rolls-Royce PV.12, which would become the Merlin. Impressed with this redesign the Air Ministry placed an order for a prototype around Specification F.36/34,
issued on the 4th September 1934, which was based on Specification F.5/34, this had called for a monoplane fighter with eight machine-guns, but specific for Hawker's aircraft with a single prototype
ordered on the 21st February 1935. The first flight of the prototype Hurricane would take place at Brooklands, powered by a Rolls-Royce 'C' engine it flew on the 6th November 1935 with George
Bulman, chief test pilot at Hawker, at the controls.
February 1936 saw official trials begin which saw the aircraft comfortably beat high speed performance predictions and as a result an order for 600 aircraft was placed on the 3rd June 1936.
In the same month on the 26th the aircraft was officially named the Hurricane. One of the conditions for the order was for the aircraft to be installed with a Rolls-Royce Merlin II engine
and for the Hurricane to be fitted with eight machine-guns instead of the four it currently had. This meant a delay as a redesign was required for certain parts of the Hurricane. It wouldn't be
until the 12th October 1937, 16 months after the order was placed, that the first Mk I production aircraft flew.
Powered by either the Merlin II or III the Hurricane Mk I had a top speed of 316 mph, a range of 525 miles with a service ceiling of 33,200 ft. Armament consisted of eight 0.303-in machine-guns
and when No. 111 Squadron based at Northolt, Middlesex received their first Hurricane on the 15th December 1937 the type became the first ever Royal Air Force monoplane fighter to enter front line
service, the first to have eight machine-guns as well as the first to fly faster than 300 mph in level flight. The squadron was fully converted by the end of January 1938 and by the end of the year around 200 aircraft had been delivered,
with a further 1,000 ordered in November 1938. When war broke out on the 3rd September 1939 the RAF had 18 Hurricane squadrons, double the amount of Supermarine Spitfire squadrons, available.
At the outbreak of hostilities four Hurricane squadrons Nos. 3, 79, 85 and 87 were sent to bases in France to support the British Expeditionary Force, with Nos. 1 and 73 sent to France as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force.
Little action was seen during the early months of the Second World War in what was known as the 'Phoney War', although it was a Hurricane which was credited with shooting down the first
German aircraft of the war on the Western Front when a Dornier Do 17P was shot down on the 30th October 1939 by a
Hurricane flown by Pilot Officer Mould of No. 1 Squadron operating from Vassincourt, France. After the German invasion of France and the low countries on the 10th May 1940 a further four
Hurricane squadrons, Nos. 1, 73, 607 and 615, would be sent to France. When the Battle of France ended on the 25th June 1940 a total of 386 Hawker Hurricanes had been lost in the 46 days since the
10th May, many on the ground. A sole Hurricane squadron, No.46, was also sent to Norway during May, losing all of its aircraft as they made their way back to Britain when on the 8th June
1940 whilst aboard HMS Glorious it was sunk with only two of the ten pilots surviving.
July 1940 saw the Battle of Britain begin and the more numerous Hurricanes were tasked with attacking the
German bombers whilst the Spitfire concentrated on the fighter escort. During the battle the Hurricane showed its worth as even with other aircraft and ground defences combined it
shot down more enemy aircraft, 55%. It was also a Hurricane pilot, Flight Lieutenant James Brindley Nicolson of No. 249 Squadron who won Fighter Command's only Victoria Cross of the war. During
the same period a tropical version of the type appeared with a number of changes, including a larger coolant radiator, and these would be sent to help with the defence of Malta with the first four
arriving on the 21st June 1940 to fly alongside the Gloster Sea Gladiators there. A further twelve more Hurricanes and two Blackburn Skuas arrived in Malta to boost air defences further on the 2nd
The Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engined Mk II would be the next to enter service, the prototype having made its maiden flight on the 11th June 1940, with a top speed of 339 mph, a range of 460 miles and
a service ceiling of 32,400 ft and armament of eight 0.303-in machine-guns. These began to enter service on the 4th September 1940. Development of this variant saw the Mk IIB appear with an
increase in armament to twelve 0.303-in machine-guns and able to carry two 500lb bombs. These made their operational debut on the 20th October 1941 when Malta based Mk
IIBs attacked Italian airfields.
