At the outbreak of World War II, the Allied countries lacked aircraft effectively adapted or designed to the ground attack role, such as the German Junkers Ju 87, Stuka, which had already been tested during the Spanish Civil War. As a continuation of the "trench fighter" concept of World War I, most Allied fighter aircraft were adapted to carry weapons with which to support their ground forces, both above the battlefield itself or at the enemy’s immediate rear, but these were temporary improvisations or makeshift as the RAF was slow to convert its fighters into an effective and specialized ground attack force, preferring to employ specialist light bombers in the task. However, when its Fairey Battle aircraft were shown to possess neither the speed nor defensive ability to survive enemy fighters and Flak, the Hawker Hurricane eventually took over as a serious and effective ground attack plane, using guns and bombs in the cross-Channel sweeps that started in 1941.
In the early stages of the war, the UK and her fast diminishing European Allies were thrown almost entirely on the defensive, and such campaigns were not conducive to the use of fighter aircraft in the ground attack role, but rather in disputing enemy air superiority. Only when the Allies were ready to take the initiative, at first in isolated operations, such as at Dieppe, and later in major campaigns in North Africa and ultimately throughout Europe, did the ground attack aircraft really come into its own. All manner of specialist support tasks were undertaken, including bombing, rocket-firing, smoke-laying, tactical reconnaissance, anti-tank attack, and so on. What had euphemistically been termed the ‘army co-operation’ by the RAF for 20 years was now deemed a major strike element of the ground offensive.
The Hawker Typhoon, a relative failure in its original role as an interceptor, was shown to be a devastating ground attack fighter, and could now be seen as the prototype of a new generation of strike aircraft, its rudimentary 76.2mm (3in) rockets presaging a new concept of artillery that would dominate the battleground of armor and entrenched or concrete defenses. Indeed, the speed of land advances during the final year of the war in Europe and the Far East was directly proportional to the weight of tactical air support, whether by hordes of Soviet Shturmoviks in the Ukraine or by Hurricanes over Rangoon. However, the most effective Allied ground attack aircraft was the American P-47D Thunderbolt, a fast fighter which had been converted for the ground attack role with the addition of 123mm rockets, four more .50-caliber machine guns to a total of eight, plus additional armor to protect the pilot; and the result was the P-47D-40-RE, a highly effective specialized ground attack aircraft that attacked German convoys, military trains, and armored vehicles formations.
The Hawker Typhoon was a devastating weapon to the advancing Allied forces in Europe and North Africa.