Sydney Camm, an aircraft designer working for the Hawker Company, began work on the Hawker Hurricane in 1934. I, Camm was inspired by the announcement that the Air Ministry was looking for a new fighter plane.
The Hawker Hurricane prototype made its first flight on 6th November, 1935. It reached a maximum speed of more than 315 mph (506 km/h) at 16,500 ft (5,000 m). It was therefore the first fighter plane to break the 300 mph barrier. Like the Supermarine Spitfire, the aircraft used the 1,030 hp Rolls Royce Merlin II and carried 8 machine-guns.
On 3rd June, the Royal Air Force ordered 600 of these aircraft. The first of these came off the production line in October 1937. It was all-metal in structure and except for the metal nose was covered in fabric.
On the outbreak of the Second World War there were 497 Hurricanes in service. The majority of these were sent to France during Germany's Western Offensive and large numbers were destroyed by the Luftwaffe .
By August 1940, a total of 2309 Hawker Hurricanes had been delivered to the Royal Air Force and they formed the backbone of Fighter Command. Statistics show that Hurricanes destroyed more German aircraft than all other British types combined during the early stages of the war.
At the beginning of the Battle of Britain the RAF had 32 squadrons of Hurricanes and 19 squadrons equipped with Supermarine Spitfires. It was decided to use the Hurricanes against the massive bomber formations of the Luftwaffe whereas the Spitfires were mainly employed against German fighters.
This Luftwaffe outnumbered the RAF by four to one. However, the British had the advantage of being closer to their airfields. German fighters could only stay over England for about half an hour before flying back to their home bases. The RAF also had the benefits of an effective early warning radar system and the intelligence information provided by Ultra.
Throughout the war Sydney Camm made improvements to the Hurricane. This included the Hawker Hurricane Mk. II in 1940 which had the more powerful 1,280 hp Rolls Royce Merlin XX and the Hawker Hurricane Mk D which carried two 20 mm cannons which were extremely effective against tanks and were used chiefly in the Desert War.
A total of 2,952 Hurricanes was also delivered to the Soviet Union. Total production in Britain was 12,708 and a further 1,451 were manufactured in Canada.