Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Hawker Hurricane

The Hawker Hurricane, famous for its service in 1940 during the Battle of Britain, was obsolescent by 1943. Another famous use of this aircraft was as a fighter-bomber with the Desert Air Force in 1941-1942. The Hurricane IIC had a four 20mm cannons, but this was not enough firepower to destroy enemy tanks. The Hurricane IID swapped its 20mm cannons for a pair of 40mm cannons. This new “Hurribomber” quickly earned a reputation as a tank buster; the first IID-equipped squadron became known as the “Flying Can Openers”.  

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The Vintage Wings of Canada Donald “Bunny” McLarty Hawker Hurricane Mk IV in the colours of No. 6 Squadron RAF (Photo: Eric Dumigan)

For Operation HUSKY, the Hawker Hurricane saw very limited action. Most Hurricane squadrons would eventually swap these aircraft for Supermarine Spitfires. One notable use of the Hurricane in support of the Sicilian invasion was in the intruder role. A detachment of Hurricanes at Malta flew around the coast of Sicily at night shooting out Axis searchlights in support of Allied night bombers and the airborne landings. Some Hurricanes also remained in service as fast courier aircraft.


Specifications (Hawker Hurricane IID)

Type: single-seat tank buster

Powerplant: one 1088.5kW (1460hp) Rolls-Royce Merlin XX 12-cylinder Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 518km/h (322mph); climb to 6095m (20,000ft) in 12 minutes 24 seconds; service ceiling of 9785m (32,100ft); range 1448km (900 miles)

Weights: empty 2586kg (5700lb); normal take-off 3493kg (7700lb); maximum take-off 3674kg (8100lb)

Wingspan: 12.19m (40ft)

Length: 9.81m (32ft 3in)

Height: 3.98m (13ft 1in)

Armament: two 40mm (1.57in) fixed forward-firing cannon under the wing, and two 7.7mm (0.303in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the leading edges of the wing typically armed with tracer ammunition


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The following Mediterranean Air Command units flew the Hawker Hurricane:

Northwest African Coastal Air Force

  • No. 253 Squadron RAF
  • No. 32 Squadron RAF
  • No. 87 Squadron RAF

Northwest African Tactical Air Force

  • No. 6 Squadron RAF
  • No. 241 Squadron RAF

Air Headquarters Malta

  • No. 73 Squadron RAF
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Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Douglas A-20 Havoc / Boston

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In an interesting combined operation, RAF Boston light bombers acted as pathfinders on the night of 17/18 July for a US B-25 Mitchell attack [against Naples] because the USAAF was a day bombing force.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

The Douglas A-20 Havoc (or Boston for Commonwealth aircrews) was a light bomber that served with the Northwest African Tactical Air Force’s tactical bomber force. Targets for these aircraft included Axis gun positions, lines of communication, and troop concentrations. In particular, these tactical bombers. On rare occasions, Boston crews with night flying training and experience served as pathfinders for USAAF medium bomber crews who had limited experience operating at night.  


Specifications (A-20B Havoc/DB-7B Boston III)

Type: four-seat light attack bomber

Powerplant: two 1193kW (1600hp) Wright GR-2600-A5B Double Cyclone radial engines

Performance: maximum speed 515km/h (320mph); initial climb rate 609m (2000ft) per minute; service ceiling 7470m (24,500ft); range 1996km (1240 miles) with reduced bomb load

Weights: empty 5534kg (12,200lb); normal take-off 8959kg (19,750lb); maximum take-off 9789kg (21,580lb)

Wingspan: 18.69m (61 ft 4in)

Length: 14.48m (47ft 6in)

Height: 6.36m (17ft 7in)

Armament: four 7.7mm (0.303in) fixed forward-firing machine guns on the sides of the forward fuselage, two 7.7mm (0.303in) trainable machine guns in the dorsal position and one 7.7mm (0.303in) trainable machine guns in the ventral position, plus an internal bomb load of 907kg (2000lb)


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The following Mediterranean Air Command units flew the Havoc/Boston light bomber. Notice the South African Air Force (SAAF) squadrons:

