Hawker Typhoon Ground Attack Aircraft / Fighter-Bomber
Despite being designed as a high-altitude interceptor, the Hawker Typhoon proved to be an excellent low-altitude performer for its part in World War 2.
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The Hawker Typhoon (affectionate known as the "Tiffie") was initially intended as a dedicated interceptor and set to succeed the 1930's-era Hawker Hurricane and was first drawn up in 1937. The system was designed to a British Air Ministry specification (Specification F.18/37) calling for such an aircraft to accept the new line of Rolls-Royce and Napier 2,000 horsepower engines. The Typhoon was predicted to do just that thanks to the promising Napier 24-cylinder, liquid-cooled 2,000-plus horsepower Sabre engine selected for the airframe. At least on paper, the Typhoon would have given even the fabled Supermarine Spitfire and its legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin engine a run for its money but history would prove otherwise and set the Typhoon on a different course altogether.
As promising as the all-new aircraft was, initial development revealed several key issues with the design, especially of the fuselage construction and the new Sabre engine. First flight was achieved in February of 1940. On May 9th, 1940, a prototype Typhoon recorded a devastating failure of the fuselage at the base of the empennage, just aft of the cockpit, while the Sabre engine suffered many-a-teething problem. The situation became quite complicated to the point that the future of the Typhoon was in jeopardy and the Air Ministry was looking to cancel the project altogether in favor of purchasing American-made Republic P-47 Thunderbolts instead. Only the arrival of the Focke-Wulf 190 "Wurger" series fighter in September of 1941 helped to fuel the Typhoon project as a viable contender to the elusive high-performing German fighter.
Visually, the Typhoon offered a menacing pose. The large under-fuselage chin radiator installation was its most notable identifying physical feature. The scoop sat directly below and behind the propeller spinner and integrated into the lower portion of the fuselage. The pilots cockpit was situated near the middle of the design, above and aft of the wing trailing edge. The fuselage itself was almost tubular in shape and ended in a traditional empennage with a rounded vertical fin. Wings were of a low-monoplane cantilever design and rounded. The undercarriage was traditional with retractable main landing gears and a retractable tail wheel. Construction was mostly of all metal stressed skin.
In its initial form, the Typhoon was to be armed with no fewer than 12 x 7.7mm machine guns (.303 caliber). Though sounding impressive, heavier caliber weapons such as 12.7mm (.50 caliber) heavy machine guns and cannons were becoming the norm on aircraft throughout the war. As such, the Typhoon had its principle weapons suite upgraded to a more formidable array of 4 x 20mm cannon. two to a wing, and identified by the cannon barrel fairings extending from the leading wing edges. The final production Typhoon could further augment this armament through the addition of high-explosive rockets or traditional drop bombs as needed (the latter on two underwing hardpoints).
The cockpit of the Hawker Typhoon required a rather steep climb up. Whereas later versions of the aircraft featured the more traditional sliding bubble canopy, early models were fitted with an automobile-style hinged door ala the Bell Airacobra. These early cockpit designs were also noted for their poor visibility. Though the automobile-style doors made for a more familiar method of entry into the Typhoon cockpit it likewise presented the pilot with an unusual mode of exit should he be faced with the prospect of bailing out of the aircraft. As with some other models of World War Two aircraft, the Hawker Typhoon's cockpit was also susceptible to maintaining high and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide for the pilot to the point that the pilot was practically required to wear his oxygen mask from the moment he started his engine prior to take-off to the moment he had safely landed and powered his engine down. Cockpit noise was also noted as high by former pilots.