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Hawker Typhoon

Walter Colvin

Showlow, United States

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3d art render of Hawker Typhoon flying home above the English Channel. Sometime during WW2.
THis image is not historically accurate.

Made with Bryce 7 Pro.

The Hawker Typhoon was a British single-seat fighter-bomber, produced by Hawker Aircraft. While the Typhoon was designed to be a medium-high altitude interceptor, and a direct replacement for the Hawker Hurricane, several design problems were encountered, and the Typhoon never completely satisfied this requirement. Other external events in 1940 prolonged the develement of the Typhoon.

Nicknamed the Tiffy in RAF slang, the Typhoon’s service introduction in mid-1941 was also plagued with problems, and for several months the aircraft faced a doubtful future. However, in 1941 the Luftwaffe brought the formidable Focke-Wulf Fw 190 into service: the Typhoon was the only fighter in the RAF inventory capable of catching the Fw 190 at low altitudes and, as a result, secured a new role as a low-altitude interceptor. Through the support of pilots such as Roland Beamont the Typhoon also established itself in roles such as night-time intruder and a long-range fighter. From late 1942 the Typhoon was equipped with bombs; from late 1943 ground attack rockets were added to the Typhoon’s armoury. Using these two weapons, the Typhoon became one of the Second World War’s most successful ground-attack aircraft.

By 1943 the RAF needed a dedicated ground attack fighter more than a “pure” fighter, and the Typhoon was suited to the role. The powerful engine allowed the aircraft to carry a massive load of (eventually) up to two 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs, equal to the light bombers of only a few years earlier. The bomb-equipped aircraft were nicknamed “Bombphoons” and entered service with No. 181 Squadron, formed in September 1942.

From September 1943 Typhoons could also be armed with four “60 lb” RP-3 rockets under each wing. In October 1943, No. 181 Squadron made the first Typhoon rocket strikes. Although the rocket projectiles were inaccurate and took some considerable skill to aim properly and allow for the drop after firing, "the sheer firepower of just one Typhoon was equivalent to a destroyer’s broadside. Against the Wehrmacht’s tanks, the rockets needed to hit the thin-walled engine compartment or the tracks to have any chance of destroying or disabling the tank. Analysis of destroyed tanks after the Normandy battle showed a “hit-rate” for the air-fired rockets of only 4%. Inaccuracy notwithstanding, the rockets (backed by the Typhoon’s four 20 mm cannon) proved highly effective against many targets, such as unarmoured “soft-skinned” vehicles, road transport, trains and small sea craft. By the end of 1943, 18 rocket-equipped Typhoon squadrons formed the basis of the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF) ground attack arm in Europe. In theory the rocket rails and bomb-racks were interchangeable; in practice, to simplify ordnance supply-lines, some 2nd TAF Typhoon squadrons (such as 198 Squadron) used the rockets only, while other squadrons were armed exclusively with bombs.

By D-Day in June 1944, the RAF had 26 operational squadrons of Typhoon IBs. The aircraft proved itself to be the most effective RAF tactical strike aircraft, both on interdiction raids against communications and transport targets deep in North Western Europe prior to the invasion, and in direct support of the Allied ground forces after D-Day.

A system of close liaison with the ground troops was set up by the RAF and army: RAF radio operators in vehicles equipped with VHF R/T travelled with the troops, often close to the front line. In situations where air support was needed they were able to call up Typhoons operating in a “Cab Rank”, which then continuously attacked the targets marked for them (usually with smoke shells fired by mortar or artillery) until they were destroyed.

A German counter-attack, starting on 7 August, at Mortain, in the Falaise pocket, threatened Patton’s break-out from the beachhead. This was repulsed by 2nd TAF Typhoons, which destroyed or damaged some 81 vehicles. In the Vire area, where the British Army was under attack, Typhoons flew 294 sorties on one day, firing 2,088 rockets and dropping 80 tons (73 tonnes) of bombs. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, said of the Typhoons; "The chief credit in smashing the enemy’s spearhead, however, must go to the rocket-firing Typhoon aircraft of the Second Tactical Air Force. The result of the strafing was that the enemy attack was effectively brought to a halt, and a threat was turned into a great victory On 24 October 1944, 146 Typhoon Wing attacked a building in Dordrecht where senior members of the German 15th Army staff were meeting; 17 staff officers and 55 other officers were killed.

