The Hawker Hurricane was one of the most common British aircraft early in World War II, and one of the most effective throughout the war. It was made famous by its role in the Battle of Britain where it primarily fought German bombers (mainly Ju 88s and He 111s) while Spitfire fighters engaged German escort fighters. (mainly Bf 109s and Me 110s) The Hurricane was produced between 1937 and 1944 and 14,533 were built. Later in the war the Hurricane was used as a fighter-bomber before it was eventually retired.

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Originally designed by Sidney Camm as the Fury Monoplane, with Rolls Royce Goshawk engine and spatted undercarriage, the Hurricane was altered on the drawing board to have a Merlin engine, inwardly retracting undercarriage and the unprecedented armament of eight machine guns, which led to the Air Ministry writing Specification F.36/34 around the aircraft.[2]

Following submission of the detailed design on September 4 1934, and inspection of a full-size mock-up on January 10 1935, the Air Ministry agreed a contract dated February 21 1935 for a single 'high-speed monoplane' envisaged with two Vickers Mk V machine guns in the fuselage and two Browning guns in the wings. On July 20 1935 the armament listed in the contract was changed to eight wing mounted Brownings. The prototype was allocated the serial number K5083, and moved on October 23 1935 from Kingston to Brooklands, making it's first flight in the hands of Hawker's Chief test pilot, P. W. S. Bulman on November 6. In February 1936, the aircraft was transferred to the A&AEE at Martlesham Heath for official trails. [3]

The Air Ministry reacted to tests with the prototype by ordering 600 in June 1936, resulting in 497 being in service with 18 squadrons when war was declared in September 1939, increasing to 2,309 with 32 squadrons by 7 August 1940. Gloster's[N 1] output in 1940 was 130 per month, by which time the Hurricane I was in service with metal wings and three blade variable pitch (later constant speed) propeller. In the hectic days of 1940 the Hurricane was found to be an ideal bomber destroyer, with steady sighting and devastating cone of fire; turn radius was better than that of any other monoplane fighter, but the all round performance of the Bf 109 was considerably higher.[2]

A Hurricane Mk I airframe was flown with a 1,300hp two staged supercharged Merlin XX on 11 June 1940, becoming the prototype for the Mk II, with initial Srs I examples - retaining the wings of the Mk I - commencing deliveries in September 1940. These were followed by Srs II aircraft with strengthening for later wings, featuring universal attachment points to allow the carriage of external stores, and an extra fuselage bay. Next came the IIB, with 12 machine guns, and the IIC, with four 20mm Hispano cannon. A specialised variant, the IID, was fitted with a pair of 40mm guns under the wings for anti tank work, retaining a single 0.303in (7.7mm) machine gun in each wing for sighting purposes. The IIE - later Hurricane IV - was a dedicated ground attack version with a universal armament wing permitting carriage of 40mm cannon, bombs or rockets, which first flew on 14 March 1943, with 794 production examples using the 1,620hp Merlin 24 or 27.

Early in 1941, the adaptation of the Hurricane for naval use was initiated by the fitting of V Frame arrestor hooks and catapult spools for trials, with some 300 Hurricanes assigned for conversion. The first 50, known as Sea Hurricane IAs, only received catapult spools for launching from CAM Ships, with the rest being fitted with spools and hooks as Sea Hurricane IBs. In early 1942 these were joined by Sea Hurricane ICs - basically navalised late model Hurricane Is fitted with Hurricane IIC outer wing panels carrying 20mm Hispano cannon. They were followed in late 1942 by the Sea Hurricane IIC conversion of the Hurricane IIC. 600 examples of various marks were in FAA inventory by mid 1942, but the type had been superseded in most FAA squadrons by the end of 1943, with the last FAA Sea Hurricane unit disembarking in April 1944.[5]

A two seat training version was proposed in 1939.[6] A number of Hurricanes were converted into two seat trainers by the Soviet Union between 1942 and 1944, but Hawker did not produce any two seat Hurricanes until 1946.[7]

Operated by No 1697 (Air Despatch Letter Service) Flight between 27 March 1944 and 7 March 1945,[8] a number of Hurricane Mk IIc aircraft were modified for the transportation of mail. As well as a specially modified external fuel tank under one wing, balanced by one loaded with fuel under the other wing, the ADLS Hurricanes were fitted with an 11 cubic foot container behind the pilot's seat.[9]

Other Users

As well as the RAF, Hurricane Mk Is were also delivered to the air arms of Turkey (15), Romania (12), Poland (1), Finland (12), Yugoslavia (24, plus 20 - out of 100 ordered - built by Zmaj) and Belgium (15 out of 20 purchased, plus 3 - out of 80 ordered - built by Avions Fairey). Almost 3,000 Mk IIs were later passed to the Soviet Union.[10] In addition, a number of two seat Hurricane T.IIC aircraft, with the cannon removed, were supplied to Iran (Persia) in 1947.[7]


  1. Gloster was part of the Hawker Siddeley Group since the late 1930's, which led to them producing the majority of Hawker Typhoons built.[4]


  2. 2.0 2.1 Gunston, Bill. Illustrated Directory of Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Salamander Books. 1988. ISBN 0-86101-390-5 Pages 44 & 46.
  3. Green, William. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 268
  4. Gunston, Bill (Forward). Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Tiger Books. 1989. ISBN 1-85501-996-5. (Reprint of Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1945/1946. Bridgeman, Leonard (Editor). 1946).
  5. Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. Complete Book of Fighters. Salamander Books. 2001. ISBN 1-84065-269-1 Pages 286-287
  6. Morgan, Eric B and Edward Shacklady. Spitfire - The History. 2000. ISBN 0 946219 48 6 Page 303
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gunston, Bill. St Michael Aircraft of World War 2. Octopus Books. 1982. ISBN 0-86273-014-7 Page 97
  8. Lake, Alan. Flying Units of the RAF. Airlife Publishing. 1999. ISBN 1-84037-086-6 Page 99
  9. Aeroplane Monthly. Key Publishing. April 2015. Page 64
  10. Green and Swanborough. 2001. Page 285

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