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Hawker Tempest

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With its genesis in another Hawker aircraft, the Typhoon, the Tempest was a supremely fast aircraft and was extremely successful in engaging the V-1 flying bomb. Its speed also enabled the Hawker Tempest to be one of the few Allied aircraft able to compete with the Messerschmitt Me 262.

Quick Facts
Hawker Tempest side profile image
First flight
2nd September 1942
Entered service
January 1944
Total built

Front view
Tempest front view photo
Side view
Tempest side view photo
Rear view
Tempest rear view photo

Evolving out of a design study to improve the Hawker Typhoon, which although a successful low altitude interceptor and fighter bomber, it wasn't its intended role which was that of a high altitude interceptor. Initial changes consisted of a thinner wing, due to this a new fuselage tank was need, a Napier Sabre EC. 107C engine and the distinctive radiator under the engine being moved to the wing. The new design, refereed to as Typhoon II, was submitted to the Air Ministry, leading to an order for two prototypes on the 18th November 1941 under Specification F.10/41.

Due to some more, this time, major changes to the aircraft the plane was named the Hawker Tempest in January 1942. With the other planned plane that Hawker were working on, the Tornado, being cancelled the engines were instead used on the two Tempest prototypes, with the Sabre IV engined prototype being named the Tempest I and the Sabre II engined prototype the Mk V. Another four Tempest prototypes were ordered with a Bristol Centaurus IV engine powering two Tempest IIs, and the Rolls Royce Griffon IIB powering two Tempest IIIs, which would later be powered by a Griffon 61 engine, thus becoming Mk IVs. However only one Griffon powered Tempest was made and in the end became one of the prototypes for a future Hawker plane, the Fury, although only the Hawker Sea Fury would see service with the Royal Navy, as the RAF version was cancelled.

As with the Fairey Battle, which was also ordered before the protoype had flown, an order was placed by the Air Ministry, for the Tempest I, before any prototypes had flow, although the order would be transferred to other Tempest Mks, The prototype Mk I flew for the first time on the 23rd February 1943, without the 'chin' that featured on the Typhoon, despite reaching a maximum speed of 466 mph, whilst the Sabre IV's supercharger was in high gear, the Hawker Tempest I was dropped due to problems with the engine program.

The Tempest V was the first prototype version to fly on the 2nd September 1942 piloted by Philip Lucas, this version retaining the chin radiator of its predecessor the Typhoon. With the first production version flown on the 21st June 1943, the initial hundred Tempest Mk V's had four 20-mm cannons, which protruded from the wing, the rest would have their short barrelled cannons contained in the wing. One Mk V had a similar armament installation to the Hawker Hurricane IID with four cannons and a 40 mm 'P' gun, and some were converted to TT.5 target tugs after the end of hostilities.

It was the Hawker Tempest Mk V which was the first to be put into Royal Air Force service when No. 486 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force at RAF Tangmere, West Sussex received theirs during January 1944 followed in March by No. 3 Squadron. In both cases replacing the Typhoon. These two squadrons would operate within No. 150 Wing, Royal Air Force as part of No. 85 Group, Royal Air Force which was under the command of Wing Commander Roland Beamont, who would fly the leading aircraft on the 8th June 1946 in the Victory Fly Past over London. At the time of D-Day on the 6th June 1944 both No. 3 Squadron and No. 486 Squadron, RNZAF had moved to RAF Newchruch, Kent and would soon be bolstered by a third Tempest squadron, No. 56, with the Mk V replacing their Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXs.

After D-Day No. 150 Wing, Royal Air Force would be re-assigned to help combat the V-1 flying bomb, nicknamed the doodlebug, after the first one fell on the UK when Grove Road, London was hit. The Tempest was to prove successful in this role performing anti-diver sorties as they shot down 638 out of 1,846 destroyed by Allied fighters, equating to 34%. As the Allied liberation of Europe progressed and more Tempests entered service they flew patrols to support ground forces and would eventually be stationed in airfields in France and Belgium. They also came up against the Luftwaffe's jet fighter the Messerschmitt Me 262 and by the time the war in Europe ended on the 8th May 1945 had destroyed 20.

The Hawker Tempest II powered by a Bristol Centaurus Mk IV engine made its first flight on the 28th June 1943, just 7 days after the first production Mk V had flown. When the Mk II was put into production it was powered by the Centaurus Mk V engine. However the Mk II arrived to late to serve in the Second World War arriving in November 1945, No. 54 Squadron at Chilbolton was the only home based squardon equipped with the type. Although other Mk IIs served in Germany, Hong Kong, India and Malaya, and it remained in operation in the Middle East until de Havilland Vampires replaced them in 1949.

The last production version was the Hawker Tempest Mk F.VI powered by the Napier Sabre V engine, these planes were tropicalised for service in the Middle East, whilst some were converted to TT.6 target tugs, like the MK II the Mk VI was also to late to see service in World War 2, although was later was used by Squadrons in Germany and the Middle East.

By the time production had ended 1,702 Tempests had been built.


Click on the aeroplane image to view a larger version.

Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Tempest Mk I Single prototype fitted with a Napier-Sabre IV engine.
Tempest Mk II 422 mph 770 miles 37,000 ft four 20mm cannons
and either two 1,000lb bombs
or eight rocket projectiles
Tempest Mk III Two prototypes powered orginally by Rolls-Royce Griffon 61 engine.
Tempest Mk IV Became the Hawker Sea Fury.
Tempest Mk V 426 mph 740 miles 37,000 ft four 20mm cannons
and either two 1,000lb bombs
or eight rocket projectiles
Tempest Mk VI 438 mph 740 miles 37,000 ft four 20mm cannons
and either two 1,000lb bombs
or eight rocket projectiles


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Tempest Mk II
Tempest Mk V

On Display

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Variant Location
Tempest Mk V (C) AeroVenture - South Yorkshire Air Museum
Tempest Mk V Royal Air Force Museum, London

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