Aircraft of the Month
In January 1938, Hawker Aircraft received details of an Air Ministry specification for a single-seat fighter offering a performance at least 20% greater than that of the Hurricane. Sidney Camm, Hawker’s chief designer, had begun work on a such an aircraft in 1937 and in quick time produced two designs – one of which was subsequently to become the Typhoon. The prototype first flew in February 1940, but further development was cancelled three months later due to the grave war situation and the need to give absolute priority to the Hurricane. By October of that year, enthusiasm revived and the programme was reinstated at Gloster Aircraft with the first production aircraft taking to the air in May 1941. The original Typhoon 1A armed with 12 Browning machine guns soon gave way to the 4 x 20mm Hispano-armed Typhoon 1B which the Air Ministry elected to hasten onto the front line as a means of countering the new Focke-Wulf 190. So it was that Nos 56 and 609 Squadrons at RAF Duxford received the first machines in September 1941.
The Typhoon’s entry into service before being properly developed for operational use unfortunately resulted in far more aircraft being lost through structural or engine problems than in combat during the first 9 months. Nevertheless, operations continued and, in November 1942, No 609 Squadron achieved considerable success when deployed from RAF Manston against Fw 190s carrying out ‘tip and run’ raids against coastal targets. This prompted the move of No 468 Squadron to RAF Tangmere the following month for like duties with its Typhoons, now affectionately known as “Tiffies”. In early 1943, two further Typhoon squadrons were deployed to Tangmere for operations against enemy shipping in the Channel and along the French coast. The aircraft was now being used increasingly for ground attack in occupied France; initially modified to carry 500lb and 1000lb bombs, it came into its own when armed with 3in rocket projectiles. In the build-up to D-Day, Typhoon squadrons were in evidence not only at Tangmere but also at the local advanced landing grounds of Merston, Funtington and Appledram.
The Typhoon distinguished itself both during the Battle of Normandy and in the subsequent allied advance eastwards across Europe through its relentless and highly successful engagement of the enemy’s ground forces and supply lines. Indeed, it proved the RAF’s most effective ground attack aircraft in both the close air support and interdiction roles
A total of 3,330 Typhoons were built with some 30 operational squadrons established. The single complete machine to survive is on display at the RAF Museum, Hendon.