Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IB

The Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IB was the first version of the aircraft to be designed for use of aircraft carriers, and was equipped with an arrester hook as well as the catapult spools and naval radio of the Mk IA. The first Hurricane to be equipped with an arrestor hook was delivered to Farnborough in March 1941 and underwent trials while work focused on the catapult-launched Mk IA. A conversion order was then placed for around 300 Mk IBs, with most of the work to be carried out by General Aircraft Ltd. Most of these aircraft used the Merlin III engine and the eight-gun wing, and were sometimes known as the Hooked Hurricane. In November 1941 twenty-five Hurricane IIA Series 2 aircraft were converted to the same standard, keeping the Mk IB designation, but also being known as the Hooked Hurricane II. 

The Sea Hurricane Mk IB was the first high performance aircraft to enter Fleet Air Arm service in significant numbers (the Grumman Martlet also appeared at about the same time, but in small numbers). The Sea Hurricane did have one big flaw as a carrier aircraft - it didn't have folding wings, and so on smaller carriers had to be stored on deck. This reduced the number of aircraft that could be carried, and also shortened the operational life of each aircraft as expose to sea water damaged the airframe. Despite these flaws the Sea Hurricane Mk IB was used in large numbers, equipping 32 Fleet Air Arm squadrons.

The Mk IB entered service in October 1941, operating from converted merchant ships - the MAC-ships. These ships had a small through-flight deck, and could carry a small number of fighters and anti-submarine aircraft - often the Sea Hurricane and Fairey Swordfish.

The first Arctic convoy to be accompanied by an escort carrier was PQ18, the first convoy after the disastrous PQ17. PQ18 was escorted by the US-built escort carrier HMS Avenger, which carried three Swordfish from 825 Squadron and twelve Sea Hurricanes from 802 and 883 Squadrons - six assembled on deck and six dismantled and stored below deck as replacements. The convoy also included the CAM-ship Empire Morn and her Sea Hurricane Mk IA, a cruiser, two destroyers, two anti-aircraft vessels, four corvettes, two anti-submarine trawlers, three minesweepers and two submarines. On the outwards journey the Sea Hurricanes shot down five enemy aircraft and damaged seventeen, in return for four losses. These were replaced with five aircraft from below decks, before the carrier transferred to the home-bound convoy QP14, which contained the survivors from PQ17.

The Sea Hurricane Mk IB and Mk IC played an important role in the defence of the August 1942 Malta convoy (Operational Pedestal). The convoy was escorted by four aircraft carriers with Indomitable (800 Squadron), Eagle (801 Squadron) and Victorious (885 Squadron) carrying 43 Sea Hurricanes between them. There were also sixteen Fairey Fulmars and nine Grumman Mantlets. The convoy began badly with the loss of HMS Eagle, along with sixteen of her Hurricanes - the only four to escape were on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) duty over the convoy. Between 10-15 August the convoy came under attack by up to 500 German and Italian aircraft. 39 enemy aircraft were claimed shot down at a cost of eight naval fighters lost. Only five of the convoy's fourteen merchant ships reached Malta, but the supplies they carried played a crucial role in allowing the island to withstand the Axis siege. The fighting around the Pedestal convoy did demonstrate one increasing problem for the Sea Hurricane - although it had been a high performance fighter when introduced, it was already being outpaced by the Junkers Ju 88, and the Fleet Air Arm would soon need a faster interceptor.

Sea Hurricane IB Carrier Service








Pegasus, Eagle, Argus, Furious, Dasher








Chaser, Nairana


Furious, Indomitable







Escort Carrier fighter
Engine: Rolls Royce Merlin III
Power: 1,030hp
Crew: 1
Wing span: 40ft
Length: 31ft 4in
Height: 12ft 11.5in
Normal Loaded Weight: 7,410lb
Max Speed: 317mph at 15,000ft
Cruising Speed:
Time to 20,000ft: 11 minutes
Service Ceiling: 34,200ft
Range: 505 miles
Armament: Eight 0.303in Browning machine guns
Bomb-load: none
Naval equipment: Naval radio set, A-frame arrestor hook, catapult spools

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 June 2010), Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IB , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_hawker_sea_hurricane_IB.html

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