Hurricane Mk I Specifications

Crew: Pilot only

Powerplant: One 1,030 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin III twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled engine

Span: 40 ft 0 in (12.19 m)

Length: 31 ft 4 in (9.55 m)

Max Speed: 328 mph (529 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,095 m)

Armament: Eight .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns mounted in wings

Photo Description: Hawker Hurricane Mark I, P3408 ‘VY-K’, of No. 85 Squadron RAF based at Church Fenton, Yorkshire, in flight, October 1940.

The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter that formed the backbone of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. It was the first monoplane fighter in RAF service capable of exceeding 300 mph (483 km/h) in level flight. The Hurricane was designed by Sydney Camm, Chief Designer at Hawker Aircraft Ltd. to meet British Air Ministry Specification F.36/34 (modified by F.5/34) for an eight-gun fighter aircraft built around the new Rolls-Royce PV-12 engine, later to become famous as the Merlin. The Hurricane was a monoplane derivative of the successful Hawker Fury biplane, combining modern features such as an enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriage with traditional construction techniques. This included braced steel tubing to form the primary fuselage structure, mechanical fasteners and a doped fabric external covering for much of the airframe. The aircraft was armed with eight wing-mounted .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns each with 333 rounds. The prototype, K5083, first flew on 6 November 1935 at Brooklands and reached a top speed of 315 mph (507 km/h). Following successful trials at Martlesham Heath, the Air Ministry placed an initial production order for 600 aircraft in June 1936. In December 1937, the Hurricane Mk I entered RAF service with No. 111 Squadron at RAF Northolt. Initially, the wings were fabric-covered but these were soon replaced by all-metal, stressed-skin wings, which greatly improved the performance of the aircraft. This was enhanced further by the increased availability of 100 octane fuel from the United States and the introduction of the hydraulically operated constant-speed Rotol propeller. At the start of the Battle of Britain, thirty-two RAF squadrons were equipped with the Hurricane.

Although largely overshadowed by the Supermarine Spitfire, the more numerous Hurricane bore the brunt of the fighting during the Battle, accounting for 656 enemy aircraft – around 55% credited to Fighter Command. The Hurricane was slower than the Spitfire and the Messerschmitt Bf 109 but it could out-turn both aircraft. It was also a more stable gun platform and capable of withstanding a tremendous amount of punishment. German cannon shells could pass right through the fabric covered fuselage without exploding. The relatively simple construction allowed damaged Hurricanes to be quickly repaired and returned to service. However, the wooden and fabric fuselage was also more susceptible to catching fire. During combat, the unprotected fuel tanks in the wings and forward fuselage could ignite if hit, sending a jet of flame into the cockpit and causing serious burn injuries to the pilot. This issue was of such concern to Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding that he had Hawker retrofit the tanks with a self-expanding rubber coating called Linatex.

Despite its vulnerabilities, the Hurricane proved to be an effective bomber destroyer. The preferred tactic of Fighter Command was to deploy the Hurricanes against the slower enemy bomber formations whilst the Spitfires attacked the escorting fighters. In September 1940, the Hurricane Mk IIA with the more powerful two-stage supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine started entering service, although only in small numbers. This version was capable of a maximum speed of 342 mph (550 km/h).