Hawker Typhoon Mk Ib

This big fighter was best known as a ground attack aircraft with the 2nd Tactical Air Force, the scourge of German tanks, and trucks, tents, guys on motorcycles…

But the Typhoon started as a high altitude fighter. Let’s take a look.

The Typhoon’s early development is not too different from the American Thunderbolt’s, a plane it often partnered with on close support missions. Sydney Camm, the head designer for Hawker, had already designed the Hurricane. This had initially been referred to as the “monoplane Fury”, a standard RAF fighter of the ’30s; which is just to say the Hurricane was one of those types that bridged the gap between traditional and modern at the start of the War. The Typhoon was more clearly modern. Design was really started in 1938, and the type was to use a new engine in the 2000 horsepower range. Two engines were considered, a Rolls-Royce Vulture or a Napier Sabre. The configurations were slightly different, the Vulture was an X-block, the Sabre an H-Block. With the Vulture the new plane would be a Hawker Tornado, the Sabre was the Hawker Typhoon. Both planes were otherwise similar with a two speed supercharger and thick wing to house 12 .303 Brownings and plenty of fuel.

The tail reinforcement plates are visible here at the rear end of the tail stripe.

There were many development problems. The Air Ministry generally felt the Vulture was a more promising engine and ordered 500 Tornadoes, 250 Typhoons. The Vulture engine was first produced for the Avro Manchester bomber, and quickly proved to be troublesome. It was only reliable if derated to 1500 horsepower. By the end of 1941, Rolls-Royce was given permission to quit all work on the engine.
The Tornado/Typhoon was ruled a lower priority project during the crisis of 1940 (Battles of France and Britain). By the time it entered service in September 1941 the Tornado had been abandoned. This let Hawker and the RAF to focus their energies on getting the Typhoon fit for service. But a new crisis had come about, the Luftwaffe deployed the Fw 190 which could totally outfly the Spitfire V then in service. There was an attempt made to use the Typhoon over France, it was the only type fast enough; but the plane was not ready and losses were heavy.

Several problems and fixes were identified. First was excessive carbon-monoxide build up in the cockpit. This led to a revised exhaust, the port side door/pilot entry being closed off and sealed up, and an SOP requiring pilots to stay on their oxygen at all times. The tail also proved weak, external strengtheners were attached to the rear fuselage. The armament was inadequate, and was switched to four 20 mm cannon. This last change led to a new designation, Mk Ib would be all production Typhoons except the very earliest.
Perhaps the biggest problem involved the thick wing. Although this was clearly very strong and good for low speed handling, it limited the top speed and high speed handling. Maximum speed was only around 410 mph, which was a little disappointing with so much power. Sydney Camm started work on a new wing, laminar flow. This was developed as the Typhoon Mk II, but entered production as the Tempest.

In late 1942 the Typhoon had become a reliable aircraft, and it quickly found a role it excelled at. Although not the role it later became known for. The Luftwaffe had been using high speed fighter-bomber raids all across southeast England. This largely meant Fw 190 or Me 210, both fast raiders. The Typhoon was fast, powerful and plenty capable of providing low altitude air defense. For the next year that would be its role.
Late in 1943, during the run up to Operation Overlord, the Typhoon would be switched to primarily a ground attack fighter. It excelled at this role. But our example here is from the early period.

This particular aircraft is shown as the mount of Squadron Leader Roland Prosper Beamont. RP Beamont, known as “Bee”, started the War as a new Hurricane pilot. He was a part of the British Expeditionary Force to France at the very start. That winter, he fell ill and was sent to a hospital. From which he “escaped” when he learned he was being considered for shipment back home. He flew in the Battle of France, then in the Battle of Britain. He made ace with six kills. In October 1941, he had planned to fly a date to a big social event; the squadron Tiger Moth was not available so he borrowed a Hurricane for this “mission”. This led to his court martial in December, and a wedding some months later. He escaped the court martial with a serious reprimand. Later that month he was assigned to Hawker as a test pilot. Initially this meant factory test flights of new Hurricanes, but he was able to work his way over to the team working on the new Typhoon. From there he was posted back to operations with a new Typhoon squadron. In January 1943 he was given command of 609 Squadron. His aircraft is shown here shortly after taking command. It had previously been flown by Squadron Leader Paul Richey, the only change shown here is Beamont’s personal marking added to the starboard side, just forward of the cockpit. It would go through several changes in the couple of months he flew it; the serial number was restored to the aft fuselage, the yellow wing markings were extended to the full length of the wing and covered the cannon fairings, the spinner was repainted yellow, and black and white stripes were added under the wings to help make the Typhoon more easily identified.
During his time with 609 Squadron, Beaumont was credited with making the Typhoon effective in its low altitude air defense role. He also claimed one more kill during this time.
In May 1943 he was posted back to Hawker to help with flight testing the new Tempest. One year later he was put in charge of the first Tempest fighter wing. Shortly after the V1 threat emerged, and Beamont’s Wing was a big part of the air defense against them. Beamont himself claimed 32 V1 kills.
In October 1944, while based in The Netherlands, Beamont was shot down and crash landed to become a POW. He had 9 kills total at the time.
Post-War, RP Beamont continued his career as a test pilot. He was the first British pilot to fly a British aircraft past the speed of sound, and can make the same claim for Mach 2. He flew 167 different aircraft types for over 5100 hours. He never “broke an aircraft”, meaning he never bailed out or ejected from anything. Including when he was shot down! (he crash landed).
Roland Beamont passed away in November 2001.

RP Beamont in the cockpit of his Typhoon. This is an early Typhoon with the “car door” type entry. [photo via Wikipedia]
Early and later Typhoon differentiated by canopy.

This is the Hasegawa kit. It is maybe a little complicated by fuselage inserts allowing for either an early “car door” cockpit or the later “bubbletop”. But overall not too difficult. I think it builds into a nice example.

The Typhoon first found its place against high speed raiders like the FW 190.

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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11 Responses to Hawker Typhoon Mk Ib

  1. This, and especially the Tempest, were essentially a British “Thunderbolt”. The turbo supercharger necessitating a larger fuselage and intake. Their significant contributions in WW II sadly neglected; as well as stupid fictions Re the De Havilland Mosquito’s rather than the real roles via Hollywood.

    • atcDave says:

      The Tempest also got a new tail. Both were capable aircraft, Between them they were as capable as a Thunderbolt!

      Not sure what your complaint is with the Mosquito? It was a capable fast bomber (especially as a path finder), night fighter/intruder, and light strike aircraft. It was perhaps more fragile than others in its class, and difficult to ever build in the sort of quantity that would have met demand. But overall a worthy part of the Allied arsenal.

  2. jfwknifton says:

    An excellent and detailed account which I found very interesting. Thank you for what must have been a good deal of research.

  3. A fabulous and fascinating aircraft. It certainly looks the part even if early models were lacking.

  4. Ernie Davis says:

    It never really gained the fame of the Spitfire, one of the top fighter aircraft of WWII, nor the reputation of the Hawker as the fighter that carried the bulk of the load in the bleaker days of the Battle of Britain, probably mostly because of the teething problems, but no doubt it was a highly effective aircraft that filled a valuable role, just a little too late in the war to get the credit it deserved.

    • atcDave says:

      Its funny how the Typhoon just is not regarded at all as a fighter. Maybe the Tempest gets a little more respect? No doubt it was far more capable.

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