P-47 Thunderbolt the Fighter Bomber
The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was one of the major and heaviest fighter aircraft in history to be powered Pratt 86 Whitney R-2800-59 Double Wasp radial piston engine. It was heavily armed with eight .50 caliber machine guns, four per wing.
When fully loaded, the P-47 weighed up to eight tons, and in the fighter-bomber ground-attack roles could carry five-inch rockets or a significant bomb load of 2,500 pounds; it could carry over half the payload of the B-17 bomber on long range missions (although the B-17 had a far greater range).
P-47 Most successful American fighters of World War II
The P-47, based on the powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine the same engine used by two very successful U.S. Navy fighters, the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair was to be very effective as a short to medium range escort fighter in high-altitude air to air combat and, when unleashed as a fighter-bomber, proved especially adept at ground attack in both the World War II European and Pacific Theaters.
The P-47 Thunderbolt was one of the most successful American fighters of World War II. The initial concept for the Thunderbolt was a lightweight interceptor, the aircraft that eventually came out of the Republic factories was the largest and heaviest single-seat fighter ever accepted by the Army Air Forces.
The Thunderbolt made its debut as a long-range escort fighter, but the plane really made its name as a fighter-bomber.
The P-47s heavy armor and eight machine gun armament made it perfect for strafing and rocket attacks near the front lines.
Over 12,000 P-47D Produced
The P-47D is the most built version of the Thunderbolt with over 12,000 constructed. Unusually, the P-47D underwent a major design change mid-way through the production run without a corresponding change in the letter designation.
The early D models had a high rear deck that came up behind the pilot’s head. This caused a significant blind spot to the rear. In late 1943 the design was modified to lower the rear deck and incorporate a bubble canopy the eliminated the blind spot.
Affectionately nicknamed “Jug,” the P-47 was one of the most famous AAF fighter planes of World War II. Although originally conceived as a lightweight interceptor, the P-47 developed as a heavyweight fighter and made its first flight on May 6, 1941.
The first production model was delivered to the AAF in March 1942, and in April 1943 the Thunderbolt flew its first combat mission – a sweep over Western Europe.
P-47 A Reputation for Ruggedness
Used as both a high-altitude escort fighter and a low-level fighter-bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness.
Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Thunderbolt to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying. During WWII, the P-47 served in almost every active war theater and in the forces of several allied nations.
By the end of WWII, more than 15,600 Thunderbolts had been built. Production P-47B, C, early D and G series aircraft were built with metal-framed greenhouse-type cockpit canopies.
Late D series (dash 25 and later) aircraft and all M and N series production aircraft were given clear “bubble” canopies, which gave the pilot improved rearward vision.