The other two main Mk II sub variants were the Hurricane Mk IIC whose armament consisted of four 20mm cannons and able to carry either two 250lb or 500lb bombs. This would be the most produced variant
and were nicknamed 'Hurribomber'. It would be the Hurricane Mk IID 'Tank Buster' that would give the type a new lease of life. The prototype made its first flight during
December 1941 with a new wing designed to enable a 40mm Vickers 'S' anti-tank gun under each wing and a 0.303-in machine-gun to help with aiming. When the aircraft entered service during 1942 it
was to prove successful against both German and Japanese armour. There was a Hurricane Mk IIE but this would eventually become the Mk IV.
The next planned Hurricane was the Mk III, which was to be powered by a Packard Merlin, but this never went past the prototype stage, so the next variant to enter service was the Mk IV. The
prototype making its first flight on the 14th March 1943. Powered by either a 1,620-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 24 or 27 engine enabling a top speed of 330 mph with a range of 495 miles the Mk IV featured a
'universal wing' that turned it into a specialised ground attack aircraft enabling different armaments depending on the wing type used. This would see it carry rocket projectiles,
two 250lb bombs or two 500lb bombs. It was to be a Mk IV that would use air-to-ground rocket projectiles operationally for the first time on the 2nd September 1943. This variant was mainly used in the
Mediterranean and Far East.
Powered by a 1,645-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 and fitted with a Rotol four bladed propeller three Hurricane Mk Vs would be produced with two of these being Hurricane Mk IVs converted to Mk V standard.
The first one flew on the 3rd April 1943 but with no real improvement in performance of the type it never progressed further than these three aircraft.
The Hurricane's time in front line service with the Royal Air Force in Europe came to an end in 1944 as they were replaced by the Hawker Typhoon.
The type would remain in service elsewhere with the last operational Hawker Hurricane sortie undertaken by a Royal Air Force squadron done by No. 6 Squadron on the 13th January 1947. This was followed two days later on the 15th when
the same squadron had their remaining Hurricane Mk IVs replaced by the Hawker Tempest. Bringing an end to the types twelve year RAF service.
The Hurricane also saw service with other air forces including Russia, who would receive 2,952 as part of the Lend-Lease Act, whilst the South African Air Force operated a number
of squadrons. Finland would also use a handful during the Winter War (1939 – 1940) with the Portuguese Air Force the last to retire their Hurricanes which they did in 1951.
A naval version of the Hurricane known as the Sea Hurricane was also produced and these would operate from Catapult Aircraft Merchantmen (CAM), Merchant Aircraft Carriers (MAC) ships and aircraft carriers. One of the
more unusual aircraft considered was the Hillson FH.40 Slip-Wing Hurricane. This saw an additional wing added to the aircraft giving it the appearance of a biplane. The idea was to produce extra
lift on take-off and provide extra fuel with the wing being jettisoned when no longer needed. This never got past the trials stage. A pair of two-seater Hurricanes were also produced after modifications in the field to a pair of Mk IICs, with the first one flying on the 27th
September 1946, but these were the only examples.
Two further uses saw a Hurricane Mk I used by No. 527 Squadron, who were formed at Castle Camps on the 15th June 1943 to perform radar calibration duties, painted in a red-orange colour for use in this role.
Whilst the following year saw No. 1697 (ADLS) Flight formed as part of Transport Command. These would have their underwing tanks converted to hold mail.
Hurricane Mk IIC known as 'The Last of the Many' was the final Hurricane of 14,583 to be built, including in Canada, when production ended in July 1944 of a type that served in almost every theatre