One museum that I didn’t get a chance to visit during 2020 was the RAF Museum at Hendon. The museum has had a number of re-structures over the past few years, notably including a re-vamp of the “Milestones” hangar. That hangar is now an exhibition of more modern RAF conflicts and types. I thought this years advent series might be a good chance to share some additional shots of some of the museum aircraft I’ve photographed around the world and tell the airframe’s stories.
One machine that spent many years suspended from the ceiling of that hangar was the unique Hawker Tempest V (TT.5). Aside from a few restoration projects, this is the only complete example of this impressive machine. The Tempest first flew in 1942, having been developed from the earlier Hawker Typhoon and there were a number of variants of the type. The notable types were ultimately the Napier Sabre powered V (as pictured here) and the Centaurus powered Tempest II (also in the RAF Museum Collection, now at Cosford).
The Mk V’s first flight took place in September 1942 still including the “car door” cockpit arrangement in line with the early Typhoons. The designed was quickly adjusted to include the bubble canopy as seen on the Hendon example. The V would not go into production until 1943 and production was slow initially due to some challenges with the spar design.
Tempests entered service towards the end of the war, with squadrons slowly converting to the type from Typhoons and in some instances Spitfires. The aircraft gained popularity quickly being used for high level fighter sweeps. When the V1 Flying Bombs started coming over to London in June of 1944, the Tempest’s performance made it a prime candidate to take on these high speed invaders. In total Tempest’s accounted for 34% of all of the RAFs kills of the V1. The Tempest gained a formidable reputation in the Luftwaffe as well, with it being cited as the biggest threat to the new ME262 jet during the latter stages of the war.
The RAF museum’s example was built in July 1944 and was flown as a development machine for Napier before being damaged in 1945. After two rounds of repairs the aircraft was transferred to Hawker and put into storage at Kemble in 1946. In 1950, the aircraft was converted by Hawker into a target towing machine (around 80 Tempests were converted for this purpose at the time). The first flight following the conversion was carried out by none other than Neville Duke, famous for the air speed records attempts in the early jets. Once testing was completed the airframe moved to Pembery in Wales where it’s towing career started. The Tempests were retired in 1955 as Meteors took over. As always with so many now preserved aircraft, a chequered history of storage followed before joining the RAF Museum collection in 1965. The airframe was restored in 1968 and went on display at Hendon in 1972. IN 1991 the airframe was stripped down again and returned to TT.5 Target towing configuration again, ultimately rolling out in 2003, joining the new milestones exhibit at Hendon later that year.