Northwest African Tactical Air Force

  • No. 12 Squadron SAAF (Boston III)
  • No. 24 Squadron SAAF (Boston III)
  • No. 18 Squadron RAF (Boston III)
  • No. 114 Squadron RAF (Boston III)
  • US 84th Bombardment Squadron (A-20B)
  • US 85th Bombardment Squadron (A-20B)
  • US 86th Bombardment Squadron (A-20B)
  • US 97th Bombardment Squadron (A-20B)
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Macchi MC205 Greyhound

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While the Allies and the Germans would reorganize some Italian air units to support their efforts in the Mediterranean, the Regia Aeronautica largely collapsed in disorder following the armistice, having been practically shot from the skies by late July 1943.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

The Macchi MC205 Veltro (Greyhound) was a development of the earlier MC202 Folgore (Lightning) fighter. During Operation HUSKY, the MC205 was a relatively new piece of kit, having started operational service in February 1943. Although it was arguably one of the finest single-engine fighters of the war, it arrived too little, too late to make a significant difference for the Italian war effort. By the time of the armistice, the Regia Aeronautica had only accepted approximately 150 of these aircraft. After the armistice, a handful of examples served with the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force while a few dozen served with II Gruppe/Jagdgeschwader 77 as the German fighter wing rebuilt in autumn 1943. The Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (Italian Social Republic Air Force) also used surviving aircraft and the remaining production run of the Macchi plant in Northern Italy into 1944.


Specifications (MC205V)
Type: single-seat fighter

Powerplant: one 1100kW (1475hp) Fiat RA.1050 RC.58 Tifone 12-cylinder inverted-Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 642km/h (399mph); climb to 5000m (16,405ft) in 4 minutes 47 seconds; service ceiling 11,000m (36,090ft); range 1040km (646 miles)

Weights: empty 2581kg (5691lb); normal take-off 3224kg (7108lb); maximum take-off 3408kg (7514lb)

Wingspan: 10.59m (34ft 9in)

Length: 8.85m (29ft)

Height: 3.04m (10ft)

Armament: two 12.7mm (0.5in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the upper part of the forward fuselage and two 20mm (0.79in) forward-firing cannon in the leading edges of the wing, plus bomb load of 320kg (705lb)


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The Macchi MC205 served in limited numbers with the following Regia Aeronautica fighter wing based in Sicily, Calabria (the Italian toe), and Puglia (the heel). These units also flew Macchi MC202s.

  • 4 Stormo Caccia Terrestre (CT)
    • 9 Gruppo CT
      • 73 Squadriglia
      • 96 Squadriglia
      • 97 Squadriglia
    • 10 Gruppo CT
      • 84 Squadriglia
      • 90 Squadriglia
      • 91 Squadriglia
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Bristol Beaufighter

Paddy fired a burst from 250 yards and watched as the German aircraft exploded in midair – the four 20mm cannons and six machine guns on a Beaufighter packed a punch.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

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The Allied air forces employed the Bristol Beaufighter in two roles during Operation Husky. First, the Northwest African Coastal Air Force used the Beaufighter Mk VIC in an anti-shipping attack fighter role. These aircraft were equipped with cannons, rockets, torpedos, or bombs to take on the surface fleet of the Regia Marina or the supply ships of the Italian and German merchant navies. The Beaufighter Mk VIF was a night fighter variant used by Air Headquarters Malta and the Coastal Air Force in air defence and intruder roles.


