The Hawker Hurricane 

Great Britain
Great Britain

side viewfront viewunder view

A lot has been written about the Hurricane. It's no wonder, because it was the main fighter of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain in 1940. As such it was, together with the Supermarine Spitfire, the winner of the Battle of Britain.
The origins of the Hurricane (or Hurri, as it was often called) can be traced to British Air Ministry's F.7/30 requirement. This requirement, placed in a time when the Bi-plane idea still ruled, asked for an advanced fighter. Most of the contenders designed a bi-plane, but Hawker decided to built a mono-wing aircraft based on their succesfull Hawker Fury. It is surprising that the Hurricane, built with a fabric covered steel tube fuselage, had almost comparable performances with the Spuermarine Spitfire and Messerschmitt Bf 109. These latter aircraft were a newer technological generation, with stressed skin etc.
During the design Rolls Royce anounced their new engine, PV-12, that would become known as the Merlin. A wise decision was made to replace the planned Rolls Royce Goshawk Vee engine with the new one, which in turn ensured prolonged life of the type since the merlin was only at the beginning of it's development, and would offer more potential in the future. Together with the change to the Merlin, the new airaft was fitted with a fully retractable landing gear, and a closed cockpit.
A later requirement (August 1934) fit like a glove to the new design, and Hawker was awarded a contract for a single prototype in the following month. The prototype was first to have only 4 guns, 2 fuselage mounted, 2 wingmounted. Because the upper command of the RAF envisioned only fleeting engagements with high performance aircraft in the future, it was decided to fit fighters with as much gunpower as possible, to increase the chances of scoring damaging hits on the opponent. The Hurricane was ready for the future.

Versions:

Further pictures:

Hawker Hurricane Mk II in full flight
Hawker Hurricane Mk II in full flight

Hawker Sea Hurricane showing it's hook
Hawker Sea Hurricane showing it's hook

 

Technical data on the Hawker Hurricane Mk IIC
Powerplant 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin XX Vee, rated at 1280 hp (954.23 kW) Role during war
  • Fighter
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
Length 32 ft 3 inch Height 13 ft 3 inch
Empty weight 5658 lb Operational weight 8044 lb max
Wing Span 40 ft 0 inch Wing Aspect ratio 6.2
Wing Area 258 sq ft Service ceiling 35600 ft
Maximum speed 327 mph at 18000 ft Cruising speed 178 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate 2,750 ft per minute,
Climb to 15,000 ft in 6 minutes 0 sec
Range 460 miles typical,
920 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 97 Imp gal (117 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 180 Imp gal (216 US gal) in two 90 Imp gal (108 US gal) fixed ferry tanks, or two 45 Imp gal (54 US gal) drop tanks
Machine guns Hurricane Mk I: 8 × 0.303 inch fixed forward-firing in wing leading edge Cannons 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk I or Mk II fixed forward-firing in wing leading edges, 91 rounds each
Bomb load Up to 1,000 lb carried on two underwing hardpoints, rated at 500 lb each. General load out consisted of:
2 × 500 lb or 250 lb bombs
Torpedoes/rockets 8 × 60 lb rockets in stead of bombs
Crew 1Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 6 November 1936 Operational Service 1937 - 1950's
Manufacturer Hawker Aircraft Co. Ltd. Number produced 14.449 total, 4.711 this version
Metric system
Length 9.83 m Height 4.04 m
Empty weight 2566 kg Operational weight 3649 kg max
Wing Span 12.19 m Wing Aspect ratio 6.2
Wing Area 23.97 m² Service ceiling 10851 m
Maximum speed 526 km/h at 5486 m Cruising speed 286 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate 838 m per minute,
Climb to 4.570 m in 6 minutes 0 sec
Range 740 km typical,
1481 km max
Fuel capacity internal 441 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 818 liters in two 409 liters fixed ferry tanks, or two 204 liters drop tanks
Machine guns Hurricane Mk I: 8 × 7,7 mm fixed forward-firing in wing leading edge Cannons 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk I or Mk II fixed forward-firing in wing leading edges, 91 rounds each
Bomb load Up to 454 kg carried on two underwing hardpoints, rated at 227 kg each. General load out consisted of:
2 × 227 kg or 113 kg bombs
Torpedoes/rockets 8 × 27 kg rockets in stead of bombs