On 24 March 1945, over 400 Typhoons were sent on several missions each to suppress German anti-aircraft guns and Wehrmacht resistance to Operation Varsity, the Allied crossing of the Rhine river that involved two full divisions of 16,600 troops and 1,770 gliders sent across the river. On 3 May 1945, the Cap Arcona, the Thielbek and the Deutschland were sunk in four separate attacks by RAF Hawker Typhoon 1Bs of No. 83 Group RAF, 2nd Tactical Air Force: the first by 184 Squadron, second by 198 Squadron led by Wing Commander John Robert Baldwin, the third by 263 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Martin T.S. Rumbold and the fourth by 197 Squadron led by Squadron Leader K.J. Harding.

The top scoring Typhoon ace was Group Captain John Robert Baldwin (609 Squadron and Commanding Officer 198 Squadron, 146 (Typhoon) Wing and 123 (Typhoon) Wing), who claimed 15 aircraft shot down during 1942–44. Some 246 Axis aircraft were claimed by Typhoon pilots during the war.

Production of the Typhoon, almost entirely by Gloster, was 3,317 machines.

Hawker developed an improved version of the Typhoon, the Typhoon II but the differences between it and the Mk I were so great that it was effectively a different aircraft and was renamed the Tempest.

Once the war in Europe was over, the RAF was quick to remove the aircraft from front line squadrons; by October 1945 the Typhoon was no longer in use as an operational aircraft,3132 with many of the wartime Typhoon units (for example, 198 Squadron) either being disbanded or renumbered.

The performance limitations for speed were noted on the pilot’s notes, published by the Air Ministry. Indicated airspeed for diving was set at 525 mph (845 km/h). The Typhoon could, if needed, be flown at 300 mph (480 km/h) with the cockpit “hood” open. Flight with undercarriage and flaps down could be made without incident, at the respective speeds of 210 and 155 mph (340 and 249 km/h). When the aircraft was carrying bombs, the speed could not exceed 400 mph (for stability issues).

Notes for the management of the fuel system stated that indicated airspeeds (IAS) in excess of 380 mph (610 km/h) were not advisable when fitted with auxiliary drop tanks. Tanks were jettisoned at about 200 mph (320 km/h), but in an emergency, a release at 350 mph (560 km/h) was permitted. Tanks were to be ejected in straight and level flight only. General flying ability was positive. The maximum climbing rate was 185 mph (298 km/h) up to 16,000 ft (4,900 m) reducing speed by 3 mph (4.8 km/h) per 1,000 ft (300 m) above this mark. In stability terms, the aircraft was stable “directionally” and “laterally” but slightly unstable longitudinally, except at high speed, when it was just stable. Aileron control was light and effective up to maximum speed, but at very low speed response was sluggish, particularly when carrying ordnance. The elevator control was rather light and could not be used harshly. There was a tendency to “tighten up” in a looping aircraft. If “black out” conditions were accidentally induced in steep turns or aerobatics, the control column was to be pushed forward “firmly”.

Stalling speeds were quite low. The typical Typhoon trait, as with most aircraft at the time, was to drop a wing sharply with flaps either up or down. The stalling speeds varied. The various loads depended on external fittings. All-up weight plus two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs (12,155 lb in total) with flaps up could induce a stall at 90–100 mph. With flaps down, stall was initiated at 70–75 mph. Normal all-up weight (11,120 lb) would see stall at 80–90 and 65–70 mph respectively. With all ammunition and nearly all fuel expended (9,600 lb) stall occurred at 75–80 and 65–70 mph.

Artwork Comments

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