|Mx XIIa Z5140|
The Hurricane was the first monoplane fighter produced by Hawker, and was available in substantial numbers at the beginning of World War II.
Hurricanes played a decisive role in the Battle of Britain when it equipped 26 RAF and 1 RCAF squadrons, and went on to fly on more fronts than any other British fighter.
The Hurricane also earned distinction for being the most versatile of single seat warplanes to emerge from the Second World War. Later in the war, Sea Hurricanes were launched by catapult from ships at sea to defend convoys against air attack. A "tank buster" version with 40mm cannon was used in North Africa.
The Hurricane was available in greater numbers for its finest hour in the Battle of Britain, where it played a crucial role in the defence of this country, shooting down more enemy aircraft than the Spitfire.
In 1933, Hawker's chief designer, Sydney Camm, decided to design an aircraft which would fulfill a British Air Ministry specification calling for a new monoplane fighter. His prototype, powered by a 990hp Rolls Royce Merlin 'C' engine, first flew on 6 November 1935, and quickly surpassed expectations and performance estimates. Official trials began three months later, and in June 1936, Hawker received an initial order for 600 aircraft from the Royal Air Force. The first aircraft had fabric wings. To power the new aircraft (now officially designated the "Hurricane,") the RAF ordered the new 1,030hp Merlin II engine.
The first production Hurricane flew on 12 October 1937, and was delivered to the 111 Squadron at RAF Northolt two months later. A year later, around 200 had been delivered, and demand for the airplane had increased enough that Hawker contracted with the Gloster Aircraft company to build them also. During the production run, the fabric-covered wing was replaced by an all-metal one, a bullet-proof windscreen was added, and the engine was upgraded to the Merlin III. Before WWII, production locations expanded to include Yugoslavia, Belgium and in 1940, Canada, where it was undertaken by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company.
August 1940 brought what has become the Hurricane's shining moment in history: The Battle of Britain. RAF Hurricanes accounted for more enemy aircraft kills than all other defenses combined, including all aircraft and ground defenses. Later in the war, the Hurricane served admirably in North Africa, Burma, Malta, and nearly every other theater in which the RAF participated.
The Hurricane underwent many modifications during its life, resulting in many major variants, including the Mk IIA, with a Merlin XX engine; the Mk IIB, with interchangeable wings housing twelve 7.7mm (0.303in) guns and carrying two 500lb bombs; the Mk IID, a tankbuster with two 40mm anti-tank guns plus two 7.7mm guns; the Mk IV, with a universal, multi-purpose wing, and powered by a 1,620hp Merlin 24/27 engine; and the Canadian-built Mk XII, with a 1,300hp Packard Merlin 29 engine. During the war, Hurricanes were sold to Egypt, Finland, India, the Irish Air Corps, Persia, Turkey, and the USSR.
The Hurricane was undoubtedly one of the greatest and most versatile fighter aircraft of WWII, and it remained in service with the RAF until January 1947.
Specifications (Mk IIB):