Technical data on the Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IIC
Powerplant 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin XXII Vee, rated at 1460 hp (1088.42 kW) Role during war
  • Fighter
Length 32 ft 3 inch Height 13 ft 3 inch
Empty weight 5800 lb Operational weight 7300 lb typical,
7800 lb max
Wing Span 40 ft 0 inch Wing Aspect ratio 6.2
Wing Area 258 sq ft Service ceiling 35600 ft
Maximum speed 342 mph at 22000 ft Cruising speed 212 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 20,000 ft in 9 minutes 6 sec Range 460 miles typical,
960 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 97 Imp gal (117 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 180 Imp gal (216 US gal) in two 90 Imp gal (108 US gal) fixed ferry tanks, or two 45 Imp gal (54 US gal) drop tanks
Machine guns Sea Hurricane Mk I: 8 × 0.303 inch fixed forward-firing in wing leading edge Cannons 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk I or Mk II fixed forward-firing in wing leading edges, 91 rounds each
Bomb load -Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1Naval or ground based Naval
First flight (prototype) 6 November 1936 Operational Service 1937 - 1950's
Manufacturer Hawker Aircraft Co. Ltd. Number produced 14.449 total, 800 conversions to all Sea Hurricane versions
Metric system
Length 9.83 m Height 4.04 m
Empty weight 2631 kg Operational weight 3311 kg typical,
3538 kg max
Wing Span 12.19 m Wing Aspect ratio 6.2
Wing Area 23.97 m² Service ceiling 10851 m
Maximum speed 550 km/h at 6706 m Cruising speed 341 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 6.095 m in 9 minutes 6 sec Range 740 km typical,
1545 km max
Fuel capacity internal 441 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 818 liters in two 409 liters fixed ferry tanks, or two 204 liters drop tanks
Machine guns Sea Hurricane Mk I: 8 × 7,7 mm fixed forward-firing in wing leading edge Cannons 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk I or Mk II fixed forward-firing in wing leading edges, 91 rounds each
Bomb load -Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Hawker Hurricane 
Hawker Hurricane Mk I The first production model of the Hurricane. It saw extensive action in all kinds of theatres, and even though it was obsolescent, it performed well. Technical information on this version: Powered by 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin II Vee, rated at 1,030 hp (768 kW). It had a fixed-pitch two-blade wooden propeller, and no bullet proof windscreen. Later aircraft were fitted with two-speed or constant-speed three-bladed propellers, improving the performance. Also, a couple of weeks before the War broke out, the first Hurricanes were fitted with all-metal wings. Before, they had fabric covered wingtips. Dimensions were: 31 ft 5 in (9,58 m) long, and 12 ft 11.5 in (3,95 m) high. Max level speed was 316 Mph (518 km/h) at 17,400 ft (5305 m). Initial climbrate was 2,050 ft (625 m) per minute, climb to 20,000 ft (6.095 m) in 11 minutes, 42 sec, service ceiling of 33,400 ft (10.180 m)
Number built: 3.857
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIA To ensure the production of the Hurricane in 1939, Hawker looked for alternative powerplants because it was feared thet the Merlin production would be insufficient to demands. As alternatives the Rolls Royce Griffon (a larger version of the Merlin) and the Bristol Hercules radial (very reliable) were considered, but since both engines needed extensive redesign on the nose section, the cohice fell on the Merlin XX. The Merlin XX was designed for higher performance and large-scale production capabilities.
Besides the uprated powerplant, the Hurricane also received standard all the improvements of the Mk I variant, like the three-blade propeller of the constant-speed type, improved armor, bulletproof windscreen etc. Also, the Mk II was to receive improved armament in the way of 4 × 20 mm Hispano cannons. Since the production of these cannons was lagging behind, there were 2 series of Mk II.

