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Republic P-47 / F-47 Thunderbolt Fighter-Bomber (1942)

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 8/3/2013

The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was affectionately called the Jug and proved THE unsung hero of World War 2, fighting effectively in all major theaters of war as fighter or bomber.

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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 in Tiflis, Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire. 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 over.

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.


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Specifications for the
Republic P-47 / F-47 Thunderbolt
Fighter-Bomber


Focus Model: Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Republic Aviation - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1942
Production: 15,660


Crew: 1


Length: 36.15ft (11.02m)
Width: 40.68ft (12.40m)
Height: 14.67ft (4.47m)
Weight (Empty): 9,949lbs (4,513kg)
Weight (MTOW): 17,500lbs (7,938kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-59 Double-Wasp eighteen cylinder radial engine generating 2,535hp.


Maximum Speed: 433mph (697kmh; 376kts)
Maximum Range: 449miles (722km)
Service Ceiling: 40,994ft (12,495m; 7.8miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 3,200 feet per minute (975m/min)


Hardpoints: 3
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
8 x .50 caliber (12.7mm) Browning M2 air-cooled heavy machine guns (four to a wing); ammunition counts vary depending on combat load and model focus.

OPTIONAL:
10 x 5-inch (127mm) Air-to-Surface HVARRockets
2 x 1,000lb bombs underwing
3 x drop tanks underwing (x2) and fuselage centerline.

Provision for bomb load or drop tanks to a maximum of 2,500lbs (1,134kg).


Variants:
XP-47 - Fully Combat Furnished Prototype Interceptor with little in common with the final Thunderbolt prototype.


XP-47A - Experimental Prototype sans armament and radio; based on the XP-47; little in common with final Thunderbolt prototype.

XP-47B - Official Thunderbolt Prototype featuring XR-2800 radial generating 1,850hp.

P-47B - Initial Limited Production Model based on XP-47B prototype; R-2800-21 radial engine of 2,000 horsepower; 171 examples produced.

RP-47B - Single "One-Off" Dedicated Reconnaissance Development based on the P-47B.

P-47C - Improved B-model with lengthened fuselage; provision for droppable belly fuel tank or bomb; 30-gallon tank fitted for water injection boost (R-2800-59-engined models); first 112 fitted with R-2800-21 engines of 2,000 horsepower, later with R-2800-59 of 2,300 horsepower with WEP; 602 examples produced in all.

P-47D - R-2800-21W (2,300hp) or R-2800-59W (2,535hp) water-injected radial powerplants; multi-ply tires; provision for 1,000lbs underwings OR 10 x 5-inch HVAR rockets (5 to a wing); increased MTOW capacity; later production models fitted with "bubble" canopy on a lowered fuselage spine to improve rearward vision; 12,602 examples produced.

P-47D-RE - Razorback P-47D; produced in Blocks 1-22; 3,963 examples produced.

P-47D-RE - Bubby Canopy P-47D; produced in Blocks 25-30; 2,546 examples produced.

P-47D-RA - P-47D models produced at Evansville, Indiana plant; Blocks 2-23; 2,350 examples produced.

P-47D-RA - P-47D with bubble canopy produced at Evansville, Indiana plant; Blocks 26-40; 3,743 examples produced.

XP-47E - A single P-47B (171st product) fitted with a hinged canopy, Hamilton Standard propeller and pressurized cockpit; used in trialing the R-2800-59 radial engine.

XP-47F - One-Off P-47B model used in laminar air flow tests; fitted with new wings for process; lost to accident on October 14th, 1943.

P-47G-CU - Curtiss Wright-produced P-47D models at Buffalo, New York; 354 examples.

XP-47H - Fitting the Allison XI-2220-1 16-cylinder, inverted-vee, liquid-cooled engine of 2,300/2,500 horsepower; 2 examples converted from P-47D-15s sans armament.

XP-47J - Initially devised for fitting an R-2800-61 engine with contra-rotating propeller; eventually fitting R-2800-57 of 2,800 horsepower; 6 x .50 caliber machine guns in wings.

XP-47K - P-47D fitted with Hawker Typhoon bubble canopy and cut-down rear fuselage; increase fuel capacity and range; wing testbed for systems eventually fitted to the P-47N.

P-47L - A one-off conversion of a P-47D-20.

YP-47M - Modified P-47D model with dive brakes.

P-47M - Speedster Variant; based on the P-47D-30 model; fitting the R-2800-57(C) engine of 2,800 horsepower; used in V-1 interception missions; 130 examples produced; implementation of dive brakes.

XP-47N - Improved D-model with new wings; single example.

P-47N-RE - Definitive Thunderbolt; long-range capability; fitting R-2800-57(C) of 2,800 horsepower as well as -73 and -77 engine model series; underwing hardpoints for 10 x 5-inch HVAR rockets; wings lengthened out by 18 more inches; clipped wing tips to improve roll; increased MTOW (20,700lbs loaded); limited to Pacific Theater; 1,816 examples produced.

P-47N-RA - 149 examples produced; a further 5,934 orders cancelled after VJ-Day.

F-47 - USAF Redesignation of P-47 systems beginning in 1948.

Thunderbolt Mk I - British designation for P-47B model.

Thunderbolt Mk II - British designation for P-47D model.


Operators:
Bolivia; Brazil; Chile; Columbia; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; France; Nazi Germany (captured); Honduras; Iran; Italy; Mexico; Nicaragua; Peru; Philippines; Portugal; Soviet Union; Taiwan; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States; Venezuela; Yugoslavia