Specifications (Mk VIF)

Type: two-seat night fighter

Powerplant: Two 1219kW (1635hp) Bristol Hercules VI 14-cylinder two-row radial engines

Performance: maximum speed 536km/h (333mph); climb rate 586m/m (1923 ft/m); service ceiling 8083m (26519ft); range 2381km (1479 miles)

Weights: empty 6631kg (14619lb), maximum take-off 9810kg (21627lb)

Wingspan: 17.65m (57ft 10in)

Length: 12.6m (41ft 4in)

Height: 4.84m (15ft 10in)

Armament: four 20mm (0.79in) fixed forward-firing cannon in the underside of the forward fuselage and six 7.7mm (0.303in) forward-firing machine guns in the wings, plus an external torpedo, bomb, and rocket load of 1111kg (2450lb)

Sensors: one Air Interception Mk VIII series radar system in the nose


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The following units in Mediterranean Air Command flew Beaufighters:

Northwest African Coastal Air Force

  • No. 219 Squadron RAF (Mk VIF)
  • No. 153 Squadron RAF (Mk VIF)
  • No. 255 Squadron RAF (Mk VIF)
  • No. 39 Squadron RAF (Mk VIC)
  • No. 47 Squadron RAF (Mk VIC)
  • No. 144 Squadron RAF (Mk VIC)

Air Headquarters Malta

  • No. 600 Squadron RAF (Mk VIF)
  • No. 108 Squadron RAF (Mk VIF)
  • No. 272 Squadron RAF (Mk VIC)
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Savoia-Marchetti SM79 Sparrowhawk

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At 0025 hours, an Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM79 Sparrowhawk penetrated Force H’s defence screen unchallenged. Once the bomber loosed its payload, Indomitable realised she was under attack and began to turn into the torpedo. The turn came too late, however, and the missile slammed into the port side of the carrier, opening a 28-square-foot hole in the hull.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

By mid-1943 the Savoia-Marchetti SM79 Sparviero (Sparrowhawk) was obsolete, but it was retained as a torpedo bomber out of necessity. The Regia Aeronautica’s torpedo bomber force was mostly ineffective during Operation Husky. There weren’t enough aircraft or crews left to achieve enough concentrated strength to mount successful raids against Allied shipping. The torpedoing of HMS Indomitable on the night of 15/16 July 1943 was an impressive exception.


Specifications (SM79-III)

Type: four/five-seat torpedo bomber

Powerplant: three 746kW (1,000hp) Alfa Romeo 128 RC.34 9-cylinder single-row radial engines

Performance: maximum speed 475km/h (295 mph); climb to 5000m (16,000ft) in 16 minutes 7 seconds; service ceiling 6500m (21325ft); range 1900km (1181 miles) with a 1250kg (2756lb) bomb load

Weights: empty 6800kg (14991lb); maximum take-off 10480kg (23,104lb)

Wingspan: 21.2m (69ft 3in)

Length: 15.62m (51ft 9in)

Height: 4.40m (14ft 5in)

Armament: one 12.7mm (0.5in) fixed forward-firing machine gun above the cockpit, one 12.7mm (0.5in) trainable rearward-firing machine gun in dorsal position, one 12.7mm (0.5in) machine gun in ventral position and one 7.7mm (0.303in) machine gun in two beam positions; bomb load of 1250kg (2756lb)


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Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Shrike

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In addition to plotted raids, there was particular trouble with low-level bombing and strafing of the beaches. Fw 190 fighter-bombers would ingress on routes that hugged the valleys leading to the beaches to avoid being detected by radar.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger (Shrike) first saw service in the Mediterranean in November 1942. After being driven from North Africa, the Luftwaffe sent much of their fighter production to the region, hoping to stop the Allied advance. Those Fw 190s sent south were typically deployed in the ground attack role. During Operation HUSKY, their targets were Allied shipping between North Africa and Sicily and Allied ground forces once ashore.


Specifications (Fw 190A-4)

Type: single-seat fighter-bomber

Powerplant: one 1267.5kW (1700hp) BMW 801D-2 14-cylinder two-row radial engine

Performance: maximum speed 670km/h (420mph); initial climb rate 863m (2830ft) per minute; service ceiling 11400m (37400ft); range 800km (497 miles)

Weights: empty 2900kg (6393lb); maximum take-off 3980kg (8770lb)

Wingspan: 10.5m (34ft 6in)

Length: 8.8m (28ft 11in)

Height: 3.95m (12 ft 11in)

Armament: four 20mm (0.79in) fixed forward-firing cannon in the leading edges of the wing, and two 7.92mm (0.31in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the upper part of the forward fuselage.