Hurricane Mk IIA Series 1 Hurricane Mk IIA fitted with 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns
Hurricane Mk IIA Series 2 Hurricane Mk IIA fitted with 4 × 20 mm Hispano cannons


Number built: 415
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIB This version was to carry 12 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns, 332 rounds each. Additionally, it had 2 underwing hardpoints fitted, rated 500 lb (227 kg) each. These hardpoints could carry bombs as well as drop tanks.
Because of shortages of the guns, this version entered service as late as 1941. When it entered service, it was used as an anti-shipping fighter, and was also quickly introduced in the North African theatre. It was even used in the USSR when Operation Barbarossa started, equipping a full wing. The aircraft were left behind when the Wing was dissolved, to be used by the USSR.
Number built: 2.948
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIC This version had 4 × 20 mm cannons (see above). It entered service in 1941, and also operated as a Hurribomber/fighter-bomber.
Number built: 4.711
Hawker Hurricane Mk IID In 1941 it became clear that there was no future anymore for the Hurricane as a fighter. So the design team made it an anti-tank weapon instead. It was armed with 2 × 40 mm Rolls Royce BF cannons, 12 rounds each. These were later replaced by 2 × 40 mm Vickers 'S' cannons, 15 rounds each. To help aiming, it was also armed with 2 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns in the wing leading edge. It had additional armor for the pilot, engine and radiator
It was powered by 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin XX V12, rated at 1,460 hp (1.089 kW). Weight specifications were: empty 5,700 lb (2.586 kg), typical 7,700 lb (3.493 kg) and max 8,100 lb (3.674). Performance figures: Max level speed of 322 Mph (518 km/h), max range of 900 Miles (1.448 km), Climb to 20,000 ft (6.095 m) in 12 minutes 24 sec, and a ceiling of 32,100 ft (9.785 m)
Number built: 296
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIE This was the designation used for the initial 270 Hurricane Mk IV aircraft. For details see the Hurricane Mk IV entry.
Number built: 270
Hawker Hurricane Mk IV This version was the final Hurrican version. Powered by 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin 24 or 27, rated at 1,620 hp (1.208 kW), it had 350 lb (159 kg) of additional armor, and was fitted with the so called Universal Wings which included 2 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning guns. Besides that, it had provisions for 2 × 40 mm cannons, or 2 × 500 lb (227 kg) bombs, or Smaal Bomb Carriers, or 8 × 60 lb (27 kg) air-to-surface rockets, or 2 smoke-laying installations.
These optional fittings tell us exactly what it was used for: ground attack.
Number built: 524
Hawker (Canadian Car & Foundry) Hurricane Mk X After Canadian Car & Foundry delivered 40 Hurrican Mk I's, they started producing the Mk X. It was identical to the British Mk IIB, except that it was powered by 1 × Packard (Rolls Royce) Merlin 28, rated at 1,300 hp (969 kW).
Number built: 489
Hawker (Canadian Car & Foundry) Hurricane Mk XI Identical to the Mk X, but with Canadian rather than British equipment
Number built: 150
Hawker (Canadian Car & Foundry) Hurricane Mk XII Canadian equivalent of the Mk II, but powered by a Packard Merlin 29, rated at 1,300 hp (969 kW). It was armed originally with 12 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns, but was sometimes refitted with 4 × 20 mm cannons in stead
Number built: 248
Hawker (Canadian Car & Foundry) Hurricane Mk XIIA Identical to the Mk XII, but originally fitted with 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns. These were often replaced by 12 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns or 4 × 20 mm cannons
Number built: 150
Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IA At the start of the War, Britain still depended on bi-planes in the naval-fighter roles. It was not until the British forces were retreating out of Norway that the Navy considered high performance aircraft to be suitable for their aircraft carriers. In the event of the evacuation a couple of Hurricane pilots managed to land their aircft at the deck of the carrier HMS Glorious.
Spurred by the possibility a number of Hurricanes were adapted to be able to fly from CAM ships. CAM stands for Catapult Aircraft Merchantman. These ships had a Catapult, enabling to launch an aircraft from their ship. The idea was to use them to scout for u-boats and attack them, or attack German reconnaissance aircraft with them when they least expected it. Unable to land at their mothership, they had to fly to land, or ditch the aircraft in the water close to a ship.
The first 50 conversions from Mk I Hurricanes were with the catapult attachments, but without the arrester hook, which was superfluous for the Cam ships.
The first 'Hurricat' kill was achieved form an aircraft launched from the Cam-ship Maplin, scoring a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor in august 1941. Another 5 kills were made before the end of the year.
Number converted: 50
Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IB The next step in the Sea Hurricane evolution was the MAC ship. A MAC (Merchant Aircraft Carrier) had a small deck on which a few fighters and anti-submarine aircraft could stand and land. The first MAC aircraft were 300 Hurricane Mk I's powered by 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin III, and 25 Hurricane Mk IIA's powered by 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin XX. These aircraft had 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning guns, 334 rounds each. Also they had the arrestor hook.
Number converted: 325
Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IC This version was converted from the Hurricane Mk I, and improved on the Sea Hurricane Mk IB by changing the armament to 4 × 20 mm cannons like the Hurricane Mk IIC
Number converted: around 450 total of the Mk IC and Mk IIC versions.
Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IIC This was the navalized version of the Hurricane Mk IIC
Number converted: around 450 total of the Mk IC and Mk IIC versions.
Hawker (Canadian Car & Foundry) Sea Hurricane Mk XIIA Navalized conversions of the Hurricane Mk XIIA. These aircraft were operational on escort carriers operating with convoys between Newfoundland and Iceland
Number converted: around 450 total of the Mk IC and Mk IIC versions.
Export Hurricanes A number of Hurricane Mk I's were exported to various countries:
  • Belgium: 20 aircraft, plus a license to build another 80 by Avions Fairey. 2 of these were completed by the time the Germans invaded Belgium in May 1940.
  • Canada: 20 aircraft in 1939
  • Finland: 12 aircraft in 1940
  • Persia (Iran): 2 aircraft. More had been ordered, but the remainder were postponed until after the war.
  • Poland: 10 aircraft, but only 1 had been delivered when the Germans invaded Poland.
  • Rumania: 12 aircraft in August 1939.
  • South Africa: 3 aircraft in 1939
  • Turkey: 15 aircraft delivered in September 1939.
  • Yugoslavia: 2 × 12 aircraft in December 1939 and Februari 1940, plus a license to build 40 and 60 additional fighters in the Rogozarski and Zmaj factories. These factories had produced another 20 aircraft by the time Germany invaded Yugoslavia.

