When it comes to the Hurricane vs Spitfire, there is no clear winner. Both contributed to the success of the RAF and both were the favourites of the pilots that flew them. Supermarine Spitfires tend to take most of the limelight due to their design and the fact that there are so many more of these fighter aircraft still flying today, but examples of the Hawker Hurricane have also been restored to flying condition and are inspiring a new generation of admirers.
The two aircraft types are most often associated with the Battle of Britain during the Second World War. This was an intense and pivotal event in British aviation history. While both fighters saw action in this historic battle, each aircraft played a distinct role that set it apart from its counterpart, and as each aircraft was later developed and modified, new types emerged and were used in a variety of roles throughout the rest of the conflict.
In this blog post, we are exploring these differences as well as some core similarities between these two exceptional aeroplanes by examining their histories and performance statistics to uncover why they were so successful across multiple theatres of conflict.
Spitfire and Hurricane Background
The Spitfire was a single-seat aeroplane that first went into service in 1938. It was a fast and manoeuvrable plane that was used for both air-to-air combat and ground attack. The Hurricane was also a single-seat aeroplane that first went into service in 1937. It was not as fast as the Spitfire, but it was more heavily armed and could take more damage.
The first Spitfire, a prototype, flew on March 5, 1936, and the first Spitfire Mk I’s were delivered to RAF squadrons in the summer of 1938. By the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, several squadrons were equipped with the new fighter.
Whie the Supermarine company produced the Spitfire, Hawker aircraft were an already well established manufacaturer. The prototype Hurricane flew on November 6, 1935, and the production version began to enter service with the RAF in 1937. The first production Hurricanes were delivered to RAF squadrons in 1937, and by the outbreak of the war, several squadrons were equipped with the new fighter.
The Spitfire and Hurricane were both used in the Battle of Britain, which took place between June and September 1940. It was an aerial battle between the British and German air forces. The German Luftwaffe was trying to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF) by sending waves of German aircraft to bomb Britain’s airfields, while the British were trying to protect their airspace by flying out to meet the incoming bombers and their fighter escorts.
The Spitfire and Hurricane played a key role in the RAF’s victory over the Germans, directed to intercept by RAF Fighter Command, and flown from bases all over Southern England. Although outnumbered by the German pilots, the RAF pilots flew mission after mission until the battle was won. If you were a Hurricane pilot or a Spitfire pilot during the summer of 1940, your chances of survival depended as much on your level of fitness,your courage as it did on the design of the aircraft you flew.
Aircraft Design & Purpose
The Spitfire was designed by Reginald J. Mitchell in 1934, while the Hurricane was designed by Sydney Camm in 1935. Each was an example a new monoplane fighter that was soone to replace the biplane fighters of WWI. Each soon became the iconic aircraft we know so well today.
The two aircraft were created to help combat the German Luftwaffe’s growing power in the early 1930s and were used extensively, not just by British but also by allied forces. During the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire squadrons were often ordered to attack the Luftwaffe fighter escorts while the Hawker Hurricanes were ordered to attack the German bombers, eventually winning a reprieve from the threat of German invasion.
After the Battle of Britain, both aircraft continued to be used throughout the war. With improvements to the design, increased armaments, and other modifications, both aircraft were developed into new marks that saw action right up to the end of World War II.
Fighter & Interceptor
The Spitfire was intended as a high-speed interceptor, while the Hurricane was created as a more versatile all-around fighter. While both aircraft were formidable in combat, they were used for different purposes.
The Spitfire was generally considered to be more manoeuvrable than the Hurricane, thanks in part to its elliptical wing design, which gave it a lower wing loading and a higher roll rate.
However, the Hurricane was also a very agile aircraft, and it was able to hold its own against the Spitfire in air-to-air combat. The Hurricane was considered a more stable gun platform and saw action in many different theatres of war.
Hurricane vs Spitfire Armaments
Both the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane were equipped with eight wing-mounted .303-inch Browning machine guns as their primary armament. However, there were some differences in the way these weapons were arranged on the two aircraft.
On the Spitfire, the eight machine guns were mounted in the wings, with four guns on each side. The guns were arranged in pairs, with one gun above the other, and were fed by a single ammunition drum that held about 60 rounds per gun. This gave the Spitfire a total of eight guns and 480 rounds of ammunition.
