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This page is dedicated to the Hawker Typhoon and Tempest

The Typhoon's early life was almost total disaster. Though the concept of so big and powerful a combat aircraft was bold and significant, expressed in Specification F.18/37, the Griffin and Centaurus engines were ignored and reliance was placed on the complex and untried Vulture and Sabre. The former powered the R-type fighter, later named Tornado, which ground to a halt with abandonment of the Vulture in early 1941. The N-type (Napier), named Typhoon, was held back six months by the desperate need for Hurricanes. Eventually, after most painful development, production began at Gloster Aircraft in 1941 and Nos. 56 and 609 Squadrons at Duxford began to re-equip with the big bluff-looking machine in September of that year. But the Sabre was unreliable, rate of climb and performance at height were disappointing and the rear fuselage persisted in coming apart. There was much talk of scrapping the programme, but, fortunately for the Allies, the snags were gradually overcome.
In November 1942 the Typhoon suddenly sprang to favour by demonstrating it could catch and destroy the fastest fighter-bombers in the Luftwaffe which were making low-level hit-and-run raids. In 1943 "Tiffy" squadrons shot up and blasted everything that moved in northern France and the Low Countries, and in the summer of 1944, the hundreds of Typhoons - by now thoroughly proven and capable of round-the-clock operation from rough forward strips - formed the backbone of 2nd Tactical Air Force attack strength, sending millions of cannon shells, rockets and heavy bombs into German ground forces and in a single day knocking out 175 tanks in the Falaise Gap. Gloster built 3,315 of the 3,330 Typhoons, the final 3,000-odd having a clear bubble hood instead of a heavy framed cockpit with a car-type door on each side.
The Typhoon prototype

Battle Honours and Operational History


The Dieppe operations in August 1942 was the first official combat use of the RAF Typhoon, they bounced a formation of FW 190s south of Le Treport, diving out of the sun and damaging three of the German fighters, but two of the Typhoons did not pull out of their dive owing to structural failures in their tail assemblies.

In November 1942 609 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Roland Beamont, was moved to Manston in an attempt to combat the near daily hit-and-run raids which were being made by Fw 190s and could rarely be intercepted by Spitfires. The Typhoon enjoyed almost immediate success. The first two Messerschmitt Me 210 fighter bombers to be destroyed over the British Isles fell to the guns of Typhoons, and during the last comparatively ambitious daylight raid by the Luftwaffe on London, on 20 January, 1943, five Fw 190s were destroyed by Typhoons.

The Typhoon IB, affectionately known as the "Tiffy", distinguished itself particularly in the Battle of Normandy, where it decimated a large concentration of armour ahead of Avranches, disposing of 137 tanks, and opening the way for the liberation of France and Belgium.

The only complete Typhoon in the world is at the RAF Museum Hendon (UK): Typhoon Mk I B MN 235/FE491

A Hawker Typhoon IB with underwing bomb load and early cockpit hood.

On November 17, 1942, Wing-Commander Beaumont had flown a Typhoon on its first night intrusion over Occupied France and, subsequently, the fighter was employed increasingly for offensive duties, strafing enemy airfields, ships and railway transport. The success of the Typhoon in the ground-attack role led to trials with two 250-lb. or two 500-lb. bombs which were carried on underwing racks. This load was later increased to two l,000-lb. bombs, but the Typhoon was not to find its true element until it was adapted to carry airborne rocket projectiles--four under each wing. By D-Day, in June 1944, the R.A.F. had twenty-six operational squadrons of Typhoon IBs. Without its underwing load the Typhoon IB weighed 11,300 Ib.; and with two 500-lb. bombs and the necessary racks, 12,400 Ib. Maximum speed was 398 m.p.h. at 8,500 feet and 417 m.p.h. at 20,500 feet, and an altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 7.6 minutes. Between the prototype and production stages several design changes had been made. These included the re-design of the fin and rudder, the redisposition of the wheel fairings and the introduction of a clear-view fairing behind the cockpit. On the first few Typhoon IAs the solid rear fairing was retained; later a transparent fairing was fitted, but this was abandoned in favour of the first sliding " bubble " hood to be used by an operational fighter.

