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Of all the aircraft built by Republic in World War II, the P-47 Thunderbolt was the most famous. The P-47 first flew in 1941. It had been designed as a large (for that time) high-performance fighter/bomber and was powered by the large turbocharged Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine. This gave the P-47 excellent performance and a large cargo capacity. The US Army Air Corps began flying it in the European Theater shortly after the first deliveries were accepted in June 1942.

Although it was an excellent aircraft, as production continued various improvements were made with each improvement adding power, maneuverability and range. The Thunderbolt, or “Jug” as it was affectionately called, gained a reputation as the war progressed as a reliable and extremely rugged aircraft. It was able to take incredible amounts of damage and still return its pilot home safely. During the war, P-47s logged nearly 2 million flight hours. They were responsible for the destruction of over 7,000 enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground in the European Theater alone. Later in the war in the Pacific theater, Jugs served as escort fighters for B-29 bombers. For the most part, however, they excelled in the ground attack role, strafing and shelling the battlefields of Europe. Early versions, up to the P-47C, had “razorback” airframes, while the popular P-47D featured a bubble canopy that gave the pilot greater visibility to the rear.

The P-47D with the P&W R-2800 radial engine weighed 9,950 lbs. empty, with a full load of fuel and bombs, it could handle takeoff with 17,500 lbs. Its length was 36 feet, wingspan 40 feet 9 inches, with a height of 14 feet 8 inches. Performance wise, its top speed was 433 mph with a ceiling of 41,000 feet and a range of 1900 (with drop tanks). As armament, it carried four 50-caliber machine guns in each wing and up to 2,500 pounds of externally mounted free-fall bombs, rockets, or other munitions.

Sometimes it seems that every WWII fighter manufacturer claimed theirs was the fastest, but there may be some truth to the P-47’c claim. The P-47J was equipped with the P&W R2800-57 and at 81% of rated power it could hold 435 mph. With military power (100%) it could sustain 470mph, with the War Emergency Power setting (133%) the P-47 actually achieved 507mph. All speed tests were conducted at an altitude of 34,300 feet. The P-47 was also especially good at climbing. At sea level his rate of climb was 4,900 feet per minute, four minutes and 15 seconds later at 20,000 feet he was maintaining 4,400 feet per minute. Time to 30,000 was 6 ¾ minutes; It is with full internal tanks and fully armed. It had also flown at 46,500 and the pilot claimed it was capable of a bit more.

The first of the German rockets appeared in the summer of 1944. The sudden appearance of the V-1 flying bomb caused quite a stir in Britain. Flying at speeds of around 400 mph, the V-1 was not easy to intercept before flying over populated areas where shooting it down could have a worse effect than leaving it alone. Many of the latest RAF fighters were launched to intercept the “buzz bombs”, preferably over the English Channel. Storms, Spitfires, and even jet-powered (but not very fast) Meteors went to work intercepting the deadly missiles.

Naturally, the British government asked its allies for help in this duty. Having already logged hundreds of flights with the XP-47M, beginning in mid-1943, Republic had a huge advantage in terms of development time. This was the time when the P-47M series was just entering production. Upon being informed of the P-47M’s performance, an initial order for three was immediately placed, but never fulfilled; instead the improved P-47N was produced with its clipped wings, which for the first time was a “wet wing” containing self-sealing fuel tanks. By the time the first aircraft was ready to be delivered to Europe, ground forces in Europe had already overrun the V-1 launch sites. The P-47N, with its speed of 465 mph and a range of over 2,300 miles, deployed to the Pacific and was assigned escort duties with B-29 Superfortresses during the last months of the war.

The Air Forces of Brazil, England, France, Mexico, and the Soviet Union also used the P-47 during the war. After the war, the Jug served for nine more years in the US while being flown by the Air National Guard. He continued to serve for many more years with the air forces of more than 15 countries around the world. Of the 15,677 built, only 9 are known to be airworthy today.

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