While much of the romance of World War 2

 dogfighting often heads in the direction of

the USAAF's North American P-51 Mustang

 or the Vought F4U Corsair, the Republic

P-47 Thunderbolt (affectionately

  nicknamed "the Jug" by her pilots) stands

second to none when considering her

 global reach, her contributions to the air

and ground war (in all theaters) and the

 fact that she was produced more than any

other American fighter of the war.

 Though not too pretty to look at, the

Thunderbolt had "it" where it counted -

 through her stressed metal skin, robust

airframe and powerful engine. Her weight never made her a prominent close-up

dogfighting champion but this drawback allowed her to excel in "dive and zoom"

attacks against enemy fighters while proving her equally adept at ground strikes

accomplished through the battery of eight heavy machine guns, 5-inch rockets and

conventional bombs. In the end, this unsung hero of World War 2 proved that she

played second fiddle to no one - regardless how sexy a design she was up against.

The P-47 proved such a fearsome foe that Axis infantrymen on the ground dreaded

the day they would have to encounter the "Fatty from Farmingdale" coming out of the

skies with her eight machine guns ablaze. The Thunderbolt served in every major

combat theater of World War 2.

This article if for all those Jug pilots that never got their due.


Alexander de Seversky

Alexander Nikolaivitch Prokofiev de Seversky was born into a wealthy aristocratic

family back in Russia. Though thousands of miles away from any American city, this

family name would help to one day bring about the creation of the fabled P-47. As no

one thing was out of reach for such a family, one of the prizes under Seversky

ownership became one of the first airplanes in the country of Russia. As such,

Alexander Seversky learned to fly at an early age and a passion for all things flight

and an equal passion for all things mechanical soon evolved from within. Seversky

was then enrolled in military school by age 10 and went on to graduate from the

Russian Imperial Naval Academy in 1914. By the time of World War 1, he was

stationed aboard a destroyer as a sailor with the Russian Navy in the Baltic Sea but

his first passion remained flying - and he was quite good at it. Shortly after 1915, he

transferred out of the Navy and attended the Military School of Aeronautics only to

return to the Russian Navy - this time as a pilot.


After his re-assignment, Seversky was installed into one of Russia's burgeoning flying

squadrons. He was charged as pilot of a two-man bombers with a comrade - the

observer/rear gunner - in the second cockpit. Seversky took to the air in what may

have felt like a "routine" (if there's anything routine about combat) mission against

German destroyers. During the initial attack, his aircraft took serious ground fire,

foiling the attack and forcing the aircraft into the sea. To add insult to this mishap, the

unexploded ordnance under the wings now detonated, instantly killing his observer

and severely mutilating Seversky's leg. While eventually rescued, Russian doctors

were forced to amputate the damage leg and Seversky's flying career was all but



Recovered from his wounds and now fitted with a wooden leg, Seversky set out to

reclaim his former position as a flyer with the Russian air service. While his superiors

balked at such a notion, Seversky illegally took to the skies in an aircraft during an

aerial exhibition complete with high ranking Russian military officials in attendance.


While his airborne actions proved him a sound pilot still, Seversky was promptly 

incarcerated for his actions but later pardoned by Czar Nicholas II. Seversky was then 

granted his flight status once more and was airborne in 1916. From there, Alexander 

Seversky went on to become the Russian Navy's leading combat ace, accruing 

somewhere between 6 to 13 kills (sources vary widely on this account). Leg or no leg, 

Seversky was going to fly as long as his heart was beating. 


This is Pure Bolshevik!  

In 1917, Seversky was part of an envoy sent to the United States to study

aeronautical practices and construction techniques throughout the country. America

was home to the assembly line and it seemed the perfect place for any developing

industrial powerhouse to take notes. However, 1918 saw Russia fall to the Bolsheviks,

putting Seversky - with his wealthy aristocracy origins - in jeopardy and dissolved any

notion of returning safely to his motherland. As such, he elected to remain in the

United States where his combat background and engineering talents were put to use

with Curtiss Aeroplane. Seversky served as both test pilot and aeronautical engineer

for the firm eventually having his hard work rewarded by a promotion to Major in the

US Army Air Corps Reserve.


An entrepreneur at heart, Seversky was quick to protect his innovations when it came

to aircraft development. While securing a patent for an early air-to-air refueling

technique, he also made headway in the development of a bombsight system which

he developed with help from the Sperry Gyroscope Company, also netting Seversky a

patent to protect this work. The US military purchased the rights to the bombsight

system in 1923 for the large sum of $50,000 and this proved a sound financial ground

for which Seversky could begin his own company - aptly named the Seversky Aero

Company. However, the financial Crash of 1929 did this first venture in.

Undeterred, Seversky persevered and, netting additional funding from outside parties,

began Seversky Aircraft in 1931. He tapped former fellow Russian (Georgian) engineer

Alexander Kartveli who had made his home in Paris after the fall of Russia to the

Bolsheviks in 1918. The firm found some early success with their new SEV-3 Sport

Amphibian aircraft. The three-man aircraft was capable of landings on land and water

and garnered a US military contract for production as the BT-8 trainer.


The BEV-3 

Motivated by the success of the BEV-3, Seversky pursued more advanced designs. His 

firm moved to Farmingdale, Long Island, to a more spacious outcropping in an effort 

to build their Army BT-8 trainers. A new competition netted another contract for the 

Seversky P-35. The P-35 was hardly a burner at 260 miles per hour, but more 

"modern" fighters with enclosed cockpits and stressed metal skins were needed by 

the US Army nonetheless. Developments in Europe by this time far outclassed 

American aircraft by what seemed like leaps and bounds. Regardless, the P-35 

entered service in 1938 but were sorely out of date by the time of the Japanese attack 

on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.


The P-43 Lancer  

A new Seversky demonstrator was already in the works, this fitted with a General

Electric supercharger coupled to a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial piston engine and

designated by the company as the AP-4 - essentially an improved form of the P-35.

The Army liked what it saw and granted a contract for 13 evaluation models to be

designated as the YP-43 "Lancer". By the end of 1939, Seversky himself went off to

England to try and sell his products with the hope of netting more lucrative wartime

contracts from desperate European nations looking to match up to the might of the

German war machine. It was during this time that the Seversky company Board of

Directors delivered a no-confidence vote for Alexander Seversky and ousted as

company president. The firm was reformed under the Republic Aviation name and

retained the services of Alexander Kartveli as chief engineer for the firm. Seversky

himself was out of the picture.


