The Tempest was derived from the Hawker Typhoon. Six prototypes were originally ordered, each with a different engine, the first of which, paradoxically, the Mk V took to the skies on 2nd September 1942 powered by the Napier Sabre II engine of 2,180 hp. Production of the Sabre IV engine, nominated for the Tempest Mk I, suffered major problems and this prototype did not fly until February 1943. Continued problems with the Sabre IV soon forced Hawkers to abandon the Tempest Mk 1 and go into production with the Mk V, the first of which was completed in June 1943 and delivered for flight evaluation.
Armed with 4 x 20 mm Hispano cannons, each carrying 200 rounds of ammunition, the Tempest Mk V was capable of carrying 2 x 500lb/1,000lb bombs and 2 x 90 gallon drop tanks.
The aircraft entered RAF service with No 3 Squadron at RAF Newchurch in early 1944 and soon thereafter 150 Wing comprising Nos 3, 56 and 486 (NZ) Squadrons formed under the command of Wg Cdr Roly Beaumont. Initial operations comprised high altitude fighter sweeps and attacks against ground targets in enemy territory. In June, the aircraft’s first-class low altitude performance saw it pitted against the newly-deployed V1 ‘Doodlebug’, a role in which it was immensely successful. Indeed, the Tempest accounted for 638 of the 1,846 V1s destroyed by aircraft during the Second World War. Further afield, armed reconnaissance constituted the Tempest’s primary role with long range attacks mounted, first from airfields in south-east England and thereafter, as the front line progressed east, the Netherlands. It also achieved considerable success in air combat with the Luftwaffe’s new jet aircraft, the Me 262. As the war against Germany neared its close, an order placed for over 2,000 Tempest Mk IIs, an up-rated version with the distinctive ‘chin’ radiator removed, was curtailed. Many of those already delivered to the RAF were donated to the Indian and Pakistan Air Forces.
Of the 1,702 Tempests built, several are on display at museums and at least 4 are currently in the process of being restored to airworthiness.