I really wanted to start with the phrase of Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol about "Turn around, son, what you are ..." Indeed, they were just like that - neither here nor there. But - the British off-deck fighters Sea Hurricane and Seafire.
It turns out a kind of bridge from the carrier-based sub-fighter A6M2 "Reisen" / "Zero" (although many consider it to be a kind of perfection) to underdecked fighters. Yes, it happened too.
"Sea Hurricane" was also called "Catafighter". I don't know if it comes from the word "hearse" or is it an abbreviated "catapult fighter", but история was by the plane God forbid, because British obstinacy mixed with suicidal tendencies gave rise to a rather creepy misalliance.
But - from the screw, and flew.
When World War II began, as always, it suddenly became clear that the British were not ready. This is not to say that they did not have planes. But in 1939, only a foolish optimist or a lord of the Admiralty could call this flying rubbish planes.
Indeed, the Sea Gladiator is a biplane suitable only for countries like Brazil. Blackburn's creations (albeit monoplanes) Skew and Rock, and with them Fulmar from Fairy, are also pretty poor creations. Slow, clumsy, with ugly turrets (some) that negatively affect aerodynamics and in general.
"Rock". Handsome fighter
"And in general" is the key. Anyway, these planes were ... so-so. But there were. And with this it was necessary to do something, since the war began, and it was necessary to fight not with figures of performance characteristics, but with real planes. As with the famous part. There were bodies, tsiferki, but there were no aircraft capable of performing combat missions.
And in these terrible realities of the presence of air traffic jams, the British command decided to do at least something in order to be able to fight at sea with aviation cover.
At the start of the war, the British had one and a half normal fighters. Land-based Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire.
Spitfire was handsome, but required a lot of resources, both in materials and in man-hours. Because, as it were, "I was barely enough." That is, for the needs of the Royal Air Force, which is waging a war with the Luftwaffe. Therefore, in spite of all the inferiority, first they took up the already spent "Hurricane".
In addition, the "Hurricanes" have already been stamped so many that they can take and remake a couple of hundred for the needs fleet wasn't a big problem. The main thing is that the Hurricane was a very solid construction, which made it possible to use it on a sea catapult. Yes, and landing on the deck of the Hurricane could easily withstand. Otherwise, let's be honest, the plane was so-so.
Nevertheless, back in 1940, the British received the first experience of using the "Harry" on the decks of aircraft carriers. It cost them dearly, but nonetheless.
The ill-fated "Glories" took on board completely land "Hurricanes", which he delivered to Norway, where they, taking off from the deck, landed on land airfields and there they were already performing their combat missions.
However, since the Germans very quickly asked the British back, the ten surviving Hurricanes had to return home again on the aircraft carrier Glories. Landing land planes on deck without a brake hook is very difficult. Only really cool British pilots could really do it. And even then on the second attempt, on the night of June 7, 1940, when the planes boarded an aircraft carrier in a very strong headwind.
And then, you know, Glories ran into a sweet couple: Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Nobody began to take off on land fighters without a chance to land, so the planes went to the bottom together with the aircraft carrier.
And then it dawned on the British that, after all, a decent marine fighter simply had to be. And the work began. Moreover, they decided to make two sea-based aircraft at once: a classic deck boat with a brake hook and a fighter that was supposed to take off from a truss catapult using powder accelerators. Catapult "Sea Hurricanes" were going to arm the ships of the Atlantic convoys, so that they could defend themselves against German aircraft.
Ground tests of the catapult
This is how the Catafighter appeared (go Hurricet, as it was also called) - a catapult fighter that takes off from any ship where there is a catapult. It differed from the base model only in that the power set of the fuselage was strengthened.
It was a European version of the kamikaze. Such a plane could land exclusively on a land airfield. If such an airfield was not foreseen, then the plane, together with the pilot, became simply disposable. In the conditions of Arctic convoys - a splashdown, and then an inflatable raft with a supply of water and food and a chance that the convoy ship will pick it up.
35 former merchant ships of various types and sizes were prepared for such Euromertikas, which began to be called CAM-class vessels, that is, Catapult Aircraft Merchantman - "a merchant ship with a catapult aircraft."
The simplest truss catapult and the simplest launching system. It was all very simple.