Work on the Lancer continued. The YP-43 was fitted with 2 x .30 caliber machine guns

and 2 x 50 caliber heavy machine guns but did not feature self-sealing fuel tanks nor

protective armoring for the pilot. The P-43 Lancer entered limited production but did

not prove an answer for the US Army. An improved form of the aircraft emerged as

the P-44 "Rocket", to which the US Army became quite enthusiastic about, but

unfolding events in Europe quickly deflated such enthusiasm. As the Army looked to

the air war ongoing over France and Britain, it realized that even the "Rocket" could

not accomplish in combat what the nimble fighters over in Europe were doing. These

aircraft sported sleek designed frames with relatively powerful in-line, liquid-cooled

engines and equally powerful armament to boot. The Army made out a wish list for

their next fighter and found that it required an interceptor capable of at least 400

miles per hour at 25,000 feet with an armament of at least 6 x .50 caliber machine

guns, long range and protection for the pilot and fuel tanks for extended ranges.


The AP-10/XP-47

With war inching ever closer, time was of the essence. A new Republic design

centered around the Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled V-12 in-line piston engine - closely

resembling the powerplant found on the streamlined Bell P-39 Airacobras, Curtiss

P-40 Warhawks and the Lockheed P-38 Lightnings. The design took the company

designation of AP-10 and, by 1939, Kartveli had completed drawings for the aircraft

consisting of the smallest possible airframe. He added some impressive performance

estimates that saw the new aircraft hit speeds of 415 miles per hour (in theory). The

experimental section of the US Army, based out of Wright Field, took a closer look and

offered some subtle changes that included a slightly larger overall airframe with

added weight and more surface area. Two hardpoints were set under each wing and

armament was a strange pairing of 1 x .30 caliber machine gun and 1 x .50 caliber

machine in the upper cowling.


Sensing good things from the preliminary design and, more importantly, still in dire

need of modern fighters, the US Army rushed to get the AP-10 into production under

the prototype designation of XP-47. The program would begin development in two

complete airframes - the XP-47 and the XP-47A. The XP-47 was a full-fledged offering

complete with combat armament while the XP-47A would be a flight test model sans

combat options but intended to test out the design's validity in controlled

experiments. The program was given a window of nine months to produce the end



Further review of the XP-47 design by the US Army funding department (those in

control of the money) forced yet more revisions. The wing surface area - deemed too

small on the original design - was enlarged and an additional .30 caliber and .50

caliber machine gun were added. Self-sealing fuel tanks and armoring were also now

included. These options of course drove up the overall weight of the aircraft that was

intended to be an interceptor - if an interceptor could not climb within reason, it was

no longer considered an interceptor.


Back to the Drawing Board - the XP-47B: the True Thunderbolt Prototype 

 By this time, the war in Europe was changing on a monthly basis as were the tactics 

and technology. Pratt & Whitney unveiled their R-2800 Double Wasp, two-row, 

18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine and rated their massive product at 2,000 

horsepower. Though more fuel-thirsty than the original Allison in-line to be used, the 

Double Wasp promised much more in the way of output and performance over her 

predecessor. Kartveli tried a second design attempt to fit this new engine into an 

applicable airframe as the diminutive AP-10 was much too small to handle such a 

powerplant. The stout new design emerged with 6 x .50 caliber machine guns fitted to 

the wings, adequate armor protection, self-sealing fuel tanks, large surface areas and 

an operational weight of 12,000lbs. This new design was given the designation of 

XP-47B while the XP-47 and XP-47A quickly fell into oblivion, the two ultimately 

cancelled in full. The US Army was smitten with the prospect of this large 400 

mile-per-hour beast and quickly placed a 773-strong production order for the XP-47B 

on September 6th, 1942 - this before a single prototype was even made available. 

Amazingly, only one XP-47B would be built while no service test models (YP-47Bs) 

were ordered - quite the departure for the careful, though now desperate, US Army. 


What a Turbosupercharger (or Turbocharger) Actually Does

High altitude performance was a necessity in the new design as dogfights cared little

of operational ceilings. As such, a large and complicated turbosupercharger (also

known as a turbocharger) was deemed a must for such activities. The

turbosupercharger essentially provided for sea level-rated operations at altitudes up

to the engine's critical altitude - that is - the maximum altitude an engine could

sustain its rated horsepower output at without seeing a decrease in performance. The

turbosupercharger featured a turbine that was driven by exhaust gasses from the

engine as well as a compressor with a high-speed impeller that pressurized the

incoming air. The resulting action produced high-pressure, high-density air which was

then re-delivered to the engine to maintain an applicable output at higher altitudes.

Republic engineers placed this system behind the cockpit in an effort to maintain a

proper center of gravity and improve stability. The turbosupercharger would then

require ductwork to run to and from the engine/turbosupercharger to deliver the

gasses for the required boost in performance. Once implemented, this duct system

forced the XP-47B to take on a "deep" look fuselage and gave the P-47 its universally

identifiable profile but, at the same time, added much-needed room for internal fuel

stores to power the thirsty Pratt & Whitney.


The fuselage was affixed to two elliptical wing assemblies complete with rounded

edges. The wings would contain the primary standard armament, applicable

ammunition stores and main landing gears. The tail surfaces were encased in fabric

covering for the time being while the rest of the body was of all-metal stressed skin.

The Pratt & Whitney powerplant needed a quality propeller system to make the most

out of the horsepower output and, as such, a 12 foot, 2 inch diameter four-blade

propeller system was selected to cap the nose of the XP-47B. A new problem quickly

arose, however, in implementing such a large diameter propeller blade. The tall

propeller system needed clearance along the ground during take-off and landing.

Rather than produce an ungainly looking bird with obscenely long landing gear legs, a

telescoping landing gear leg system was devised where the assembly could extend

out to 9 inches when lowered and retract that length when the leg was pulled up. This

issue was not unlike the issue forced onto the designers of the Vought F4U Corsair

fitting their own large three-blade propeller. In that particular case, the engineers

elected to use an inverted "gull" wing to offset the need for height. Ingenuity for the

Americans seemed to come naturally at this time. Unlike production P-47s, the XP-47B

featured a canopy that was hinged over to the side with an automobile-style

entry/exit door. This would later be replaced after the system was prone to jamming

and proved too cumbersome during emergency exits via parachute.


