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The forgotten fighter plane which won the Battle of Britain

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wsimpso1

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The Hawker Hurricane was a fine intercepter in its own right. The story though...

The two airplanes were contemporaries. The RAF issued a specification for new pursuit aircraft to modernize their air combat capabilities in the face of a rearming Luftwaffe. Engine, propellor, armament, climb capabilities were all specified, and both Supermarine and Hawker entries met the specification, with the Spit being somewhat lighter and better performing than the Hurry. With war clouds on the horizon, the RAF made the strategic decision to source both airplanes. Significant in their worry was of being able to field enough airplanes before Hitler brought war.

The RAF knew that the Hurricane would be quicker to tool up, used mostly indigenous materials, used worker skill sets already present in their workforce, and so would make airplanes quickly and ramp up production sooner. Sure it used steel tube structure, a lot of wooden pieces, and a fair bit of fabric covering, but indigenous materials and a ready workforce was why it was quick to tool and get volumes of airplanes ready. The Spit would require more manpower, hiring and retraining to get a workforce ready, and was almost entirely built of strategic aluminum, which was in short supply. It would also require more tooling to go series production than the Hurry, so it would be slower to reach production and ramp up build rates.

Going for both airplanes made for maximizing the number of airplanes available. Having two Hurries for every Spit in 1940 gave the RAF only barely enough airplanes. If the Brits had put all resources in building Spitfires, the RAF would have been overwhelmed, and Germany would have invaded England. Imagine first having to win a fight over Iceland, then trying to win based from Iceland and sub-Saharan Africa. A big part of enough was having two thirds be the Hurries. They were equally capable of getting off, climbing to whatever altitudes were needed, and shooting down bombers and the fighters at the edges of their ranges. Reading contemporary writings of the RAF, the pilots thought they had capable tools, with volunteers from other countries coming to England to bring the fight too. Reading contemporary writings of the Luftwaffe, they were doing their duty and had great fear of both RAF fighters.

Other major influences were that the British had effective radar as well as that the Brits had already managed to obtain much in the way of operational intelligence on Luftwaffe missions. This allowed there to usually be appropriate numbers of RAF fighters where ever the Luftwaffe appeared, causing unsustainable attrition of German crews and equipment.

The German shift of focus from RAF bases and airplane factories to the major cities was no mystery and has been much written about. British bomb missions to Germany enraged Hitler and he ordered vengeance.
 
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blane.c

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The Hawker Hurricane was a fine intercepter in its own right. The story though...

The two airplanes were contemporaries. The RAF issued a specification for new pursuit aircraft to modernize their air combat capabilities in the face of a rearming Luftwaffe. Engine, propellor, armament, climb capabilities were all specified, and both Supermarine and Hawker entries met the specification, with the Spit being somewhat lighter and better performing than the Hurry. With war clouds on the horizon, the RAF made the strategic decision to source both airplanes. Significant in their worry was of being able to field enough airplanes before Hitler brought war.

The RAF knew that the Hurricane would be quicker to tool up, used mostly indigenous materials, used worker skill sets already present in their workforce, and so would make airplanes quickly and ramp up production sooner. Sure it used steel tube structure, a lot of wooden pieces, and a fair bit of fabric covering, but indigenous materials and a ready workforce was why it was quick to tool and get volumes of airplanes ready. The Spit would require more manpower, hiring and retraining to get a workforce ready, and was almost entirely built of strategic aluminum, which was in short supply. It would also require more tooling to go series production than the Hurry, so it would be slower to reach production and ramp up build rates.

Going for both airplanes made for maximizing the number of airplanes available. Having two Hurries for every Spit in 1940 gave the RAF only barely enough airplanes. If the Brits had put all resources in building Spitfires, the RAF would have been overwhelmed, and Germany would have invaded England. Imagine first having to win a fight over Iceland, then trying to win based from Iceland and sub-Saharan Africa. A big part of enough was having two thirds be the Hurries. They were equally capable of getting off, climbing to whatever altitudes were needed, and shooting down bombers and the fighters at the edges of their ranges. Reading contemporary writings of the RAF, the pilots thought they had capable tools, with volunteers from other countries coming to England to bring the fight too. Reading contemporary writings of the Luftwaffe, they were doing their duty and had great fear of both RAF fighters.

Other major influences were that the British had effective radar as well as that the Brits had already managed to obtain much in the way of operational intelligence on Luftwaffe missions. This allowed there to usually be appropriate numbers of RAF fighters where ever the Luftwaffe appeared, causing unsustainable attrition of German crews and equipment.

The German shift of focus from RAF bases and airplane factories to the major cities was no mystery and has been much written about. British bomb missions to Germany enraged Hitler and he ordered vengeance.
The thing that needs "spelled out" is the Hurricane "parts" were built all over Britain and there never was to my understanding just one place of manufacture, a right wing built in several hamlets and a left wing in several others and so forth so you couldn't knock out production with any single facility loss.
 

Pops

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Also the Hawker Hurricane's fuselage steel truss was bolted together instead of welded. Fast and easy to repair battle field damage.
One time I got to climb up on and inspect a Hurricane between movie shots. ( with permission of course ).
 

Speedboat100

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This is nearly forgotten, but definitely with the hands of the best aerial gunner very deadly.

Mk1_Defiant.jpg
 

TFF

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I don’t think it’s forgotten. Not by the aviation enthusiasts knowledge standard. It’s not getting the rest of the world media blitz, who’s average readers didn’t know what a Spitfire was before reading those stories. They will cycle through them all, in the end touting Brewster Buffalos. 100 years from now Aviation enthusiasts will know what a Hurricane is. The rest of the world will be waiting to be told something is good.
 

blane.c

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The Finns had Brewster Buffalo's and the Poles had Calvary, My hat is off to them fighting tanks on mounted horses and the Luftwaffe with Brewster's they had courage.
 

