Bringing Vintage Aircraft to Life since 2010

Hawker Typhoon

Technical Details : Photos : See This Aircraft
Home  >  Aircraft Database  >  British Aircraft  >  Hawker Typhoon

With its early development hampered by a number of flaws the Typhoon or 'Tiffy', as it was nicknamed, was very nearly cancelled, but with hard work these problems were overcome leading to a excellent low-level interceptor and fighter-bomber. It would be during the liberation of Europe that the Hawker Typhoon would show its prowess.

Quick Facts
Hawker Typhoon side profile image
First flight
24th February 1940
Entered service
11th September 1941
Total built

Front view
Typhoon side view photo
Side view
Typhoon side view photo
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

In expectation that the Air Ministry would require an aircraft to replace the Hawker Hurricane in the future, Sydney Camm had began design work on a new aircraft in 1937. So when Specification F.18/37 was issued requiring a fighter powered by the Rolls-Royce Vulture or Napier Sabre engine and armament consisting of twelve guns, Hawker had most of the basic design ready and took the decision to produce two fighters. The Type N powered by the Sabre and the Type R powered by the Vulture.

The Rolls-Royce Vulture powered Type R would go on to become the Tornado but with the cancellation of the Vulture engine by Rolls-Royce the aircraft would not be ordered into production. This left the Napier Sabre powered Type N, and it was this aircraft that would be developed into the Typhoon.

With Philip Lucas, test pilot for Hawker, at the controls the first Typhoon prototype made its maiden flight on the 24th February 1940. Featuring a distinctive chin radiator, armament would consist of six 0.303-in machine-guns in each wing, although early test flights were conducted with the aircraft unarmed. Development continued but would be beset with problems, the first of these occurred on the 9th May 1940 when during a flight test the fuselage of the prototype failed, despite this the pilot Philip Lucas managed to land and as a result would be awarded the George Medal. Time was lost as the aircraft had to be repaired and modified and by this time the German advance into Western Europe was almost complete so development of the Typhoon would slow down as production of fighter aircraft was focused on the Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire in expectation of the upcoming Battle of Britain (10th July 1940 - 31st October 1940).

As 1941 began and the threat of imminent invasion passed, the aircraft, now designated the Typhoon Mk IA, was ordered into production with the first example flying on the 27th May 1941. A couple of weeks prior to this the Typhoon Mk IB prototype flew on the 3rd May 1941. The Typhoon Mk IB would be powered by the 2,000-hp Napier Sabre II engine giving the aircraft a top speed of 412 mph, range of 510 miles and a service ceiling of 35,200 ft. The major change over the Typhoon Mk IA was in armament, with its twelve machine-guns being replaced by four 20mm cannons and able to carry 2,000lb bombs, which earned the aircraft the nickname 'Bombphoon', or rocket projectiles. The Typhoon Mk IB was to be the preferred variant.

The first examples of the Royal Air Force's new aircraft were delivered to No.56 Squadron at RAF Duxford on the 11th September 1941 for trials and a couple of fatal flaws were found on the Typhoon. These issues threatened the aircraft's future and nearly lead to its withdrawal. One of these saw carbon monoxide leak into the cockpit as a result of poor sealing allowing engines fumes to overwhelm the pilot. This problem, despite improving the sealing, was never solved necessitating the pilot to use oxygen before starting the engine and until the engine had been shut down. The other pressing issue for the Typhoon was that the rear fuselage joint fatigued easily and lead to the tail section coming apart in mid-air which would require Hawker to provide a new, stronger, joint.

There was some early success among these problems for the type, when to counteract the Luftwaffe's low-level tip and run raids by Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, which had the measure of the Spitfire Mk V in service at the time, No. 609 Squadron were equipped with the type and in its first week operating from RAF Manston shot down four Fw 190s during November 1941. It was as a low-level interceptor and ground attack aircraft that the Typhoon would be used as and development of the type was centred on this. The decision to use the aircraft in this role being influenced by its poor climb rate, which was worse than the Hurricane which it was meant to replace, and performance at high altitude. One further issue occurred with the Typhoon and that was its similarity at certain angles to the Fw 190 leading to an order on the 19th December 1942 for the aircraft to be painted underneath the wings with black and white stripes, after the addition of black stripes only proved unsatisfactory, in an effort to curb friendly fire incidents. It would not be until the 5th February 1944 that these stripes were removed from the aircraft.

As the Typhoon started to overcome its problems, and now fitted with a 2,180-hp Napier Sabre IIA engine, the aircraft started to show its potential as a low-level interceptor/ground attack aircraft and during late 1942 into 1943 attacked various targets in France and the Low Countries and was also used as a night intruder. When rocket projectiles were added to the type during late 1943 it became a very potent weapon and played a crucial role in the lead up and aftermath of D-Day.

Operating from airfields along the South Coast and in co-operation with other Southern based squadrons of fighter-bombers they attacked a variety of targets in the build up to D-Day. These included shipping, bridges, communications, railways and anything else that would hamper the German response to the Normandy invasion. With the liberation of Europe in its early stages the Typhoon armed with rockets and as part of the Second Tactical Air Force was used for ground attacks. This lead to the development of the 'Cab Rank' which would see a constant patrol of aircraft at 10,000 ft and which would be called upon when required. The aircraft would prove invaluable in the role when dug in German tanks held up the Allied advance, and as soon as was possible the aircraft was operating in France enabling a faster response.

Development of the Typhoon Mk IB continued and another engine upgrade saw the 2,260-hp Napier Sabre IIC installed. A Typhoon Mk II version was also being worked on but this aircraft was very different from the Typhoon Mk IB that it would be renamed and ended up as the Hawker Tempest. Although the Typhoon operated mainly as a low-level interceptor/ground attack aircraft a night fighter version was considered. Fitted with Mk VI Airborne Interception radar a sole Typhoon NF Mk.IB appeared. Some examples were also converted into fighter reconnaissance versions of which two configurations existed, one with two vertical cameras added and the other had a camera replacing the inner cannon on the port side. All were designated Typhoon FR Mk IB.

The Typhoon was now a valuable aircraft for the Royal Air Force and would operate close to the frontline, taking part in many operations, and took part in 'Operation Varsity'. However after VE Day its time in service was ending as it was replaced by the Tempest.

In total 3,317 aircraft were produced.

Technical Details

Click on the aircraft image to view a larger version.

Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Typhoon Mk I 412 mph 510 miles 35,200 ft four 20mm cannons
and either 2,000lb bombs or
rocket projectiles
Typhoon Mk IB side profile image


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Typhoon Mk IB

See This Aircraft

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

Typhoon Mk IA/B (C) Jet Age Museum
Typhoon Mk IB (C) Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Typhoon Mk IB Royal Air Force Museum, London

Back to British aircraft

New on Classic Warbirds

Quick Search

Spitfire Messerschmitt Fairey Bristol Avro North American Hawker Curtiss Grumman


Spotted an error? Or just have a comment or suggestion about Classic Warbirds? Let us know.

Click here to view our museum guide