P47 - REPUBLIC P-47 THUNDERBOLT

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REPUBLIC P-47 THUNDERBOLT P47

The P-47 was one of America's leading fighter airplanes of WW II. It made its initial flight on May 6, 1941, but the first production article was not delivered to the AAF until March 18, 1942, more than three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. On April 8, 1943, the P-47 flew its first combat mission, taking off from England for a sweep over western Europe. During the next several months, AAF pilots learned that the Thunderbolt could out-dive any Luftwaffe airplane encountered. An auxilary fuel tank was suspended under the fuselage beginning in 1943, permitting the P-47 to escort AAF heavy bombers much farther into German territory.

In addition to establishing an impressive record as a high-altitude escort fighter, the P-47 gained recognition as a low-level fighter-bomber because of its ability to absorb battle damage and keep flying. By the end of the war, the Thunderbolt had been used in every active war theater with the exception of Alaska. In addition to serving with the AAF, some were flown in action by the British, Free French, Russians, Mexicans, and Brazilians.

The P47 D on display, one of more than 15,600 built, was donated by Republic Aviation Corporation in Nov. 1964.

P47 SPECIFICATIONS
Span: 40 ft. 9 in.
Length: 36 ft. 1 in.
Height: 14 ft. 2 in.
Weight: 13,500 lbs. loaded
Armament: Eight .50-cal. machine guns & ten 5 in. rockets or 1,500 lbs. of bombs.
Engine: Pratt and Whitney R-2800 of 2,300 hp.
Serial number: 42-23278

P47 PERFORMANCE
Maximum speed: 433 mph
Cruising speed: 260 mph
Range: 1,100 miles (with auxiliary fuel tank)
Service Ceiling: 40,000 ft.

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P47 Variants

P-47C
Essentially similar to the P-47 B, the initial P-47 Cs featured strengthened all-metal control surfaces, an upgraded GE turbosupercharger regulator and a short vertical radio mast. After the initial manufacture of a block of 57 P47 Cs, production moved to the P-47C-1, which had an eight inch (200 mm) fuselage extension forward of the cockpit at the firewall to correct center of gravity problems, ease engine maintenance and allow installation of a new engine mount. There were a number of other changes, such as revised exhausts for the oil coolers, and fixes to brakes, undercarriage and electrical system as well as a redesigned rudder and elevator balance. The 55 P47 C-1s were followed by 128 P-47 C-2s which introduced a centerline hardpoint with under-fuselage shackles for either a 500 pound (227 kg) bomb or a 200 U.S. gallon (758 L, 166.5 imp. gal) fuel tank that conformed to the underside of the fuselage. The main production P47 C sub-variant was the P-47 C-5 which introduced a new whip antenna and the R-2800-59 engine with water-methanol injection with a war emergency power rating of 2,300 horsepower (1,716 kW). With the use of pressurized drop tanks, the P-47 C was able to extend its range on missions beginning 30 July 1943.[6]

P-47 D / P47 G / X P47 K / X P-47 L
Republic P-47 D Thunderbolt, nicknamed "Jug;" during World War II, the P-47 served in every active combat theater and with many Allied air forces.
Republic P-47 D Thunderbolt, nicknamed "Jug;" during World War II, the P-47 served in every active combat theater and with many Allied air forces.

Refinements of the Thunderbolt continued, leading to the definitive P47 D, of which 12,602 examples were built. The "D" model actually consisted of a series of evolving production blocks, the last of which were visibly different from the first.

The first P-47Ds were actually the same as P-47Cs. Republic could not produce Thunderbolts fast enough at its Farmingdale plant on Long Island, so a new plant was built at Evansville, Indiana. The Evansville plant built a total of 110 P-47Ds, which were completely identical to P-47C-2s. Farmingdale aircraft were identified by the "-RE" suffix after the block number, while Evansville aircraft were given the "-RA" suffix.

The P-47D-1 through P-47D-6, the P-47D-10, and the P-47D-11 successively incorporated changes such as the addition of more engine cooling flaps around the back of the cowl to reduce the engine overheating problems that had been seen in the field. Engines and engine subsystems saw refinement, as did the fuel, oil and hydraulic systems. Additional armor protection was also added for the pilot.

