Hawker Hurricane & Hawker Sea Hurricane
Perhaps the most important sub-variant was the Sea Hurricane (see the separate FAA Archive profile for the Sea Hurricane). This operated from aircraft carriers, being fitted usually with catapult spools and arrester hook. However, most Sea Hurricanes were not newly-built fighters but converted RAF types, and were deployed originally not for aircraft carrier operations but to protect merchant shipping. To combat German maritime-reconnaissance bombers, some ships were converted into CAMs (catapult aircraft merchantmen) which meant that a Hurricane fighter could be launched from the ship when danger approached. The biggest problem was that the fighter could not re-land on board, and so the pilot had to ditch it in the sea. The main areas of operation for the 'Catafighters' were in the Mediterranean and Baltic, but by 1943 the Sea Hurricane had all but disappeared from service.
Sea Hurricane MkIIc 835 squadron of HMS Nairana in 1942
Of the 14,533 production Hurricanes built, some had gone for service with other air forces, and Canadian Car and Foundry manufactured 1,451 Hurricanes between 1938 and 1943. In particular, Hurricane wartime production supplied 2,952 of these aircraft to the USSR, to aid its fight against the Germans on the Eastern Front. As a result of convoy shipping losses not all reached their destination. Other wartime deliveries went to Egypt (20), Finland (12), India (300), Irish Air Corps (12), Persia (1) and Turkey (14), and total production in the UK and Canada amounted to 14,231. The first Hurricane sorties in Russia were made on 11 September,1941 in defense of Murmansk, pilots from France, Britain and America helping the Soviets in their task.
Mk I One Hurricane Mk I conversion; Catapult spools and arrester hooks
Mk IA 50 Hurricane conversion; catapult spools only; specially produced for
CAM fighter scheme - launched from CAM ships
Mk IB 300 Mk I (merlin III) and 25 Mk IIA series 2 conversions; Catapult
spools and arrester hook (MAC-ship service)
Mk IC Hurricane Mk I conversion with four-cannon wings; catapult spools
and arrester hook
Mk IIC Arrester hook and naval radio equipment
Mk XIIA Canadian built navalised Mk XII, with Packard Merlin XXIX engine.
The Fleet Air Arm took charge of 537 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes between 1939-1945 primarily from the RAF, but at least one was delivered from the RCAF to RNDA 5MU in September 1942.
Once the Fleet Air Arm took delivery of the Hurricanes from the RAF, starting with 880 squadron in March 1941 and 804 squadron in April 1941 it then started the mamoth task of shipping the Hurricanes to operational squadrons in all theatres around the world. A large consignment was shipped out in HMS Furious to 807 squadron in Gibraltar on 1 July 1941 (eg V7301 and V7623). Whilst others were shipped to South Africa in SS City of Bombay on 9 January 1942 (eg Z4056). Half a year later further consignments were shipped out on SS Belgian Seaman to Takoradi from Liverpool on 30 June 1942 (eg BP709), and to Simonstown in SS Lt St Lonbert Brie thence to 800 sqn on HMS Indomitable in July 1942 (eg V7416). However, quite a number were lost with the HMS Eagle which sank on 11 August 1942.
Only sixty of all these aircraft were built as Sea Hurricanes, a batch of Mk.IIC's with 4-cannon wings built by Hawker and delivered between December 1942 and May 1943. All other Sea Hurricanes were conversions from Hurricanes including veterans from Hawker's first production batch delivered to the RAF in 1938 and 1939. The oldest of the conversions was Hurricane L1663, originally delivered to 32 Squadron RAF in 1938 and later converted to a Sea Hurricane IB in March 1941.
Most operational squadrons last used the Hurricane between 1943-44, when they were relegated to second-line squadrons.
The last of the wartime delivered Hurricanes to serve in the Fleet Air Arm were in 774 squadron until February 1945 (eg LF630), in 771 squadron up until January 1945 (LF704) and the final one, LF630 returned to the RAF at BAFO Communication Flight in June, 1945.
Total Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes delivered to the FAA 1939-1945: 537
Total: Hurricane I , Ia and Ib: 48
Total: Sea Hurricane Ib: 290
Total Sea Hurricane II: 42
Total Hurricane I/tropical: 60
Total Hurricane IIa and IIb: 47
Total Hurricane FB.IIc: 37
Total Hurricane IV: 1
Total: Unspecified variants: 12
(most probably Hurricane I/Trop)