Hawker Hurricane 
Sea Hurricane P3114 of 800 squadron in 1942


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 Hawker Hurricane was the work of Sydney Camm, who began its design in 1934. On 23 October,1935, the prototype fighter, bearing the serial number K5083, was moved from Kingston to Brooklands for its first flight on 6 November 1935 with PWS "George" Bulman, the company's chief test pilot, at the controls. Its tubular metal construction and fabric covering were similar to those of the earlier Fury fighter biplane, and many of its contours, particularly the tail surfaces, were characteristic of earlier Camm designs. The continued adherence to fabric covering was viewed with misgivings by some, and was, in fact, soon to be supplanted by metal skinning for the wings; but this seemingly dated feature was linked with what were for that time ultra-modern items such as a fully retractable under-carriage and a sliding cockpit canopy. For its first flight the fighter was powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin "C", the name that had earlier been bestowed upon the a powerful new engine, the PV-12, which drove a Watts two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller.

Photograph of Hurricane prototype K5083 which first flew 6 11.1935

The initial production Hurricane I entered RAF service in December 1937, with 111 RAF Squadron. Powered by the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, it became the first RAF monoplane fighter with an enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriage, its first fighter capable of a level speed in excess of 300 mph (483 km/h), and its first eight-gun fighter.

Squadrons were rapidly equipped with the Hurricane, thanks to the foresight of the Hawker Aircraft directors, and at the time war was declared, on 3 September, 1939, just short of 500 Hurricanes had been delivered and eighteen squadrons had been equipped. These were all of the Mark I type, armed with eight 0.303-in. machine-guns but having alternative propeller installations: a Merlin II engine driving a Watts two-blade fixed-pitch wooden propeller, or a Merlin III of similar power having a standardized shaft for de Havilland or Rotol three-blade metal propellers.

Hurricane Mk I of 601 Squadron Royal Air Force - Battle of Britain 1940

When it became clear that the Hurricane was becoming outclassed as a pure fighter, other duties were assigned to it. In October 1941 the 'Hurribomber' fighter-bomber came into being, carrying either two 250lb (113 kg)  or two 500lb (226 kg) bombs under its wings. The Mk IID of 1942 was fitted with two 40 mm cannon for tank busting and two machine guns, and was operated mainly in North Africa against Rommel's desert forces and in Burma against the Japanese. Other Hurricanes carried rocket projectiles as alternative ground attack weapons.

The year 1943 saw two important developments in the Hurricanes history--the introduction of the Mark IV and the adoption of the Hurricane to fire rocket missiles or, as they were initially known, "unrifled projectiles". The Hurricane IV used a Merlin 24 or 27 which developed 1,620 hp for take-off, and it featured "low attack" or universal armament wings. These wings were derived from those fitted to the Hurricane IID and could carry the 40-mm. Vickers or Rolls Royce cannon, bombs, drop-tanks or rocket projectiles. The Hurricane IV was operational in the Middle and Far East theatres until the end of the war, and in Europe until the end of 1944.

The Hurricane IIB and IIC were the first single-seater aircraft to employ rockets operationally. After extended trials with rockets launched from Hurricanes at the A & AEE,  Boscombe Down (commencing with Z2415 in 1942), 137 Squadron took its rocket carrying Hurricanes into action for the first time at the beginning of September 1943. Hurricane IIBs, IICs, and IVs were fitted with four rockets under each wing.

Hurricane BE500 wartime colour photograph

Perhaps the most important sub-variant was the Sea Hurricane (see the separate FAA Archive profile for the Sea Hurricane). This operated from aircraft carriers, being fitted usually with catapult spools and arrester hook. However, most Sea Hurricanes were not newly-built fighters but converted RAF types, and were deployed originally not for aircraft carrier operations but to protect merchant shipping. To combat German maritime-reconnaissance bombers, some ships were converted into CAMs (catapult aircraft merchantmen) which meant that a Hurricane fighter could be launched from the ship when danger approached. The biggest problem was that the fighter could not re-land on board, and so the pilot had to ditch it in the sea. The main areas of operation for the 'Catafighters' were in the Mediterranean and Baltic, but by 1943 the Sea Hurricane had all but disappeared from service.

