Combat aircraft. You cannot win with him, you can only lose without him

Table of contents:

Combat aircraft. You cannot win with him, you can only lose without him
Combat aircraft. You cannot win with him, you can only lose without him
Combat aircraft. You cannot win with him, you can only lose without him
Combat aircraft. You cannot win with him, you can only lose without him

Lord Beaverbrook said that "We won the Battle of Britain with the Spitfires, but without the Hurricanes we would have lost."

Perhaps there is no need to argue here. A matter of taste. Personally, I absolutely do not like this more than controversial device, but … In spite of everything, this plane left such a mark in history that you cannot just brush it off. For there was no front of the Second World War, where the "Hurricane" was not marked.

So today we have a fighter that many "experts" consider the worst (or one of the worst fighters of the Second World War. As far as this is so - they will argue for another 50 years, no less. We will deal with the facts.)

And the facts show that first there was "Fury". Not the "Fury" that went into production in 1944, but the one in 1936. First. Created by Hawker and designer Sydney Camm. The plane was quite successful for its time, it flew well and was respected by the RAF pilots.


Clever Camm understood that Fury was good, but sooner or later he would have to change it to something more modern. And on the basis of this airplane he began to prepare the very "something" that could come in handy.


Meanwhile, the British Air Department was trying to figure out what kind of plane they still need. Throwing and tormenting British air commanders have already formed legends, as they were planned to meet unrealistic demands. The new aircraft should be supremely versatile: be both an interceptor and accompany bombers behind the front line, and fight with enemy fighters, and storm the enemy's equipment on occasion.

At the same time, there is no armor, the speed is about 400 km / h and machine-gun armament. And, most importantly, the plane had to be cheap. In general, something else is a task. The queue of those wishing to participate in the creation of such a monster did not happen as expected.

Camm decided, just in case, to create an airplane from the mastered parts of the Fury. In principle, even the project was called "Fury Monoplane". The fuselage was taken entirely, the only change was the closed cockpit. The tail, non-retractable landing gear in fairings, only the wing was redesigned. Well, the "Harrikane" wing with a very thick profile is already a classic. The engine was planned by a Rolls-Royce Goshawk.

The plane was built and in 1933 presented to the commission of the ministry and … rejected! British leaders preferred the tried and tested biplanes.

Camm, having received such a kick, did not give up and continued to work on the plane at the expense of the company. True, Hawker had enough money, and Camm was not only a designer, but also a member of the board of directors. So the work continued "at its own expense", but an interesting prospect arose: Rolls-Royce got a new PV.12 engine, which promised … to become "Merlin"! True, in 1934 no one knew about this yet.

The new aircraft was redesigned for PV.12 and received (walking so walking!) A new-fashioned retractable landing gear. Armament consisted of two Browning machine guns of British caliber 7, 69-mm and two British "Vickers" of the same caliber.


In 1935, the ministry slightly adjusted the armament, establishing that the aircraft should carry 8 machine guns.

The aircraft flew in October 1935, in February 1936 it underwent a test cycle at the Martlesham Heath air center, and on June 3, 1936, the Air Ministry ordered the Hawker a batch of 600 aircraft. This was a huge figure for that time.

Before the plane actually went into mass production, a number of changes had to be made with it. The Rolls-Royce engine was replaced with a Model G Merlin, and for that the entire engine compartment had to be rearranged. Redesign the upper part of the hood, change the air ducts, the cooling system, which did not work on water, but on a mixture based on ethylene glycol.

In July 1937, Soviet specialists saw the Hurricane at the Hendon exhibition. Divisional Commander Bazhanov, the then chief of the Air Force Research Institute, wrote in his report: "Hauker" Hurricane ". With the Merlin engine. Not shown in flight. Machine with a motor of 1065 hp. can give more than 500 km / h ". At that time, the speed was impressive.

Camm, encouraged by the success of the Hurricane, proposed to create on its basis a family of aircraft for various purposes, using many components and assemblies of the Hurricane: wing, empennage, landing gear.

Two aircraft were built and reached the testing stage: the Henley light bomber and the Hotspur fighter. The fighter was from a series of "turrets", that is, all its weapons were housed in one hydraulically driven turret.


A controversial design that remains a model.

And the Henley was produced in a small series, as a target towing vehicle.

