|Hawker Typhoon "Tiffy"|
Hell in the sky!
|“|| Rather a large aircraft shall we say, for a single-engine fighter. Terrific power. Quite something to control. I liked it from the point of view of speed and being a very stable gun platform. You could come in on a target at 400 mph and the thing was as steady as a rock.|
- Lieutenant Ken Trott
Intended to replace the Hurricane class in its fighter-bomber role, the Hawker Typhoon is faster and better armed but more expensive. As a compensation, its eight 127mm rockets, both armor piercing and explosive, can pierce any tank's armor on the first attack run ordered, giving its target no chance to escape. The high survival rate in air combat as well makes the fighter a formidable opponent to destroy. It could be said that crossing the Typhoon's path, either on the ground or in the air, is always a painful experience. The Typhoon has the same dogfighting capabilities as a ME109.
The design of the Typhoon started in 1938 when Hawker believed that they had developed an engine that was twice as powerful as a Merlin engine that powered the legendary Hawker Hurricane. Such an engine required a new aircraft. The main specifications for this new aircraft was for a top speed of over 400 mph. It was also to be armed with twelve .303 Browning machine guns.
The prototype Typhoon first flew in February 1940. It was initially dogged by an unreliable engine – the Sabre – but this problem was overcome and the first flight of the Typhoon Mk II took place on May 3rd, 1941. This plane was armed with four 20-mm cannon and a larger fin and rudder gave the aircraft greater stability. However, the first production Typhoons were armed with machine guns as a result of a shortage of cannon feed mechanisms. But 3,205 Typhoons would be built with cannon.
Initial tests showed that the Typhoon was 40 mph faster than a Mk VB Spitfire at 15,000 feet and faster still at lower altitudes – though it was less agile. No. 56 Squadron at Duxford was the first to receive the Typhoon for operational purposes in September 1941. However some serious problems with the aircraft meant that it did not fly ‘in anger’ until May 1942 and its introduction was not greeted with universal acclaim by pilots. The first Typhoon kill was on August 9th, 1942, when a Typhoon from 266 Squadron shot down a Ju-88 off the Norfolk coast. The Typhoon was also used at the ill-fated Dieppe landings.
The two most serious problems with the first operational Typhoons were that the Sabre engine, though capable of producing 400 mph, was unreliable and that carbon monoxide that was produced seeped into the cockpit. This second problem was solved by pilots wearing oxygen masks. However, the future of the Typhoon at an operational level was in jeopardy as it failed to perform well above 15,000 feet. The saving grace of the Typhoon was the recognition that at a low level the plane was very agile and fast. Whereas the Spitfire and Hurricane found it difficult to engage the legendary Fw 190’s at low level, the Typhoon did not. Out of the first 60 Typhoon kills, 40 were Fw 190’s. In recognition of this, frantic efforts were made to overcome the Typhoon’s engine problems, especially as low-level Luftwaffe attacks were common in 1942. However, a solution for the Sabre’s problems was not fully introduced until mid-1943 when reliability greatly improved thus increasing the operational value of the Typhoon.
In late 1942, the Typhoon was given a bomb-carrying capability. However, it is most famous for carrying rocker projectiles (RP’s). Initially a Typhoon was fitted with either bomb racks for its 250 or 500 lb bombs and these racks could be interchanged with RP racks. However, the procedure for changing was long and time wasting. As a result of this, the Typhoon became a platform for either bombs or RP’s – but not both. The Typhoon first carried RP’s in October 1943. Most commonly, eight high explosive or semi-armour piercing RP’s were used, four on each wing. Used for a low level attack, such weaponry against trains, tanks etc. could be devastating.