Flight Testing of the XP-47B

The XP-47B was finally constructed to the new specifications by Republic to which the

name of "Thunderbolt" was officially assigned (the US had not been in the habit of

naming its military creations until the British did so with American Lend-Lease tanks

and aircraft). The XP-47B achieved first flight over Farmingdale, Long Island, on May

6th, 1941 and - at the time - became the largest piston-powered single-engine fighter

aircraft to fly (not to mention the most expensive). The XP-47B was flown to a US

Army base at Mitchel Field for a perfect landing. By all accounts, the large aircraft was

a winner despite some oil falling burning off of the turbosupercharger and

consequently filling the cockpit with black smoke. After the first flight, some further

recommendations bought about more fine tuning including the use of a pressurized

ignition harness, wing stiffeners to combat flutter and a new type of engine oil



One of the biggest items of note to come out of further testing of the XP-47B was the

diving prowess of the airframe. One such power dive netted a speed of 550 miles per

hour, pulling off the fabric covering over the tail surfaces in the process. Other items

of note included the need for vast amounts of runway required to help the "Heavy"

take off as well as a "control freeze" situation encountered by the control surfaces

during steep dives - both could prove fatal to the untrained Thunderbolt pilot if not



The P-47B is Delivered

Four early-production Thunderbolts (their hinged cockpits replaced in favor of a

rearward sliding "greenhouse" type) soon emerged and, after similar power dive

incidents involving torn fabric on the tail surfaces (one such incident leading to the

death of a Republic test pilot), the surfaces were covered over in all-metal stressed

skin. The first operational-level P-47B was officially handed over to the US Army on

May 26th, 1942. In an effort to test out the new aircraft while at the same time

garnering valuable experience to new pilots, the US Army formed the 56th Fighter

Group squadron at Farmingdale to defend the northeast American coast from the

fears of German bombers encroaching across US airspace. The learning curve for

these lads was not a light-hearted affair for the squadron would lose up to half of their

delivered Thunderbolts to accidents (13 pilots killed while 14 airframes were lost).

One hundred seventy-one P-47B production Thunderbolts were produced at the

Republic Farmingdale plant in a short 6 months. The P-47C underwent extensive flight

trials with the US Army who then ultimately deemed it clear for operational combat. In

practice, the P-47 proved to have a tremendous roll rate, better than that of any

current US fighter, and offered many exceptional qualities considering her size. No

doubt the "greenhouse" canopy, raised fuselage spine and massive engine mounting

curtailed pilot vision but, in all, she was a fantastic creation from the people at

Republic. Her range was shorter than anticipated no thanks to the Pratt & Whitney

powerplant and her rate-of-climb clearly put her out of the interceptor category

altogether but she was something that no current US fighter could match.


Production was already underway at the Republic plant at Farmingdale but demand

was such that a new plant was opened up at Evansville, Indiana and Curtiss-Wright

was also enlisted to license-produce the type at their Buffalo, New York facility. With

production ramping up and the US Army ready for action, the P-47C Thunderbolt was

crated up and shipped by boat to England for final assembly and squadron training. 

The first shipment arrived on the British Isle on December 20th, 1942.


P-47 Walk-Around

The Thunderbolt's stout appearance makes her one of the most memorable American

warplanes of World War 2. Her size was necessitated by the addition of the

turbosupercharger and all her applicable ductwork, causing the deep fuselage to take

shape. The turbocharger helped to balance the design and featured large diameter

ductwork running from charger to engine and back. The large air-cooled Pratt &

Whitney Double Wasp engine was contained in the extreme forward of the fuselage,

which itself was more elliptical in shape - almost an upside down egg when viewed

from the front - than one might realize at first glance. A four-bladed Hamilton-

Standard propeller (later refitted with a Curtiss Electric unit) was fitted to a simple

spinner at the opening of the engine and intake duct openings were readily present

just under the engine face. Wings were of the monoplane type and low-mounted,

somewhat forward, along the slender streamlined fuselage. The cockpit was placed

just above and slightly ahead of the wing trailing edges. The main wings themselves -

another distinguishable characteristic of the P-47 and purely a Republic trademark -

were elliptical in shape, sporting rounded edges with a straight leading edge and

tapered trailing edge while showcasing some dihedral in the forward profile. The

cockpit was situated at about the midway point of the fuselage and early

Thunderbolts maintained the "razorback" spine that contoured into the top portion of

the empennage. The empennage was dominated by a small-area vertical stabilizer

and a pair of horizontal stabilizers. The fuselage progressively tapered down to a

rounded cap at the base of the tail.

The keen observer will note the P-47s outward resemblance to Seversky's/Republic's

earlier design attempts in the Seversky P-35 and Republic P-43 Lancer respectively.


The Cockpit

Both Axis and Allied pilots having the pleasure of flying the P-47 noted the type's

exceptionally roomy interior. The cockpit (P-47D) sported clean lines and clustered

major dial groups that were well-placed. The pilot sat in what was sometimes termed

a "lounge chair" by some and air conditioning was standard. The forward instrument

panel was dominated by the top-mounted K-14A gunsight. All major in-flight readings

(navigation, altitude) were situated along the upper half of the panel while engine and

fuel controls took over the lower half. Bomb/tank selectors were clustered on a panel

along the lower left side of the forward instrument group with the throttle to the

pilot's left-hand side. The throttle contained a rotating handle to adjust the scale of

the gunsight in an effort to keep important controls within reach at all times. Overall

control of the aircraft was accomplished through a conventional flight stick with

integrated trigger. Rudders were set under the forward instrument panel at the pilot's

feet and could be folded down for long flights allowing the pilot to stretch his legs



Vision from the cockpit was remembered as adequate to good. Considering the pilot's

seat was situated well behind the large engine, this was expected. The large-area

main wings also obscured downward vision and the "razorback" raised spines in

early-form Thunderbolts didn't help vision to the "six". The implementation of a

British-based "teardrop" bubble canopy alleviated the latter problem and much of the

heavy framing of the early "greenhouse" canopies was lost in the process. Test pilots

of the new canopy were elated at the refreshed vision out of the cockpit. The new

canopy slid rearwards (as opposed to the early side-opening ones) to allow for pilot

entry/exit and was first utilized on a modified P-47D-5 (as the XP-47K) in the summer

of 1943.


