Hawker Tempest

British fighter-bomber and interceptor Hawker Tempest of the second World War.
History, development, service, specifications, pictures and 3D model.

A fine color air to air picture from a Hawker Tempest Mk VI
A fine color air-to-air picture from a Hawker Tempest Mk VI.

Hawker Tempest Mk V
British fighter-bomber.


In March 1940 the Hawker company had started some design studies to improve the Hawker Typhoon. Among them were studies to increase the performance of the aircraft at high altitudes. These included the use of a new wing design, which had a thinner wing section and a reduced wing area. The new wing had an elliptical basic shape and promised great potential for improving performance at high altitudes, while reducing the tendency of the original Typhoon wings to emit shock waves at speeds of about 500 mph (c.800 kilometers per hour). In some places the air here reached sound speed, which had never been seen before. The new wing roots were about 5.9 in (15 cm) thinner and the wing was elliptical like the Supermarine Spitfire.

To save development time, Sidney Camm decided to assemble the new wings with a modified Typhoon airframe, which still used the Sabre engine. The airframe was modified with a 56 cm long extension between the engine mount and the cockpit. This space was used for a 90 gal (345 litre) tank, so there were no more tanks in the now thinner wings.

The Royal Air Force ordered two prototypes under the specification F.10/41 in November 1941 and the project was quickly named Typhoon II.

In a separate design study Camm had developed a pair of wing radiators for the leading edges of the wings to replace the obstructive front radiator of the Typhoon. Similar to the design for the de Havilland Mosquito, it was assumed that these coolers would reduce aerodynamic drag by almost two-thirds.

But the biggest problem Hawker had with the new fighter was the engine. After the experience with the Typhoon and Tornado, and as a precautionary measure, the prototypes should allow the installation of alternative engines.
By the spring of 1942, the various problems with the Sabre engine had still not been completely solved and the company therefore continued its plans to be able to install alternative engines in the prototypes of the Typhoon II.

During August 1942, the name of the new fighter was changed to Hawker Tempest due to the numerous substantial modifications. By this time the RAF had also changed the original contract for the prototypes and now wanted a total of six aircraft.

Different serial numbers were assigned to each of the six prototype/engine combinations. The Mk I (HM599) was powered by a Sabre IV, the Mk II (LA602 and LA607) by a Centaurus IV radial engine, while the Mk III (LA610) used a Griffon IIB, the Mk IV (LA614) a Griffon 61 and the Mk V (HM595) the Sabre II.

Tempest V

3d model Hawker Tempest Mk V
3d model Hawker Tempest Mk V
The prototype Hawker Tempest Mk V with the Sabre II engine was the first to be completed and looked very similar to the Typhoon. The plane had a framed, five-piece canopy, doors similar to those of a car and the standard rear section of the Typhoon.
The prototype with the serial number HM595 flew for the first time with Philipp Lucas at the control stick on September 2, 1942. The flight tests underlined the need to restore lateral stability, as the extended nose with the modified fin strips and the increased span of the horizontal stabilizers had caused the prototype to lose some of its stability.
After the necessary modifications it was flown by the manufacturer and also by the official test pilots, who were very enthusiastic in their reports about the performance and handling of the aircraft.

It soon became clear that while the performance of the Tempest V was less spectacular than that of the other prototypes with their more advanced engines, the latter would require a much longer development period before they would reach the point of production.
So the decision was made that Hawker should concentrate on the Sabre II powered aircraft and complete this new fighter for front-line use as soon as possible.

In autumn and winter 1942, further development work was carried out on the prototype to prepare the Tempest for series production. Experiments with the handling of the aircraft showed the need for an increased surface area of the fins, modifications to the rudder trim tab and the installation of spring flaps ailerons to improve aileron control.
These and other changes improved the performance and handling of the prototype, which reached a top speed of 465 mph (750 km/hr) at an altitude of almost 24,600 ft (7,500 meters).

Once it was proven that the Tempest V was ready for production, the prototype was used for other projects, including as a prototype for the Tempest VI after modifications.

Final assembly of the Hawker Tempest
Final assembly of the Hawker Tempest at Langley. Before the engine was installed in the airframe, camouflage paint, national symbols and serial numbers were applied.
Production began in mid-1943 and the first production aircraft with serial number JN729 made its maiden flight on June 21, 1943, while the third production aircraft, JN731, went to Boscome Bown for handling and performance tests, which resulted in a top speed of 432 mph (695 km/hr) at an altitude of 18,372 ft (5,600 meters). It was clear that the Hawker Tempest V was one of the strongest fighters of the RAF.

