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The Guillow's Hawker Hurricane Kit #506
Wingspan: 40"

[IMAGE The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Although largely overshadowed by the Supermarine Spitfire, the aircraft became renowned during the Battle of Britain, accounting for 60% of the RAF's air victories in the battle, and served in all the major theatres of the Second World War.

The 1930s design evolved through several versions and adaptations, resulting in a series of aircraft which acted as interceptor-fighters, fighter-bombers (also called "Hurribombers"), and ground support aircraft. Further versions known as the Sea Hurricane had modifications which enabled operation from ships. Some were converted as catapult-launched convoy escorts, known as "Hurricats". More than 14,000 Hurricanes were built by the end of 1944 (including at least 800 converted to Sea Hurricanes and some 1,400 built in Canada by Canadian Car and Foundry).

At the time that the Hurricane was developed RAF Fighter Command consisted of just 13 squadrons, each equipped with either the Hawker Fury, Hawker Demon, or the Bristol Bulldog, all biplanes with fixed-pitch wooden propellers and non-retractable undercarriages. Sydney Camm's design to meet F.7/30, the Hawker P.V.3, was essentially a scaled-up version of the Fury and was not among the proposals submitted to the Air Ministry selected for building as a government sponsored prototype. After the rejection of the P.V.3 Camm started work on a cantilever monoplane with a fixed undercarriage armed with four machine guns and powered by the Rolls-Royce Goshawk. Detail drawings were finished by January 1934 but failed to impress the Air Ministry enough for a prototype to be ordered. Camm's response was to further develop the design, introducing a retractable undercarriage and replacing the unsatisactory Goshawk with a new Rolls-Royce design, the PV-12, later to become famous as the Merlin. In August 1934 a one-tenth scale model was made and sent to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington. A series of wind tunnel tests confirmed the aerodynamic qualities of the design were in order, and in September Camm approached the Air Ministry again. This time the response was favorable, and a prototype of the "Interceptor Monoplane" was ordered.

Shortly after this the Air Ministry issued Specification F.5/34 which, drawing on the work of Squadron Leader Ralph Sorley, called for fighter aircraft to be armed with eight guns. However by this time work had progressed too far to immediately modify the planned four-gun installation. By January 1935 a wooden mock-up had been finished, and although a number of suggestions for detail changes were made construction of the prototype was approved, and a new specification (F.36/34) was written around the design. In July 1935 this specification was amended to include installation of eight guns.

Work on the airframe was completed at the end of August 1935 and the aircraft components were taken to Brooklands, where Hawkers had an assembly shed, and re-assembled on 23 October 1935. Ground testing and taxi trials took place over the following two weeks, and on 6 November 1935 the prototype took to the air for the first time, at the hands of Hawker's chief test pilot, Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) George Bulman. Bulman was assisted by two other pilots in subsequent flight testing; Philip Lucas flew some of the experimental test flights, while John Hindmarsh conducted the firm's production flight trials.

RAF trials of the aircraft at Martlesham Heath began in February 1936. Sammy Wroath, later to be the founding Commandant of the Empire Test Pilot School, was the RAF test pilot for the Hurricane: his report was favorable, stating "The aircraft is simple and easy to fly and has no apparent vices" and going on to praise its control response. The type name "Hurricane" proposed by Hawkers was appproved by the Air Ministry on 26 June; an informal christening ceremony was carried out the next month when King George VI paid a visit to Martlesham Heath.

Further testing showed that the Hurricane had poor spin recovery characteristics, with all rudder authority being lost. Hawker's response was to request that spinning tests be waived, but the Air Ministry refused the request; the situation was resolved by the Royal Aircraft Establishment, who established that the problem was caused by a breakdown of the airflow over the lower fuselage, and could be cured by the addition of a small ventral fairing and extension of the bottom of the rudder. This discovery came too late to be incorporated in the first production aircraft, but was introduced in the 61st built and all subsequent aircraft.

Though faster and more advanced than the RAF's current front line biplane fighters, the Hurricane's constructional design was already outdated when introduced. It used the traditional Hawker construction techniques, with a Warren truss box-girder primary fuselage structure with high-tensile steel longerons and duralumin cross-bracing using mechanically fastened rather than welded joints. Over this, wooden formers and stringer carried the doped linen covering. Initially, the wing structure consisted of two steel spars, and was also fabric-covered. An all-metal, stressed-skin wing of duraluminium (a DERD specification similar to AA2024) was introduced in April 1939 and was used for all of the later marks. "The metal skinned wings allowed a diving speed that was 80 mph (130 km/h) higher than the fabric-covered ones. They were very different in construction but were interchangeable with the fabric-covered wings; one trials Hurricane, L1877, was even flown with a fabric-covered port wing and metal-covered starboard wing. The great advantage of the metal-covered wings over the fabric ones was that the metal ones could carry far greater stress loads without needing so much structure beneath." Several fabric-wing Hurricanes were still in service during the Battle of Britain, although a good number had had their wings replaced during servicing or after repair. Changing the wings only required three hours' work per aircraft.