The undercarriage was typical of the time and categorized the P-47 as a "tail

dragger". The arrangement consisted of two single-wheeled telescoping main landing

gear legs (one to a wing) and a diminutive tail wheel under the base of the

empennage. The main legs recessed inward under the wings toward the fuselage

centerline while the tail wheel was equally as retractable at the base of the

empennage. When at rest, this configuration gave the Thunderbolt a noticeable

"nose-up" appearance and made for very poor vision out of the cockpit when taxiing

into position. The large diameter four-blade propeller necessitated the use of long

legs to help the aircraft clear a runway without the blades hitting the surface of the




The Thunderbolt's wings were constructed with two major spars running nearly the

length of the each wing. Spars were charged with the handling of flight loads when

airborne and the carrying the wing's weight when on the ground . Republic

engineered each Thunderbolt wing assembly to fit 4 x M2 Browning air-cooled .50 

caliber heavy machine guns in a staggered arrangement. The P-47 was the only

American fighter aircraft to wield this many machine guns (20mm cannon armament

was considered early on but dropped from contention). The staggered formation of

these machine guns allowed for effective feeding of the systems from four separate

ammunition holds. The power of these combined eight machine guns could effectively

engage fighters and bombers while being of equal value when tackling ground-based

targets. A single burst was enough to down most any aircraft. Such armament could

output a staggering 13lbs of blazing hot ammunition on a target per second.

In addition to its formidable machine gun battery, the P-47 made a living under the

clouds for German troops a pure hell. With underwing mounts, she could field up to

2,500lbs of conventional drop bombs or 10 x 5-inch unguided HVAR rockets useful

against ground- and water-based targets. Drop tanks could be carried in place of

munitions and situated along the fuselage centerline (x1) or underwing (x2).

One known conversion of a P-47 attempted to mount 2 x underwing Oldsmobile

20mm cannons. While an awesome prospect in theory, the fitting proved a

disappointment in practice, adding unnecessary drag and thusly lowering the

Thunderbolt's top speed by 50 miles per hour. This single P-47 was eventually

converted back to her base operating form with standard armament.


The Variants (In Alphabetical Order) 

The XP-47B was fitted with a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-17 radial piston engine of 2,000

horsepower attached to a 12 feet, 2 inch diameter Curtiss Electric four-blade

propeller. The aircraft sported an empty weight of 9,189lbs and a gross weight of

12,700lbs. Maximum speed was listed at 412 miles per hour at 25,800 feet with a

maximum range of 1,150 miles at 10,000 feet. Five hundred rounds of .50 caliber

ammunition were afforded her 8 x guns.


The B-Model

The P-47B mounted the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-21 series radial piston engine of

2,000 horsepower and entered production in 1942 with deliveries to the USAAF in

England beginning in early 1943. At least 171 P-47B production models were

delivered. Many B-models were eventually relegated as trainers to get the young

pilots use to these large and heavy mounts - truly no American aircraft before it could

match the qualities (and drawbacks in some cases) of this heavy hitter from

Farmingdale. The P-47B maintained a maximum speed of 429 miles per hour with a

range of 550 miles. The service ceiling was listed at 42,000 feet with a rate-of-climb

equaling 2,560 feet per minute. A "one-off" reconnaissance form was built with the

designation of RP-47B.


The C-Model

While essentially similar to the B-models before them, the P-47C brought about a

more powerful engine series in an lengthened fuselage as well as implementation of a

droppable belly fuel tank (or bomb if need be). The external fuel tank finally allowed

for sorties to Berlin and back. The fuselage was extended by a full 8 inches which

allowed engineers to move the engine forward some and improve the Thunderbolt's

center of gravity. The addition of the centerline hardpoint added ground attack

capabilities to the Thunderbolt's toolbox. The tail section was further strengthened to

counteract the resulting stress of those power dives and a 30 gallon water tank was

added to "fuel" the water injection system of R-2800-59 engined Thunderbolts. The

first 112 P-47C models were fitted with the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-21 radial engine

of 2,000 horsepower as the R-2800-59 series engines (and their respective water-

injection systems) were not yet available. As such, only later versions carried the

improved radials with the increase of almost 300 horsepower. At least 602 C-models

were produced.


P-47C models sported an empty weight of 9,900lbs with a maximum weight of

14,925lbs. Maximum speed was 420 miles per hour at 30,000 feet with a service

ceiling of 42,000 feet and a range of 835 miles at 10,000 feet. 300 to 425 rounds

were afforded to her 8 x .50 caliber machine guns.


The All-Important D-Model...

The P-47D entered production from early 1943 onwards and proved the definitive

Thunderbolt in the family line, arriving in Britain in April. A more powerful engine with

water injection (known as "War Emergency Power" or "WEP", used for short

enhancements of performance) greeted the design. The turbocharger was revised

through better ductwork providing for improved efficiency. The pilot's position was

granted more protective armoring and engine controls were simplified while landing

gear tires were fabricated as "multi-ply" to take on the roughest of airfields. Three

drop tanks could now be fitted and underwing hardpoints (the P-47D-15 and on) could

now sport a 1,000lb bomb (one to a wing) or 10 x 5-inch rockets (5 to a wing). While

an impressive armament load, this often meant that ammunition counts for the

machine guns had to be reduced to compensate for the added weight. In some cases,

a pair of machine guns were eliminated altogether. Later production D-models fitted

the all-important bubble canopy which did away with the raise fuselage spine,

improving pilot vision to his "six" ten-fold. It was not uncommon for D-models to be

shipped unpainted from Republic factories, these appearing in their all silver bare

metal finish, and saw a slight increase to performance. A mind-boggling 12,602

D-models made their way out of the factory doors and production constituted four

large batches.