The armament of the first Tempest V consisted of four 20-mm-Hispano Mk II automatic cannons. These were identical to the weapons built into the Hawker Typhoon and required fairings over the powerful cannon barrels.
However, in early 1943 the new Mk V Hispano cannon was available, which was about 11.8 inch (30 cm) shorter and 25 lb (11.3 kg) lighter than the Mk II cannon. The installation of these cannons in the Tempest made it possible to accommodate them completely in the wings. Tempest fighters armed with the Mk V cannon were designated the Hawker Tempest Mk V Series 2.

The second serial aircraft of the Tempest V with serial number JN730 was used for test flights with another piece of equipment, which then became standard equipment of the Mk V. It was the Hawker-designed external 55 gal (205-liter) drop tank in drop form. These streamlined auxiliary tanks significantly increased the range of the Tempest.

First actions of the Tempest V

Test-flying of a production Hawker Tempest Mk V
Test-flying of a production Hawker Tempest Mk V from the Hawker factory at Langley in 1944.
After intensive testing by the Air Fighting Development Unit of the Royal Air Force, it was recommended that the new aircraft should first be fitted to RAF squadrons, which had previously used the Hawker Typhoon. It was assumed, as the two aircraft were similar in handling, that the re-equipping of existing Typhoon squadrons would speed up the entry into service of the new Hawker Tempest.
During January 1944 the 486th Squadron of the RAF received its first aircraft at Tangmere, where it was later passed on to the 3rd Squadron. After more Tempest had been delivered by the factory, both squadrons were fully equipped with this aircraft by the end of April 1944 and declared ready for action.

The first mission, an anti-ship mission, was flown by the 3rd Squadron on 23 April 1944. A short time later both squadrons were transferred to Newchurch in Kent, where they met the 56th Squadron with their Spitfire Mk IX.
Although series production of the Tempest was slow and the 56th Squadron had just begun converting to the new aircraft, all three squadrons were designated the first Tempest Wing and were placed under the command of Wing Commander Roland Beamont.
As subsequent events showed, the 56th Squadron did not receive their Tempest before D-Day, the Allied landing in Normandy. Instead, the squadron flew their Spitfire IXs for the missions over the bridgehead in Normandy.

During the landings on D-Day the Tempest were held back as a reserve against possible attacks by the German Luftwaffe. After no such threat had arisen, Wing Commander Beamont personally led nine Hawker Tempest of the 3rd Squadron over the beaches of Normandy on June 8th.
During this patrol flight they encountered five Me 109 G near Rouen and shot down three of them without any losses. This was a promising combat debut for the new fighter and the first in an impressive series of aerial victories.

Initially, however, the Tempest fighters’ aerial victories did not consist of conventional aircraft, but rather against vicious ‘robots’ – the Fieseler Fi-103 flying bombs.
The Air Defense of the British Isles (ADGB) now had the important task of intercepting the deadly V-1 weapons known as ‘Divers’. They should be prevented from penetrating far inland and threatening London with a second ‘Blitz’ offensive.

During these V-1 attacks the RAF fighter squadrons achieved a remarkable performance. On 16 June 1944 the Tempest Wing began patrolling Newchurch against V-1 missiles and shot down thirteen within that day. The Tempest patrol flights then continued daily, and the reports of bombs destroyed were made in the evening and were more or less a routine matter.

The Tempest pilots developed special air combat techniques to deal with these unmanned aerial flying bombs, and they even compiled an instruction book for this special form of air combat. For example, they found that if you shoot at a V-1 from a distance of 900 feet (275 meters), it is effective and allows the attacker to stay outside the range of the exploding flying bomb.
The V-1s usually appeared at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,000 feet (450 to 600 meters) at a speed of around 400 mph (645 km/hr). The Tempest had a better top speed than other fighters at this altitude and its stability as a weapon platform was a valuable advantage.

After the V-1 offensive was continued in the hours of darkness, the interceptor pilots were faced with even greater challenges. Their target was now the point with the bright glow, the impulse ray gases of the V-1. Beamont developed tactics to counter this problem. So he flew the Tempest below the flying bomb and climbed slowly until he felt its slipstream. Then his pilots were to take the center of the exhaust flame into the gun sight and pull the trigger. This method was usually sufficient to bathe the small light of the exhaust in a much bigger and brighter light.

 trio of Hawker Tempest of the 501st Squadron
A trio of Hawker Tempest of the 501st Squadron with extra tanks.
The V-1 offensive lasted until the end of August 1944. By then the Tempest V had also seen missions by the Fighter Interception Unit and the 56th and 501st Squadron. By the end of the offensive the Tempest pilots reported having destroyed about 800 V-1 (other source: 638). In total all RAF interceptors had downed 1,771 German flying bombs, so the Hawker Tempest alone had destroyed at least 36 percent !
No less than fifty-five pilots became ‘Diver’ aces and the top ace was Squadron Leader J. Berry at the Fighter Interception Unit and the 501st Squadron with sixty and one third destroyed flying bomb.

Tempest V over Western Europe

On August 25, 1944, the 56th Squadron conducted a fighter patrol across the English Channel to Cassel and so the Tempest were back in action on the continent. In addition to the Wing from Newchurch, the 274th and 80th Squadron were also involved in attacks against targets in France.
All Tempest squadrons were retained on British airfields for the unfortunate Arnhem operation in September 1944. Through low-flying attacks on anti-aircraft and gun emplacements on the islands of the Scheldt estuary, the Hawker Tempest part of the operation was successful, but Operation Market Garden did not achieve its goal of capturing an early bridge over the Rhine into Germany.

On September 28, 1944, the Tempest Squadrons were again placed under the operational control of the 2nd Tactical Air Fleet and were assigned bases on the continent. The 3rd and 56th Squadron were the first, followed by numbers 80, 274 and 486. These new missions cost fourteen aircraft, mainly by fire from the ground, but there were also some clashes with fighters of the German Luftwaffe.

Shortly after the five Tempest squadrons arrived in Belgium, they were transferred to Volkel in Holland under the command of the 122nd Wing. The 80th and 274th Squadron were temporarily stationed in Grave, just long enough to make an unpleasant encounter with a Me 262 before they could join the rest of the Wing in Volkel.
Bee Beamont was shot down on October 12 and became a prisoner of war, so that the command of the Wing passed to JB Wray.

Tempest V of the 222nd Squadron 1945
A Tempest V of the 222nd Squadron 1945 on an airfield in Germany. Canopy and elevator have been damaged by anti-aircraft fire and the rudder is already from another aircraft with a different camouflage color.
From now on, the Hawker Tempest V of the Wing flew uninterrupted air superiority missions, which continued practically until the end of the war. It was the new German jet fighters that presented the Tempest pilots with their greatest challenges. On October 13, 1944 a Tempest pilot of the 3rd Squadron reported a ‘probable’ destruction of a jet, but this was probably not true. What is certain is that on December 3rd a Tempest of the 80th Squadron, flown by ‘Judy’ Garland, shot down a Me 262 of I/KG(J) 51.

After 800 Mk V, 142 Hawker Tempest Mk VI with larger engine and oil cooler in the leading edge of the wing were built. After many problems the excellent Hawker Tempest Mk II appeared in November 1945, of which 472 were built. With the new designation F2 it remained in service with the Royal Air Force until 1953.

Users: British RAF.

Animated 3D model of Hawker Tempest Mk V

Specifications for Hawker Tempest Mk V


Hawker Tempest Mk VSpecification
Power plant 1 x 2,180 hp Napier Sabre II 24-cylinder flat-H sleeve-valve liquid cooled engine
Wing span41 ft
Length overall33 ft 8 in
Height overall16 ft 1 in
Weight empty 9,100 lb
Weight loaded 13,500 lb
Maximum speed427 mph
Initial climb 3,000 ft / min.
Service ceiling 37,000 ft
Range740 miles


Hawker Tempest Mk VSpecification
in outer wingsFour 20 mm Hispano guns
bomb load underwing racks for eight rockets or up to 2,000 lb bombs

Service statistics:

Hawker Tempest Mk Vfigures
First flight 2 September 1942
Production delivery 21 June 1943
Total production figure 800

References and literature

Combat Aircraft of World War II (Bill Gunston)
Technik und Einsatz der Kampfflugzeuge vom 1. Weltkrieg bis heute (Ian Parsons)
Das große Buch der Luftkämpfe (Ian Parsons)
Luftkrieg (Piekalkiewicz)
Flugzeuge des 2. Weltkrieges (Andrew Kershaw)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)
Kampfflugzeuge (Bill Gunston)
Typhoon/Tempest in action (Jerry Scutts)

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