At the end of 1937, the Hurricane went to the flight units, replacing the Fury and Tonlit biplanes there.


By the time the Second World War began, the combat units already had 18 Hurricane squadrons.

It so happened that it was this aircraft that had to take the first blow of that war, even if its beginning was very strange.

Overall, the aircraft was quite progressive. Retractable landing gear, sturdy fuselage welded from steel pipes, with a standard layout: in front of the engine with auxiliary units, behind the firewall is the gas tank, then another bulkhead and the cockpit. The pilot's seat was height-adjustable. The cockpit was covered by a transparent plexiglass canopy. The lantern was additionally armored with a bulletproof glass plate outside. Under the trailing edge of the visor there was a steel bent pipe that protected the pilot when nosing. A rear-view mirror was mounted on the top of the visor.

The pilot entered the cockpit through the sliding part of the canopy and the door on the starboard side. Behind the pilot was covered by an armored plate, behind which were a radio station, a battery, a first aid kit, oxygen tanks and two pipes for dropping flares.

The gasoline tanks were sealed, all three: one in the fuselage for 127 liters and two in the wings for 150 liters. The oil tank had a capacity of 47 liters.

The pneumatic system was powered by a compressor driven by an engine. It provided reloading and descent of machine guns, and also the braking system worked from it. The release and retraction of the landing gear and the control of the flaps were carried out by a hydraulic system.

The electrical system was made interestingly. The engine powered a generator, from which the lighting of the cockpit, instruments, navigation lights, and landing lights were powered. For work with the engine off, there was a separate battery, which was located behind the armored back. The radio station was powered by a separate set of dry batteries.

The armament consisted of eight Browning machine guns of 7, 69-mm caliber. The machine guns had a rate of fire of 1200 rds / min. They were located in the wings, four at a time, in the consoles just behind the landing gear. The food was tape, from boxes that were located to the left and right of the machine guns. Six machine guns had 338 rounds of ammunition, two - the farthest from the wing root - 324 rounds.


The original moment: the British did not bother loading cartridges into tapes, they loaded the tape with cartridges of the same type. As a result, three machine guns fired conventional bullets, three - incendiary and two - armor-piercing.

Machine guns were aimed so that the lines of fire converged 350-400 m from the aircraft, then the distance was reduced to 200-250 m. Reloading and fire control - pneumatic; the trigger was on the control handle.

By the beginning of the war, of the 600 ordered Hurricanes, 497 had been delivered. Eighteen Hurricane squadrons were fully operational, and three more mastered new technology.

The Hurricanes received their baptism of fire in France, where four squadrons of Hurricanes departed. "Spitfires", which by that time had also begun to be produced, were decided to be reserved for the air defense of Great Britain.

Since September 1939, the Hurricanes have been engaged in the "strange war," dropping leaflets and evading aerial combat. The first victory on the Hurricane was won by Peter Mould of 1st Squadron, who shot down Do.17 on October 30, 1939. By the end of the year, the Hurricane pilots had shot down about 20 German aircraft.

There were no problems with the plane. The main number of problems was associated with the operation of machine guns, however, it turned out that 95% of the failures in the operation of the weapon lay on the cartridges. Enterprising businessmen have shipped cartridges to combat units, issued more than 30 years ago.

On October 6, 1939, Hawker delivered the last aircraft of its first order of 600 aircraft. Immediately, the Air Department ordered another 900 aircraft, 300 from Hawker, and 600 ordered from Gloucester.

But losses also began to increase with the beginning of a normal air war. The command of the British Air Force did not compensate for the losses, which did not in the best way affect the combat effectiveness of the units. In general, by the end of the campaign in France, 13 squadrons fought on the Hurricanes.


The Hurricanes also made a great contribution in covering the evacuation of British troops, protecting Nantes, Saint-Nazaire and Brest, from where the evacuation was carried out. All the aircraft involved in these operations did not return to Britain due to lack of fuel. And the Germans finished them off at the airfields. Total losses in France amounted to 261 Hurricane. Of these, in air battles - about a third. The rest were destroyed on the ground.

Naturally, the Hurricanes also fought in Norway, where very dramatic events were also unfolding. Two Hurricane squadrons arrived in Norway on the Glories aircraft carrier, taking a direct part in the hostilities and even winning a number of victories.

But the Germans in Norway were stronger, and the pilots were ordered to destroy the planes and go home in ships. However, ground pilots, who had no experience in taking off and landing on ships, were able to land their planes on the Glories.

However, this attempt to save their planes proved fatal. Glories and two escort destroyers stumbled upon Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The Hurricanes on deck prevented the attack aircraft from taking off, and the Glories was sunk.


Together with the aircraft carriers, all the Hurricanes and their pilots went to the bottom, with the exception of two who were picked up by a merchant ship.

If we talk about normal air battles, it turned out that the Hurricane is significantly inferior to its main opponent Messerschmitt Bf.109E.

The German plane turned out to be faster in the entire range of altitudes, only about 4,500 meters the Hurricane approached the Messerschmitt. Plus, the Bf.109E easily left the British on a dive, and the German engine with direct fuel injection, unlike the Merlin with a float carburetor, did not fail at negative overloads.

The armament of the Bf 109E was also stronger. The 20-mm cannon made it possible to open fire from long distances and hit. The Hurricane's armor did not hold 7, 92-mm bullets, what to say about 20-mm shells …

The only place where the British fighter was better was in horizontal maneuver due to less wing loading. But the Germans had already firmly saddled the vertical by that time, and were in no hurry to fight on the horizontal. And there was no need.

In general, the Hurricane was much weaker than the Messerschmitt.

It seemed that it would be worth stopping the production of an actually outdated aircraft and focusing on the production of the Spitfire. However, it did not seem like a good idea to the Ministry of Aviation to stop producing the aircraft in favor of another during the war. Airplanes were already in short supply, so there was no talk of replacing the Hurricane.


There were only two options: to upgrade the fighter as much as possible and change the tactics of its use. The British were ready to use both, but did not have time: the "Battle of Britain" began.

In the early summer of 1940, the Germans began constant raids into the skies of southern England and attacked ships in the English Channel. They operated in groups of 40-50 bombers and the same number of fighters. The British were not immediately able to establish normal work on the detection of groups of enemy aircraft and interception. Therefore, the Germans were able to sink ships with a displacement of more than 50 thousand tons. British fighters shot down 186 enemy aircraft. At the same time, 46 Hurricanes and 32 Spitfires were lost.

However, the main air offensive began on August 8, 1940, when major air battles began in the skies over the Isle of Wight.

In addition to attacks on convoys, the Germans began to attack air defense radar stations. From the beginning, several radars were destroyed and damaged, then the situation began to improve.


The Luftwaffe began to strike with the forces of three air fleets, totaling up to 3 thousand aircraft. The British abandoned all the fighters that were available (about 720 units) and large-scale battles began, in which up to 200 aircraft participated at the same time.


It also turned out that the Hurricane was too weak for German bombers. True, Ju.87s fell regularly, there was order here, and the Bf.110 twin-engine fighter could also be wound horizontally and sit on its tail, the main thing was not to climb under the cannons in the nose. But armored and bristling with the barrels of the He.111 and Ju.88 and 7 machine guns, 69-mm bullets held decently, and they themselves could weigh from any angle.


So both sides suffered heavy losses. The factories ceased to cope with the release of "Hurricanes", the schools did not have time to prepare the replenishment of the outgoing pilots. The situation was not the most beautiful.

The peak of the fighting fell on the period from August 26 to September 6. The Germans decided to make hell. In those 12 days, the RAF lost 134 Hurricanes. 35 pilots were killed, 60 were hospitalized. The losses of the Luftwaffe were twice as high. One can argue for a long time that the Hurricane was about nothing in comparison with the German planes, but there was no time to argue. It was necessary to take off with something and shoot down the Heinkels and Junkers.


As a result, "Battle of Britain" became one of the largest battles in the air, both in terms of duration and in terms of losses. On both sides, 2,648 aircraft were destroyed. The Hurricanes accounted for 57% of the downed German aircraft, including 272 Messerschmitt Bf 109. It must be admitted that it was the Hurricane "who made the most significant contribution to the victory. And "Battle of Britain" was really the peak of the aircraft's career.

After the battles with the Luftwaffe moved into a quieter phase of the night raids, it became possible to think about upgrading the aircraft. As before, in the conditions of the ongoing war, there was no talk of discontinuing production of the Hurricane. But it was necessary to do something with the plane, since the Germans had a Bf.109F, which did not give any chance to the pilot on the Hurricane at all.

