Spotlight on the Hawker Hurricane
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The Hurricane was initially developed by Hawker to meet an the Air Ministry specification for a fighter aircraft built around the new Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The original design was started in 1934 and was the work of Sidney Camm but it was rejected by the Ministry so Hawker decided to proceed with it as a private venture. The plane was designed for traditional construction with fabric stretched over a metal frame and utilised many of Hawker's existing parts, tools and jigs. The Hurricane was very durable and proved far more resistant to exploding cannon shells than the metal-skinned Spitfire. The simplicity of its design meant that remarkable repairs could be improvised in Squadron workshops.
The Hurricane was ordered into production in 1936 mainly by virtue of its relatively simple construction and ease of manufacture. At the time it was unclear if the much more advanced Spitfire would be able to enter production smoothly, whereas Hurricane production was a well understood manufacturing process. This was true for service squadrons as well, who were experienced in working on and repairing aircraft constructed like the Hurricane. With its ease of maintenance, widely set landing gear and benign flying characteristics, the Hurricane remained in use in theatres of operations where reliability was more important than performance, long after it was obsolete as a fighter aircraft. In all, some 14,000 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes were produced.
Hurricane Mk I
Deliveries of the Mark I production planes started in October 1937. These early aircraft were simple, with fabric-covered wings, a wooden two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller, and lacking armour or self-sealing tanks. Powered by the 1,030 hp (768 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk II or III engine, the Mk I was armed with eight .303 inch Browning machine guns. Although the use of this number of guns sounds impressive, the fact is that this relatively small calibre armament was more suited to shooting down the wood/canvas machines of the First World War. It was relatively common during the Battle of Britain for the (metal) German planes to be struck by a surprisingly high numbers of .303 bullets but still return safely to base. The use of a smaller number of larger calibre guns would have been far more effective and this was rectified in later versions of the Hurricane.
In 1939, a revised Mk I series was introduced which included metal-covered wings, armour and other improvements and about 500 of this later design formed the backbone of the fighter squadrons during the Battle of France and into the Battle of Britain. During the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane shot down the majority of the planes claimed by the RAF (1,593 out of 2,739 total claimed). By late 1940 the Huricane was becoming outclassed as a pure fighter and the higher specification Spitfire could be produced faster. However the general design went through marks II to V and was modified for many other tasks including a fighter bomber and the succesful Sea Hurricane modified for launching from carriers.
Specifications (Hurricane IIC)
Armament - Guns
- Crew: One
- Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.84 m)
- Wingspan: 40 ft 0 in (12.19 m)
- Height: 13 ft 1½ in (4.0 m)
- Wing area: 257.5 ft² (23.92 m²)
- Empty weight: 5,745 lb (2,605 kg)
- Loaded weight: 7,670 lb (3,480 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 8,710 lb (3,950 kg)
- Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce Merlin XX liquid-cooled V-12, 1,185 hp at 21,000 ft (883 kW at 6,400 m)
- Maximum speed: 334 mph at 21,500 ft (505 km/h at 5,400 m)
- Range: 600 mi (965 km)
- Service ceiling: 36,000 ft (10,970 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,780 ft/min (14.1 m/s)
- Wing loading: 29.8 lb/ft² (kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 6.47 lb/hp (kg/kW)
Armament - Bombs (IIC & IID):
- IIA: 8× 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns
- IIB: 12× 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns
- IIC: 4× 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon
- IID: 2× 40 mm Vickers Type S cannon, 2× 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns
- 2× 250 lb bombs, or
- 2× 500 lb bombs
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