Number built: about 22

Remarks:

The Hurricane played a major role in the Battle of Britain. Some claim that the Hurricane was the best fighters in this first air-only battle ever, others are convinced that the Supermarine Spitfire was the absolute winner. In my humble opinion, I think that one couldn't have won the battle without the other. I see my convictions proven by a number of figures, which I will provide below.
Fact is that the Spitfire had a better performance, and a better maneuverability. However, they were not numerous enought to be decisive by themselves. The Hurricane was slower and less maneuverable, but more maneuverable than the Messerschmitt Bf 109, and faster than the German Bombers. They were armed good enough to take on any aircraft of the time, fast enough to give chase to the bombers, and agile enough to evade attacks from the German escorts. But without the protection of the Spitfires, the Hurricane would be forced to evade too much, unable to have a clear shot at the bombers. Thus, the Spitfire enabled the Hurricane to do it's job, of which it aquitted itself very well.
The Spitfire on the other hand would have to give up too much of it's superiority to attack the bombers, becoming too vulnerable for the escorting German fighters. In pure performance, the Spitfire was inferior to the Messerschmitt, but the deployed tactics that were enforced by Reichsmarshal Goering rendered the potential advantage of the Messerschmitt nihil. They were forced to stay close to the bombers, so the Spitfires and Hurricanes could position themselves in a tactical advantageous position, making sure that their speed was higher than the Messerschmitts. Here enters the third factor in winning the battle: the British net of Radar stations. These stations were instrumental in the early warning system, and supplied Fighter Command with the parameters of any German attack: number of aircraft (rough guess), height, speed and direction.
Below are the figures I promised you:

 Squadrons (Sqn)KillsLossesKill/LossDays engaged
Spitfires19529,53171,67379
Hurricanes30655,84971,3479


Now these figures dont look like they support my ideas, but the surprise is yet to come. The number of aircraft shot down combine the fighters and bombers. When looking at the number of different types of aircraft shot down, the result is like this:

 Bf 109EBf 110BombersBf 109 kills / SqnBf 110 kills / Sqn
Spitfires2828016714,84,21
Hurricanes2221283067,44,26


Apart form the Battle of britain, the Hurricane saw a lot of action elsewhere in the world too. In the North African Theatre it was first used as a fighter-bomber, against the forces of Rommel's Afrika Korps, where it was moderately succesfull. Also in the Far East, Burma, is was used as such, and there proved that even a design as old as the Hurricane was quite well suited for the kind of operations there.

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Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 2/9/01