There was a very funny nuance: suicide bombers on merchant ships were selected from the Royal Air Force, that is, land pilots. And on naval vessels equipped with catapults of a similar design - from among the pilots of the naval air force of the fleet.
In general, it all looked like this: when torpedo bombers or Luftwaffe bombers appeared, correctly assessing the situation, the ship commander gave the order to launch the aircraft. Yes, the order to launch was given by the captain, since it was he who bore full responsibility for the launch, since this launch was the only one.
"Katafighter" was fired from a 21 m long catapult using powder boosters. Then there was an air battle, after which the pilot made a decision about what he could do next: fly to a regular airfield, splash down or parachute.
In the conditions of the northern convoys, everything is so-so.
It is clear that there was no talk of any land airfields. On the nearest, which are in Norway, the Germans were based. So the only way out was to jump with a parachute next to their ships and wait for help, hoping that the pilot would not have time to freeze. For this purpose, on all ejection vessels, there was a team of rescuers, who were always ready to help the suicide bomber in an inflatable motor boat. Well, if, in the heat of battle, the rescuers did not have time to see how, when and where the pilot splashed down ... Well, this is war.
On the other hand, the British could not establish the production of the so-called escort aircraft carriers (former merchant ships for 10-12 aircraft), so they had to protect the convoys with what was at hand. That is, the SAM vessels.
In general, in more than two years, 35 CAM-class vessels made 176 cruises, and in these cruises the Germans sank 12 ships. There were 8 launches of "Catafighters". British pilots shot down 6 German planes, losing only one of their pilots. It is understood that eight of the eight fighters were lost.
In general, at the very least, the Sea Hurricane Mk.1A fought. It immediately became clear that a normal carrier-based fighter was needed. Disposable kamikazes are, of course, not bad, but the Germans have raided the same convoys more than once.
Therefore, the Sea Hurricane Mk.1B was quickly created with a brake hook and nodes for launching from a carrier-based catapult of an aircraft carrier.
But that was a completely different conversation. The aircraft required significant structural reinforcement, since it assumed repeated loads associated with takeoff and landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Therefore, it was necessary to significantly strengthen the power set of the fuselage, wing attachments, and landing gear. And replace radio equipment with naval equipment.
And the most important thing. For the sake of saving time and materials, the British did not bother with the development and implementation of the wing folding mechanism. A unique practice, but the aircraft was not developed for an aircraft carrier, but on the contrary, the aircraft carrier was adapted to the existing aircraft. Nobody did this either before or after.
And the fact that aircraft on aircraft carriers, especially on escort ones, could not be put into hangars ... A real sailor and naval pilot of Her Majesty the Queen must steadfastly endure all the nonsense and perversions of military service.
In general, all the aircraft carriers available at that time (Furies, Arc Royal, Formidable, Eagle) and several escort aircraft carriers built in the USA were armed with these not quite correct aircraft.
In addition, the British have come up with another innovation. Or perversion. These are MAS class ships, Merchant Aircraft Carrier, cargo aircraft carrier. Unlike the CAM-class ships with truss catapult, these ships had a flight deck laid over the superstructures, from which several Sea Hurricanes could take off and land in the normal way.
It is clear that there were no lifts on such ships, and the planes easily stood under covers (at best) on deck decks. In the conditions of the Arctic - the very thing. Corrosion, salt-damaged paint, and everything else was not good for the aircraft. Plus, low temperatures and icing.
But what happened, so we had to fight, in the end, not only us, right?
Since initially, being land-based, the Hurricane frankly did not shine with either speed, or rapid climb, or weapons, then, having received about 200 kg more into the design, it became a sad device in general. That is, it was not very good, but here it was also aggravated by its weaknesses.
In general, the Hurricane's strong point was its thick wing profile, which made it possible to take off with a fairly low mileage and land in the same way. Everything in between these points was bad.
The naval officers understood that something had to be done about this. I especially did not like the armament of eight mediocre 7,7 mm machine guns with a very small (280-354 pcs.) Ammunition. And they rightly demanded a modern aircraft with normal armament in terms of performance characteristics. Preferably with a cannon.
