The Sea Hurricane provided the Fleet Air Arm with a much needed fighter aircraft. When carried by catapult aircraft merchantmen the aircraft would be launched when required. Also operating from
aircraft carriers the Hawker Sea Hurricane would see action in the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of North Africa in 1942.
During the late 1930s the Fleet Air Arm were in need of more modern aircraft to replace their Gloster Sea Gladiators and in 1939 they tried to secure some Supermarine Spitfires, however priority of the type was given to the Royal Air Force.
As 1940 progressed a lack of air cover was still an issue and contributed to rising losses during the Battle of the Atlantic, so again the Fleet Air Arm asked for some Spitfires and again were
knocked back, but they were able to secure some Hawker Hurricanes. Whilst not designed for carrier operations
during the Norwegian campaign in May and June they had to take off and then land on, without an arrestor hook, HMS Glorious (77) when No. 46 Squadron had been sent to bases in Norway.
These navalised Hurricanes, known as Sea Hurricanes, would be a vast improvement on the Fleet Air Arm's aircraft currently in service, despite the recent introduction of the
Fairey Fulmar and Blackburn Roc
the Fleet Air Arm still lacked a fighter capable of speeds over 300 mph. The major issue that the Fleet Air Arm had was that the Sea Hurricanes they received at first were battle weary Hurricanes
converted for this use, so needed work to be considered operational, as well as a lack of spares.
The first Sea Hurricane was the Mk IA, nicknamed the Hurricat, it had a top speed of 316 mph, range of 505 miles with a
service ceiling of 33,200 ft. Armament was eight 0.303-in machine-guns. Essentially these were Hurricane Mk Is with the addition of catapult spools and would operate from catapult aircraft
merchantmen. The Fulmar had also been considered for this role but lacked the performance required. This would see the aircraft launched by a rocket-propelled catapult but with nowhere to land the
pilot, either Fleet Air Arm or Royal Air Force, had to ditch his aircraft or bale out near the convoy and hope to be picked up, this situation was improved during August 1941 with the introduction
of external fuel tanks.
To get ready for the arrival of the new aircraft No. 880 Naval Air Squadron were formed on the 15th January 1941 and would be the first operational users of the type. This was followed two months
later on the 15th March by the first flight of the Sea Hurricane. It would be HMS Maplin (F107) which launched the first Sea Hurricane on the 18th June 1941. It wouldn't be until the 3rd August
1941 that a Sea Hurricane catapulted from a ship scored its first aerial victory when HMS Maplin (F107) launched its aircraft piloted by Lieutenant Robert W. H. Everett of No. 804 Naval Air Squadron
who shot down a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor for which he would be awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Shortly afterwords the Sea Hurricane Mk IB appeared, these included a V-frame arrester hook along with catapult spools and they joined HMS Furious (47) in July 1941. It was No. 880 Naval Air
Squadron aboard HMS Furious (47) who scored the Sea Hurricane Mk IB's first aerial victory, shooting down a Dornier Do 18 on the 31st July 1941. In October 1941 these aircraft also began to
go aboard large merchant ships which had a small flight deck added known as merchant aircraft carriers. These were kept on deck as there was no accommodation aboard. January 1942 saw the arrival of
the Sea Hurricane Mk IC, with No. 811 Naval Air Squadron receiving the first, and as with the Sea Hurricane Mk IB catapult spools and arrester hooks were fitted.
December 1942 saw the Sea Hurricane Mk IIC enter service, these had their catapult spools removed as they were intended for aircraft carriers. Powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine the Sea
Hurricane Mk IIC had a top speed of 339 mph, range of 460 miles and a service ceiling of 32,400 ft. Armament consisted of four 20mm cannons. The last Sea Hurricane was the Mk XIIA and these had
eight 0.303-in machine-guns instead of four 20mm cannons.
Its time with the Fleet Air Arm would see the Sea Hurricane provide convoy support over the Atlantic, Gibraltar and for convoys destined for Russia. It would also play a role in a number of
operations including 'Operation Pedestal' (3rd August 1942 - 15th August 1942) which saw a convoy depart Britain for the besieged island of Malta which would enable it to continue to act as a base for
British shipping and aircraft. Its last major contribution to the Fleet Air Arm was its involvement in 'Operation Torch', the invasion of North Africa by the Allies, which began on the 8th November
In total 38 Fleet Air Arm squadrons used the type with the last Sea Hurricanes being phased out of service during September 1944 as by that time the Supermarine Seafire and American built carrier aircraft had started to enter service and by the time the last
Sea Hurricane was delivered, a Mk IIC, during August 1943 443 had been either built or converted.