The P-47D was powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-59 Double Wasp 18-cylinder

air-cooled radial piston engine of 2,535 horsepower (or R-2800-21W of 2,300

horsepower with water-injection). She operated with an empty weight of 9,950lbs and

a maximum take-off weight of 17,500lbs. Performance included a top speed of 433

miles per hour, a service ceiling of 41,000 feet, a rate-of-climb equal to 3,200

feet-per-minute and a range of 1,900 miles with three drop tanks in tow. The

maximum external ordnance weight limit was approximately 2,500lbs. Standard

armament included the 8 x wing-mounted M2 Browning air-cooled heavy machine



...With a Few Test Developments In-between

The XP-47E was generated for the final P-47B. This developmental model came

complete with a hinged canopy, Hamilton Standard propeller and pressurized cockpit

used to trial the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-59 radial engine.


The XP-47F model was plucked from a P-47B and modified as a test-bed for

laminar-flow wings. Testing revealed that the new wings would not improve

performance much and the aircraft soldiered on in other related flight tests thereafter.

She was officially lost in a fatal accident on October 14th, 1943.

Rough-Hewn P-47's From Curtiss-Wright


The P-47G was the designation assigned to Curtiss-Wright built Thunderbolts and

were essentially C-models reincarnated under the Curtiss-Wright production banner.

Quality control was somewhat lacking at the Curtiss-Wright plant in Buffalo, New York,

and production as a whole was rather slow - this being much different than the

standards at the Republic facility or the Indiana plant. As such, production of

G-models was limited to a low total of 354 examples before the plant was closed.

Many of these Thunderbolts remained stateside for pilot training, never to see combat



Another Few Developmental P-47s

The XP-47H was an interesting P-47 development in that it attempted to mate the

P-47 airframe with the Chrysler XI-2220-1 16-cylinder, inverted-vee, liquid-cooled

engine of 2,300 to 2,500 horsepower (sources vary). Two P-51D-15 models were used

in this conversion test sans their armament. The complicated and untested engine

proved highly unfeasible and overly complicated to fit into the existing airframe

without major modifications. As such, the project was dropped. First flight was

achieved in July of 1945, achieving a paltry 414 miles per hour for the USAAF - far

lower than the projected 490 miles per hour originally envisioned (and reportedly

reached) by Republic. Range was approximated to 700 miles.


The XP-47J was a Republic attempt to reduce the overall weight of the airframe while

increasing the overall output of the engine. The original idea was to fit an R-2800-61

with a contra-rotating propeller system mated to a General Electric

turbosupercharger. When an effective propeller solution was not found, a basic paddle

type from Curtiss was fitted instead as was a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-57 of 2,800

horsepower. Armament was reduced to 6 x .50 caliber machine guns and internal fuel

capacity was lowered. The engine gave up the ghost after just 10 hours of total flight

time and needed replacing. The XP-47J went on to clock an impressive 500 miles per

hour in March of 1944. After Army testing revealed less than the 500 mile per hour

figure, coupled with the fact that the XP-47J would require essentially an all-new tool

production line, the project was dropped in favor of the XP-72 "Wasp Major" Super

Thunderbolt development. The XP-72 proved an impressive beast herself but the

changing war environment negated the need for such an implement and she was

never produced.


The XP-47K was an experimental P-47D production model fitted with a Hawker

Typhoon bubble canopy and cut-down rear fuselage spine to help improve pilot vision

to his all-important rear quarter. The fuselage fuel tank was increased to a degree and

several exterior modifications ensued. Test flights of the new aircraft were positive

and the variant was put into production alongside D-models. The XP-47K was later

modified to test out the wings that would eventually appear on the definitive P-47N

long-range models.


The P-47 Hotrod

The P-47M was in many ways a "special edition" Thunderbolt sprinter/hotrod designed

as superfast interceptor. This mount would be charged with chasing down Germany's

fast V-1 flying bombs randomly terrorizing Londoners. Essentially P-47D-30 models

incarnate, M-models appeared in December of 1944 and boasted a top speed of 473

miles per hour from her somewhat troublesome R-2800-57(C) radial of 2,800

horsepower ranged out to 530 miles. The turbosupercharger was once again refined

for the better and a Curtiss Electric propelled was utilized. Special airbrakes were

installed on the aircraft so she could decelerate quickly once in range of her target.

Though faster than the fastest P-51 Mustang available, this P-47 still suffered from a

thirsty radial and limited range. As well as any V-1 rockets she might have bagged,

the M-model also boasted kills against the Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe

jet-powered fighter and Arado Ar 234 "Blitz" jet-powered bomber (albeit these were in

the most perfect of circumstances and conditions favoring the passing Thunderbolt,

hardly a straight-up dogfight with either). Some 130 M-models were produced though

quality control at wartime's frenetic pace developed many mechanical problems for

this Thunderbolt batch. M-models were not made available until April of 1945 -

essentially the closing months of the war.


Definitive P-47: the N Model

The P-47N became the ultimate incarnation of the Thunderbolt exhibiting exceptional

range and is oft-regarded by many former 'Bolt pilots as the finest of the breed.

Reinforced longer spanning wings with additional internal fuel tanks were part of this

near-complete redesign of an already impressive mount. Power was generated by an

improved form of the M-model's R-2800-57(C) radial of 2,800 horsepower (An

R-2800-73 and R-2800-77 were also part of the production mix). Underwing positions

held hardpoints for 5-inch HVAR rockets (5 x rockets to a wing). The wings were

lengthened a full 18 inches and the wingtips were clipped for improved rolling actions

in-flight while her landing gears were completely redesigned. The clipped wings

became the definitive identifier in this Thunderbolt variant. Controls for both throttle

and turbosupercharger were both refined. Production began in December of 1944 and

her long range made her an ideal candidate for actions in the Pacific where

land-based airstrips could prove few and far between. The revisions and refinements

took their toll on the new Thunderbolt for she sported an empty weight of 11,000lbs

and a loaded weight of 20,700lbs! This gave her an increased take-off run. Some

1,816 N-models were delivered and only served in the Pacific Theater of War.

Performance for the N-model included a top speed of 467 miles per hour, a ceiling of

43,000 feet, a rate of climb of 3,000 feet per minute and a range of 800 miles.


Same Face, New Name

F-47 became the new P-47 designation in 1948 after the US Air Force was born out of

the US Army Air Force as a separate entity (likewise the North American P-51 became

the F-51). The F-47 designation lived for a short time in American lore but found

homes in the inventories of foreign nations. As such, the F-47 is often a rare

designation used when discussing the P-47, at least in American circles.

Some in -field conversions modified a single-seater Thunderbolt into a two-seater

fitting a second seating area for a passenger under a long, rearward-sliding canopy.

