Hawker's chief designer, Sydney Camm, decided to design an aircraft
which would fulfil 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
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 defences
combined, including all aircraft and ground defences. Later in the war,
the Hurricane served admirably in North Africa, Burma, Malta, and nearly
every other theatre 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 tank buster 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.
Nicknames: Hurry; Hurribomber
Specifications (Mk IIB):
Engine: 1,280hp Rolls-Royce Merlin XX 12-cylinder V
Weight: Empty 5,500 lbs., Max Takeoff 7,300 lbs.
Wing Span: 40ft. 0in.
Length: 32ft. 2.5in.
Height: 13ft. 1in.
Maximum Speed at 22,000 ft:
Cruising Speed at 20,000 ft:
Ceiling: 36,500 ft
Range: 480 miles
Twelve 7.7mm (0.303in.)
wing-mounted machine guns
Two 250 or 500-lb bombs
Number Built: 14,231