Spitfire and Hurricane in the Battle of Britain
by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson
Game: Battle of Britain
Version: UK Release
Category: Air Combat Simulation (WWII)
Developer: Rowan Software
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Release Date: North America - January 2001, UK - Released
Links: | Playable Demo | First Look | Preview 1 | Tracking a Pilot Career | Message Forum |
Article Date: January 11th, 2001
Article Type: Preview
The Hawker Hurricane
The Hawker Hurricane was the brainchild of Sydney Camm and was the RAF's first monoplane fighter. While the Spitfire continues to receive the bulk of the admiration and attention of aircraft and simulation fans, during the Battle of Britain the Hurricane was responsible for 80% of the aircraft shot down by the RAF.
Furthermore, the Hurricane could be refueled and re-armed in HALF the time required for the Spitfire. This was a critical factor in the continuous defense of vital industry and airfields during the battle, with a limited number of aircraft and pilots available.
First flown in September, 1935, the Hurricane exceeded 300 miles per hour in level flight, and was armed heavily for the time, with eight .303 caliber machine guns.
The fuselage of the Hurricane was made of wood and fabric, strengthened by a framework of metal tubes. The wings were of aluminum. This construction made the Hurricane extremely durable, and made repairs quick and simple.
By September, 1939, 18 squadrons were fully equipped, and by the beginning of the Battle of Britain, 29 Hurricane squadrons stood ready.
The Hurricane was outclassed by the Me-109, but its performance against Luftwaffe bombers was outstanding. The Mk I was powered by a liquid cooled Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engine producing over 1100 horsepower. It wasn’t until the arrival of the Rotol constant speed propeller in 1939 that the performance of the Hurricane became reasonable.
In June, 1940, a Hurricane Mark I was fitted with a two stage supercharged Rolls Royce Merlin XX engine that at sea level was rated at 1,300hp rising to 1,460hp at 6,250 feet. After numerous tests the aircraft was given the designation of Mark II, the improved power plant being the only difference from the Mark I. This first model of the MkII was known as the Series I.
An Account from the Logbook of Stan Turner, DFC
September 7th started like many others had. No. 242 flew down to Duxford from Coltishall and joined Nos. 19 and 310 flying Spitfires and Hurricanes. With these they made up the "Duxford Wing."
Just before 5 PM they were scrambled to meet an incoming force of bombers and fighters. Bader took them up to 15,000 feet and found enemy aircraft 5,000 feet higher yet. Between 70 and 90 bombers in a tight box were protected by higher flying Bf-110s and Bf-109s higher yet. They slammed the throttles through the gates into maximum boost and cut off the attack.
Turner was leading Green section, the last of the Hurricanes to hit the fray. As he approached the dogfight he saw a Bf-110 shot down in flames by Bader's section. He then fired at a 110 but before he could press home the attack he had to avoid a 109. Turner outmaneuvered this one and gave it a good burst of machine-gun fire and saw it go into a dive. Another 109 jumped him. He snapped off a quick burst and took evasive action. His final score was a single damaged 109, despite the fierceness of the fight. The rest of the Squadron downed ten German aircraft for the loss of one pilot, though there were many damaged Hurricanes as a result of accurate defensive fire from the bombers.
Canadian 242 Squadron. Bader is fourth from the right.
242 Squadron in Battle of Britain
September 15th opened with mist but with a promise of good weather. The Germans sent over a few reconnaissance sorties in the early morning. By 11 AM the British radar plotters had a large force assembling over France. Only 30 minutes later 100 Do-17 bombers with a larger number of fighter escorts crossed the channel.
It was to be the peak of the fighting for the Battle of Britain. The entire Duxford Wing, now consisting of five fighter squadrons, and four other squadrons were launched at the massive attack.
Hurricanes in Battle of Britain
It was the perfect defensive attack. The British had the advantage of height, and the sun. The three Hurricane squadrons (242, 302 and 310) were at 23,000 feet in line abreast and the two Spitfire Squadrons (19 and 611) were stepped up at 26,000 feet. The Germans were at 17,000 with the escorting Bf-109s hovering close around. This proved to be a faulty tactic that the German bomber commanders insisted on. The German fighters didn't have room to maneuver or to intercept the British fighters before they were through their protective screen and into the bombers.
It was disastrous for the Luftwaffe. No. 242 Squadron alone shot down four bombers and two fighters for only one Hurricane lost. Others claimed a further 23 destroyed and eight probables. There was a great danger of colliding with another British fighter as there were so many twisting and firing at the bombers and fighters. Turner shot down a Do-17. Bader was given the credit for his fine timing in positioning his squadron and attacking out of the sun.
Thanks to Miles Constable
The Supermarine Spitfire
The unique silhouette of the Spitfire is easily recognizable compared to the more typical wing design of the Hurricane. It was this unique wing design coupled with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine that made the Spitfire the unequalled king of the skies in the Battle of Britain.
Supermarine gained their experience in fast and maneuverable aircraft while battling for the Schneider Cup during the air races of the 1930s. But the concept was founded in 1930 when Supermarine submitted their design for the construction of an all metal type fighter aircraft that would have a fabric covered wing area and tailplane sections.
Reginald Mitchell was something of a maverick, and set about designing a completely new type of aircraft. Mitchell decided that the wings should be metal as well as the fuselage, believing that fabric covered wings on an aircraft with a metal body at high speed would create weak spots. The cockpit of the aircraft was enclosed and formed part of the design lines of the body, while the narrow undercarriage was retractable with the wheel being lifted into wheel wells under the wings.
By the end of 1934 the Type 300 was ordered as a prototype, and further testing was done. By 1935, the aircraft with its Rolls Royce PV12 now glycol cooled engine (this engine was later to be known as the Merlin), and four .303 Browning machine guns in each wing gave a performance good, or maybe even better than expected.
