The Hawker Typhoon, which was Sir Sydney Camm’s successor to the Hurricane was a disappointment in its intended role as a high altitude interceptor. This was due to the very thick wing, (the original intention had been to fit the Typhoon with a six cannon armament). In 1940 the Hawker design staff schemed a much thinner eliptical wing similar to that of the Spitfire and in 1941 Camm proposed a new fighter based on the Typhoon using the new wing and a more highly developed version of the Napier Sabre engine. An order for four prototypes, (initially called Typhoon II’s) was ordered. Camm also proposed replacing the chin radiator with more aerodynamic wing root mounted radiators. The new fighter was finally given the name Tempest.
Delays with the “big” Sabre IV forced Camm to use the standard Sabre II in the first prototype, (essentially a Typhoon using the new wing), which first flew on September 2nd 1942. A more fully developed prototype using wing root radiators and the Sabre IV achieved a top speed of 472 mph in 1943. Unfortunately the Sabre IV never achieved its 50 hr bench run standard and the production version of the Tempest chosen was the Mark V which had the standard Sabre II and a bulky chin radiator like the Typhoon. Incidentally the powerplants considered for the Tempest were mk1: Sabre IV, mkII, Bristol Centaurus, mkIII and IV were to be powered by the Rolls Royce Griffon.
The first Tempest squadron was 486 (New Zealand) Squadron, at Beaulieu in Hampshire in January 1944, but so heavilly was 486 squadron committed to attacks on German V1 sites with their rocket firing Typhoons that the Tempests were handed over to No 3 squadron at Manston. The first Tempest wing, No 150 commanded by Wing Commander Roland Beaumont DSO DFC, was formed in March 1944. Roland Beaumont had returned to operational flying after a period of test flying the Typhoon and Tempest for Hawker’s. The Tempest was soon to prove itself to be the most superlative allied piston engined fighter of the second world war, on a par with the North American Mustang at high altitudes but far superior at medium and low levels.
It was the fate of the Tempest, because of it’s superb performance, that it was reserved for home defence for much of 1944 to combat the V1 offensive. It was the Hawker Tempest that destroyed more V1’s than any other weapons system, claiming 638 V1’s out of the 1771 claimed in total by the RAF. By the end of 1944 seven squadrons were equipped with Tempests and were carrying out operations deep into Germany, (unlike the Spitfire, the Tempest had a very useful range) from their new bases in the Netherlands with the 2nd Tactical Air Force. With their speed of about 450 mph and four cannon armament they began to take a steady toll of German aircraft, including the Me262, twenty of which were claimed by Tempest pilots by the wars end.