They decided to modernize in two directions: to strengthen the armament and install a more powerful engine.

And here was an interesting move: many RAF planes flew on Merlin. The Germans were by no means stupid, and by striking the Rolls-Royce factories they could easily leave both bombers and fighters without engines. Option: it was necessary to look for an alternative to "Merlin".

Variants were tested with a 24-cylinder H-shaped "Dagger" from Napier, a 14-cylinder "Hercules" air vent from "Bristol" and an engine of the latest development from Rolls-Royce, which in the future became "Griffin".

But in the end, the Hurricane II was equipped with a Merlin XX engine with a power of 1,185 hp. At the beginning of 1941, all Hurricanes were already produced with this engine, which gave a small, but increase in speed: 560 km / h versus 520-530 km / h for the cars of previous versions.

They also tried to strengthen the armament. The Hurricane's remarkable thick wing, which was criticized (rightly in terms of aerodynamics) by many, made it possible to shove a couple more machine guns into it near the end of each wing. The wing had to be strengthened a little more.

As a result, the Hurricane II's armament consisted of 12 Browning machine guns of 7, 69-mm caliber.

A controversial step. The armored (and not badly armored) German bombers did not care how many barrels were pounded at them by rifle-caliber bullets. It is said, however, that there were cases when the pilots of the Hurricanes sawed off planes from bombers … But it would be more appropriate to use such aircraft in Asia, where Japanese aircraft had enough three or four rifle-caliber bullets to fail.

There really, 12 barrels could give out such a cloud of lead, at least something would be horrible. And the Japanese planes were uncomfortable if not for the phenomenal agility.

Then, already in the middle of 1941, they decided to arm the Hurricane with cannons. Finally, it dawned on the British command that it was necessary to follow progress, if not in step.

In general, the experiment to install two 20-mm Oerlikon cannons in the wings was carried out back in 1938. All machine guns were removed and two cannons installed. It is difficult to say why the Air Ministry did not like the idea then, but they remembered this only when German shells began to explode the Hurricanes in the sky over British cities. But here it is really, better late than never.

And then they decided to put four guns on the Hurricane at once. Why waste time on trifles?


For the experiment, wings were taken from damaged aircraft, repaired, reinforced and installed cannons with magazine (drum) power. In general, both "Oerlikons" and licensed "Hispano" were installed, the plant for the production of which was built in Britain before the war. The food was eventually replaced with a ribbon one. It turned out that the tape is more profitable. Easier to charge and does not freeze at altitude.

And in the second half of 1941, a modification of the Hurricane IIC went into series.

In theory, the Hurricane continued to be considered a day fighter, but in practice it was used less and less in this role: the superiority of the Messerschmitts and the emerging Focke-Wulfs was simply overwhelming. The plane began to move to other sections of the air front of the Second World War.

And then it turned out that the Hurricane proved to be a very versatile aircraft that can be used depending on how the situation requires. They began to use it as a night fighter (fortunately, the Germans continued to raid Britain at night), a fighter-bomber (equipped with bomb locks or launchers for RS), attack aircraft, close-range reconnaissance aircraft and even a rescue aircraft.


The Hurricanes' nightlife was quite lively. The aircraft was used as a night fighter with minimal alterations, flaps for the exhaust pipes so as not to blind the pilot and paint in black. Usually there was a plane with a radar, usually a twin-engine bomber, which pointed the Hurricanes at the target. They fought like this for a long time, until the aircraft appeared equipped with their own radars.

There were nightly "intruders". Fighter-bombers that worked on German airfields and destroyed aircraft on them with bombs and cannons.

The Hurricane made a very good attack aircraft. In general, it is worth saying thank you to the thick wing, thanks to which the plane hardly accelerated on a dive. The Hurricane proved to be a very stable firing platform for ground targets. Plus, it was on the Hurricanes that UP unguided rockets first appeared, which became a very good help when attacking enemy vehicles.


Instead of missiles, it was possible to hang two bombs of 113 or 227 kg each and bomb from a dive. Of course, the sights for such bombing were very imperfect, but nevertheless, bombs could be dropped and even hit by them.

Used "Hurricanes" as smoke curtain aircraft. Many planes got into reconnaissance, especially meteorological exploration. The planes were completely disarmed for the sake of speed and range, and they carried out weather reconnaissance throughout the theater of operations.