The prototype and early production Hurricanes were fitted with a Watts two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. Since this was inefficient at low airspeeds, the aircraft required a long ground run to get airborne, causing concern at Fighter Command. Trials with a De Havilland variable pitch propeller reduced the take-off run from 1,230 ft (370 m) to 750 ft (230 m). Deliveries of these began in April 1939: this was later replaced by the hydraulically operated constant-speed Rotol propeller, which came into service in time for the Battle of Britain.

Then, with tail trimmer set, throttle and mixture lever fully forward... and puffs of grey exhaust smoke soon clearing at maximum r.p.m. came the surprise! There was no sudden surge of acceleration, but with a thunderous roar from the exhausts just ahead on either side of the windscreen, only a steady increase in speed... In retrospect that first Hurricane sortie was a moment of elation, but also of relief. Apart from the new scale of speeds that the pilot had to adapt to, the Hurricane had all the qualities of its stable, secure biplane predecessor the Hart, but enhanced by livelier controls, greater precision and all this performance. Roland Beamont, a trainee pilot, describing his first flight in a Hurricane.

One of Camm's priorities was to provide the pilot with good all-round visibility. To this end, the cockpit was mounted reasonably high in the fuselage, creating a distinctive "hump-backed" silhouette. Pilot access to the cockpit was aided by a retractable "stirrup" mounted below the trailing edge of the port wing. This was linked to a spring-loaded hinged flap which covered a handhold on the fuselage, just behind the cockpit. When the flap was shut, the footstep retracted into the fuselage. In addition, both wing roots were coated with strips of non-slip material.

An advantage of the steel-tube structure was that cannon shells could pass right through the wood and fabric covering without exploding. Even if one of the steel tubes were damaged, the repair work required was relatively simple and could be done by groundcrew at the airfield. A damaged stressed skin structure, as used by the Spitfire, required more specialised equipment to repair. The old-fashioned structure also permitted the assembly of Hurricanes with relatively basic equipment under field conditions. Crated Hurricanes were assembled in West Africa and flown across the Sahara to the Middle East theatre and, to save space, some Royal Navy aircraft carriers carried their reserve Sea Hurricanes dismantled into their major assemblies, which were slung up on the hangar bulkheads and deckhead for reassembly when needed.

In contrast, the contemporary Spitfire used all-metal monocoque construction and was thus both lighter and stronger, though less tolerant to bullet damage. With its ease of maintenance, widely-set landing gear and benign flying characteristics, the Hurricane remained in use in theatres of operations where reliability, easy handling and a stable gun platform were more important than performance, typically in roles like ground attack. One of the design requirements of the original specification was that both the Hurricane and the Spitfire were also to be used as a night fighter. The Hurricane proved to be a relatively simple aircraft to fly at night and was to be instrumental in shooting down several German aircraft during the nocturnal hours. From early 1941, the Hurricane would also be used as an "intruder" aircraft, patrolling German airfields in France at night in an attempt to catch night bombers during takeoffs or landings.

The Hurricane had its baptism of fire on 21 October 1939. That day, “A” Flight of 46 Squadron took off from North Coates satellite airfield, on the Lincolnshire coast, and was directed to intercept a formation of nine Heinkel He 115B floatplanes from 1/KüFlGr 906, searching for ships to attack in the North Sea. The Heinkels had been already been attacked and damaged by two 72 Squadron Spitfires when six 46 Squadron Hurricanes intercepted the Heinkels, which were flying at sea level in an attempt to avoid fighter attacks. Nevertheless the Hurricanes, in rapid succession, shot down four of the enemy (46 Squadron claiming five and the Spitfire pilots two).

In response to a request from the French government for 10 fighter squadrons to provide air support, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander-in-Chief of RAF Fighter Command, insisted that this number would deplete British defences severely, and so initially only four squadrons of Hurricanes, 1, 73, 85 and 87, were relocated to France, keeping Spitfires back for "Home" defence. The first to arrive was No.73 Squadron on 10 September 1939, followed shortly by the other three. A little later, 607 and 615 Squadrons joined them.

