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Hawker Typhoon

The Typhoon was a British single-seat fighter aircraft, produced by Hawker Aircraft starting in 1941. Intended as a replacement for the Hawker Hurricane in the interceptor role it suffered from performance problems, and it instead evolved into one of World War II's most successful strike fighters.

Royal Canadian Air Force Hawker Typhoon.

Even before the new Hurricane was rolling off the production lines in March 1937, Sydney Camm had moved on to designing its future replacement as a private project. This was to be a massive plane designed around the equally massive Napier Sabre engine. The work proved useful when Hawker received specification F.18/37 in January 1938 from the Air Ministry, which asked for a fighter based around either the Napier Sabre or the Rolls-Royce Vulture engine. The engines were similar in that they were both 24 cylinder designs that were designed to deliver over 2,000hp, and different primarily in the arrangement of the cylinders - an H-block in the Sabre and an X-block in the Vulture.

The two resulting models became known as the 'R' and 'N' (based on the engine manufacturer) and were very similar – the Vulture powered R plane had a rounder nose profile and a ventral radiator, whereas the Sabre powered N had a flatter deck and a chin mounted radiator. The basic design of both continued the Hawker tradition of using 'older' construction techniques; the front fuselage was welded steel just like the Hurricane, and the design used a massive 40 foot wing that was much thicker than what you would find on designs like the Spitfire. Camm did give in to the times for much of the rest of the plane though, it was semi-monocoque from the cockpit rearward, flush riveted, and had wide set gear.

The R version first flew in October 1939, and the RAF was so impressed they ordered 1,000 as the Tornado. Various problems, notably compression effects which were previously unknown to Hawker, slowed the acceptance down. In addition the plane had rather disappointing climb performance, which meant it wouldn't be the Spitfire-replacing interceptor they were looking for. In February 1940 the first N model, now known as the Typhoon, was delivered. The RAF placed a large order for it as well, but moved production to Gloster Aircraft who otherwise had no designs to produce. Like the Tornado, the Typhoon was soon demonstrating its own problems, including vibrations from the engine causing the wing skinning to peel.

Eventually the RAF cancelled all work on both models in May 1940 so that Hawker could concentrate solely on the Hurricane during the Battle of Britain. This was the design's first brush with death. Some small scale work continued, changes to streamline the fuselage and supply a much thinner wing were looked at, as well as alternate engines in the form of large radials. In October pressure on the RAF eased and work was allowed to continue on the two original designs.

The first full production version Tornado was delivered in early 1941 and demonstrated the then unheard of speed of 425mph fully armed. This was also be the last Tornado. While production lines were being drawn up, the Vulture project was suddenly terminated by Rolls-Royce and the Tornado was left without an engine.

Luckilly, the Typhoon had 'good enough' performance to warrant production. The first production Mk.IA was delivered in May 1941 with twelve Browning .303 guns, but this was followed quickly with the Mk.IB with four Hispano 20mm cannons.

By this time the Spitfire V's were meeting Focke-Wulf Fw 190's in combat and getting rather beat up, so the Typhoon was rushed into squadron service to counter the new German plane. Sadly this proved to be a disaster. A structural weakness in the tail meant that it tended to break off when pulling out of dives, the Fw's favourite escape. Once again there was talk of killing the design.

It wasn't until 1943 that the various problems with the airframe and engine had finally started to be worked out of the system. But by this time the need for a pure fighter was no longer important and the design found itself being converted into a fighter-bomber – much like the Hurricane had before it. The powerful engine allowed the plane to carry a massive load of up to two 1,000lb bombs, although it would become much more famous with four 60lb rockets under each wing.

The Mk.IB, now widely known as the Tiffy, distinguished itself particularly in the Battle of Normandy. In one famous case Tiffys of the 2nd TAF decimated a large concentration of armor ahead of Avranches, disposing of no fewer than 137 tanks, and opening the way for the liberation of France and Belgium. For use in the tactical reconnaissance role, the Typhoon FR.IB was developed early in 1945. In this version the two inboard cannon were removed and three F.24 cameras were carried in their place. One Typhoon was also converted as a prototype night fighter, with A.I. equipment, special night-flying cockpit and other modifications. Production of the Typhoon, entirely by Gloster, was 3,330 machines.

Span 12.7 m; length 9.75 m; height 4.70 m; wing area 25.92 mē. Maximum speed 665 km/hr.