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the Hawker Hurricane

"The Battle of Britain" (detail) original acrylic painting by Lance Russwurm

"The Battle of Britain" (detail) 1990 by Lance Russwurm

    Invariably eclipsed by the more modern and glamorous Spitfire, the Hurricane, in fact, was responsible for eighty percent of the enemy aircraft destroyed by fighter command during the Battle of Britain. It was England's first fighter capable of exceeding 300 mph with full war load, and, ironically, it's somewhat dated construction methods enabled it to absorb more damage than the Spit and keep on fighting. It was a bridge between the biplanes of the twenties and thirties and the modern stressed-skin monoplanes of the forties. It was a joy to fly and made an excellent stable gun platform. The Hurricane went on to serve many roles throughout World War 2.

"Hurricane and Spitfire At Hamilton" by Lance Russwurm

Hurricane and Spitfire in 1988 at Hamilton Warplane Heritage Museum

Early History

 The Hurricane had its genesis in the early thirties with Air Ministry specification F7/30, which required a modern fighter to replace the Bristol Bulldog.

 In 1925, Sydney Camm, Sydney Camm aged 32,  was appointed chief Engineer at the H. G. Hawker Engineering Company. (later called Hawker Aircraft Limited) Camm knew that biplanes had reached their limits and came up with a monoplane design that year although it was not actually built. 

    In 1933 Camm's team made an informal proposal for a monoplane adaptation of the very successful Hawker Fury biplane (also a Camm design) powered by a 660 horsepower Rolls-Royce Goshawk engine.

    It was quickly seen that even more potential lay in the new Rolls-Royce PV-12 engine, which would evolve into the famed Merlin powerplant.

The Prototype

    The new design, simply called the "interceptor monoplane", incorporated a number of modern features. It had a wide track, retractable landing gear, low pressure tires, a retracting tail wheel, and an enclosed cockpit. At first, only four guns were considered necessary. (two on the wings and two in the cowling)

    The basic construction was typical for the biplane era...tubular metal, cross-braced sections, covered in fabric.

    The prototype used the early Merlin 12 cylinder engine developing, at this point, 1,029 hp, turning a Watts two bladed, fixed pitch prop.

    Meanwhile, Air Ministry studies had shown that the weight of fire necessary to destroy an opposing aircraft at modern closing speeds would require at least eight machine guns instead of the four or even two previously considered sufficient.

    So, in 1935, with the prototype almost complete, revised specifications were issued calling for eight machine guns. New wings had to be made to accommodate the change.

    The fighter first flew in November, 1935. The machine generally lacked vicesThe Prototype Hurricane and was a joy to fly, but minor problems needed correction. The Merlin engine, especially, was unreliable at first. The Merlin I and II were finally acceptable, but the Merlin III was even better and ended up powering most of the initial production.

    Hawker, confident in their design, authorized tooling for 1000 to be built in March, 1936. Three months later they were vindicated when the government placed a first order for 600 examples of the type.

NEXT: Into War....the HURRICANE STORY Conclusion





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