While some used such creations to cavort to other nearby locales for war "goods"

such as cigarettes and women, others were used in more constructive ways such as

fielding war correspondents over designated areas.


Production Totals by Plant

In all, the Farmingdale, New York plant spit out 9,087 Thunderbolts while the

Evansville, Indiana plant produced 6,242 examples. The disappointing Curtiss plant at

Buffalo, New York, managed a low 354 production examples.


P-47 In Action Over Europe

The first P-47Cs (colored over in an olive drab and neutral gray paint scheme) arrived

in England on December 20th, 1942 and were assembled for the 4th Fighter Group.

The 4th Fighter Group at Debden was made up of Americans fighting for the RAF as

part of the "Eagle Squadrons" before America had officially committed to World War 2.

Once can only imagine the mighty transition for these young lads accustomed to

flying the lightweight and sleek Supermarine Spitfires - now faced with the imposing

"barrel-with-wings" Thunderbolt.


Thunderbolts were immediately signed up for "Ramrod" missions over Europe, that is,

escorting 8th Air Force Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator

heavy bombers that were taking a pounding from Luftwaffe fighters in daring daylight

raids. Germany, itself, remained out of the reach for these early Thunderbolts in the

theater and it was not yet a reality to have fighters with the range to escort a bomber

group all the way to and from their targets. To bomber crews, fighter escorts became

known as "Little Friends" for their obvious protective reasons. Luftwaffe pilots simply

needed to wait until the fighter escort turned around, low on fuel, to strike at the

hapless bomber formations. To "keep up" with the slow-moving bomber groups, P-47

pilots had to perform repeated zig-zag patterns above the bomber groups so as not to

stall or get ahead of their flock.


The first P-47 mission took place on March 10th, 1943 and was nothing more than a

fighter sweep over enemy territory. Unfortunately for the pilots, serious teething

issues quickly arose and forced the Thunderbolts back for repairs. In fact, the issues

were severe enough to ground the fleet for a whole month before taking to the skies

again. The 56th Fighter Group and the 78th Fighter Group soon came online at their

respective bases throughout England - the 78th having yet to even pilot one P-47.

Issue after issue continued to mount up for the Thunderbolts and ground crews

working feverishly and around-the-clock to correct them.


The Thunderbolts were airborne once more on April 8th, 1943, where a 24-strong

(P-47s drawn from the three squadrons) flew an uneventful mission. On April 15th,

1943, the Thunderbolt pilots soon found their first aerial engagement of the war

resulting in the downing of two enemy Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters from the guns of

P-47Cs of the 4th Fighter Group.


Resilient Heavyweight

The P-47s no doubt proved a tough bird to bring down, much to the surprise of the

German pilots - some who had emptied dozens of cannon and machine gun rounds

into the Thunderbolt airframe only to see it continue on its merry way. Many-a-

Thunderbolt pilot returned to England, battered and bruised, but alive to fight another

day thanks to these steady mounts. Radial engines inherently maintained a better

combat damage resiliency that did the delicate liquid-cooled inline engines.

Additionally, the large airframe of the Thunderbolt made it a relative sponge for all

types of damage, be it flying shrapnel, flak, power lines or trees at low altitudes. The

armor plating around the cockpit perhaps served Jug pilots the most - priceless

protection when and where he needed it most.


Diving to Live, Diving to Die

It was no secret the inherent power in a diving Thunderbolt. However, this action

could prove two-fold. While acceleration from a rapid drop in altitude was a key tactic

used by P-47 pilots, it could also spell their undoing. It was not uncommon for the

control surfaces of the 'Bolt to "lock up" in a power dive and potentially prove fatal to

the pilot if he could not regain control of the aircraft. One combat incident stated a

P-47 beginning a power dive from approximately 28,000 feet with recovery finally

occurring at just 5,000 feet! Keep in mind that such dives could also produce forces

too great for the average human body and, as a result, a P-47 pilot could black out

with nary a chance at regaining control of his aircraft.


"They Drew First Blood..."

On May 4th, the Thunderbolts were called on their first escort mission with Boeing

B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. Oft-harassed on nearly every sortie, the B-17s were

glad to have these stout escorts watching from their perch overhead. Engine teething

issues persisted for some of these P-47s but the Luftwaffe was in for a rude

awakening as the charging Jugs steamed out of the sky to protect the bomber fleet.

The air war over Europe was finally on even terms.

The P-47D models began arriving with their all-important updates. As more and more

deliveries of the fine fighter were filled and shipments in England received, the US

Army moved to create the 352nd, 353rd, 355th, 356th, 358th, 359th and 361st

Fighter Groups.


The P-47 vs Fw 190 - Close Finish

Versus the German Fw 190, Thunderbolt pilots soon discovered some tactics that

could best these fine German counterparts. The Fw 190 would almost always win in a

turning fight and could gain an early advantage in a dive. Acceleration generally

favored the Fw 190 as well while its potent collection of machine guns and hub-firing

cannon proved quite lethal. However, P-47 pilots held the advantage in a dive in the

long term, able to build up enough speed to outrace or catch up to any Fw 190.

Additionally, a single burst from the 8 x .50 caliber machine guns would down a

lightly-built Fw 190 with little effort while the P-47 airframe proved masterful at

absorbing such damage (even to a ridiculous degree). In the end, an expertly trained

P-47 pilot - one knowing the in's and out's of his mount - could eventually best a

German Fw 190 through strategy, patience and instinct. This became painfully clear

to the Germans as more and more P-47 pilots earned their stay across the many kill

boards plastered along the walls of squadron HQs. Becoming an ace in a P-47 was not

as uncommon as one might think.


Dive and Zoom Tactics

Despite the advantages, straight-up dogfights for the P-47 were not recommended.

Instead, "dive and zoom" tactics sprouted up as the "weapon" of choice. This

proposed that the P-47 operate higher than 15,000 feet, an altitude where the

turbosupercharger came into play for the 'Bolt and where lesser German fighters

tended to see a slight dip in performance. From this altitude, P-47 pilots could then

dive onto their targets with relative ease, fire off short-controlled bursts and then

retain momentum into an ensuing climb only to repeat the action once again. This

helped to keep the heavy P-47 from taking harm directly while making calculated

strikes against the enemy.