[IMAGE After his first flight in October 1939, Hurricane pilot Roland Beamont subsequently flew operationally with 87 Squadron, claiming three enemy aircraft during the French campaign, and delivered great praise of his aircraft's performance:

“Throughout the bad days of 1940, 87 Sqn had maintained a proficient formation aerobatic team, the precise flying controls and responsive engines permitting precision formation through loops, barrel rolls, 1g semi-stall turns and rolls off half-loops ... My Hurricane was never hit in the Battles of France and Britain, and in over 700 hr on type I never experienced an engine failure.” - Roland Beamont, summarising his wartime experience as a pilot.

On 30 October, Hurricanes saw action over France. That day, Pilot Officer P.W.O. “Boy” Mould of 1st Squadron, flying Hurricane L1842, shot down a Dornier Do 17P from 2(F)/123. The German aircraft, sent to photograph Allied airfields close to the border, fell in flames about 10 miles (16 km) west of Toul. “Boy” Mould was the first RAF pilot to down an enemy aircraft on the continent in the Second World War.

On 6 November 1939, Pilot Officer P.V. Ayerst from 73° Squadron, was the first to clash with a Messerschmitt Bf 109. After the dogfight, he came back with five holes in his fuselage. Flying Officer E. J. "Cobber" Kain, a New Zealander, was responsible for 73 Squadron's first victory on 8 November 1939 while stationed at Rouvres. He went on to become one of the RAF's first fighter aces of the war, being credited with 16 kills.

On 22 December, the Hurricanes in France suffered their first losses. Three Hawker fighters, while trying to intercept an unidentified aircraft, between Metz and Thionville, were jumped by four Bf 109Es from III./JG 53, with the Gruppenkommander, Spanish Civil War ace Captain Werner Mölders in the lead. Mölders and Leutnant Hans von Hahn shot down the Hurricanes of Sergeant R.M. Perry and J. Winn for no losses.

In May 1940, Nos. 3, 79 and 504 Squadrons reinforced the earlier units as Germany's Blitzkrieg gathered momentum. On 10 May, the first day of the Battle of France, Flight Lieutenant R.E. Lovett and Flying Officer "Fanny" Orton, from 73 Squadron, were the two first RAF pilots to engage combat with the invading German aircraft. They attacked one of the three Dornier Do 17s from 4.Staffel/KG 2 that were flying over their airfield at Rouvres-en-Woevre. The Dornier went away unscathed, while Orton was hit by defensive fire and had to force land. On the same day, the Hurricane squadrons claimed 42 German aircraft shot down during 208 sorties, although none of these were fighters, while seven Hurricanes were lost but no pilots were killed.

On 12 May, several Hurricanes units were committed to escort bombers. That morning, five Fairey Battle volunteer crews, from No. 12 Squadron, took off from Amifontaine base to bomb Vroenhoven and Veldvedzelt bridges on the Meuse, at Maastricht. The escort consisted of eight Hurricanes of No. 1 Squadron, with Squadron Leader P.J.H. "Bull" Halahan in the lead. When the formation approached Maastricht, it was bounced by 16 Bf 109Es from 2./JG 27. Two Battles and two Hurricanes (including Halahan's) were shot down, two more Battles were brought down by flak and the fifth bomber was forced to crash land. The No.1 Squadron pilots claimed four Messerschmitts and two Heinkel He 112s, while the Luftwaffe actually lost only one Bf 109.

On 13 May 1940, a further 32 Hurricanes arrived. All ten requested Hurricane squadrons were then operating from French soil and felt the full force of the Nazi offensive. The following day, Hurricanes suffered heavy losses: 27 being shot down, 22 by Messerschmitts with 15 pilots killed (another died some days later) including Squadron Leader J.B. Parnall, the first flight commander to die during the war, and the Australian ace Les Clisby. On the same day, No. 3 Squadron claimed 17 German aircraft shot down, Nos. 85 and 87 squadrons claimed four, and No. 607 nine. During the following three days (15–17 May), no fewer than 51 Hurricanes were lost, in combat or in accidents. By 17 May, the end of the first week of fighting, only three of the squadrons were near operational strength, but despite their heavy losses, the Hurricanes had managed to destroy nearly double the number of German aircraft. On 18 May 1940, air combat continued from dawn to dusk where Hurricanes pilots claimed 57 Germain aircraft and 20 probables (Luftwaffe records show 39 aircraft lost). The following day, Nos. 1 and 73 Squadrons claimed 11 German aircraft (three by "Cobber" Kain and three by Paul Richey). But in these two days, Hurricanes suffered heavier losses, with 68 Hurricanes shot down or forced to crash land due to combat damage. Fifteen pilots were killed, eight were taken prisoner and 11 injured. Two thirds of the Hurricanes had been shot down by Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Bf 110s.