The Hurricane, on the other hand, had its machine guns mounted in the wings in a slightly different configuration. Like the Spitfire, it had four guns on each side, but they were arranged in two pairs of two guns each, with one pair located near the wingtips and the other pair located closer to the fuselage. Each gun had its own ammunition drum, which held about 80 rounds, giving the Hurricane a total of eight guns and 640 rounds of ammunition.
In addition to their machine guns, both the Spitfire and the Hurricane could also be fitted with various types of bombs or rockets for ground attack missions. The Spitfire, in particular, was able to carry a variety of different payloads, including 500-pound bombs, 250-pound bombs, and a variety of rocket projectiles.
Overall, both the Spitfire and the Hurricane were formidable fighters that were well-equipped to take on enemy aircraft and ground targets.
After the Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain was a turning point in the war for Europe. After the successful defence of Great Britain from the German Luftwaffe, Hitler had to abandon Operation Sealion, the codename for the invasion of Britain and turned his attention to Russia. Winning this aerial battle bought valuable time during which the British and her allies were able to re-arm and regroup.
The Spitfire and Hurricane continued to see action in other theatres of World War II after the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire was used in operations over Europe and North Africa, while the Hurricane was used in operations over Burma and India. Both planes proved to be critical in the war efforts of these regions, with the Spitfire helping to repel German forces in Europe, and the Hurricane helping to stop Japanese advances in Asia. Ultimately, both planes played a crucial role in the eventual Allied victory over the Axis Powers.
The top speed of an aircraft is largely determined by its engine power, aerodynamics, and weight. The Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane were both designed as single-engine fighters and had similar performance characteristics in terms of top speed.
The Spitfire was powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, which gave it a top speed of around 362 mph (582 km/h) at 20,000 feet. This made it one of the fastest fighters of its time and allowed it to engage in high-speed dogfights with enemy aircraft.
The Hurricane was also powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, which gave it a top speed of around 335 mph (539 km/h) at 20,000 feet. While this was slightly slower than the Spitfire, it was still a very fast aircraft and was more than capable of holding its own in air-to-air combat.
In addition to their top speed, both the Spitfire and the Hurricane were also known for their excellent manoeuvrability, which allowed them to turn quickly and change direction quickly in the heat of battle. This made them formidable opponents of enemy aircraft and helped them to achieve a high degree of success during World War II.
The range of an aircraft refers to the distance it can fly before it needs to refuel. The range of a particular aircraft can be affected by several factors, including its fuel capacity, engine efficiency, and the weight of the aircraft and its payload.
The Supermarine Spitfire was designed as a short-range interceptor and had a relatively limited range compared to some other aircraft of its time. With a full fuel load, it had a range of about 465 miles (748 km), which was sufficient for most of its intended missions, but limited its ability to operate over long distances.
The Hawker Hurricane, on the other hand, had a slightly longer range than the Spitfire. With a full fuel load, it had a range of about 550 miles (885 km), which gave it a little more flexibility in terms of the distances it could fly.
The Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire were both important fighter planes that served with the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II. Both aircraft played a key role in the Battle of Britain, and both have become iconic symbols of British aviation history. However, there were some significant differences between the two planes.
One of the main differences between the Hurricane and the Spitfire was their design and appearance. The Hurricane was a sturdy, single-engine fighter with a relatively simple design, while the Spitfire was a sleek, single-engine aircraft with a more complex and aerodynamically advanced design. The Hurricane had a relatively thick, rectangular wing, while the Spitfire had a thin, elliptical wing.
Another significant difference between the two planes was their performance. The Spitfire was generally considered to be the more agile and manoeuvrable of the aircraft, while the Hurricane was known for its ruggedness and reliability. The Spitfire was also faster than the Hurricane, thanks to its more powerful engine and advanced aerodynamics.
There were also some differences in the way the aircraft were used by the RAF. The Hurricane was initially used as a front-line fighter, but it later served in a variety of roles, including ground attack and night fighting. The Spitfire, on the other hand, was primarily used as a fighter, and it played a key role in the air-to-air combat of the war.
Overall, the Hurricane and the Spitfire were both important aircraft that made significant contributions to the Allied war effort during World War II. While they had some similarities, they also had several significant differences in their design, performance, and role in the RAF.
Today, the aircraft, the pilots, and the sacrifices made are commemorated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight which contains several examples of both a Hurricane and Spitfire. While the Spitfire is a firm favourite among the British people, the Hurricane has legions of fans too. Examples of both can also be found at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, both as static displayes and during air shows.
And for those who want to really appreciate the beauty of flight in either aircraft, flights in two seater Spitfires and two seater Hurricanes are now available.