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The Hawker Tempest

Overview

Originally designated the Typhoon II, the Tempest made its first flight, piloted by Philip Lucas, on September 2, 1942. The Royal Air Force (RAF) formed the first Tempest wing in April 1944. At the end of the war in Europe there were 11 Tempest squadrons. The Tempest had good performance at all altitudes.[i] It had over 1.5 times the range of its stable mate, the Spitfire. Hawker Aircraft Limited produced 1,702 Tempests. The Tempest served in the Indian, Pakistani, and Royal New Zealand Air Force. Tempests remained in active service until 1953.


[i] Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide, by Tony Holmes, © 2005 by Harper Collins Publishers, P.172.

Development

The Hawker Typhoon was the first Royal Air Force fighter capable of flying over 400 mph (640 kph) in level flight. It had problems with engine reliability. The Typhoon had a slow climb rate and didn’t perform well at higher altitudes. The Typhoon successfully countered the Luftwaffe’s 1942-1943 Tip and Run raids.[i] The Typhoon’s speed at low altitude made it a good ground attack platform.[ii]

Hawker improved the Typhoon’s deficiencies. Hawker replaced the thick cord wing with thin laminar flow wings. Hawker extended the fuselage to accommodate the fuel tanks, which couldn’t fit in the thin wings. The new design had a dorsal fin. The designation changed from the Typhoon II to the Tempest. The Tempest had excellent performance at all altitudes and had over 50% more range than the Typhoon. The first unit to receive Tempests was RAF Squadron 486 in January 1944.


[i] These were bombing missions where fighters, carrying a single bomb, would fly to England’s southern coast, drop their bomb, then fly back across the English Channel.

[ii] Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide, by Tony Holmes, © 2005 by Harper Collins Publishers, P.171.

The Hawker Tempest and its Contemporaries

Source: The Luftwaffe Fighter Aces by Mike Spick, (c) 1996

AircraftFW 190D-9Spitfire XIVTempest VP-47DP-51D

Engine HP

2,240

2,050

2,420

2,300

1,695

Engine Kw

1671

1529

1805

1716

1264

Loaded Wt LB

9,480

8,500

11,500

14,600

10,100

loaded Wt Kg

4309

3864

5227

6636

4591

Wing Loading

48 lb/ft sq

35 lb/ft sq

38 lb/ft sq

49 lb/ft sq

43 lb/ft sq

Speed Max mph

426

448

435

429

437

Speed Max kph

682

717

696

686

699

Svc Ceiling

39,372

44,500

36,000

40,000

40,000

Svc Ceiling m

12004

13567

10976

12195

12195

Climb Rate ft/min

4,200

4,580

4,700

2,780

3,475

Climb Rate m/min

1280

1396

1433

848

1059

Range miles

520

460

740

950

2,080

Range Kilometers

832

736

1184

1520

3328

Armament Int.

2x20mm, 2x50cal

2x20mm , 2x0.5in

4x20mm

8x0.5in

6x0.5in

Armament Int.

2x20mm, 2x12.7mm

2x20mm , 2x12.7mm

4x20mm

8x12.7mm

6x12.7mm

In Combat – World War II

Tempests flew their first combat mission on April 23, 1944. It was an anti-ship mission. The Tempests were in reserve in case of Luftwaffe counter attacks during the D-Day invasion. The Tempests scored their first three air victories on June 8. Their opponents were Bf 109 G’s.[i] Wing Commander R. P. Beaumont scored the first Tempest kill.

A week after the Normandy invasion buzz-bomb (V-1) attacks began against England. Tempests were among the aircraft assigned the task of shooting down V-1s. Tempests began anti-buzz-bomb patrols on June 16, 1944. They shot down 13 V-1s on that day. Typhoons were well suited to this task. V-1s normally flew at an altitude of 1,500-2,000 feet (450-600 meters). The Tempest had a higher top speed than other conventional fighters at this altitude.[ii] The Tempest’s excellent range allowed them to fly longer standing patrols. Over the next three months Tempests raised their tally of downed V-1s to 638.[iii] Squadron Leader J. Berry scored the most V-1 victories with 60.33 confirmed kills.[iv]

Tempests also flew fighter patrols and ground attack missions over the continent. Tempests excelled in the ground attack role, where it had the highest success rate per sortie. On October 2, Wing Commander Beaumont shot down an Fw 190. He was shot down and captured on October 12. [v] On December 3, Flight Lieutenant John Wilburn “Judy” Garland shot down a Me 262 jet fighter. He shot down an Fw 190 on December 27 and two Fw 190s on January 1, 1945. Groundfire shot him down on February 8, 1945, he survived.[vi]