[IMAGE In the afternoon of 20 May 1940, the Hurricane units based in Northern France were ordered to abandon their bases on the continent and return to Great Britain. On the same day, "Bull" Malahan requested the repatriation of the pilots serving in No. 1 Squadron. During the previous 10 days, the unit had been the most successful of the campaign; it had claimed 63 victories for the loss of five pilots: two killed, one taken prisoner and two hospitalized. No. 1 Squadron was the only one awarded ten DFCs and three DFMs during the Blitzkrieg. On the evening of 21 May, the only Hurricanes still operative were those of the AASF that had been moved to the bases around Troyes. During the 11 days of fighting in France and over Dunkirk on 10 - 21 May 1940, Hurricane pilots claimed 499 kills and 123 probables. Contemporary German records, examined postwar, attribute 299 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed and 65 seriously damaged by RAF fighters. When the last Hurricanes left France, on 21 June, of the 452 Hawker fighters engaged during the Blitzkrieg, only 66 came back to Great Britain with 178 abandoned at the airfields of Merville, Abbeville, Lille/Seclin and other bases.

During Operation Dynamo (the evacuation from Dunkirk of British, French and Belgian troops cut off by the German army during the Battle of Dunkirk), the Hawker Hurricanes operated from British bases. Between 26 May and 3 June 1940, the 14 Hurricane units involved were credited with 108 air victories. A total of 27 Hurricane pilots became aces during Operation Dynamo, led by Canadian Pilot Officer W. L. Willie McKnight (10 victories) and Pilot Officer Percival Stanley Turner (seven victories), who served in No. 242 Squadron, mostly formed with Canadian personnel. Losses were 22 pilots killed and three captured.

On 27 May 1940, in one of the final mass encounters of the Blitzkrieg, 13 Hurricanes from 501 Squadron intercepted 24 Heinkel He 111s escorted by 20 Bf 110s and during the ensuing battle, 11 Heinkels were claimed as "kills" and others damaged, with little damage to the Hurricanes.

"Over Dunkirk, the Luftwaffe suffered its first serious rebuff of the war. As Galland has noted, the nature and style of the air battles over the beaches should have provided a warning as to the inherent weaknesses of the Luftwaffe's force structure. Admittedly, the Germans fought at a disadvantage. Although positioned forward at captured airfields, the Bf 109 was at the outer limits of its range and possessed less flying time over Dunkirk than did the "Hurricanes" and "Spitfires" operating from southern England. German bombers were still located in western Germany and had even farther to fly. Thus, the Luftwaffe could not bring its full weight to bear so that when its bombers hammered those on the beaches or embarking, the RAF intervened in a significant fashion. German aircraft losses were high, and British fighter attacks often prevented German bombers from performing with full effectiveness. Both sides suffered heavy losses. During the nine days from May 26 through June 3, the RAF lost 177 aircraft destroyed or damaged; the Germans lost 240. For much of the Luftwaffe, Dunkirk came as a nasty shock. Fliegerkorps II reported in its war diary that it lost more aircraft on the 27th attacking the evacuation than it had lost in the previous ten days of the campaign."

On 7 June 1940, Edgar James "Cobber" Kain, the first RAF ace of the war, got word that he was to return to England for "rest leave" at an Operational Training Unit. On leaving his airfield, he put on an impromptu aerobatic display and was killed when his Hurricane crashed after completing a loop and attempting some low altitude "flick" rolls.

Initial engagements with the Luftwaffe had showed the Hurricane to be a tight-turning and steady platform but the Watts two-bladed propeller was clearly unsuitable. At least one pilot complained of how a Heinkel 111 was able to pull away from him in a chase, yet by this time the Heinkel was obsolescent. At the start of the war, the engine ran on standard 87 octane aviation spirit. From early 1940, increasing quantities of 100 octane fuel imported from the U.S. became available. In February 1940, Hurricanes with the Merlin II and III engines began to receive modifications to allow for an additional 6 psi (41 kPa) of supercharger boost for five minutes (although there are accounts of its use for 30 minutes continuously). The extra supercharger boost, which increased engine output by nearly 250 hp (190 kW), gave the Hurricane an approximate increase in speed of 25 mph (40 km/h) to 35 mph (56 km/h), under 15,000 ft (4,600 m) altitude and greatly increased the aircraft's climb rate. "Overboost" or "pulling the plug", a form of war emergency power as it was called in later Second World War aircraft, was an important wartime modification that allowed the Hurricane to be more competitive against the Bf 109E and to increase its margin of superiority over the Bf 110C, especially at low altitude. With the +12 lbf/in2 (83 kPa) "emergency boost", the Merlin III was able to generate 1,310 hp (977 kW) at 9,000 ft (2,700 m).

