Seafire vs. Sea Hurricane

Admiral Beez

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This thread on the Spitfire vs. Hurricane got me thinking, which was the better single seat, monoplane carrier fighter? Unlike the eight gun Sea Hurricane, the Seafire from the onset had 20 mm cannons in addition to its mgs. But look at how a Sea Hurricane lands without drama, which compared to the Seafire’s prangs must have allowed a greater turnaround time, less repairs and outright losses.



Of course the later Seafire Mk.III got folding wings whilst the Sea Hurricane got beached. I have to wonder if a necessarily-heavier folding wing Sea Hurricane would have been feasible and competitive into 1942 with the Seafire Mk.III’s Rolls-Royce Merlin 55.
 
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nuuumannn

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This'll be interesting, but I sort of recall having read this discussion in previous threads. My two cents, the Hurricane was only intended as an interim and didn't receive the same naval mods the Seafire did, but served probably longer than it should have, illustrating the situation the FAA found itself in in lacking modern single-seat fighters. The Seafire on the other hand was a modification of the basic production airframes, unlike a purely naval aircraft from the drawing board, which it might have been had Supermarine been given the green light to develop it in 1938 as the "Sea Spitfire"...
 

Admiral Beez

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Had the Sea Hurricane compatible HMS Courageous and Glorious survived into 1941 I think the aircraft, if avaiilable in sufficient numbers might have really thrashed the Regia Aeronautica. Instead the main MTO carriers HMS Ark Royal, Illustrious and Formidable, all with narrow lifts had to rely on the folding wing, but slow Fulmar.

Thankfully for the Indian Ocean theatre, HMS Indomitable had one Sea Hurricane compatible lift. That leaves just HMS Argus, Eagle and Furious that can stow the Hurricane. But to be fair, the same applies to the non-folding Seafire until well into 1942. My greater point is that the Sea Hurricane could have had its finest hour in the MTO, but for the lack of compatible flattops.
 
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Shortround6

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A folding wing Hurricane may have been the equal to a F4F except in range without drop tank/s.
The 1st question is when can you get it?
2nd question is how narrow a wing fold can you use or what are you willing to accept?

The Sea Hurricane may not have looked at seriously until the Norway Campaign. 😳
Evacuating squadron managed to land onboard without hooks by using sandbag/s as ballast which certainly suggests minimal modifications needed for flying characteristics.

You have two easy choices for the wing fold.
The real easy one is right where the ailerons begin. You just need the hinge (simple one), the linkage for the ailerons and a wire for navigation lamps on the wing tips? The gun bays and even the landing lights can stay where they are. But getting you the 22ft width is bit tricky. It is just 22ft from aileron to aileron. A very tight fit? or twisting the plane on the elevator?
You can easily fit a vertical fold under the hanger roof unless you are dealing with a 14 ft ceiling.

2nd choice is just outboard of the landing gear. Flap/s make a straight run across the bottom of the plane interrupted by the radiator bath. Outer flaps turn and the point where the landing gear attaches. A lot narrower, but the wing panels are going to be a lot heavier with the guns and ammo onboard, you may also need a either a bi-fold like the Spitfire to clear the ceiling or a Grumman/Fulmar like swing back. Trying to service the guns with the wings folded is going to be harder.
This joint is about 9ft 3 1/2inch across the plane.
The Gun barrels are just about 11ft 4in apart but the inner guns are feed from inner ammunition boxes.
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Anything folding in-between is going to take a lot more redesign.

Had the Sea Hurricane compatible HMS Courageous and Glorious survived into 1941 I think the aircraft, if avaiilable in sufficient numbers might have really thrashed the Regia Aeronautica. Instead the main MTO carriers HMS Illustrious and Formidable had to rely on the folding wing, but slow Fulmar.
Please remember that the Hurricane was 25-30mph slower at 6,000ft than it was at 17,000ft so the speed advantage was not as bad as most people think.

And has been pointed out many times, The Hurricane could only stay up for about 1/2 the flying time of the Fulmar and it held about 1/2 the ammo for the .303 guns.

You need more Hurricanes to maintain the same amount of coverage. Then we can argue about how effective the coverage was.

A folding wing IIa with Merlin XX would have been interesting and doesn't seem that hard if you use the short fold out board of the guns. If you put a hinge in the outer flap a foot or foot and 1/2 in from the aileron you can stay out of the gun bay and narrow the folded plane by 2-3 feet. Move the landing light and the only real complication is the extra flap panel and hinge/linkage.
 

nuuumannn

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The 1st question is when can you get it?
2nd question is how narrow a wing fold can you use or what are you willing to accept?

Indeed, which is the crux of the matter in a what-if scenario. For what it's worth, in 1937 there were high level discussions behind the lack of effectiveness of the Skua, even before it entered service and one admiral present at the meeting stated that the Hurricane would make a carrier fighter that was better than nothing. If I can remember accurately, I think Hawker offered to build a folding wing Hurricane in 1939/1940, but the need for a single-seat fighter, any single-seat fighter was greater, so less modification was done in the name of expediency.

As for the wing fold, the Hurricane's wing was in three sections, the centre section that was mated directly to the fuselage and the two outer sections outboard of the undercarriage. A pretty easy modification that wouldn't have taken much thought, to be honest. After all, they did to the Spitfire. Shuttleworth's Sea Hurricane presenting its belly shows the wing structure mating outboard of the undercarriage bays. Even the flaps are sectioned at that point.

49267911753_117d6ca301_b.jpg
Sea Hurricane-2 by Grant Newman, on Flickr

A late model Seafire by comparison.

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DSC_0688

First we would really need to know what the mission is.

Surely that's obvious. The Royal Navy pioneered aircraft carrier operations and had fighters on carriers before anyone else. Single-seaters were a staple on British carriers throughout the 1920s and mid-1930s. The lack of a decent modern single-seater at the outbreak of war was a grave mistake that sent the Admiralty into a frenzy of attempting to rectify the situation in the late 1930s/early 1940s, but the need for a fighter was the same as it had been beforehand...
 
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yulzari

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Thinking laterally: if the government would not release existing Hurricane production could the Royal Navy set up it’s own production line of Hurricanes with folding wings?

After all, Belgium, Yugoslavia and Canada all established their own Hurricane production lines and the Romanians seriously considered it. It should be even easier for the Royal Navy as the non airframe components are purchasable at home. The wing fold and hook would also deter the evil RAF from snaffling them.

Even more so if they could fit non 0,303” guns using something the Navy keep on ships anyway so making it even more non-RAF. Four 0,5” Vickers might just allow a fold a touch closer in than the aileron hinge. If a licence maker could be found then the FN 13,2x99mm is a design ready to go and fitted the Belgian Hurricanes.

Was there a low level Merlin at the time? Stretching the idea further, could they consult with de Havilland to improve the air cooling of the Napier Dagger if Merlins are refused them? I suspect that a Dagger Hurricane would ditch more safely than a Merlin one with the ventral radiator bath. Might save them a few pilots.
 
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EwenS

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Well first you have to find a manufacturer with the capacity and experience to undertake the task, both design of the changes and the actual manufacturing. Most manufacturers preferred pushing their own designs rather than someone else’s. Then you have to arrange for Hawker to grant a licence for their basic design. Then you have to get agreement to divert Merlin engine production away from something else.

In the lead up to WW2 all the manufacturers were busy with their own designs or in setting up shadow factories to maximise their own production. So nowhere as easy as it might seem on paper.
 

Admiral Beez

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First we would really need to know what the mission is.
The same as would be expected of any carrier fighter. Fleet air defence and strike escort. On the latter, neither the short ranged Seafire or Sea Hurricane is ideal. The Sea Hurricane is likely to have more aircraft available due to fewer prangs, until the folding Seafire allows a larger initial number.
 

Admiral Beez

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…could the Royal Navy set up it’s own production line of Hurricanes with folding wings?
My bad for mentioning the folding Hurricane - that’s not the point of this thread. This isn’t the What-if Forum, which is where we’re already discussing the folding Hurricane.


Putting aside the hypotheticals, what do you think of the actual Sea Hurricane as is against the Seafire? With Martlets coming in, was pursuing the Seafire worth it? By the time the folding Seafire is widely operational the FAA is receiving Hellcats and Corsairs. Of course the FAA may not have known these Lend Lease were coming. But could the FAA have settled on the Sea Hurricane and perhaps focused the resources dedicated to the Seafire program to instead making an earlier Sea Fury or a better Firebrand?
 
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Macandy

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Relatively few Seafires were lost to enemy action, but up to 50% were lost to accidents.
It was in every respect a terrible carrier fighter.

The Sea Hurricane was adequate, but the Wildcat was head and shoulders above both of them in 1941/42
 

Glider

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As a carrier aircraft the Hurricane has a number of advantages, primarily a much stronger undercarriage and I think a slower take off speed. Don't get hung up re the 303 weapons, some carried the 20mm so firepower wasn't a problem. It wouldn't have been a huge task to reduce the 20mm to 2 and increase the number of rounds carried and would probably save space and weight

I agree that the potential changes to the structure don't seem too difficult so overall, it seems like a good idea. That said it would lack the performance for the second half of the war.
 

nuuumannn

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The problem with the Hurricane was its undercarriage, its oleos were not happy with the punishment meted out to them by landing on deck in a short space. The first Seafires suffered the same problem but they were later altered. The Hurricanes tended to bounce on landing because of their oleos. As mentioned earlier, it was an interim and wasn't fully modified for carrier operations; no folding wings, undercarriage not suited for the rigors of carrier landings. Designing and building a suitable carrier aircraft is a lot more complex than just fitting a hook and adding local strengthening around the hook and strop attachment points, as was done to the Hurricane.

The Seafire was not ideal, but gave the FAA a carrier fighter with excellent performance that could match land based fighters, which was the intent from the outset. It, too started as a heavily modified Spitfire V and proved that the airframe really needed work to be a decent carrier fighter, but, as an admiral had said in hindsight, "it was better than nothing." The F4F/Martlet was a great fighter that the FAA desperately needed (and its pilots relished over the Skua and Fulmar) but again, it was a stepping stone as its performance was sub-par to the best land based enemy fighters operating in Europe.

Here's a picture of a Seafire III, note the extra structural strengthening in the form of a longitudinal below the cockpit on the fuselage side and around where the hook attachment points are aft of the roundel on the lower fuselage. The Spitfire frame was not an ideal basis for a carrier aircraft, but it fulfilled a gap that should have been filled by the Firebrand, had that been good, but it wasn't.

 

nuuumannn

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It was in every respect a terrible carrier fighter.

The Sea Hurricane was adequate, but the Wildcat was head and shoulders above both of them in 1941/42

I wouldn't say the Seafire was terrible, it had excellent performance in the air (depending on mark) and a fantastic climb rate, which is why it was done in the first place, to fulfil a need, but the Spitfire was hardly an ideal basis for a carrier aircraft. That much is true. The Sea Hurricane was adequate, but barely and again, not ideal, and the Wildcat was head and shoulders as a deck aeroplane compared to the British fighters, but it didn't have the outright speed and climb of the Seafire, certainly not from the IIc onwards. The Admiralty wanted a fighter that was equal to the best that Germany was producing, but the Wildcat, as great and admired as it was, was not that aircraft, even from 1941 when the FAA squadrons first put to sea with it; the Bf 109F was a formidable foe, as was the Fw 190, both of course more than a match for the Spitfire V. The Firebrand should have been a great naval fighter, but it wasn't. Had that happened, the onus on Supermarine to produce the Seafire might have been reduced.
 

Shortround6

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The problem with the Hurricane was its undercarriage, its oleos were not happy with the punishment meted out to them by landing on deck in a short space. The first Seafires suffered the same problem but they were later altered. The Hurricanes tended to bounce on landing because of their oleos.

Corsairs had a similar problem. It was fixed but it took a while.

The Buffalo was not happy with the punishment it took on landing. It was fixed (maybe) but the later versions gained weight and the problem came back.

Both were supposed to be carrier aircraft from the drawing paper onward.

They could probably have fixed the Hurricane. The question is how long would it have taken and what do you have when you are done?
The Hurricane is a little bit faster than the F4F but only a little bit, extra drag of carrier gear may reduce the difference in performance.
At some point the RN is going to need a higher performance fighter which is where the Seafire and Firebrand come in.
The Sea Hurricane is another temporarily solution and needed to be replaced as soon as possible. Anything that took too long to modify was just going to delay the replacement.

Please note that the Martlet, depending on version, carried 20-30 IMP Gal more fuel than the Hurricane and was good for around 1 more hour at cruising speed.

The best bet for the Sea Hurricane would be to show up in summer/fall of 1940 (service introduction in late fall/ early winter) using the Merlin XX engine and eight .303 guns.
Germans were running 109E-4s and E-7s with higher powered engines that the 109s in the BOB and that is before you get to the 109Fs in the summer of 1941.
The more guns/ammo you put in and/or try to use oddball weapons (.5 in Vickers gun or 13.2mm Brownings) just delays things because neither weapon will do what you want as is.
If you want the wing to fold use the simplest way to fold. The more refinements you add the later the program runs and you have to switch to the Seafire in any case. You have missed the window of opportunity.

The question about the intended mission is actual a good one. The Hurricane had about 1/2 the endurance of the Fulmar and even if you could find the carrier you couldn't do the long range recon mission or do long endurance (4 hour) patrols/CAP. Perhaps if you get the Sea Hurricanes early enough and build them quick enough (and come up with the pilots) you could put some aboard the carriers that were not carrying a full aircraft complement. But if you try to build them too early you run into the engine problem.

Historically the Sea Hurricane didn't show up, with fixed wings and Merin III engines until the summer of 1941.
 

PAT303

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Relatively few Seafires were lost to enemy action, but up to 50% were lost to accidents.
It was in every respect a terrible carrier fighter.
The Seafire suffered from the same problem all Spitfires had which was production numbers and the need for them now over road all other requirements. If there was time there wouldn't have been interim model Spitfires and Joe Smith would have started development on the Seafire in 1938-39 and we wouldn't be having this discussion, unfortunately Hitler upset those plans so they made do with what they had.
 
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Shortround6

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The videos I’ve seen of Sea Hurricane ops seems to suggest an easy to land aircraft.
That may be because you are seeing the videos of when it is landed correctly?

WWII newsreel footage is going to show things in a good light. Going to the movies when somebody was working 10hours or more 6 days a week to watch "blooper" reals of pilots crashing the planes the that were built with such hard work is not going to help moral.
Footage released after the war or from military camera men may show things a bit differently.

Off Norway they were landing with 40kts of wind over the deck.

If a pilot makes a good approach on a carrier that is moving at high speed and into the wind everything may go quite well.
The Hurricane is noted as having a bad stall, it may stall at a slow speed but if it drops quickly instead of gently or drops a wing instead of "mushing" things can go bad quickly.


has a long web page with different points of view or different stories. And some comments about things that we rarely take note of. Like the Hurricane could not use the curved approach that the Seafire and Corsair used as the use of the rudder at low speed caused nose heaviness. The Hurricane had to be landed straight ahead.

The Hurricane was used. Some of the objections are a bit bogus considering what they wound up doing with them. Like objecting to the weight of putting a folding wing on them and then over year later putting Hurricane IIC wings with four 20mm cannon on MK 1 fuselages with Merlin III engines.

A "proper" conversion done early might have yielded good benefits. However there were some problems that didn't have easy solutions like the short endurance and the less than ideal deck landing characteristics. Modifying the oleos was only one part of the landing problem.

Operational losses for the Buffalo for instance turned out to be horrendous.
The Lexington sailed for Pearl Harbor from the west coast on Oct 14th 1941 with 17 F2A-3s and 5 spares. By Dec 3rd they had lost 3 aircraft due to operational accidents (but no pilots), 3 planes had landing strut failures on normal landings and 12 out of 17 aircraft had progressive strut failures (cracks or bends?) starting. All flight operations with the F2A-3 were stopped unless enemy contact was imminent.

The Hurricane may have been better than that but we are comparing ideal to what was available.
The Hurricane may not have been better than the Spitfire for carrier deck use despite the wider track landing gear. When you are down to around 70mph/70kts it doesn't take much to turn a good landing into a bad one if the plane favors one side or the other with the controls or with the wing lift. A few extra mph can make handling easier but you hit the wire harder and need more oleo.

The Corsair not only needed modified oleos, it needed a "stall strip" installed on the wing leading edge on one side to help insure that both wings stalled the same instead of one wing stalling before the other, now this meant that the "good" wing now stalled like the "bad" wing but at least they stalled more evenly ;)

what the controls do when at landing speed may have no relation to what the controls do at 200-300mph or the maneuverability of the aircraft at speed.
 

Macandy

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The Corsair not only needed modified oleos, it needed a "stall strip" installed on the wing leading edge on one side to help insure that both wings stalled the same instead of one wing stalling before the other, now this meant that the "good" wing now stalled like the "bad" wing but at least they stalled more evenly ;)


However, even in 1945, the F4U was an incredibly 'hot ship', but its often lost in discussions it was actually a pre war, as in pre 1939 war, fighter.
Yes, the Corsair was a handful, the 'Bent Winged Bastard' or 'Ensign Eliminator' depending on RN or USN usage, but it was head and shoulders ahead of its contemporaries.
 

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