A late production Typhoon IB with "bubble" type canopy

Work had been going on in the Hawker design office since 1940 on the development of a new thin wing section. It had already been established that the N.A.C.A.22-series wing section employed by the Typhoon was entirely satisfactory at speeds in the vicinity of 400 m.p.h (instrumenty pg 15). but encountered compressibility effects at higher speeds. In dives approaching 500 m.p.h. a very sudden and sharp increase in drag was experienced, accompanied by a change in the aerodynamic characteristics of the fighter, which affected the pitching moment and rendered the machine nose heavy. No actual design work on the new wing was begun until September 1941, and the wing section eventually adopted for development had its point of maximum thickness at 37.5% of the chord. The thickness/cord ratio was 14.5% at the root and 10% at the tip, giving a wing five inches thinner at the root than that of the Typhoon. This thin wing could not contain a comparable quantity of fuel to that housed by the Typhoon's wing, so a large fuselage tank had to be adopted. This necessitated the introduction of an additional fuselage bay, increasing the overall length by twenty-one inches forward of the c.g. This added length found its inevitable compensation after initial prototype trials in a larger fin and tail plane. The wing area was also increased, and an elliptical plan form was adopted, presenting a chord sufficient to permit the four 20-mm. Hispano cannon to be almost completely buried in the wing. All these modifications added up to a radically changed Typhoon, but it was as the Typhoon II that two prototypes were ordered in November 1941. However, in the middle of the following year the name Tempest was adopted. Alternative installations of the Sabre engine were designed for these prototypes; the first (HM595) had a Sabre II and a front radiator similar to that of the standard Typhoon, while the second (HM599) had a Sabre IV engine and wing leading-edge radiators.

Piloted by Philip Lucas, the first prototype Tempest was flown on September 2, 1942, but prior to this, in February 1942, a production order had been placed and the first production machine flew in June 1943 with Bill Humble at the controls. During flight trials the first Tempest prototype had exceeded 477 m.p.h. in level flight, and the first production model was essentially similar to the first prototype with the chin-type radiator. This was designated Tempest V, and the initial production batch, the Series I, had Mk. II cannon which projected slightly ahead of the wing leading edge, but the Series II had the short-barrelled Mk. V cannon (pg 2aramanents) which did not project, and also featured a detachable rear fuselage, small-diameter wheels and a rudder spring tab. Powered by a 2,420 h.p. Sabre IIB engine, the Tempest V attained a maximum speed of 435 m.p.h. at 17,000 feet. The 820-mile range of the Tempest V in clean condition was an appreciable improvement over that of the Typhoon, and was due not only to the small additional quantity of fuel carried but to the aerodynamic refinement of the later machine which permitted a higher cruising speed for the same power. 

The Tempest V was in the hands of operational squadrons by April 1944, where it profitably carried on in the low-level attack tradition of the Typhoon, which it was replacing as Tempest production increased. However, in June 1944, the first German V-1 pulsejet flying bombs were launched against London, and the Tempest's excellent low-altitude performance made it one of the preferred weapons for dealing with the fast-flying little missiles. Tempest squadrons racked up a considerable percentage of the total RAF kills of the flying bombs.

Hawker Tempest V

In the meantime, the Tempest continued strikes in support of Western armies advancing across Europe, and engaged Luftwaffe aircraft when they could be found. Tempests circling Luftwaffe airfields also scored a number of kills on new German jets such as the Messerschmitt Me-262, which was helpless on landing approach as its jet engines could not throttle up quickly.

Hawker Tempest V

 While Hawker was working toward the introduction of the Tempest V, Sydney Camm and his crew were also revisiting the Centaurus radial engine, incorporating it into two other Tempest prototypes.

The first Centaurus Tempest, or "Tempest Mark II", flew on 28 June 1943 with a Centaurus IV, and was followed presently by the second. The radial engine installation owed much to examinations of a captured Focke-Wulf FW-190, and was unprecedented clean and effective. There were problems with vibration, but they were fixed by addition of six rubber shock mounts.

Hawker Tempest II


The Centaurus was generally regarded as superior to the Sabre, particularly in terms of reliability, and the Centaurus engine and Tempest airframe proved an excellent match. The combination looked so promising that a contract for 500 of the type was placed as far back as September 1942, but Gloster was overloaded with production of the Typhoon and development of the Meteor, and there was no way the company could handle the additional load.

Tempest Mark II production ended up in the hands of Bristol, and the switch delayed production even more. The first Tempest II was rolled off the line on 4 October 1944, but then production was shifted back to Hawker.

Hawker Tempest II

A total of 452 Tempest IIs were built, including 136 basic Mark IIs and 316 "Fighter Bomber Mark IIs (FB.IIs)". They were built mostly by Hawker and generally with Centaurus V engines, and of that number 300 were completed after the war. The Tempest II, despite its slightly improved performance and better reliability, never saw combat. Tempest IIs produced during the war were intended for combat against the Japanese, but the Pacific War ended before they could be deployed.

89 Tempest FB.IIs were passed on from the RAF to the Indian Air Force in 1947, while another 24 were passed on to the Pakistani Air Force.

* Various engineering refinements that had gone into the Tempest II were incorporated into the last Tempest variant, the "Tempest VI", which was fitted with a Sabre V engine with 1,745 kW (2,340 HP). Hundreds of Tempest VIs were ordered, though only 142 were built. The last piston engine fighter in RAF service was a Tempest VI, which was in use as a target tug when it was retired in 1953.

Hawker Typhoon Cockpit



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