"Hurricane" IIC became the most massive modification. It is the aircraft of this modification that is considered the last one manufactured at British factories out of 12,875 produced. He even had a proper name - "The Last of Many". It happened in August 1944. It was then that the Hurricanes were discontinued.

Separately, it should be said about the anti-tank version of the Hurricane. In 1941, attempts were made to install 40-mm anti-tank guns from "Vickers" or "Rolls-Royce" on the aircraft. The Vickers Class S cannon had 15 rounds, the Rolls-Royce BF cannon had 12 rounds. Vickers won.

To install the guns, all the machine guns were removed, except for two, with the help of which the zeroing was carried out. The machine guns were loaded with tracer bullets. All armor was also removed from the planes. Thus, the weight of the aircraft was lower than that of the Oerlikon version with four cannons.


For the first time, such attack aircraft were used in Africa in the summer of 1942. Practice has shown that German and Italian tanks are perfectly struck by 40-mm cannon shells, armored vehicles were out of the question, but the plane was very vulnerable to any fire from the ground. The armor was returned, and even strengthened, but the speed dropped, and the attack aircraft became an easy prey for enemy fighters. So in real conditions, anti-tank "Hurricanes" could only work with good cover for their fighters.

The IIC Hurricanes performed very well in Malta, where they hunted Italian boats and submarines. In general, the Mediterranean and North Africa became a kind of training ground for the Hurricanes, because the Italian aviation was on an equal footing with the British planes, and the Germans were still smaller.


In general, the Hurricanes fought in all theaters of operations. Western Europe, North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Indochina, Pacific Region. Naturally, the Eastern Front.

Much has been written about the Hurricanes that arrived in the SSR under the Lend-Lease program. There is no point in repeating it, the planes were very much needed at that time, therefore our pilots flew in Hurricanes as well.


Moreover, they flew efficiently and effectively. Yes, there were alterations for other coolants, and the replacement of weapons.


For the Eastern Front, the Hurricane was very poorly suited. Air battles were fought differently from Europe or Africa. But, I repeat, the Hurricanes allowed the pilots of the Red Army Air Force not to stay on the ground, but actually plugged the hole that was formed during the redeployment of Soviet aircraft factories to the east.

So in our history, the Hurricane is a peculiar phenomenon, but it was a weapon that made it possible to go into battle and carry out combat missions. And almost three thousand Hurricanes with red stars are a big page in history.

But beginning in 1942, the Spitfire and American fighters gradually pushed the Hurricanes into the secondary areas of the air war. And until the end of the war, the Hurricanes flew in Africa and Indochina.


Licensed "Hurricanes" were produced in Yugoslavia, Belgium and Canada. But if the Belgian and Yugoslav aircraft had a very short history, then the Canadian Hurricanes fought the entire war wing to wing with British colleagues.

Many authors still argue, calling the Hurricane one of the worst aircraft of the Second World War. And these disputes are unlikely to subside soon.

If you look at the Hurricane fighter - yes, it was still suitable for fighting bombers. For battles with enemy fighters (especially German), he was not very good. But nevertheless, almost three hundred of the same Messerschmitts were shot down by the pilots on the Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain.

Naval versions also fought. It's just that the British had nowhere to go, the plane was easy to manufacture and it (and only it) could be stamped in huge quantities.

British, Canadian and other "Hurricanes" were manufactured almost 17 thousand units. And almost until the very end of the war, this aircraft, mainly due to its versatility, was useful. And deservedly one of the most famous fighters in the world. And the number of the best or the worst - this is the third question.


LTH Hurricane Mk. II

Wingspan, m: 12, 19

Length, m: 9, 81

Height, m: 3, 99

Wing area, m2: 23, 92

Weight, kg

- empty aircraft: 2 566

- normal takeoff: 3 422

- maximum takeoff: 3 649

Engine: 1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin XX x 1260

Maximum speed, km / h: 529

Practical range, km: 1 480

Combat range, km: 740

Maximum rate of climb, m / min: 838

Practical ceiling, m: 11 125

Crew, people: 1


- 12 wing machine guns 7, 7 mm on early modifications or

- 4 cannons 20 mm Hispano or Oerlikon.

Popular by topic