Sydney Camm and his team responded to Specification F.18/37 that called for a single-seat interceptor, with two tenders. One was referred to as the "R-type" and the other as the "N-type". These were to use fundamentally similar airframes and differ essentially in the type of engine installed. The “R-type”, which was to be named Tornado, initially appeared the most promising and was powered by a 24-cylinder X-type Rolls-Royce Vulture - basically two 12-cylinder Peregrine V engines driving a common crankshaft.
The first of two prototypes was flown on 6 October 1939 with a 1760hp Vulture II, provision being made for an armament of 12 7.7mm machine guns. The similarly-powered second prototype, flown on 5 December 1940, had provision for a four 20mm cannon armament.
In May 1940, the war situation led to the cancellation of all priority for Typhoon and Tornado development in order to allow every effort to be put into the production of sorely needed Hurricanes. Design development was allowed to continue, however, and during 1940 three alternative engine installations were proposed for the Tornado, the Fairey Monarch, the Wright Duplex Cyclone, and the Bristol Centaurus - and experimental drawings for the Centaurus installation were completed. By October 1940 enthusiasm had been revived and production of the Tornado and Typhoon reinstated, production deliveries of both being scheduled for the following year. A Tornado assembly line was laid down by Avro, the production model being intended to receive the Vulture V of 1980hp, with which both prototypes were reengined. The Vulture, meanwhile, was suffering various problems, such as connecting rod bolt failures, and as the Merlin possessed absolute priority, Rolls-Royce was forced to abandon the production of this X-type engine. This led to cancellation of the initial production batch of 201 Tornados, only one production example being completed and flown on 29 August 1941.
But this was fated to be the only production Tornado, for difficulties with the Vulture resulted in the decision to remove this power plant from the aero-engine development program, this decision also canceling production of the Tornado.
The Tornado weighed 8,200 lb. empty and 10,580 lb. loaded. Its maximum speed was 425 m.p.h. at 23,000 feet.
However, in February 1941, Hawker's received a contract to convert a Tornado to take a 2210hp Bristol Centaurus CE.4S 18-cylinder air-cooled radial engine. Among the modifications required were a new center fuselage and engine mounting. The new prototype (HG641) was assembled from Tornado production components and flown for the first time on October 23, 1941. The first Centaurus installation had an exhaust collector ring forward of the engine from which a single external exhaust stack pipe led back under the root of the port wing. This arrangement soon proved unsatisfactory, so the oil-cooler duct was enlarged and led forward to the nose, while twin exhaust pipes led back from the front collector ring through this fairing to eject under the belly of the fuselage. A level speed of 421 m.p.h. was attained with the Centaurus-Tornado, and this was slightly higher than that attainable by the Sabre-powered Typhoon, but the Typhoon airframe could not be adapted to take the radial engine.
When a captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190A was examined late in 1941, numerous alterations to the British radial engine installation were made by Bristol, with considerable benefit to the test-bed's performance.
The second prototype Tornado (P5224) had, in the meantime, been completed, and the sole production Tornado (R7936) later played a useful role as a test-bed for deHavilland and Rotol contraprops.
The Centaurus Tornado continued flying in 1942 and it was the encouraging results that led to the Tempest II.
Engine: Rolls Royce Vulture V, 1953 hp
Length: 32 ft 10 in / 10.01 m
Height: 14 ft 8 in / 4.47 m
Wingspan: 41 ft 11 in / 12.78 m
Wing area: 282.986 sq.ft / 26.29 sq.m
Max take off weight: 10670.0 lb / 4839.0 kg
Weight empty: 8379.0 lb / 3800.0 kg
Max. speed: 346 kt / 641 km/h / 398 mph
Service ceiling: 34908 ft / 10640 m
Wing loading: 37.72 lb/sq.ft / 184.0 kg/sq.m