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The Hurricane was the first monoplane fighter produced by Hawker, and was available in substantial numbers at the beginning of World War II. Hurricanes played a decisive role in the Battle of Britain when it equipped 26 RAF and 1 RCAF squadrons, and went on to fly on more fronts than any other British fighter. The Hurricane also earned distinction for being the most versatile of single seat warplanes to emerge from the Second World War. Later in the war, Sea Hurricanes were launched by catapult from ships at sea to defend convoys against air attack. A "tank buster" version with 40mm cannon was used in North Africa.

The Hawker Hurricane was the work of Sydney Camm, who began its design in 1934. On 23 October,1935, the prototype fighter, bearing the serial number K5083, was moved from Kingston to Brooklands for its first flight on 6 November 1935 with PWS "George" Bulman, the company's chief test pilot, at the controls. Its tubular metal construction and fabric covering were similar to those of the earlier Fury fighter biplane, and many of its contours, particularly the tail surfaces, were characteristic of earlier Camm designs. The continued adherence to fabric covering was viewed with misgivings by some, and was, in fact, soon to be supplanted by metal skinning for the wings; but this seemingly dated feature was linked with what were for that time ultra-modern items such as a fully retractable under-carriage and a sliding cockpit canopy. For its first flight the fighter was powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin "C", the name that had earlier been bestowed upon the a powerful new engine, the PV-12, which drove a Watts two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller.

Hurricane prototype K5083 which first flew 6 11.1935

The initial production Hurricane I entered RAF service in December 1937, with 111 RAF Squadron. Powered by the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, it became the first RAF monoplane fighter with an enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriage, its first fighter capable of a level speed in excess of 300 mph (483 km/h), and its first eight-gun fighter.

Squadrons were rapidly equipped with the Hurricane, thanks to the foresight of the Hawker Aircraft directors, and at the time war was declared, on 3 September, 1939, just short of 500 Hurricanes had been delivered and eighteen squadrons had been equipped. These were all of the Mark I type, armed with eight 0.303-in. machine-guns but having alternative propeller installations: a Merlin II engine driving a Watts two-blade fixed-pitch wooden propeller, or a Merlin III of similar power having a standardized shaft for de Havilland or Rotol three-blade metal propellers.

Hurricane Mk I of 601 Squadron Royal Air Force - Battle of Britain 1940

When it became clear that the Hurricane was becoming outclassed as a pure fighter, other duties were assigned to it. In October 1941 the 'Hurribomber' fighter-bomber came into being, carrying either two 250lb (113 kg)  or two 500lb (226 kg) bombs under its wings. The Mk IID of 1942 was fitted with two 40 mm cannon for tank busting and two machine guns, and was operated mainly in North Africa against Rommel's desert forces and in Burma against the Japanese. Other Hurricanes carried rocket projectiles as alternative ground attack weapons.

The year 1943 saw two important developments in the Hurricanes history--the introduction of the Mark IV and the adoption of the Hurricane to fire rocket missiles or, as they were initially known, "unrifled projectiles". The Hurricane IV used a Merlin 24 or 27 which developed 1,620 hp for take-off, and it featured "low attack" or universal armament wings. These wings were derived from those fitted to the Hurricane IID and could carry the 40-mm. Vickers or Rolls Royce cannon, bombs, drop-tanks or rocket projectiles. The Hurricane IV was operational in the Middle and Far East theatres until the end of the war, and in Europe until the end of 1944.

TheHawker Hurricane was by far the most numerous of British combat aircraft from the outbreak of war in 1939 until well into 1941, and bore the brunt of the RAF's early battles with the Luftwaffe over France and Britain.

TheBritish Air Ministry wrote Specification F.36/34 around Camm's design, and in June 1936 after tests with the prototype ordered the at that time extraordinary total of 600 aircraft.
Bythe outbreak of war in September 1939 497 of the 600 had been delivered, and they equipped 18 front-line squadrons. By August 1940 - during the Battle of Britain - 2,309 Hurricanes had been delivered, as compared with 1,383 Spitfires. 
Gloster alone were at this stage producing 130 Hurricanes per month.
Duringthe Battle of Britain it became apparent that the Spitfire, with its superior performance, was better able to contend with the German Bf109 fighter.  Nonetheless the Hurricane had its advantages over the Spitfire - amongst which were that it was much more sturdy and resistant to battle-damage, that it was a more stable gun platform, and that it was both cheaper to build and easier to maintain.
Thoughit was never the equal of the German single-seat fighters, the Hurricane proved invaluable as a night fighter, attack bomber, naval fighter and gun-armed tank-buster.  Total production of Hurricanes came to the huge total of 14,231,  of which 1,451 were built in Canada. Nearly three thousand were transferred to the Soviet Union, where they were used very effectively in  the ground attack role.


Span: 40 ft.
Length: 31 ft. 4 in.
Height: 13 ft.
Weight: 7,200 lbs. loaded
Armament: Eight .303-cal. Browning machine guns
Engine: Rolls-Royce Merlin XX of 1,260 hp.
Crew: One

Maximum speed: 340 mph.
Cruising speed: 238 mph.
Range: 468 miles with internal fuel only; 1,090 miles with two 90 gal. ferry tanks
Service Ceiling: 35,000 ft.

Source & courtesy of: http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/early_years/ey15a.htm


The main source for the text and data above is

The page of Fleet Air Arm Archive
Bill Gunston 'Combat Aircraft of World War Two' (Salamander Books, 1978)
The profile drawing of the 85 Squadron Mark I Hurricane is reproduced with thanks from
Daniel J. March 'British Warplanes of World War II' (Grange Books, 2000)