Wanttaja

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The Finns had Brewster Buffalo's and the Poles had Calvary, My hat is off to them fighting tanks on mounted horses and the Luftwaffe with Brewster's they had courage.
Uhhhh, the Finns were mostly fighting the Soviets during WWII. Germany actually aided Finland. But in late '44, Finland and Germany did start fighting over some mineral resources in northern Finland. Germany probably didn't have a lot of air support up there.

The Finns had early Buffalos, which apparently were a lot lighter and more maneuverable. After the initial batch, the US Navy demanded more armor and other modifications, which hurt the performance. The Finnish Buffalos' fighter opposition was I-16s and the biplane I-153s, not all that modern themselves. The Finns didn't have that modern of equipment, or much of it, either.

Ron Wanttaja
 

Pops

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The Finns had Brewster Buffalo's and the Poles had Calvary, My hat is off to them fighting tanks on mounted horses and the Luftwaffe with Brewster's they had courage.
I worked with a Pole that was in the Calvary. Captured and the Germans march them out in front of a large ditch with machine guns set up in front of them and ask if anyone wanted to fight for the Fuhrer to take one step forward. 100%. Said his sole purpose was to get captured. He did and fought in the English army.
 

Twodeaddogs

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The Finns also had Hurricanes, Morane 406s and Fiat G50s. They found that the Brewster had the best combination of firepower, toughness and adaptability to the cold climate. While all three were manouverable, the Hurri was regarded as a bit slow and sluggish, the Morane slow but agile and had a cannon and the Fiat was agile but had little else to redeem it. The Morane's cannon was highly regarded, when it functioned (it would tend to jam under G) and one pilot resorted to unofficially taking the fuses out of his 20mm cannon shells, with the connivance of his armourer,so that the shells would punch through into the interior of enemy aircraft, instead of bursting on the skin and not breaking anything vital. There was a shortage of 20mm AP,as all the ammuinition for the Moranes had to come from the Germans and supply was patchy. The Fiat had 50 calibre guns but they regarded the Russian 50 calibre as better and used everyone they could salvage from wrecks. They even took the cannon out of some of the Moranes and fitted the Russian 50 calibre in it's place. They were very clever in how they used their aircraft and their limited resources.......they also had the P-36, which they loved, as the best all-rounder until the arrival of the Me 109 G2.
 

BJC

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Note that Spits were used to engage the German fighter cover while the Hurricanes took on the German bombers. Both aircraft were effectively used by the RAF to collectively get the job done.

Someone should design and build a Part 103 scaled Hurricane.


BJC
 

flitzerpilot

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BJC, yes, that was the theory, but once the bomber force had been engaged and the covering 109s had joined in the melee, the plan would become obsolete very quickly.

A two-seat scaled Hurricane was built and flown in Italy about a decade ago. It was pretty convincing from some angles.
 

Riggerrob

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BJC, yes, that was the theory, but once the bomber force had been engaged and the covering 109s had joined in the melee, the plan would become obsolete very quickly.

A two-seat scaled Hurricane was built and flown in Italy about a decade ago. It was pretty convincing from some angles.
A British restoration group is re-building a stock Hurricane as a 2-seater ... all the better to sell expensive ride-alongs. Please note that I do not begrudge the price of ride-alongs considering how many thousands of dollars per hour its costs to keep those rare antique airframes airworthy.

No 2-seater Hurricanes were built in Britain during WW2, but a handful were converted in Russia (Murmansk or Archangel) and a few in Iran after the war.

These days, rare 2-seater conversions of P-51 Mustangs, Spitfires and Me-109 also carry history buffs on "historical experience flights."
 
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Riggerrob

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Hawker Hurricane was designed as a high altitude interceptor...so that is why the wing is very thick.
Dear sppedboat,
May I respectfully disagree?
Hurricanes had thick wings to generate plenty of lift to allow low landing speeds, to ease conversion for pilots who flew slow-landing biplanes last week. Thick wings were also an advantage when flying from rough, grass airfields.
 

Riggerrob

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Don't forget about the Fokker D.XXI which demonstrated a high kill ratio against the Soviets in the WinterWar. I have tremendous admiration for the Finns and their fight for survival against almost overwhelming odds.
Yes, Finns are a stubborn lot!
Barely 20 years earlier (1919) they gained independence after centuries of alternating Swedish and Russian rule. In 1919 and 1920 Finns fought a bloody civil war to determine whether the new nation would be ruled by king, parliament or communist dictatorship. Finns offered the throne to General Mannerheim, who was born into the Swedish-Finnish upper class of large land-owners, but Mannerheim declined in favour of a parliament.
OTOH Finnish communists were generally Finnish-speaking, small farmers from the northern provinces. They never got sufficient support from Russian Communists (... something about a civil war ravaging Russia, Ukraine, Poland, etc.) who lost and were slaughtered in large numbers. Many Finnish communists fled to Canada or the USA.
A decade later, Finnish-Canadian communists volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Since they were lumberjacks and miners, Finnish-Canadian volunteers - to the MacKenzie-Papineau Brigade - were prized for their ability to "live hard" and still fight the next day, while communist commissars complained about their "poor communist educations." Finnish-Canadian volunteers were not so much communist as they were anti-fascist.

The other side of the Winter War involved Stalin sending poorly-equipped Soviet soldiers in to invade a small neighbour. Stalin had recently purged the Soviet Army officer corps of hundreds of well-trained officers, leaving troops largely leader-less. Stalin also sent his army to invade - in early December - without winter coats!
The Winter War saw small groups of stubborn Finns ambushing and slaughtering much larger Soviet formations.
 
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