Hawker Hurricane


(56k b/w photo from "Hurricane in Action") Dispersal scene at Vaenga/Murmansk in the autumn of 1941 showing Hurricane Mk.IIB fighters of No. 151 Wing, RAF. The letter "G" in the aircraft code denoted No. 134 Squadron while No. 81 Squadron used the letter "F" (see color drawing below).

The first prototype of the Hawker Hurricane passed its maiden flight on November 6, 1935. The first RAF unit to receive this type was No. 111 Squadron at the end of 1937. At the beginning of the Second World War the Hurricane was numerically the most important fighter type of the Royal Air Force and this remained so until the Battle of Britain in summer of 1940, where Hurricanes shot down about 57% of the German aircraft lost during this campaign. Hurricanes served with British and Commonwealth units with distinction on all theaters of operations, in the later days of the war mainly as fighter-bombers and ground-attack machines, having been replaced in the fighter role by more capable types such as the Spitfire. There were also navalized versions which flew from shore bases, aircraft carriers or catapults installed on merchant ships (the so-called "CAM"-ships, a stopgap measure to combat German long-range reconnaissance/bombing planes like the Fw 200 Condor far outside the range of land-based fighters until enough carriers became available to do the job).

The principal production variants of the Hurricane included the Mark numbers I, IIA, IIB, IIC, IID, IIE, IV, X, XI, XII, XIIA (the last four models were produced by Canadian Car and Foundry (CCF) in Canada) and the navalized Sea Hurricane versions I, IA, IB, IIB, IIC and (from Canada) XIIA. They differed mainly in armament and power plant, the Canadian-built machines were for the most part equipped with Merlin engines built under licence by the US company Packard and an American Hamilton Standard propeller. But of course there also existed a great number of prototypes, experimental machines, sub-variants and field modifications. Between 1935 and September 1944 a total of 14,233 Hurricanes were built (1,451 of them in Canada). Licence production on a small scale also took place in Yugoslavia (less than 20 completed of 100 ordered) and Belgium (8 ordered, 2 completed). The Hurricane served with the armed forces of Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Iran, Romania, Turkey, France, India and the Soviet Union.

A total of 2,952 Hurricanes were sent to the Soviet Union. How many of them really reached their destination is uncertain, one source quotes 1,952 examples. Most of them came by sea via Murmansk. On this route losses were high (convoy PQ 16 transported 201 aircraft and lost 77 of them, PQ 17 even 210 out of 287 - but possibly not all of them were Hurricanes). Some others came via Iran. The majority of the machines coming with the North Cape convoys are believed to have been factory-fresh or upgraded aircraft, but the planes which arrived in Russia via Iran came from maintenance units in the Middle East or had been assembled from spare stocks in North West India (source: Profile Publications, No. 24). The first 25 Hurricanes (with tropical air filters because these planes were originally intended for use in North Africa) arrived in the Soviet Union in August 1941 in form of No. 151 Wing (Squadrons Nos. 81 and 134) of the RAF under the command of Wing Commodore Ramsbottom-Isherwood. This unit had been transported to Vaenga near Murmansk on board of the aircraft carrier HMS "Argus" to defend the first of the PQ convoys between Iceland and Murmansk on it's last leg. By November the British had trained enough Soviet personnel on the Hurricane that they could hand over the machines to the Russians (72 IAP) and leave the country again. During their stay in Russia the British lost only one pilot and achieved a number of kills (for example 3 Bf 109s and damaging of one Hs 126 on September 12, 1941). But they also faced problems with engine failures caused by bad fuel quality.

The Russians received for the most part Mark II models plus about 30 Mk.IVs (early 1944) and some Mk.Xs. The deliveries of Mk.IIs consisted of the sub-types Mk.IIA (few), Mk.IIB, Mk.IIC and a few Mk.IID which differed primarily in their armament and armor protection. The Mk.X was (with the exception of engine and propeller) similar to the Mk.IIB. Whereas the variants IIA, IIB, IIC and X were primarily fighters with a secondary function of fighter-bomber, the Mk.IID and Mk.IV were dedicated ground-attack machines.

(20k color drawing from "Aero" magazine, Vol. 99) Hurricane Mk.IIB of No. 81 Squadron, RAF at Vaenga in autumn 1941.

There is not much information available about the service career of the Hurricane with the Soviet troops. It seems that the most prominent user was the VVS-SF (known units here with Hurricanes on their strength are 72 and 78 IAP). Perhaps the most famous VVS-SF pilot who flew this type was Lt. Col. B.S.Safonov. The Hurricane was also used in 1942 on the Moscow front by 1 GvIAP. Especially in the Far North the pilots were not fully satisfied with the Hurricane, primarily because the engines tended to wear down rapidly and often could not be replaced because of the supply situation. This caused a number of losses in men, when the engines failed over the thinly populated polar regions or the arctic sea.


Hurricane variants in Soviet service
(Detailed data of other versions may be found in the references and links quoted below)

Mk.IIA, Mk.IIB, Mk.X

Mk.IIC

Mk.IID, Mk.IV

References Links... And more links!
  • "Red Stars in the Sky" by C.F.Geust, K.Keskinen, K.Niska and K.Stenman; Vol. 1;
  • "Sowjetische Jagdflugzeuge" ("Soviet Fighters") by W.Kopenhagen (in German);
  • "War Planes of the Second World War - Fighters Vol. 2" by W.Green;
  • Squadron/Signal Publications, Aircraft No.72 "Hurricane in Action" by J.Scutts;
  • Squadron/Signal Publications, Walk Around No.14 "Hurricane" by R.MacKay;
  • Profile Publications No.24 "Hawker Hurricane IIC" by F.K.Mason;
  • "Aero" magazine, Vols. 45 and 99 (in German)
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    Modified November 12, 1999
    by Thomas Heinz
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