Tempests also flew missions where they attempted to catch jet aircraft when they were landing. Flak batteries at Hopstein air base shot down seven Tempests within a week.[vii] Tempests and Spitfire Mk. XIV flew such a mission on March 2, 1945. They fought with Bf 109 Gs assigned to protect Ar 234 bombers. The RAF shot down eight Bf 109s and two Ar 234s for the loss off two Tempests and a Spitfire. Tempest pilot, Flight Lieutenant G. W. Varney shot down one of the Ar 234s. The other fell to a Spitfire, flown by Flight Lieutenant D. J. Reid.[viii] On March 14 the RAF credited Flight Lieutenant L. McAuliffe and Flying Officer G. C. McLeland with shooting down an Ar 234.[ix]

On April 17 No. 80 Squadron Tempests fought 18 Fw 190s. The Tempests shot down six Fw 190s for the loss of one Tempest.[x] On April 19 Tempest pilot Flying Officer Wilkinton shot down two He 162 jet fighters, flown by Leutnant Stiemmer and Feldwebel Günther Kirchner.[xi] Stiemmer and Kirchner were killed. Kirchner apparently shot down a Tempest. A Tempest pilot was captured and the description of his victor was unmistakably a He 162. On April 29 Tempests shot down at least six Fw 190s without loss. On May 1 He 162 pilot Leutnant Rudolf Schmitt claimed a Tempest flown by Flight Officer M. Austin. The Luftwaffe concluded a flak unit shot down F/O Austin.[xii] On May 2 Tempests shot down an Fw 190.[xiii]

In World War II the Hawker Tempest is credited with 239 air victories against piloted aircraft, at least 20 were Me 262s. The Tempest claimed an 8:1 kill to loss ratio in air-air combat.[xiv]


[i] World War II Weapons, Hawker Tempest – WW2 Weapons (ww2-weapons.com), last accessed 4/3/22.

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[ii] World War II Weapons, Hawker Tempest – WW2 Weapons (ww2-weapons.com), last accessed 4/3/22.

[iii] Aviation-history, Hawker Typhoon and Tempest (aviation-history.com), last accessed 4/3/22.

[iv] World War II Weapons, Hawker Tempest – WW2 Weapons (ww2-weapons.com), last accessed 4/3/22. V-1 kills were not counted when assigning the unofficial title of “ace”, hence Squadron Leader Berry isn’t considered the British ace of aces.

[v] World War II Weapons, Hawker Tempest – WW2 Weapons (ww2-weapons.com), last accessed 4/3/22. World War II Weapons attributes this shootdown to an Me 262, but another source credits the loss to groundfire.

[vi] Hawker Tempest, Garland John Wilburn "Judy", Flight Lieutenant (DFC) (hawkertempest.se), last accessed 4/3/22.

[vii] Which Allied aircraft scored the most air-to-air kills against the Me 262 in WWII?, world war two - Which Allied aircraft scored the most air-to-air kills against the Me 262 in WWII? - History Stack Exchange, last accessed 4/6/22.

[viii] Profile 215, Ar 234 Blitz by Richard P. Bateson.

[ix] Profile 215, Ar 234 Blitz by Richard P. Bateson.

[x] The Tempest pilots only claimed 2 kills and 2 damaged.

[xi] Disciples of Flight, The Heinkel He 162 Volksjager: Germany’s WW2 Jet Fighter for a Young Army – Disciples of Flight, last accessed 4/3/22.

[xii] German Jet Aces of World War 2 by Hugh Morgan and John Weal© 1998 Osprey Publishing.

[xiii] JG 26; Top Guns of the Luftwaffe by Donald L. Caldwell, © 1991.

[xiv] Fighter Aircraft with Most Kills Comparison 3D, AmazingViz, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=096MlNLGyLw, last accessed 4/6/22.

Post-World War II Combat

Tempests flew ground attack sorties in many contested regions. These places included Mogadishu, Eritrea, India, and against communists in Malaya. The last air combat for the Tempest occurred on January 7, 1949. RAF Tempests were escorting a reconnaissance Spitfire when Israeli Air Force (IAF) Spitfire IXs spotted them. IAF Spitfire pilot William Schroeder shot down a Tempest flown by Pilot Officer David Crossley Tatersfield.[i] Tatersfield died in the incident. The Israelis claimed the RAF aircraft, and four RAF Spitfires shot down earlier in the day, crossed the Palestinian border. A British Court of Inquiry concluded they were shot down on the Egyptian side of the border. Tatersfield’s Tempest crashed on the Palestinian side of the border.[ii]


[i] My Place by David Lednicer, Attributed Israeli Air Combat Victories (frontier.com), last accessed 4/7/22.

[ii] Aviation-Safety.net, Accident Hawker Tempest FB Mk VI NX207, 07 Jan 1949 (aviation-safety.net), last accessed 4/7/22.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Robert Sacchi

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