The Results Are In

Early results put the P-47 favorably ahead of the fabled P-51 Mustangs and Lockheed

P-38 Lightnings in the European Theater. The P-47 was called to more sorties than the

other two combined and could claim over 200 enemy fighters destroyed in a shorter

stretch of time. Comparatively, however, Thunderbolt pilots led the way in losses to

enemy aircraft but still maintained a healthy 8:1 victory-to-loss ratio and lost less

pilots overall through 1,000 recorded sorties.


Fat is Beautiful

Despite her inherent air-to-ground prowess, the USAAF felt safe in keeping their P-47s

in the bomber escort role for the time being. She was, however, eventually unleashed

on her first ground attack sortie on November 25th, 1943. The mission entailed the

bombing of a Luftwaffe airfield at St Omer. The Thunderbolts enacted their anger onto

the airfield, dropping their explosive payloads to good effect, and remained airborne

to strafe targets of opportunity while incurring the wrath of deadly-accurate German

flak teams. The mission proved a success and the P-47s returned home. The arrival of

the North American P-51B Mustangs all but nixed the P-47 from the bomber escort

role so she and her pilots would have to get use to these sort of ground attack



The 9th Air Force was officially created to take on the growing number of P-47 groups

popping up. The 9th Air Force eventually became a prime operator of the P-47 and

initially used them to escort their lighter Douglas A-20 Havocs and Martin B-26

Marauders. The first operational squadron under the 9th banner became the 358th

Fighter Group, transferring over from the 8th Air Force. By the end of it all, the

Thunderbolt found a combat niche that few fighters could boast. Numbers of the type

swelled and, as pilots grew comfortable in these large warplanes, the kill tallies also

increased. German fighters spiraled down in flames, locomotives exploded in

tremendous fireballs and enemy tank formations fell into disarray. Germany was

falling back in retreat and it had no thanks to wield in the direction of the P-47.

Ode to the Tuskegee Airmen, the Help Much Appreciated


While it is always easy and applicable to associate the Tuskegee prowess with the

P-51 Mustang, these lads began their combat legacies in P-47 Thunderbolts. The

332nd Fighter Group completed their first mission - defending B-24 Liberators from

German Messerschmitt Bf 109s - and claimed and impressive 5 enemy air kills on June

9th, 1944. On June 25th, 1944, this same group spotted and engaged a German

destroyer at Trieste Harbor with nothing more than their machine guns. Claiming the

sinking of the ship, top Allied brass was skeptical and reviewed the combat gun

camera footage only to see the ship explode beyond usefulness through direct

evidence. This destruction of a naval vessel by machine gun fire alone was a kill no

other P-47 squadron could claim. After only a month of flying their P-47s, the

Tuskegee airmen "upgraded" to used P-51B and P-51C models.


End of the Line

Most of the P-47s over Europe were inevitably replaced by the impressive P-51

Mustang when their numbers made it appropriate. Only the 56th Fighter Group was

left with Jugs and these boys were handed over the keys to shiny new P-47M "hotrod"



P-47 In Action Over the Pacific

As the war in Europe fell under "control" (in favor of the Allies), sheer numbers proved

the Thunderbolt a perfect candidate for service in the Pacific Theater. The first P-47s

arrived by boat to Australia in June of 1943 and were quickly assembled and flown to

Port Moresby, New Guinea. One there, they fell into the hands of the newly arrived

348th Fighter Group as part of the 5th Air Force. Ready for combat, the short range

caused by their thirsty R-2800 radials soon came into play, forcing many a crew chief

and surrounding crewmembers to fashion homemade paper-based fuel tanks.

Operation sorties for P-47 pilots began in July of 1943 and eventually replaced the

outclassed Curtiss P-40 Warhawks and Bell P-39 Airacobras operating in the theater

(both utilizing liquid-cooled engines mind you).


Once again, the dive and zoom tactics were employed against the well-trained

Japanese airmen. Direct dogfights with Japanese fighters was discouraged and the

inherent advantages of the P-47 airframe came into play. Despite their ferocious

attitudes in flight, Japanese airmen were crippled by the simple fact that their aircraft

were not designed to take the full brunt of hot lead from American Jugs (what aircraft

realistically was?). As such, American airmen maintained a healthy advantage IF they

could maneuver their adversary into their awaiting crosshairs for the kill.


1944 saw P-47 numbers grow to incorporate three squadrons made up of the 35th,

58th and the 348th Fighter Groups. The commander of the 348th was Colonel Neel

Kearby who, on October 11th, 1943, netted no fewer than seven enemy aircraft in one

mission - though only six were confirmed as his gun camera had run out of film.

Kearby became one of America's top aces of the war but was tragically killed in action

on March 9th, 1944. Missions in the Pacific proved somewhat different than those in

Europe. Much of the terrain was ocean dotted with small island chains. What little

land there was, was often covered in thick foliage forcing bases and other facilities to

be built near the shorelines. This made for relatively easy target recognition by

passing airmen. Additionally, enemy shipping was open for the taking and

Thunderbolt pilots were not shy about unleashing bombs or machine gun fire on

hapless Japanese vessels.


The Thunderbolt proved the king of the Pacific sky when encountering large Japanese

bomber formations (even those accompanied by fighter protection). It was not

uncommon for airmen to destroy 90% of bomber formations during outings. As losses

mounted for the Japanese, such offensive-minded gestures for the Empire began to

curtail - either running out of trained pilots or simply running out of bombers to field.

It turned out that the P-47 and arriving P-51 Mustangs and P-38 Lightnings had to

eventually "fight" for targets in the Pacific sky, such was the impact of American

might in the air war - with special thanks given to the Thunderbolt.


The arrival of the P-47N in the theater soon gave near-complete advantage to the

Thunderbolt pilot, many who could (and some did) become aces on one outing - such

was the power of the new variant. The "ultimate" Thunderbolt held an inordinate

amount of power under her hood while retaining an equally inordinate amount of

firepower in her wings. HVAR rockets were part of the P-47 forte as was increased

range. Operators of the N-model included the 318th, 413th and 507th Fighter Groups

and N-models proved adept at escorting the new long-range Boeing B-29

Superfortresses coming online.