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The following units in Luftflotte 2 were equipped with Focke-Wulf Fw 190s during Operation Husky:

  • Schlachtgeschwader (SchlG) 2
    • I/SchlG 2
    • II/SchlG 2
  • Schnellkampfgeschwader (SKG) 10
    • Gruppenstab SKG 10
    • II/SKG 10
    • III/SKG 10
    • IV/SKG 10
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Supermarine Spitfire

“I reckon that woke him up!” That was the thought running through Flying Officer Irving F. “Hap” Kennedy’s mind as he pulled his Spitfire out of a run against the port engine of a Junkers Ju 52. The aircraft’s gunner had been napping just before Hap had let loose his burst of fire. Moments later, the Ju 52 and its cargo and crew crashed into the sea.

– Excerpt from Canada’s Eagles over Husky

Hurricane Mark II & Spitfire over Blackpool.
Spitfire AB910 of the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which is based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.

Known for its unique elliptical wings, this classic warplane became the workhorse of the Commonwealth air forces in the middle and late years of the Second World War. During the Battle of Sicily, most of the RAF tactical daylight fighter squadrons flew the Supermarine Spitfire. Typical missions included fighter sweeps, combat air patrols above the Operation Husky beachheads, and escorting tactical and strategic bombers to their targets in Sicily. Malta-based Spitfires also saw some fighter-bomber activity before Desert Air Force fighter-bombers moved into the island for the invasion. The Spitfire Mk VC, Spitfire MK VIII, and Spitfire Mk IX all saw action. Two squadrons flew a photo-reconnaissance variant.


Specifications (F Mk VIII)

Type: single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber

Powerplant: one 1230kW (1650hp) Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 12-cylinder Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 657km/h (408mph) at 25,000ft; service ceiling 43000ft; range 1060km (660 miles) or 1900km (1180 miles) with a 90 gallon drop tank

Weights: empty 2545kg (5610lb); maximum take-off 4309kg (9500lb)

Wingspan: 11.23m (36ft 10in)

Length: 9.46m (31ft)

Height: 3.85m (12ft 8in)

Armament: two 20mm (0.79in) fixed forward-firing cannon and four 7.7mm (0.303in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the leading edges of the wing, plus an external bomb load of 454kg (1000lb)


The following units in Mediterranean Air Command flew Spitfires in Operation Husky. As you can see, some American and French fighter units also flew these aircraft.

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Northwest African Coastal Air Force

  • US 52nd Fighter Group
    • US 2nd Fighter Squadron
    • US 4th Fighter Squadron
    • US 5th Fighter Squadron
  • No. 232 Wing RAF
    • 73 Squadron RAF
    • II/7 (French)

Northwest African Tactical Air Force

  • Desert Air Force
    • No. 2 Squadron SAAF
    • No. 4 Squadron SAAF
    • No. 1 Squadron SAAF
    • No. 92 Squadron RAF
    • No. 145 Squadron RAF
    • No. 417 Squadron RCAF
    • No. 601 Squadron RAF
    • No. 81 Squadron RAF
    • No. 152 Squadron RAF
    • No. 154 Squadron RAF
    • No. 232 Squadron RAF
    • No. 242 Squadron RAF
    • No. 43 Squadron RAF
    • No. 72 Squadron RAF
    • No. 93 Squadron RAF
    • No. 111 Squadron RAF
    • No. 243 Squadron RAF
  • US 31st Fighter Group
    • US 307th Fighter Squadron
    • US 308th Fighter Squadron
    • US 309th Fighter Squadron
  • Tactical Bomber Force
    • No. 225 Squadron RAF

Northwest African Photo Reconnaissance Wing

  • No. 680 Squadron RAF

Air Headquarters Malta

  • No. 40 Squadron SAAF
  • No. 126 Squadron RAF
  • No. 185 Squadron RAF
  • No. 229 Squadron RAF
  • No. 249 Squadron RAF
  • No. 1435 Flight
  • 683 Squadron RAF (Reconnaissance)