A British Aerial Legend – Battle of Britain’s Backbone

The Hawker Hurricane design was attributable to Sydney Camm an aeronautical engineer, who after the war assisted with furthering the development of the VTOL Harrier Jump Jet. The Hurricane was a progressive development in reaction to a 1933 enterprise challenge from the British Technical Development Directorate wanting to replace the ageing biplanes in its air force inventory. His final prototype design of the aircraft first took to the air on 6 November 1935, and finally received its Hurricane moniker during June 1936 with the Directorate requesting an initial order for 600.

Hawker Hurricane

The Hurricane Mk I entered service equipped with a Rolls-Royce Merlin II power-plant delivering 1030 hp through a two bladed propeller, its armament consisted of a machine-gun battery comprising eight Colt-Browning 7.7 mm calibre fully automatic machine guns, with a set of four guns mounted in the leading edge of each wing. This at the time highly capable air fighter package served admirably on French soil in the 1939 air battle over France, where it already started showing its age in this fast moving wartime technology race and later would be outclassed and out-dated at a time when Britain was fighting for its life in 1940 during the Battle of Britain.

Fortunately the Mk I received a retro fitment of the newer Rolls-Royce Merlin III power-plant delivering 1185 hp the Battle of Britain saw 1715 Hurricanes in action where it racked up an admirable account contributing to 60% of all air battle victories for Britain. The same retrofitted Mk I later served as the Mk II testbed, the improved Mk II A went into service during September 1940 now sporting the upgraded 1280 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin XX power-plant while retaining the same armament. A Hurricane Mk II B soon followed offering a battery of 12 fully automatic machine guns now with six guns, but mounted in the same leading wing edge position as before, this variant included the capacity to mount fuel drop tanks to extend the effective range.

This additional fuel drop tanks necessitated further wing developments, which in turn allowed the airframe to bear the weight of underwing mounted munitions, these underwing carriages were fitted with two x 250 lb bombs and later two 500 lb bombs. These latter improvements earned it the nickname Hurribomber, while slower the new airframe and engine broadened its tactical capabilities to that of a fighter-bomber, in this latest guise it was also pressed into the role of photo-reconnaissance platform with a new fitment of photographic cameras.

Mk II B

The Mk II B later evolved into a Mk II C after receiving a new battery of machine guns comprising of four x Hispano 20 mm calibre fully automatic cannons, split into a two gun battery per wing, the new cannons delivered truly fearful firepower against all enemies, land, sea, or air. This model designate continued with the two x 500 lb underwing bomb mounting racks, during 1942 a Mk II D received two underwing mounted Vickers S, 40 mm anti-tank cannons providing this gifted airframe the wherewithal to defeat enemy armour plating. The Mk II D went on to aid in the destruction of Rommel’s tank operation in northern Africa, serving in El Alamein to delay Rommel’s armoured advance, coming to the aid of the by then tired British and French ground forces providing the army with the time to replace their tired army with fresh soldiers. The old warhorse continued serving in many further design variants including a Sea Hurricane delivered to the Navy. Hurricanes continued serving until 1947 where after they were promptly removed after producing 14,583 serviceable aircraft that faithfully served military and air forces all over the globe. Its eventual withdrawal from service on the front lines for Britain in 1947 were due to her design as a whole reaching a dead end to its technological capabilities as can be expected from a 10-year-old fabric over steel tube airframe construction.