A troubled aircraft in its early days, the Hawker Typhoon became a critical part of the Allied air forces as World War II (1939-1945) progressed. Initially envisioned as mid- to high-altitude interceptor, early Typhoons suffered from a variety of performance issues that could not be rectified to allow it to achieve success in this role. Initially introduced as a high-speed, low-altitude interceptor in 1941, the following year the type began transitioning to ground-attack missions. Highly successful in this role, the Typhoon played a critical part in the Allied advance across Western Europe.
In early 1937, as his previous design, the Hawker Hurricane was entering production, Sydney Camm commenced work on its successor. The chief designer at Hawker Aircraft, Camm based his new fighter around the Napier Sabre engine which was capable of around 2,200 hp. A year later, his efforts found a demand when the Air Ministry issued Specification F.18/37 which called for a fighter designed around either the Sabre or the Rolls-Royce Vulture.
Concerned about the reliability of the new Sabre engine, Camm created two designs, the “N” and “R” which centered on the Napier and Rolls-Royce power plants respectively. The Napier-powered design later received the name Typhoon while the Rolls-Royce-powered aircraft was dubbed Tornado. Though the Tornado design flew first, its performance proved disappointing and the project was later cancelled.
To accommodate Napier Sabre, the Typhoon design featured a distinctive chin-mounted radiator. Camm’s initial design utilized unusually thick wings which created a stable gun platform and allowed for ample fuel capacity. In constructing the fuselage, Hawker employed a mix of techniques including duralumin and steel tubes forward and a flush-riveted, semi-monocoque structure aft.
The aircraft’s initial armament consisted of twelve .30 cal. machine guns (Typhoon IA) but was later switched to four, belt-fed 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon (Typhoon IB). Work on the new fighter continued after the beginning of World War II in September 1939. On February 24, 1940, the first Typhoon prototype took to skies with test pilot Philip Lucas at the controls.
Testing continued until May 9 when the prototype suffered an in-flight structural failure where the forward and rear fuselage met. Despite this, Lucas successfully landed the aircraft in a feat that later earned him the George Medal. Six days later, the Typhoon program suffered a setback when Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production, proclaimed that wartime production should focus on the Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley, Bristol Blenheim, and Vickers Wellington.
Due to the delays imposed by this decision, a second Typhoon prototype did not fly until May 3, 1941. In flight testing, the Typhoon failed to live up to Hawker’s expectations. Imagined as a mid- to high-altitude interceptor, its performance fell off quickly above 20,000 feet and Napier Sabre continued to prove unreliable.
- Crew: One
- Length: 31 ft 11.5 in (9.73 m)
- Wingspan: 41 ft 7 in (12.67 m)
- Height: 15 ft 4 in [nb 22] (4.66 m)
- Wing area: 279 ft² (29.6 m²)
- Empty weight: 8,840 lb (4,010 kg)
- Loaded weight: 11,400 lb (5,170 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 13,250 lb (6,010 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Napier Sabre IIA, IIB or IIC liquid-cooled H-24 piston engine, 2,180, 2,200 or 2,260 hp (1,626, 1,640 or 1,685 kW)
- Propellers: 3 or 4-blade; de Havilland or Rotol propeller
- Maximum speed: 412 mph (663 km/h) at 19,000 ft (5,800 m) with Sabre IIB & 4-bladed propeller
- Stall speed: 88 mph (142 km/h) IAS with flaps up
- Range: 510 mi (821 km)
- Service ceiling: 35,200 ft (10,729 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,740 ft/min (13.59 m/s
- Wing loading: 40.9 lb/ft² (174.8 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.20 hp/lb (0.33 kW/kg)
- Guns: 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon
- Rockets: 8 × RP-3 unguided air-to-ground rockets.
- Bombs: 2 × 500 lb (227 kg) or 2 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs