Was the Sea Hurricane a superior naval fighter than the F4F?

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Wild_Bill_Kelso

Senior Master Sergeant
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Mar 18, 2022
I would say no.

Wildcat had greatly superior range and loiter time. Most of the Wildcats had folding wings. Their engines were less vulnerable because air cooled. They had a much greater ammunition capacity than most of the Hurricanes.

Wildcat was also just a better fighter.

Sea Hurricane was basically an ad-hoc point defense fighter, not really a naval fighter or a real carrier fighter.
 
I would say no.

Wildcat had greatly superior range and loiter time. Most of the Wildcats had folding wings. Their engines were less vulnerable because air cooled. They had a much greater ammunition capacity than most of the Hurricanes.

Wildcat was also just a better fighter.

Sea Hurricane was basically an ad-hoc point defense fighter, not really a naval fighter or a real carrier fighter.
The Wildcat's big advantage was folding wings. The USN was willing to reduce the performance of the Wildcat to get folding wings, but by August 1942 the F4F-4s weight and poor climb rate was causing a crisis of confidence in the F4F-4 and the idea of a higher performing 'point defense' fighter became quite appealing and there was calls within the USN for Merlin engined carrier fighters:

...Another aspect of
the attack that proved inadequate was fighter escort. To Fletcher the folding wing F4F-4s
represented no improvement over the fixed-wing F4F-3s, except more F4F-4s could be
carried. He echoed the call of Halsey and others of the urgent necessity'' for detachable fuel
tanks to increase their effective attack radius beyond 175 miles. Spruance and Browning
rated the Grumman Wildcat "greatly inferior'' in comparison with the nimble Japanese
Zero. On 20 June Nimitz relayed their fears to King, noting the "extreme and apparently
increased superiority performance of 0 fighters'' was mitigated only by the vulnerability
of Japanese planes and the superior tactics of the U.S. Navy fighter pilots. "Overall results
have been bad and will be serious and potentially decisive with improvement that must
be expected in enemy tactics.'' Remarkably he called for army Curtiss P-4OF Warhawk
fighters to replace navy F4F Wildcats and Brewster F2A Buffaloes in all marine fighting
squadrons defending forward bases and even asked that the P-4OF "or comparable type"
be tested for carrier suitability
; In the meantime the F4F-4s must be lightened, and their
ammunition supply increased even should that require reverting to four guns in place ofsix.
The swift introduction ofthe Vought F4U-1 Corsair fighter was an"absolute priority.'' Thus
after Midway the top fleet commanders experienced a serious crisis of confidence over the
effectiveness of the basic U.S. carrier fighter, a worry that would soon influence Fletcher's
most controversial command decision...
Lundstrom, Black Shoe carrier Admiral, p.200
 
There has been a bit of willy waving on another thread associated with this. The Royal Navy replaced the Sea Hurricane with the Seafire and Martlets. By passing the issue of whether a Seafire was suited to escort carriers, were the Martlets not available by mid war, when the USA entered the war, what might have been done to keep the Sea Hurricane in the game? Bearing in mind the Royal Navy was still operating Martlets over Norway up to the end of the war in Europe? Surely a folding wing was not beyond their competence and Hurricanes were still in production to July 1944 which would put the last airframes into service about August/September 1944.
 
There has been a bit of willy waving on another thread associated with this. The Royal Navy replaced the Sea Hurricane with the Seafire and Martlets. By passing the issue of whether a Seafire was suited to escort carriers, were the Martlets not available by mid war, when the USA entered the war, what might have been done to keep the Sea Hurricane in the game? Bearing in mind the Royal Navy was still operating Martlets over Norway up to the end of the war in Europe? Surely a folding wing was not beyond their competence and Hurricanes were still in production to July 1944 which would put the last airframes into service about August/September 1944.

Interesting points
 
For the British it would be deciding between a folding wing Hurricane and a folding wing Spitfire. And please, please keep in mind that either one was just a temporary solution until the Firefly and Firebrand sprang forth in all their glory humbling all other carrier fighters world wide.

Yes we know how that worked out but that what was going in at least a few minds at the time.
Prototype Firefly flew Dec 22, 1941, 2 Weeks after Pearl Harbor and 12 days after the PoW and Repulse went down.
Prototype Firebrand first flew on Feb 27th 1942. 3 months before Midway.
 
There has been a bit of willy waving on another thread associated with this. The Royal Navy replaced the Sea Hurricane with the Seafire and Martlets. By passing the issue of whether a Seafire was suited to escort carriers, were the Martlets not available by mid war, when the USA entered the war, what might have been done to keep the Sea Hurricane in the game? Bearing in mind the Royal Navy was still operating Martlets over Norway up to the end of the war in Europe? Surely a folding wing was not beyond their competence and Hurricanes were still in production to July 1944 which would put the last airframes into service about August/September 1944.
The Martet/FM2 was available for free via Lend-lease and FM2 production had ramped up to meet USN and FAA demand. The Hurricane was ending production and it just wasn't cost effective to continue development of the Sea Hurricane at that point in the war. The RAF resisted attempts to release Hurricanes to the FAA and to fund carrier aircraft development in general.

The main questions:

Was the Sea Hurricane suited for carrier operations?

Yes, it had good STOL characteristics and seems to have had extremely low carrier landing accident rates.

Did it have good performance?

Yes, it had the best climb rate of Allied Carrier fighters prior to the Seafire. It appears to have been the fastest Allied carrier fighter prior to the Seafire at altitudes under ~10K ft.

Was it's range and endurance adequate?

It wasn't outstanding but in actuality it's endurance was only about ~30min less than the F4F-4. OTOH, because it could climb so fast it had the ability to be on the flight deck and only launched when needed, rather than having to be airborne at ~10K ft on CAP duty, to make up for a poor rate of climb.

Was the armament adequate?

Against heavily armoured Axis aircraft 8 x .303MGs was outdated but against poorly armoured aircraft with no self sealing tanks, it was still a lot of firepower. The Sea Hurricane IC and IIC had 4 x 20mm guns.

What was it's biggest draw back?

The lack of folding wings and the fact that it was primarily facing high performance ETO Axis aircraft.
 
The Martet/FM2 was available for free via Lend-lease and FM2 production had ramped up to meet USN and FAA demand. The Hurricane was ending production and it just wasn't cost effective to continue development of the Sea Hurricane at that point in the war. The RAF resisted attempts to release Hurricanes to the FAA and to fund carrier aircraft development in general.

And yet, they had thousands of Hurricanes and were phasing them out from most combat fronts (except Burma maybe?)
The main questions:

Was the Sea Hurricane suited for carrier operations?

Yes, it had good STOL characteristics and seems to have had extremely low carrier landing accident rates.

Did it have good performance?

Yes, it had the best climb rate of Allied Carrier fighters prior to the Seafire. It appears to have been the fastest Allied carrier fighter prior to the Seafire at altitudes under ~10K ft.

Wow! I'd sure like to see some data on that. Do you have a speed chart for the Sea Hurricane specifically or are you going by the Hurricane?

Was it's range and endurance adequate?

It wasn't outstanding but in actuality it's endurance was only about ~30min less than the F4F-4. OTOH, because it could climb so fast it had the ability to be on the flight deck and only launched when needed, rather than having to be airborne at ~10K ft on CAP duty, to make up for a poor rate of climb.

I don't think this is correct. Somehow dozens of Royal Navy officers and Fleet Air Arm pilots seem to have felt that the Sea Hurricane in particular had very poor endurance and range compared to other RN types, and in particular compared to the Martlet.

Was the armament adequate?

Against heavily armoured Axis aircraft 8 x .303MGs was outdated but against poorly armoured aircraft with no self sealing tanks, it was still a lot of firepower. The Sea Hurricane IC and IIC had 4 x 20mm guns.

With 60 rounds.

What was it's biggest draw back?

Range and endurance

The lack of folding wings and the fact that it was primarily facing high performance ETO Axis aircraft.
And, potentially, Japanese fighters.
 
Original question of the thread, was the Sea Hurricane a superior naval fighter than the F4F?
No. The F4F was a superior naval fighter, probably due to the fact that it was originally designed to be one, and had inherent features well aligned to the task. Deck handling, view over the nose, greater internal fuel capacity etc. With the later addition of folding wings, and the fact that they were available in large numbers, for basically free (1943-44), made them an obvious improvement for the FAA.
However, the performance between the two fighters wasn't tipped in the F4F's favor, with the Sea Hurricane out performing the F4F on paper. Assuming pilots of equal skill, pit the best Wildcat, FM-2 against the best Sea Hurricane (IIC?) and the Hawker would probably come out on top.
But by 1943-44, nobody would choose either fighter to build a carrier air wing around, unless dictated by size constraints
 
1) And yet, they had thousands of Hurricanes and were phasing them out from most combat fronts (except Burma maybe?)


2) Wow! I'd sure like to see some data on that. Do you have a speed chart for the Sea Hurricane specifically or are you going by the Hurricane?



3) I don't think this is correct. Somehow dozens of Royal Navy officers and Fleet Air Arm pilots seem to have felt that the Sea Hurricane in particular had very poor endurance and range compared to other RN types, and in particular compared to the Martlet.



4) With 60 rounds.



3) Range and endurance


5) And, potentially, Japanese fighters.
1) So? Those aren't Sea Hurricanes and would need to be converted which costs money vs free FM2s.

2) I looked at the data from PQ18, IRONCLAD, and PEDESTAL and the SH seems to have had the lowest landing accident rate. The data card for the SH1B shows 315mph at 7500ft. The Seafire appeared in late 1942.

3) The early variants of the Martlet had no armour or self sealing tanks and 10% more fuel than the ~SS tank versions and these seem to be the basis for that rumour. The actual data shows the rumours to be unfounded.

4) The Zero had 60 rounds/gun. The SHIIC had 100RPG (Brown: Wings of the Navy).

5) I'm pretty certain that your average F4F-4 Wildcat pilot who was complaining about his aircraft's poor climb rate and manoeuvrability (and whose reports were passed up the line to Nimitz) would be quite happy to fly an aircraft that weighed ~10% less with the same wing area and had ~20% more power... This is hard truth here and we have to recognize it. Yes, the F4F-4 has some superior attributes like folding wings but why then did the FM2 design team spend countless hours and dollars to come up with a lightweight carrier fighter in 1944 that only just matched the mid 1941 SH1B in range and performance?
 
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Original question of the thread, was the Sea Hurricane a superior naval fighter than the F4F?
No. The F4F was a superior naval fighter, probably due to the fact that it was originally designed to be one, and had inherent features well aligned to the task. Deck handling, view over the nose, greater internal fuel capacity etc. With the later addition of folding wings, and the fact that they were available in large numbers, for basically free (1943-44), made them an obvious improvement for the FAA.
However, the performance between the two fighters wasn't tipped in the F4F's favor, with the Sea Hurricane out performing the F4F on paper. Assuming pilots of equal skill, pit the best Wildcat, FM-2 against the best Sea Hurricane (IIC?) and the Hawker would probably come out on top.
But by 1943-44, nobody would choose either fighter to build a carrier air wing around, unless dictated by size constraints

Don't agree 100% but it's a fair and honest assessment. I think by 1943-44 Martlets and Wildcats were being used for convoy escort type duties, CVE's in the US Navy. RN had a bigger problem but they were starting to get Corsairs and Hellcats too, just with a bit of a lag of course.
 
4) The Zero had 60 rounds/gun. The SHIIC had 100RPG (Brown: Wings of the Navy).
Some sources say 90 or 91 rpg. either way a lot more than 60rpg.
why then did the FM2 design team spend countless hours and dollars to come up with a lightweight carrier fighter in 1944 that only just matched the mid 1941 SH1B in range and performance?
design work was done in 1942/43. Production FM-2s showed up in Aug 1943.
And strangely enough, part of the weight savings came from cutting the fuel capacity from 144 US gallons to 117-130 US gal (later ones were 126 US gal) so endurance may not have been as important then. (more radar?) Cutting guns was not the only weight saving measure.
 
1) So? Those aren't Sea Hurricanes and would need to be converted which costs money vs free FM2s.

Well there are still many issues around the use of foreign made aircraft. And yet FAA decided to use not just Martlet (every one they could get) but also Tarpon / Avenger, Hellcat, and Corsair.

The British had the option of using many American aircraft (some direct from Lend Lease, some from French or other cancelled foreign orders) but many which could have also been essentially 'free' were declined. Because there is always a cost when adapting a new aircraft, regardless, from training to logistics to potential losses or failed missions. They didn't want the P-38, P-39, the Chesapeake, the Buccaneer, or the Helldiver. They did want Martlets, Tarpons, Bostons, Kittyhawks, Mustangs, Hellcats, Corsairs, Liberators,

2) I looked at the data from PQ18, IRONCLAD, and PEDESTAL and the SH seems to have had the lowest landing accident rate. The data card for the SH1B shows 315mph at 7500ft. The Seafire appeared in late 1942.

3) The early variants of the Martlet had no armour or self sealing tanks and 10% more fuel than the ~SS tank versions and these seem to be the basis for that rumour. The actual data shows the rumours to be unfounded.

This varied a lot depending on which specific models, as Shortround6 was noting...

4) The Zero had 60 rounds/gun. The SHIIC had 100RPG (Brown: Wings of the Navy).

Again, depends on the model - A6M2 haad 60 rounds, A6M3 carried 100 rounds per gun. Martlet / Wildcat was 240 to 450 per gun depending on which specific type.

5) I'm pretty certain that your average F4F-4 Wildcat pilot who was complaining about his aircraft's poor climb rate and manoeuvrability (and whose reports were passed up the line to Nimitz) would be quite happy to fly an aircraft that weighed ~10% less with the same wing area and had ~20% more power... This is hard truth here and we have to recognize it. Yes, the F4F-4 has some superior attributes like folding wings but why then did the FM2 design team spend countless hours and dollars to come up with a lightweight carrier fighter in 1944 that only just matched the mid 1941 SH1B in range and performance?

I think there are some specific things to look at between F4F-3 or F4F-4 type vs. Sea Hurricane (any version) including roll and dive, ammunition capacity and of course range, the details are quite tricky to pin down. There are a few things to look at specifically based on commentary by FAA pilots who had experience with both types.

FM-2 looks better across the board to me. But we can look at that too.
 
Some sources say 90 or 91 rpg. either way a lot more than 60rpg.

design work was done in 1942/43. Production FM-2s showed up in Aug 1943.
And strangely enough, part of the weight savings came from cutting the fuel capacity from 144 US gallons to 117-130 US gal (later ones were 126 US gal) so endurance may not have been as important then. (more radar?) Cutting guns was not the only weight saving measure.

They had 58 gallon drop tanks by then ;)
 
As a matter of interest, how difficult would it have been to make a folding-wing version of the SH?
 
As a matter of interest, how difficult would it have been to make a folding-wing version of the SH?
I've read that Hawker had designed a FW for the SH, but I've also read that it wasn't possible. OTOH, Lend-lease arrived just at the same time as the FW SH was being considered and Grumman was promising a FW Martlet, in greater numbers than actually appeared. I suspect that plans for a folding wing SH were, in fact, scuppered by Lend-Lease. The folding wing Seafire III also began development around the same time and it promised much higher performance than a folding wing SH or a Martlet.
 
And yet, they had thousands of Hurricanes and were phasing them out from most combat fronts (except Burma maybe?)

When they can be replaced by Spitfires and Typhoons it seems like a reasonable thing to do. Operations in Burma were mostly
carried out with leftovers as newer types went to other fronts.
 
A lot of this stuff takes time.
Sometimes it is just time for stuff to evolve.
The Buffalo had a 35ft wing span, it was also a failure as a carrier fighter, at least without revision. It couldn't land on carrier decks without a huge attrition rate.
Grumman was flying the XF4F-2 in 1937.
IMG_20220307_0008_grande.jpg

With 34 ft wings. By 1939 the wings were square tipped and 38ft. USN asked for folding wings in March of 1940 on one aircraft for test.
They flew a prototype with a power folding wing in April of 1941 but the production folding wings were manual. They didn't show up until the fall of 1941.
The British took delivery of 10 Martlet II's with fixed wings but delayed delivery of the other 90 until they could get the folding wing later in the years.
BTW the WIldcat/Marlets used manual landing gear retraction/extension for it's entire career.
It took the Navy and Grumman a time to realize they needed folding wings and time to implement it.
The USN also had some rather strict fight restrictions that were not waived until some time in the F4U development. Like terminal dives. The F4F never had a speed limit, you could dive it as fast as the plane would go. It also had to spin 10 turns to the right and recover and then repeat, turning 10 turns to the left and recovering. They had to design a wing without giving up any structural strength. Maybe the standard was too strict.

Maybe Hawker could design a folding wing, Maybe they could and were just too busy. Maybe they couldn't come up with a compromise that didn't require too much change to existing structure (like a new wing center section), or too great an increase in weight.
 
Wildcat would eat a Hurricane for breakfast
The Wildcat is by far the better carrier aircraft, as it should be, being designed as such.

But why do you say the above? Per Wikipedia they look about even.

Sea Hurricane Mk IIC
- Merlin XX engine, 1,460 hp
- Maximum speed: 342 mph (550 km/h)
- 8 x .303 mgs (or 4 x 20 mm cannons)

F4F-3
- Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 engine, 1,200 hp
- Maximum speed: 331 mph (533 km/h)
- 4 × 0.50 mgs
 

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