Sea Hurricane MkIIc 835 squadron of HMS Nairana in 1942

Of the 14,533 production Hurricanes built, some had gone for service with other air forces, and Canadian Car and Foundry manufactured 1,451 Hurricanes between 1938 and 1943. In particular, Hurricane wartime production supplied 2,952 of these aircraft to the USSR, to aid its fight against the Germans on the Eastern Front. As a result of convoy shipping losses not all reached their destination. Other wartime deliveries  went to Egypt (20), Finland (12), India (300), Irish Air Corps (12), Persia (1) and Turkey (14), and total production in the UK and Canada amounted to 14,231. The first Hurricane sorties in Russia were made on 11 September,1941 in defense of Murmansk, pilots from France, Britain and America helping the Soviets in their task.

 Mk I            One Hurricane Mk I conversion; Catapult spools and arrester hooks
 Mk IA        50 Hurricane conversion; catapult spools only; specially produced for
                     CAM fighter scheme - launched from CAM ships
 Mk IB        300 Mk I (merlin III) and 25 Mk IIA series 2 conversions; Catapult
                     spools and arrester hook (MAC-ship service)
 Mk IC        Hurricane Mk I conversion with four-cannon wings; catapult spools
                     and arrester hook
 Mk IIC        Arrester hook and naval radio equipment
 Mk XIIA    Canadian built navalised Mk XII, with Packard Merlin XXIX engine.
The Fleet Air Arm took charge of 537 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes between 1939-1945 primarily from the RAF, but at least one was delivered from the RCAF to RNDA 5MU in September 1942.

Once the Fleet Air Arm took delivery of the Hurricanes from the RAF, starting with 880 squadron in March 1941 and 804 squadron in April 1941 it then started the mamoth task of shipping the Hurricanes to operational squadrons in all theatres around the world. A large consignment was shipped out in HMS Furious to 807 squadron in Gibraltar on 1 July 1941 (eg V7301 and V7623). Whilst others were shipped to South Africa in SS City of Bombay on 9 January 1942 (eg Z4056). Half a year later further consignments were shipped out on SS Belgian Seaman to Takoradi from Liverpool on 30 June 1942 (eg BP709), and to Simonstown in SS Lt St Lonbert Brie thence to 800 sqn on HMS Indomitable in July 1942 (eg V7416). However, quite a number were lost with the HMS Eagle which sank on 11 August 1942.

Only sixty of all these aircraft were built as Sea Hurricanes, a batch of Mk.IIC's with 4-cannon wings built by Hawker and delivered between December 1942 and May 1943.  All other Sea Hurricanes were conversions from Hurricanes including veterans from Hawker's first production batch delivered to the RAF in 1938 and 1939. The oldest of the conversions was Hurricane L1663, originally delivered to 32 Squadron RAF in 1938 and later converted to a Sea Hurricane IB in March 1941.

Most operational squadrons last used the Hurricane between 1943-44, when they were relegated to second-line squadrons.

The last of the wartime delivered Hurricanes to serve in the Fleet Air Arm were in 774 squadron until February 1945 (eg LF630), in 771 squadron up until January 1945 (LF704) and the final one, LF630 returned to the RAF at BAFO Communication Flight in June, 1945.

Total Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes delivered to the FAA 1939-1945:  537

Total: Hurricane I , Ia and Ib:    48
Total: Sea Hurricane Ib:           290
Total Sea Hurricane II:               42
Total Hurricane I/tropical:         60
Total Hurricane IIa and IIb:       47
Total Hurricane FB.IIc:              37
Total Hurricane IV:                       1
Total: Unspecified variants:      12
 (most probably Hurricane I/Trop)

Various transfers from RAF, including many conversions to Sea Hurricane MkI  variants  fitted with 1,030hp Rolls Royce Merlin III, Mk II variants with 1,289hp Rolls Royce Merlin XX engine

First to RN        1.1941 W9237, 2.41 W9215 at Yeovilton 3.1941 L1663
First sqdn          P3829 to 760 sqdn at Yeovilton 5.1941
First op sqdn:     880 on 15.3.1941 W9219, 804 sqdn in 4.1941 at Yeovilton (W9182), 800 sdqn on 6.1941,
                        880 sqdn on 6.1941 (P3925), 804 sdqn 6.1941 (L1895) and 759/760 sqdn at Yeovilton (N2352)
Last:                 774 sqdn LF630 on 2.1945, 771 sqdn on 1.1945 (LF704). LF630 returned to the the RAF at
                        BAFO Communication Flight on 6.1945

HAWKER HURRICANE FB.IIc transferred from RAF
Total 28
All to RNDA 23MU 4.44 or RNDA 9.44, then all to 771 sqdn Twatt 5.44 and/or with 772 sdqn till 2-3.45

