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  • Hawker Tornado Prototype Fighter

    Intended to replace the Hawker Hurricane, the Hawker Tornado was produced in only three prototypes and a single production form.

     Updated: 6/26/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The Hawker Tornado was born of the same initiative that brought forth the Hawker Typhoon of World War 2. The initiative itself originated with Hawker wanting to introduce an improved form of their war-winning Hawker Hurricane monoplane fighter - star of the Battle of Britain. While the Typhoon went forward to claim a strong war record and see production reach into the thousands (as well as becoming the RAF's first cannon-armed fighters), the Tornado languished on as a testbed for different engine types and was limited to just four completed examples. The major downfall of the Tornado proved the unreliable nature of the Rolls-Royce Vulture engine which was itself given up for good with the emergence of the Rolls-Royce Merlin family.

    Air Ministry Specification

    The Tornado and Typhoon were developed to Air Ministry Specification F.18/37 of 1937 calling for a single-seat, monoplane-winged fighter capable of 400 mile per hour speeds, a 35,000 foot service ceiling, maximum weight of 12,000lbs and armament of 12 x 7.7mm machine guns (all listed as minimums). To go along with the new airframe, Napier & Sons and Rolls-Royce were each charged with development of all-new piston engines to power the type. For the Napier offering, this was the "Sabre" and the prototype aircraft to follow were therefore known for a time as "Type N". Similarly, the Rolls-Royce offering was to be the "Vulture" and prototype aircraft would become known under the "Type R" designator. Hawker was awarded the contract (B.815124/38) for prototypes of each engine kind in 1938.

    The Typhoon and The Tornado

    The Napier-powered mount held an early start for it was already on paper as early as April 1937, the Rolls-Royce version appearing in October of that year. Both designs made use of the same fuselage and wing assemblies for expediency, differing only in their engine fittings and details required of each installation. Unlike the original Hawker Hurricane, the designs instituted a new, thicker chord wing for greater internal volume and strength (possibly foreseeing the use of cannons over machine guns as well). A production contract for 500 of each engine-type aircraft was announced on July 10th, 1939 for a total of 1,000 airframes. The two competing designs were further differentiated in August-September 1939 by their assigned nicknames - the Napier-powered mount becoming the "Typhoon" and the Rolls-Royce-engined version becoming the "Tornado".

    The Wright Duplex Cyclone-Equipped Tornado

    For a short time between March 1940 and July 1941, the idea of a long-range Tornado equipping an American Wright Duplex Cylone engine was floated about. However, this came to naught with nothing more than the powerplant being delivered to Hawker facilities.

    Prototype P5219

    Delays in the Napier engine program allowed the Rolls-Royce Vulture prototype Tornado to emerge from construction first, recognized as "P5219". The type was fitted with the newly-forged Vulture II series piston engine fitted to its front-mounted compartment (managing a three-bladed propeller), the cockpit just aft. Wings were low-set monoplane assemblies while the undercarriage was influenced by the one as used on the Hawker Hurricane. The cockpit was heavily framed, entrance/exit by way of an automobile-style door, and the fuselage spine blocking and directly rear viewing. The intake opening for the radiator was fitted under the fuselage as amidships. Taxi trials were conducted in October of 1939 which led to a first flight recorded on October 6th, 1939. However, trials soon showcased buffeting at the radiator opening, forcing engineers to relocate the installation slightly forward in the design. Again, additional testing and wind tunnel evaluations encountered significant issues with this placement, relocating the radiator scoop to a chin-mounted position. With the change, testing continued and this resulted in an enlarged tail rudder for increased stability and aerodynamic refinements such as cover doors over the rear retractable tailwheel unit.

    The Avro Commitment

    While production was slated to be handled out of Hawker facilities, its commitment to the Hurricane forced Avro to be enlisted as a subcontractor - its experience with the Vulture engine in its Avro Manchester bomber working in its favor. Production of Tornados would then emerge from Avro factories and the batch was to be split between machine gun-armed and cannon-armed variants. However, in February 17th, 1941, the decision was made to keep all Tornados armed with machine guns and free up vital cannon supplies for the emerging Typhoon lines.

    P5219 with Vulture V

    On March 27th, 1941, P5219 was outfitted with a Rolls-Royce Vulture V series piston engine and took to the air. However, fractures found on connecting bolts soon grounded all future Vulture V flights. Prototype P5219 was then grounded for the length of its service life and utilized as a testbed until scrapped in August of 1943.

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    Hawker Tornado Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1939
    Type: Prototype Fighter
    National Origin: United Kingdom
    Manufacturer(s): Hawker Aircraft - UK
    Production Total: 5

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 32.81 feet (10 meters)
    Width: 41.93 feet (12.78 meters)
    Height: 14.67 feet (4.47 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 8,378 lb (3,800 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 10,582 lb (4,800 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Rolls-Royce Vulture II/V X-24 inline liquid-cooled engine developing 1,760/1,980 horsepower respectively.

    Maximum Speed: 398 mph (641 kph; 346 knots)
    Service Ceiling: 34,908 feet (10,640 meters; 6.61 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 2,700 feet-per-minute (823 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    12 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns OR 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons.

    Global Operators / Customers

    United Kingdom

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    Tornado - Base Series Designation

    P5219 - First Prototype; Vulture V engine

    P5224 - Second Prototype; Vulture II engine

    R7936 - Production-quality model; extended life as developmental contra-rotating design ith Vulture engine.

    R7937 - Production-quality model

    R7938 - Production-quality model

    HG641 "Centaurus-Typhoon" - Experimental model based on the P5224 prototype; fitted with Bristol Centarus engine.