P-47s Versus the Not-So "Divine Wind"

P-47Ns played a pivotal - though not always successful role - in destroying Japanese

Kamikaze suicide fighters bent on ramming Allied warships. N-models played upon

their powerful engines to throttle at the diving enemy at full speed and engage with

bursts from their deadly .50 machine guns. On one such occasion, a P-47N pilot

rescued an American warship from a suicide attack by blasting a Japanese fighter to

oblivion through a HVAR rocket launched at the aerial target, becoming the first type

of kill credited in this fashion.


Curtain Calls

The final P-47 air kill of World War 2 occurred against a Japanese "Frank" fighter on

August 14th, 1945 - this by an airman from the 318th Fighter Group. The 507th

produced the last P-47 ace of the war. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan

ended the war in the Pacific. P-47s of the 414th were showcased in overhead flights

over Tokyo Bay during the "Show of Power" at the end of the war.


VJ-Day brought about the cancellation of some 5,934 Thunderbolts still on order for

they were no longer needed.


Jugs With the RAF

The Royal Air Force was a prominent operator of the Thunderbolt but limited her use

to sorties in the Far East. Some 830 total P-47s made up at least sixteen RAF

squadrons and were primarily relegated to ground strike or bomber escort sorties

replacing aged mounts. At least two P-47 squadrons soldiered on after the war in India

until ultimately replaced by the speedy Hawker Tempest. British Thunderbolts were

designated Thunderbolt Mk I (P-47D-20) and Thunderbolt Mk II (P-47D-25) with

production encompassing two batches. These American-made Thunderbolts were

shipped directly to India for final assembly. When in action, the dive and zoom

approach perfected by the Americans proved equally effective for the RAF when

combating the relentless Japanese fighters. The first P-47s made their way into

frontline British squadrons in May of 1944, replacing batches of outclassed Curtiss

Mohawks and Hawker Hurricanes. British use of the fighter encompassed South East

Asia Command through Nos 5, 34, 113, 123, 135 and 146 Squadrons made up of

Thunderbolt Mk Is. Thunderbolt Mk IIs were fielded by Nos 5, 30, 34, 42, 60, 79, 81,

113, 123, 131, 134, 135, 258, 261 and 615 Squadrons. These Jugs were ultimately

replaced by the homegrown Supermarine Spitfire as events in the Far East Theater

winded down.


The famous American Air Commando Group in the China-Burma-India Theater also

made use of the Thunderbolt, these being D-models. The 1st Air Commandos were

tied to the US 10th Air Force and provided air support to the British 14th Army in their

Burma Campaign.


International Jugs

The P-47 was maintained by the air forces of Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia,

Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Turkey and Yugoslavia among others. The

Soviet Union received 195 examples with 8 lost during shipment.

The French Air Force fielded the Thunderbolt in anger against Algerian rebels in 1950

when their new-fangled jet aircraft proved highly unsuitable for such actions at low

altitude. While Algeria became an independent nation in 1962, the French

Thunderbolts were ridden into the ground through both combat and general wear and

tear, never to be used again.


Mexico and Brazil both flew the Jug in combat squadrons under the banner of the

USAAF in World War 2. Mexican pilots were a little discouraged in the fact that by the

time they got airborne, the Americans had virtually wiped out all Japanese resistance

in the skies.


Taiwan received a quantity of P-47Ns and put them to use against Communist China

and her MiG-15 jet fighters. Deliveries occurred in 1953 and success was limited.

Taiwan inevitably upgraded to jets supplied by their American allies.

Several nations continued to operate their Thunderbolts into the 1960's, some fielded

in active combat roles and other not. The Peruvian Air Force retired their Jugs in 1966,

twenty-four years after the type's inception into service with the USAAF.



By the close of World War 2, the Thunderbolt accounted for some 546,000 sorties with

over 3,752 enemy aircraft destroyed in the European Theater alone. 15,683 Jugs were

eventually produced (13,000 in a 45-month stretch alone!), easily becoming

Republic's most successful and most identifiable product. Another impressive fact for

the P-47 was that two-thirds of all production vehicles were quickly relocated to

overseas bases. 5,222 Jugs in total were lost to action while 1,722 of these were

non-combat related. The US Air Force claims that the Jug received a combat loss

percentage equal to 0.7% against the 1,350,000 hours flown. Quite a testament for

any aircraft in any era.


Post-War Jugs

P-47 fighters did not have a much of a role to play in the post-war American military.

Many were sent into storage while a few were handed down to National Guard units.

Some did serve with the newly-minted US Air Force under the SAC (Strategic Air

Command), TAC (Tactical Air Command) and ADC (Aerospace Defense Command).

In1948, the P-47 was redesignated to the "F-47" like other pursuit fighters of her time.

Jet-powered fighters eventually began to replace F-47's in the USAF inventory by

1949 while National Guard units continued their use of the Thunderbolt into the



The Jugs Are Rejected from Action in Korea

While her air-to-ground capabilities would have been a godsend in a conflict like the

Korean War, the request for F-47s by Lieutenant General Geroge Stratemeyer was

denied due to the logistical details that would have to be made in prepping and

fielding the F-47 for operations over Korea. Despite their wartime numbers, F-47

spare parts proved hard to come by in the early 1950s. The F-47, therefore, was not

to see action in the Korean War.


Regardless, her legacy was firmly entrenched in history's greatest air war and the

P-47 proved a mount so capable to any task that she was assigned - whether it was to

make an ace out of her pilot or strike at important ground targets - that the "Jug"

became an all-star through and through with her capabilities forever held in high



Miscellaneous Offerings

Amazingly, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt weighed more than a fully-loaded Dornier

Do 17 bomber. An important fact to consider when the P-47 was designed from the

outset as an interceptor. Her pilots often referred to her amazing agility with great

remembrance in spite of her size which makes the weight factor that much more

unbelievable. The final operational weight of later production P-47s could easily be

measured in TONS let alone pounds.


The Thunderbolt Reincarnated

The Fairchild Republic A-10 "Thunderbolt II" receives her namesake designation from

the Republic P-47 lineage. Both generally conduct similar ground strike roles, the A-10

with a bigger gun. While the P-47 garnered the nickname of "Jug", the A-10 takes on

the affectionate nickname of "Warthog". To date, no viable replacement has been

found for the A-10 Thunderbolt II, despite her advancing age. Likewise, the P-47 was

never directly replaced - she was simply forced out by the jet age.