The Hawker Typhoon was designed by Sydney Camm in order to fulfill Air Ministry specification F.18/37. This specifcation was issued with an eye to replacing the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, (just entering service) with a more advanced design utilising the next generation of highly powerful aero engines. The engine chosen for Hawker’s new fighter was the immensely complex Napier Sabre 24 cylinder liquid cooled engine.
The Typhoon, when it emerged resembled a big and heavy all metal Hurricane, with a large and characteristic chin radiator, the first prototype taking to the air during February 1940. Although the Typhoon represented a considerable advance in performance over the Hurricane and Spitfire, (the Typhoon was the first RAF fighter capable of speeds in excess of 400 mph), the new fighter was beset by problems. These included engine unreliability, carbon monoxide in the cockpit, severe vibration, structural failiures of the rear fuselage, and poor view for the pilot due to a heavilly framed canopy with a poorly designed car door style entrance. None the less deliveries of the troublesome new fighter began in September 1941 to 56 squadron at Duxford.
Upon entering service the Typhoon was found to be severely unreliable and unfit for operational service. Even worse, it was found to be unsuitable for its intended role as a high altitude inteceptor due to it’s poor climb and performance at altitude, (due to the thick wing inherited from the Hurricane). Infact the Typhoon’s future was in severe doubt, (the Spitfire lobby in fighter command wanted to cancel the whole project). There were two things in the Typhoons favour at this point which saved it. Firstly, when everything was working the Typhoon had an absolutely scintillating performance at low altitude, which could not be ignored. The second factor was the introduction by the Luftwaffe of the Focke Wulf FW190 which immediately established an ascendancy over the Spitfire V, so the Typhoon had to made to work, and quickly.
In time the engine reliablity issues were resolved, the horrible canopy of the earlier versions was replaced by an blown perspex clear view bubble hood, (the first fighter ever to be fitted with one), and the rear fuslage was strengthened so that the tail stayed on during combat. It was Sqn Leader Roland Beamont commanding 609 Squadron during 1942 who first demonstrated the Typhoons capabilities as a ground attack fighter in a series of offensive sorties over continental europe and it was recommended that the Typhoon should be used principally in this role.
The Typhoon was to equip 30 Squadrons, generally being used in wings of three or four squadrons. Much work had been done so that the Typhoon could carry an impressive variety of external stores, either two 1000lb bombs or up to sixteen three inch rocket projectiles and the Typhoon was to excell in a series of impressive set peice assaults on German airfields, radar sites, gun emplacements, road and rail targets leading up to and including D-Day. After D-Day Typhoons supported the allied advance from hastily prepared landing strips, their most famous achievment was the destruction of enemy armour using salvoes of rockets at falaise.
After the end of World War Two the Hawker Typhoon quickly disappeared from service, largely superseded by the Hawker Tempest, and today only one complete airframe exists at the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon.