World War II: Hawker Tempest

Hawker Tempest. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Hawker Tempest - Specifications:


  • Length: 33 ft., 8 in.
  • Wingspan: 41 ft.
  • Height: 16 ft., 1 in.
  • Wing Area: 302 sq. ft.
  • Empty Weight: 9,250 lbs.
  • Loaded Weight: 11,400 lbs.
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 13,640 lbs.
  • Crew: 1


  • Maximum Speed: 432 mph
  • Range: 740 miles
  • Rate of Climb: 4,700 ft./min.
  • Service Ceiling: 35,200 ft.
  • Power Plant: 1 × Napier Sabre IIA or IIB or IIC liquid-cooled H-24 sleeve-valve engine: 2,180 hp


    • 4 × 20 mm Mark II Hispano cannons
    • 2 × 500 lb. or 1 × 1,000 lb. bombs
    • 8 × 3 in. RP-3 rockets
    • 2 × 45 gal. or 2 × 90 gal. drop tanks.

    Hawker Tempest - Design & Development:

    In 1937, with his earlier design, the Hawker Hurricane, moving into production, Sydney Camm commenced work on its replacement.  Dubbed the Hawker Typhoon, this aircraft was rushed into service late in 1941 to counter the new Focke-Wulf Fw 190.  Though an effective fighter at lower altitudes, the Typhoon experienced a rapid drop in performance above 20,000 feet.  As a result, it proved incapable of fully replacing either the Hurricane or the Supermarine Spitfire.  Tracing the problem to its unusually thick wings, Camm and his team began designing an evolution of the Typhoon.  To solve the performance issue, the team took inspiration from the low drag laminar flow wings being developed for the North American P-51 Mustang.


    Finalizing their initial design in October 1941, they received an order from the Air Ministry for two Typhoon Mark II prototypes a month later.  Re-designating the aircraft "Tempest" in January 1942, the order was altered to six prototypes with varying power plants due to problems in securing engines.

      Of these, the Napier Sabre II-powered Mark V and the Centaurus IV-powered Mark II were selected for further development.  The former possessed the distinctive chin radiator found on the Typhoon and first flew on September 2, 1942.  The latter, utilizing the air-cooled, radial Centaurus engine possessed a different look with a closely-cowled nose that was similar to the Fw 190.  First flying on June 28, 1943, development of the Mark II proceeded more slowly due to mechanical issues and a desire to tropicalize the aircraft for use in the South-East Asian Theater.  

    Both models were armed with four 20 mm cannons in the wings and possessed hard points for rockets and bombs.  Also, the Tempest routinely carried two 45-gallon drop tanks to extend the aircraft's range.  Proceeding more rapidly, work on the Mark V moved forward and the first production aircraft rolled off the line on June 21, 1943.  The initial Mark II was not delivered until over a year later on October 4, 1944.  These were followed by the Tempest Mark VI which utilized the Napier Sabre V engine.  All told, 1,702 Tempest of all types were constructed.

    Hawker Tempest - Mark V Enters Combat:    

    Entering service with No. 3 and No.

    486 (NZ) Squadrons in April 1944, the Tempest Mark V was the only variant to see combat during World War II.  After some initial issues with the aircraft's propeller, it first engaged German aircraft on June 8, two days after Allied forces landed in Normandy.  Clashing with Messerschmitt Bf 109Gs, the Tempests engaged downed three enemy fighters while sustaining no losses.  Equipping the squadrons of 150 Wing, the Tempest routinely conducted long-range fighter sweeps over enemy territory as well as anti-shipping attacks.  With the beginning of V-1 flying bomb attacks on London on June 13, the aircraft was switched over air defense missions.  As the Royal Air Force's fastest fighter, it proved effective in combating the V-1.  In fulfilling this role, Tempests ultimately downed 638 of the flying bombs.

    As the V-1 threat receded in September, Tempests began flying in support of Operation Market Garden which saw Allied airborne forces attempt to seize several bridges in the Netherlands.  In addition, the aircraft returned to armed reconnaissance and long-range fighter sweep missions.  When flying the former, Tempests would routinely seek out German ground targets, such as trains and truck convoys, for attack.  Striking with cannon fire, bombs, and rockets, pilots inflicted significant damage on German forces through the latter part of 1944 and early 1945. 

    In addition, the Tempest frequently flew against the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.  Scrambling when word arrived that Me 262s were airborne, Tempest pilots would attempt to attack the jets as they returned to their bases.  This was due to the Me 262's poor performance at low speeds which provided an advantage to the British pilots.  To counter the threat posed by the Tempest, the Germans began constructing heavy flak batteries under the landing approaches to their bases.  During the course of the war in Europe, Tempest pilots achieved an overall success ratio of 7:1 against enemy aircraft.

    Hawker Tempest - Later Service:

    While the Mark V was achieving notoriety in the skies over Europe, work continued on the Mark II.  These aircraft were intended for use in the Pacific where they would have flown as part of the British Very Long Range Bomber Force.  The war against Japan ended before this command was deployed and the RAF reduced the number of Mark IIs ordered.

      Retained after the war, the Tempest was the RAF's last piston-engine fighter and left service in 1951.  Several aircraft saw later service as target tugs.  Other Tempests were sold abroad where they flew in the air forces of India and Pakistan.          

    Selected Sources