The Hurricane was the mainstay fighter aircraft of RAF Fighter Command in the early part of World War 2 and in the Battle of Britain were to account for 80% of the aircraft losses sustained by the Luftwaffe. They were used by 310 and 312 Royal Air Force [Czechoslovak] Squadrons.
It was developed by Hawker Aircraft Ltd, against Air Ministry Specification F36/34 [modified by F5/34] for an 8 gun fighter aircraft using the Rolls Royce PV-12 engine [later named the Merlin]. The company had been successful in supplying the RAF with biplane fighters that had been developed steadily from WW1 standards. By the mid 1930s, however, these aircraft were becoming increasingly obsolescent. After a failed attempt to gain a Ministry contract with his initial design, Sydney Camm, Hawker’s Chief Designer, commenced private venture work early in 1934 on a monoplane derivative of the Hawker Fury biplane. From the outset the aircraft was designed against both cost and performance, so that existing assembly jigs and tooling would be utilised, wherever possible. Construction techniques largely followed those for the company’s biplanes, namely braced steel tubing, mechanical fasteners and a doped fabric external covering for much of the airframe. Early aircraft went into service with a doped fabric covered wing which severely limited its design diving speed. Early on in production the design was modified to incorporate a stressed skin duralumin wing. The prototype Hurricane, K5083, first flew on 6th November 1935. It had a twin blade fixed pitch propeller powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 engine. The aircraft presented no major vices during its prototype trials; a characteristic which served it well during its service life
The Hawker company maintained Hurricane development without a government contract, convinced that war was inevitable and the RAF would need a new fighter aircraft. In July 1936, 600 aircraft were ordered for the RAF. The Hurricane was the first British monoplane fighter to enter service and also the first service aircraft to exceed 300 mph in level flight. By the start of war all Hurricanes used a 3 blade constant speed propeller unit. Hurricane production was scaled up much faster than for the more complex Spitfire and at the outbreak of war the RAF squadron strength was 19 with Hurricanes and 9 with Spitfires. Whilst operational numbers improved for both aircraft, the imbalance lasted through 1940. Consequently, during the Battle of Britain [July to October 1940] Hurricanes engaged enemy fighters in greater numbers than did Spitfires. With its high-back fuselage profile, large thickness/chord ratio lifting surfaces and lesser attention to streamlining, the Hurricane’s top speed could not match that of the Spitfire. Spitfires were best used for engaging enemy fighters, whilst Hurricanes preferably concentrated on the bombers and twin engine fighters.
From 1942 the aircraft was adapted to roles more suited to its physical characteristics and performance. Its simple and sturdy construction made it a rugged gun platform with the ability to absorb significant damage whilst pressing on with the fight. The same simplicity made it easy to transport and assemble away from the factory, easy to repair and quick to return to service. Its ruggedness gave it a continuing service life as a light but effective ground attack platform, using bombs, rockets and 20 mm canons, even up to a remarkable 40mm calibre version. It also served in naval versions and was successful in the night fighting role.
The first and last sorties operated by Hurricanes in service with 310 and 312 Royal Air Force [Czechoslovak] fighter squadrons are given below:
Mk IIa & IIb
|310 Sqn||July 1940 to Mar 1941||Mar 1941 to Dec 1941|
|312 Sqn||Sept 1940 to May 1941||May 1941 to Dec 1941|
Hurricane IIb specifications:
|Powerplant:||Rolls-Royce Merlin XX v12, 1260 bhp at 3000 rpm at 11,750 feet, driving a Rotol constant speed propellor.|
|Performance:||Maximum speed: 330 mph at 18,000 feet, Ceiling height: 33,000 feet, Range: 465 miles.|
|Weight:||Unladen: 5,467 lbs, Nominal laden: 7,396 lbs|
|Dimensions:||Wing span: 40 feet, Length: 32 feet, 2¼ inches, Maximum height: 13 feet 1 inch, Propellor diameter: 11 feet 3 inches.|
|Armament:||Twelve 0.303″ Browning machine guns with 3,990 rounds.|
© 2010 Victor K L Marshall M Sc, C Eng, M I Mech E