Aircraft Type:
Hawker Hurricane
Hurricane Mk I, Ia, Ib, IIa, IIb, Hurricane I/tropical, FB.IIc, IV.
Sea Hurricane Mk I, Ib, II
Primary Role:
Carrier-Borne Fighter
First Flight: 
Prototype 6.11.1936
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
One Rolls-Royce (Packard) Merlin XX V-engine
Sea hurricane: 1280 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin XII
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wingspan : 40 feet (12.20 m)
Length: 31 feet; 4 inches (9.82 m)
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Weight: 7,200 lbs combat-loaded (3500 kg)



Max. speed: 340 mph (530 km/h) 
Ceiling : 35,000 feet (9500 m)
Rate of climb: 3,150 feet per minute
Range: 468 miles (740 km)
Eight .303 calibre Browning machine guns
Two 500-lb bombs or eight rockets
Battle honours:
Battle of Britain (FAA serving crew), North Africa, Western Desert, Atltantic, Arctic, Malta, Madasgascar, Italy.
Additional references and notes:
General information about the aircraft.

Battle Honours and Operational History

The Fleet Air Arm Hurricane and Sea Hurricane saw significant operational activities in many theatres of the war. They were involved in Operation Harpoon, Operation Pedestal to Malta, Operation Ironclad to Madagascar, the Western Desert, and in convoy duties where the aircraft claimed a high number of enemy aircraft shot down. Hurricanes equipped 32 RAF squadrons, some with Fleet Air Arm pilots seconded to these RAF Fighter command squadrons, and shot down more enemy aircraft than all other aircraft combined during the Battle of Britain.

Often under-rated in favour of the Spitfire, the Hurricane was the main victor of the Battle of Britain. 620 Hurricane and Spitfire fighters, with another 84 fighter typs including from FAA 804 and 808 squadrons under the command of RAF Fighter Command, had to face the German air threat of 3,500 bombers and fighters. During the Battle, along with the Spitfire, it helped to force the Luftwaffe to use the Bf 109 to protect the poor performing twin engine Bf 110 escort fighter. As an indication of their value, the Hurricane accounted for 80% of all German kills during the Battle. The highest scoring Allied pilot of the Battle - a Czech named Sergeant Josef Frantisek, who claimed 17 victories - was a Hurricane pilot.  (See the list of highest scoring Hurricane pilots)

Hurricane of 402 squadron in March 1942 at Warmwell (UK)

During the Battle of Britain, which began in earnest on 8, August,1940, Hurricanes concentrated mainly on the destruction of the German Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17 bombers. These were the aircraft that would cause the most damage if allowed to get through. The only Victoria Cross ever awarded to an RAF Fighter Command pilot was won by Ft Lt James Nicolson, a Hurricane pilot of 249 Squadron who, on 16 August,1940, while attacking a German aircraft in front of him, was pounced on from above and behind by other German aircraft. Nicolson's aircraft caught fire, but he continued his attack until he had shot down his original target, then parachuted to safety.

The Fleet Air Arm Hurricanes were also used, with special dust filters, in the Western Desert campaigns against Rommel in 1942/1943, and the majority of Fleet Air Arm claims on attacks on enemy aircraft were made with Sea Hurricanes (this is dealt with in the FAA Archive profile for the Sea Hurricane).

The FAA used at least twenty-four Hurricane I's, some of which formed part of the  equipment of naval squadrons operating in the Western Desert  as shore-based fighter units.  These squadrons also employed 39 Mk.I/Trops.

Hurricane Mk IIC of the 87th Fighter Squadron Royal Air Force, North Africa 1942

Surviving aircraft and relics

There are currently approximately 53 extant Hurricane Extant air frames, including 7 replicas. Hurricanes are preserved in most of the major aviation museums of the Commonwealth although not one of them seems to be listed as former Fleet Air Arm aircraft. However, a number of FAA Sea Hurricanes have indeed survived (see FAA Archive Sea Hurricane page)
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Preserved and airworthy RAF Hurricane Mk IIc PZ855

Hurricane P3351/DR393 preserved in New Zealand

The Wanaka (NZ) hurricane P3351/DR393 was discovery in the Murmansk area, the remains were shipped to Air NZ Engineering Services in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1994. Restoration to an airworthy condition continued until first flight on the 12th January 2000.

The above Hurricane wreck is a partial inventory of parts and assemblies recovered from WWII battle sites in Russia. There are also many parts and pieces that are not listed. All of these aircraft are crash-landing victims and are in unrestored condition. Some of the assemblies are in reasonably good condition, and some are in poor condition and good for patterns only. Offered as a package only $85,000 US Dollars - aircraft will not be sold individually. See Adrenalin Group website for purchase.

Associations and reunions
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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