Hurricane in Combat - Mk I - Mk II - Mk III - Mk IV - Mk V - Mk X-XII
The Hurricane Mk II first flew in June 1940. The only significant difference between this and the original Mk I was the use of the Merlin XX engine (providing 1,280 hp). This increased the top speed of the Hurricane to 342 mph at 22,000 feet. The Mk II Series 1 entered front line service in September 1940, in time to take part in the later stages of the battle of Britain, although not in large numbers compared to the older aircraft. The Hurricane Mk II appeared in more variants than any other model of the aircraft. By October 1941 the Mk II equipped 57 home squadrons, with a further 25 overseas squadrons having received it by the end of the year.
Mk IIA Series 1
It had been planned to replace the eight gun wings on the Hurricane with a new twelve gun version for the Mk IIA Series 1, but the Browning machine gun was not available in sufficient numbers, and so the series 1 retained the older wings. The fuselage had to be made seven inches longer to take the new engine.
Mk IIA Series 2
This version reached the front line in October 1940. It had the capability to take two 44 imperial gallon drop tanks, increasing its range. Compared to the series 1 it also had a slightly stronger fuselage and stronger wings. Like the series 1 it was armed with eight .303 machine guns.
Mk IIB Hurri-Bomber
The Mk IIB saw the twelve gun wings finally become standard, with two extra .303 Browning machine guns located further down the wing. Of more significance was the addition of two bomb racks, down the wing from the landing gear. At first these were used to carry one 250 lb bomb each, increased to 500 lbs by the end of 1941. From the autumn of 1941 the Mk IIB was used to bomb small targets in occupied Europe.
The Mk IIC was the most common Hurricane variant. 4,711 were built (or converted from IIAs and IIBs). Work on cannon-armed Hurricanes had originally been carried out as early as 1935, but at the time the weight of the cannon reduced performance too much, and the contract for a cannon armed aircraft went to the Westland Whirlwind. Work on the idea resumed in 1939, when a Mk I was converted to carry a Oerlikon 20mm cannon under each wing. Finally in 1940 a prototype was built with two 20mm Hispano-Suiza cannon inside each wing. This version entered production as the IIC in early 1941. By the end of the year eighteen overseas squadrons were equipped with the Mk IIC.
The Hurricane Mk IID was an anti-tank aircraft, armed with two 40mm Vickers ‘S’ guns mounted under the wings, each with 15 rounds. Two of the wing mounted machine guns were retained, and given tracer ammunition to help the pilot judge the range to target. This turned the Hurricane into a very accurate anti-tank weapon, but presented the designers with a serious problem. Un-armoured the Hurricane retained its good performance but was vulnerable to ground fire. With suitable armour, the Hurricane lost its manoeuvrability, making it more vulnerable to enemy aircraft, but much more effective in the ground attack role. One squadron of armoured Mk IIDs (No 184) served in Europe, but the type served with four squadrons overseas, proving itself a potential weapon in the desert from the summer of 1942. In later versions the big guns were often replaced by rocket projectiles.
The Mk IIE saw the introduction of a universal wing that allowed the same aircraft to use 40 mm guns, drop tanks, bombs or rocket projectiles depending on circumstances. This made the Mk IIE much more flexible than earlier versions. It had a short lifespan – the prototype flew on 23 March 1943, it entered production in April and by the summer had been replaced by the Mk IV (essentially the same aircraft but with a more powerful engine) after 270 had been built.
PR Mk II (Photo reconnaissance)
A small number of Mk IIs were converted to the reconnaissance role in the Middle East and Burma in 1942. This was done by removing the weapons from the wings to make room for extra fuel tanks, and fitting a variety of different types of cameras to the aircraft. The Hurricane never really had the range to make a great reconnaissance aircraft, but in many areas it was the only real choice. As more suitable aircraft became available, the PR Hurricanes were phased out.
Mk IIA series 1
322 mph at 13,500 feet, 342 mph at 22,000 feet,
max loaded weight
1,280 hp Merlin XX