Flt Lt Ian Gleed of 87 Squadron wrote about the effect of using the extra boost on the Hurricane while chasing a Bf 109 at low altitude on 19 May 1940: “Damn! We're flat out as it is. Here goes with the tit. A jerk – boost's shot up to 12 pounds; speed's increased by 30 mph. I'm gaining ground – 700, 600, 500 yards. Give him a burst. No, hold your fire you fool! He hasn't seen you yet... ”

Gleed ran out of ammunition before he could shoot the 109 down although he left it heavily damaged and flying at about 50 ft (15.2 m).

[IMAGE Hurricanes equipped with Rotol constant-speed propellers were delivered to RAF squadrons in May 1940, with deliveries continuing throughout the Battle of Britain; the Rotol propeller transformed the Hurricane's performance from "disappointing" to one of "acceptable mediocrity" and modified aircraft were certainly much sought after among squadrons equipped with aircraft having the older de Havilland two-position propeller.

At the end of June 1940, following the fall of France, the majority of the RAF's 36 fighter squadrons were equipped with Hurricanes. The Battle of Britain officially lasted from 10 July until 31 October 1940, but the heaviest fighting took place between 8 August and 21 September. Both the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hurricane are renowned for their part in defending Britain against the Luftwaffe; generally, the Spitfire would intercept the German fighters, leaving Hurricanes to concentrate on the bombers, but despite the undoubted abilities of the "thoroughbred" Spitfire, it was the "workhorse" Hurricane that scored the higher number of RAF victories during this period, accounting for 55 percent of the 2,739 German losses, according to Fighter Command, compared with 42 per cent by Spitfires.

As a fighter, the Hurricane had some drawbacks. It was slower than both the Spitfire I and II and the Messerschmitt Bf 109E, and the thick wings compromised acceleration, but it could out-turn both of them. In spite of its performance deficiencies against the Bf 109, the Hurricane was still capable of destroying the German fighter, especially at lower altitudes. The standard tactic of the 109s was to attempt to climb higher than the RAF fighters and "bounce" them in a dive; the Hurricanes could evade such tactics by turning into the attack or going into a "corkscrew dive", which the 109s, with their lower rate of roll, found hard to counter. If a 109 was caught in a dogfight, the Hurricane was just as capable of out-turning the 109 as the Spitfire. In a stern chase, the 109 could easily evade the Hurricane. In September 1940, the more powerful Mk IIa series 1 Hurricanes started entering service, although only in small numbers. This version was capable of a maximum speed of 342 mph (550 km/h).

The Hurricane was a steady gun platform, and had demonstrated its ruggedness, as several were badly damaged, yet returned to base. But, whilst it was sturdy and stable, the Hurricane's construction made it dangerous in the event of the aircraft catching fire; the wood frames and fabric covering of the rear fuselage meant that fire could spread through the rear fuselage structure quite easily. In addition, the gravity fuel tank in the forward fuselage sat right in front of the instrument panel, without any form of protection for the pilot. Many Hurricane pilots were seriously burned as a consequence of a jet of flame which could burn through the instrument panel. This became of such concern to Hugh Dowding that he had Hawker retrofit the fuselage tanks of the Hurricanes with a fire-resistant material called Linatex. Some Hurricane pilots also felt that the fuel tanks in the wings, although they were protected with a layer of Linatex, were vulnerable from behind, and it was thought that these, not the fuselage tank, were the main fire risk.

From 10 July to 11 August 1940, for example, RAF fighters fired at 114 German bombers and shot down 80, a destruction ratio of 70%. Against the Bf 109, the RAF fighters attacked 70 and shot down 54 of these, a ratio of 77%. Part of the success of the British fighters was possibly due to the use of the de Wilde incendiary round.

As in the Spitfire, the Merlin engine suffered from negative-G cut-out, a problem not cured until the introduction of the Miss Shilling's orifice in early 1941.

The only Battle of Britain Victoria Cross, and the only one awarded to a member of Fighter Command during the war, was awarded to Flight Lieutenant Eric Nicolson of 249 Squadron as a result of an action on 16 August 1940 when his section of three Hurricanes was "bounced" from above by Bf 110 fighters. All three were hit simultaneously. Nicolson was badly wounded, and his Hurricane was damaged and engulfed in flames. While attempting to leave the cockpit, Nicolson noticed that one of the Bf 110s had overshot his aircraft. He returned to the cockpit, which by now was a blazing inferno, engaged the enemy, and may have shot the Bf 110 down.

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