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Combat Aircraft of the Pacific War

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
P47-D-25 of 352 Fighter Squadron / 353 Fighter Group
US study of the lessons of the air war in Europe in 1939-40 led to Republic's existing fighter designs being hastily replaced by plans for a much larger and more powerful fighter based on the new R-2800 engine.

This appeared to Republic's designers to be the only way to meet the Army Air Corps' new targets for fighter performance. Alexander Kartveli began by designing the best installation of the new engine and of its turbocharger, which was placed under the rear fuselage.  The air duct had to pass under the elliptical wing, and there were problems in ahieving ground clearance for the large propeller (which was 12 ft in diameter, even though it had the then exceptional total of four blades), and with having landing gear able to retract inwards while leaving room for the heavy armament of eight 0.50 inch machine guns.

After protracted technical difficulties the P-47B was cleared for production early in 1942 and at the beginning of 1943 two fighter groups equipped with the huge new fighter joined the Eighth Air Force in Britain in order to escort B-17 and B-24 bombers in daylight raids.  The two included the 56th. Fighter Group, which became the top-scoring US fighter group in Europe.

The value of the P-47 escorts was dramatically increased when they began to carry drop tanks and to accompany the heavy bombers all the way to their targets. The same capability turned the Thunderbolt into an effective fighter-bomber, and huge numbers of the P-47D were deployed in the ground support role in the Pacific and the European theatres up to the end of hostilities.  Republic's total  production of the D variant - 12,602 aircraft - is the largest in history of one  sub-type of any fighter.  Production of all variants of the Thunderbolt was to reach 15,660.

The lightweight M variant was too late for its intened role of intercepting German V-1 flying-bombs, but scored successes against the Luftwaffe's Me262 and Ar234 jet aircraft..

The N variant combined the lightweight M fuselage with a bigger wing and was intended specifically for operations in the Pacific.

After World War Two the Thunderbolt was employed by many air forces well into the fifties.  There were many experimental versions, one of which achieved a speed of 504 mph.

Data (for P-47D)

Origin:  Republic Aviation Corporation

Type:  Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber

Span: 40' 9" (12.4 metres)
Length: 36' 1" (11 metres)
Height: 14' 2" (4.3 metres)

Empty:  10,700 lb (4,853 kg)
Loaded:  19,400 lb (8.800 kg)

One 2,300 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 Double Wasp two-row radial;

8 x 0.5 inch Colt-Browning M2 machine-guns
Underwing racks for up to 2,500 lb of bombs or rockets

Maximum speed 428 mph (690 km/hour)
Initial climb (typical) 2,800 feet per minute
Service ceiling 42,000 - 43,000 feet(13,000 metres)
Range 1,090 miles / 3,060 kilometres

Aircraft of the Pacific War

The Battle for Leyte Gulf,  23-26 October 1944

The Battle of the Philippine Sea,  19-20 June 1944

Dave James Naval & Maritime Pages

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The P-47 illustrations on this page are reproduced, with thanks, from -
'Combat Aircraft of World War II" by Bill Gunston (Salamander)