At the beginning of 1942, dreams began to come true, the Sea Hurricane Mk.IC with a Merlin III engine with a capacity of as much as 1030 hp began to enter service with the naval aviation. Instead of eight machine guns, the plane was armed with four 20-mm cannons "British Hispano", licensed "Hispano-Suiza".
True, the Sea Hurricane's flying became even worse. The maximum speed dropped to 474 km / h, which generally made it impossible for at least some kind of maneuverable battle.
And a New Year's gift by 1943 was the Sea Hurricane Mk.IIC with the Merlin XX engine, which developed 1280 hp. The plane began to accelerate to "as much" 550 km / h, but still remained an iron.
But since the "hearses" fought mainly in the North, where the Luftwaffe was bad with fighters, because the "Messerschmitts" (except for the 110s) could not accompany bombers and torpedo bombers in range, the British were fine. German bombers were very poor at withstanding a volley of four guns.
The second theater for the use of naval fighters was the Mediterranean, where the hearses had to fight both Italian aircraft and, unfortunately, German ones.
By the way, the British suffered the most tangible losses not from the Luftwaffe, but from the Kriegsmarine, whose submarine sank the Ark Royal aircraft carrier in November 1941 along with all the aircraft. And in August 1942, another submarine sent the aircraft carrier Eagle to the bottom. This made it difficult to counter the forces of the Luftwaffe and supply the blocked garrison of the island of Malta.
Only the Indomitable and Victories aircraft were left to defend the Maltese convoys, so the Hurricane pilots had to strain very hard, especially during Operation Pedestal. But the British pilots coped, and a very battered convoy still came to Malta.
And the pilots of the Sea Hurricanes chalked up 25 of the 39 enemy aircraft shot down during the raids.
In the North, the successes were more modest, but there the conditions were much more difficult, and the Luftwaffe was not so active. Escorting the Arctic convoys, the escort aircraft carrier "Avenger", which was built by the Americans, plowed all the way.
After the defeat of PQ-17, the next convoy, PQ-18, went as far north as possible so as not to fall into the range of German aviation. Nevertheless, air battles took place. The Avenger pilots shot down five torpedo bombers and bombers in battles, losing four of their aircraft.
The final for the Sea Hurricane was Operation Torch, the landing of the allies in North Africa. The landing force in Algeria was covered by the escort aircraft carriers Avenger, Beater and Dasher.
After "Torch" began the widespread replacement of "Sea Hurricanes" by "Seafires" and American "Wildcats" and "Hellcats".
Whatever one may say, even with cannons and a more powerful engine, the Katafighter was completely unsuitable for a war against German aircraft. Until 1944, the Sea Hurricanes remained in service with several MAC-class transports, but by 1944 all of them were either decommissioned or transferred to the coastal anti-submarine patrol service.
In general, it is a very logical result, because the Hurricane has already got to the fleet in the status of an outdated and weak aircraft. Low speed, weak armament at first, poor visibility from the cockpit and low flight range could not put the car in the first ranks of fighters for superiority in the sky.
Modifications with cannon armament and a more powerful engine did not improve, but even accelerated the end of the fighter's service, because, although it became somewhat faster, but not so much as to keep up with modern counterparts, in terms of maneuverability, everything remained at the "bad" level.
The situation was improved by the appearance in sufficient numbers of aircraft of new models, "Hellcat" and "Seafire".
However, despite all the inferiority of the Sea Hurricane, it is nevertheless worthy of respect, since it was on its wings that the brunt of the first three years of the war at sea fell. And what respect are worthy of the pilots of the "hearse", who went on it in 1943 against the "Focke-Wulfs" and "Messerschmitts" of the G series ...
In general, "Katafighter" deservedly took its place in history. Let and like an airplane, worse than which few were.
LTH Sea Hurricane Mk.IIС
Wingspan, m: 12,19.
Length, m: 9,84.
Height, m: 4,05.
Wing Area, m2: 23,92.
- empty aircraft: 2 631;
- normal take-off: 3;
- maximum take-off: 3 674.
Engine: 1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin XX x 1280 HP
Maximum speed, km / h: 550.
Practical range, km: 730.
Practical ceiling, m: 10 850.
Crew, person: 1.
Armament: four 20-mm cannons with 91 rounds per barrel.