Hawker Hurricane

As the Hawker Hurricane aircraft takes to the sky, spectators are reminded of its key role in the Battle of Britain. This little aircraft, in the hands of the young pilots of the Royal Air Force, helped define history. For that reason she has become an iconic aircraft, and will forever by remembered by generations with great affection and a debt of gratitude.

What type of aircraft is the Hurricane?

The Hawker Hurricane is a military aircraft designed to meet an Operational Requirement specification for a modern, monoplane fighter powered by the Roll-Royce Merlin engine. The aircraft needed a service speed in excess of 300mph an armament of six to eight machine guns.

Who designed and manufactured the Hurricane?

The Hawker Hurricane was designed by Hawker Aircraft's chief designer, Sydney Camm. Hawker Aircraft was founded in 1920 by Harry Hawker, Tom Sopwith, Fred Sigrist, and Bill Eyre out of the defunct Sopwith Aviation Company. The company acquired Gloster Aircraft Company in 1934 and in 1935 merged with Armstrong Whitworth to form Hawker Siddeley Aviation. Syndey Camm started working in aircraft design with Martynsides of Brookland before moving to Hawker in 1923. Within two years he became chief designer and remained with the company until his death in 1966. He designed many famous aircraft including the Typhoon, Tempest, Hunter and P1127, which went on to become the Harrier. Hurricane aircraft were produced at Kingston and Brooklands, beginning in 1936 and during World War II by Gloster, the Austin Motor Company and under licence by Canadian Car and Foundry Company in Montreal, Canada.

What is the specification of the Hurricane?

The Hurricane is a single-seat, single-engined fighter aircraft, powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine. The later Mark III was powered by a Packard-built Merlin engine. The fuselage of the Hurricane was a tubular metal structure with fabric covering, unlike the stressed-skin metal construction of the Spitfire. Initial Hurricanes had fabric covered wings before a metal-skinned wing was introduced in 1939. The design features a sliding cockpit canopy and retractable undercarriage. Later production marks featured up-rated engines and armament. The Sea Hurricane was introduced for use on aircraft carriers. It was nicknamed the 'Hurricat' as the first Sea Hurricanes were launched from 'Catapult Aircraft Merchantman' vessels.

What is the operational history of the Hurricane?

Following the maiden flight of Hurricane prototype K5083 on 6 November 1935, the first aircraft were delivered to No 111 Squadron of the Royal Air Force at RAF Northolt, near Uxbridge in December 1937. During 1938 No 3 Squadron at Biggin Hill, on the outskirts of south-east London, and No 56 Squadron at Hawkinge near Folkestone, were equipped with Hurricane aircraft. By the outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September 1939 the Royal Air Force had 497 Hurricanes in service. The Hurricane's finest hour was during the summer of 1940 when Germany launched a bomber offensive against Britain as a prelude to invasion. For invading forces to cross the channel and conquer Britain, the Luftwaffe had to knock out Britain's air defences. So the Battle of Britain began. Between 10 July and 31 October 1940 the opposing forces of the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe fought over the skies of Britain. The Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire were ultimately successful; the Luftwaffe failed to surpress the RAF and the invasion was cancelled. The Hurricane also flew in North Africa in February 1941 with No 80 Squadron, based in Egypt; in the Mediterranean in 1942 in operations defending Malta from Luftwaffe and Italian 'Regia Aeronautica' attacks; in Russia and in operations in the Far East. The last Hurricane to enter service with the Royal Air Force joined No 5 MU on 28 January 1944.

Why is the Hurricane an aviation icon?

During the summer of 1940 Britain stood alone against the threat from Nazi Germany. As a prelude to invasion the Luftwaffe needed to defeat the Royal Air Force. Out-numbered, the "Few" - as the pilots of the RAF became known - fought valiantly and courageously. The Hawker Hurricane, along with the Supermarine Spitfire, were Britain's front-line aircraft. Together they turned the tide and were victorious, earning the gratitude of a nation.

Where can I see a Hurricane aircraft?

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flies the last Hurricane built, PZ865 and Hurricane LF363, the last aircraft to enter service with the RAF. Peter Vacher's Hurricane Mk I R4118 is another airshow regular. The Historic Aircraft Collection at Duxford has a 1942 Canadian-built Hurricane Mk XIIa. The Shuttleworth Collection has a rare, airworthy Hawker Sea Hurricane, Mk Ib Z7015. Hurricane Mk IIa Z2389 at the Brooklands Museum is currently under restoration to taxiable condition. Static examples include Hurricane IIc LF738 at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, Hurricane I P2617 at the RAF Museum London and Hurricane Mk I L1592 at The Science Museum in London.

Specification

ManufacturerHawker Aircraft Limited (United Kingdom)
DesignerSydney Camm
Aircraft typeMilitary fighter
Length32ft 3in
Wingspan40ft 0in
Height13ft ½in
Weight5,745lb (empty)/7,670lb (loaded)
Speed334mph
Ceiling height36,000ft
Engines1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine producing 1,185hp
Range460 miles
Crew1 pilot

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  • Hawker Hurricane R4118
  • Hawker Hurricane LF363
  • Hawker Hurricane LF363

Facts and Figures

  • 14,533 Hurricane aicraft were built between August 1935 and January 1944
  • The Hurricane was the first RAF aircraft capable speeds of of over 300mph
  • 1,715 Hurricanes flew with Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain
  • Hurricane pilots shot 80 per cent of enemy fighters in the Battle of Britain
  • 2,952 Hurricane aircraft were delivered to Russia for air defence
  • RAF fighter ace Douglas Bader flew Hurricane aircraft in 242 Squadron
  • A bomber variant - the Hurribomber - carried two 250lb or 500lb bombs
  • The last Hurricane built, PZ865, flies with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Further Reading