The aircraft flew official tests in March 1936, and by June of the same year the name Spitfire had been adopted. The aircraft went into production as Spitfire Mk I. Rolls Royce had already reworked the Merlin and the Merlin II and III increased output to 1,000 hp. The first Spitfire I's began flying on May 14th, 1938, with the first of them seeing service with the RAF in August.
Flying the Spitfire was like driving a sports car. It was faster than the old Hurricane , much more delicate. You couldn't roll it very fast, but you could make it go up and down much easier. A perfect lady. It wouldn't do anything wrong. The Hurricane would drop a wing if you stalled it coming in, but a Spitfire would come wafting down. You couldn't snap it into a spin. Beautiful to fly, although very stiff on the ailerons - you had to jam your elbow against the side to get the leverage to move them. And so fast!!! If you shut the throttle in a Hurricane you'd come to a grinding halt; in a Spitfire you just go whistling on.
Pilot Officer H.G.Niven, 601 & 602 Squadrons
Spitfire Mk I's flew until June 1940. Up to this date only thirty of them had been equipped with twin 20mm cannons at the expense of the eight .303 Brownings. To distinguish the two types, the Spitfire Mk I's equipped with machine guns were designated IA's, while those that had the cannons were designated IB's. In all, 1,537 Spitfire Mk IA's were built and 30 Spitfire Mk IB's. Unfortunately the Spitfire IB's were not favored by pilots, since the cannons often jammed, leaving them a fighter aircraft defenseless.
Finally, in June, 1940, just prior to the fall of France, the Spitfire Mk I gave way to a faster and more powerful Mk II. The Merlin XII engine had received a power increase to 1,175 horsepower, and the differentiating versions of A's and B's continued. By June 751 Mk IIA's had been built and and 170 Mk IIB's.
The Spitfire Mk III, also introduced in 1940, had improvements in airframe construction and a reduced wing span. Further improvements to the Merlin XII resulted in the Merlin XX, and the tail wheel was made to retract into the fuselage. When it seemed that the Mk III was the ultimate advance, in July 1940 a new prototype was testing as the Mk V, with an improved four cannon arrangement. The Mk VB would eventually prove to be the most popular Spitfire of the war.
An Account from the Logbook of Canadian DFC Recipient George “Buzz” Buerling
Beurling always made copious notes in a black book that he carried with him. He made detailed calculations on the angles, speeds and shots that he had made and missed so he could work out how to hit the target the next time. He developed a set of equations that he committed to memory that allowed him to perfect the art of the deflection shot. Deflection shooting was difficult at that time as the Spitfire V had only a ring and bead for an aiming device. Learning how to lead a plane so your shells hit the same space as the aircraft did at the same time was tricky to learn. Many never did, but like Hans Joachim Marseilles in Africa, he mastered it.
On July 6 he put his skills into practice when eight Spits were sent to intercept three Italian Cant bombers heading for Malta. They were escorted by no less than 30 Macchi 200 fighters. Beurling led the assault diving straight through the Macchi formations and pulling up to fire on a big Cant bomber. His first burst hit the pilot, blowing off his head, the second took out an engine. Despite the damage, the ship made it back to base in Sicily flown by the bomb aimer/observer. Beurling turned quickly and fired directly into an Italian fighter, knocking it down in flames. He lined up another Italian fighter but it dove sharply to get away. Beurling followed all the way from 20,000 feet to 5,000. The Italian had no choice but to pull up and George caught him square in his sights. The Macchi blew up.
Later the same day he led an attack on two Junkers Ju-88s escorted by 20 Bf-109s. A wild dogfight broke out and two German fighter pilots headed right for Beurling. He circled tightly and caught a 109 with a long burst from 800 yards at a nearly impossible angle. He hit the fuel tanks and it went down in flames. In this single day he increased his kills to five and became an ace.
Spitfire and Hurricane in Rowan’s Battle of Britain
So much for the real world. What is it like to fly the Spit and the Hurricane in Battle of Britain? Do the Hurricane and Spitfire handle as differently as their real world counterparts?
There are two each of Hurricane and Spitfire modeled in BoB. My tests were done exclusively on the Mk I variants.
Cockpit Images from Battle of Britain
I flew both aircraft at 6000 feet for all tests.
The Spitfire cruises at 275 knots in level flight with 90% throttle (full throttle without breaking the wire). Reducing to 25% power for my tests, the Spit slows to 175 knots.
Holding a steady climb around 10 degrees AOA, buffet effects begin at 110 knots and the aircraft stalls by dropping one wing around 100 knots. This should probably be more like 85 knots. Recovery is easy.
The roll rate seems a bit high. It takes approximately four seconds to complete a roll using ailerons and rudder at 6000 feet and 270 knots.
Landing shows that the Spit modeled here is indeed a fantastic glider. Apart from dropping flaps or changing the prop pitch, it is difficult to slowdown the Spit.
The Hurricane cruises at 260 knots at 90% throttle, slowing to 155 knots at 25%. Holding a steady climb buffet begins at 110 knots and stall is the same as the Spitfire. Recovering is equally easy. The roll rate is also the same as the Spitfire. The flight models on these aircraft seem almost identical except that the Spitfire is faster. Dropping the flaps on the Spit enables stable flight as slow as 80 knots. The actual Spitfire would remain stable down to 65 knots with flaps.
It is possible to enter a spin in the Spitfire and Hurricane in Battle of Britain, but unless your aircraft is damaged you won’t have any difficulty recovering. Spins are more common at higher altitude, and if you have serious damage on an airfoil you may experience serious difficulty recovering.
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