The P-47 D15 was produced in response to requests by combat units for increased range. The internal fuel capacity was increased to 375 U.S. gallons (1,421 L) and the bomb racks under the wings were made "wet" (equipped with fuel plumbing) to allow a jettisonable drop tank pressurized by vented exhaust air to be carried under each wing, in addition to the belly tank. Five different auxiliary tanks were fitted to the Thunderbolt during its career:

* 200 U.S. gallon (758 L) ferry tank, a conformal tub-shaped jettisonable tank made of paper, which barely cleared the ground on grass airfields, was used as an interim measure between 30 July and 31 August 1943;
* 75 U.S. gallon (284 L) drop tank, a teardrop-shaped steel tank produced for the P-39, was adapted to the P-47 beginning 31 August 1943, initially carried on a belly shackle but used in pairs in 1944 as underwing tanks;
* 108-gallon (409 L) drop tank, a cylindrical paper tank of British design and manufacture, used as a belly tank beginning in September 1943 and a wing tank in April 1944;
* 150 U.S. gallon (568 L) drop tank, a steel tank first used as a belly 20 February 1944, and an underwing tank 22 May 1944;
* 215 U.S. gallon (810 L) belly tank, a wide, flat steel tank developed by VIII Service Command that allowed performance-degrading wing pylons to be removed, was first used in February 1945.

The tanks made of plastic-impregnated (laminated) paper could not store fuel for an extended period of time, but they worked quite well for the time it took to fly a single mission. These tanks were cheaper, lighter in weight, and were useless to the enemy if recovered after being dropped — not only did they break apart, but they did not provide the enemy with any reusable materials that could be scavenged for their own war effort. With the increased fuel capacity, the P-47 was now able to perform escort missions deep into enemy territory. A drawback to their use was that fighters could not land with the tanks in place because of the hazard of rupture and explosion. Fighters recalled from a mission or that did not jettison for some reason were required to drop paper tanks into a designated "dump" area at their respective fields, resulting in substantial losses of aviation fuel.

The P-47 D-16, D-20, D-22 and D-23 were similar to the P47 D-15 with minor improvements in fuel system, engine subsystems, a jettisonable canopy, and bulletproof windshield. Beginning with the block 22 aircraft, the original narrow-chorded Curtiss propeller was replaced by propellers with larger blades, the Evansville plant switching to a new Curtiss propeller with a diameter of 13 feet (3.96 m) and the Long Island plant using a Hamilton Standard propeller with a diameter of 13 feet 2 inches (4.01 m). With the bigger propellers having barely six inches of ground clearance, Thunderbolt pilots had to learn to be careful on takeoffs to keep the tail down until they obtained adequate ground clearance, and on landings to flare the aircraft properly. Failure to do so damaged both the propeller and the runway.

Even with two Republic plants rolling out the P-47, the USAAF still was not getting as many Thunderbolts as they wanted, consequently, an arrangement was made with Curtiss to build the aircraft under license in a plant in Buffalo, New York. Most of the Curtiss Thunderbolts were intended for use in advanced flight training. The Curtiss aircraft were all designated P-47G, and a "-CU" suffix was used to distinguish them from other production. The first P-47G was completely identical to the P-47C, the P-47G-1 was identical to the P47 C-1, while the following P-47 G-5, P-47 G-10, and P-47 G-15 sub-variants were comparable to the P-47 D-1, P47 D-5 and P47 D-10 respectively. Two P47 G-15s were built with the cockpit extended forward to just before the leading edge of the wing to provide twin tandem seating, designated T P-47 G. The second crew position was accommodated by substituting a much smaller main fuel tank. The "Doublebolt" did not go into production but similar modifications were made in the field to older P-47s, which were then used as squadron "hacks" (miscellaneous utility aircraft). Curtiss built a total of 354 P-47 Gs.

Bubbletop P-47
All the P-47s to this point had a "razorback" canopy configuration with a tall fuselage spine behind the pilot which resulted in poor visibility to the rear. The British also had this problem with their fighter aircraft, and had devised the bulged "Malcolm hood" canopy for the Spitfire as an initial solution. This was fitted in the field to many North American P-51 Mustangs, and to a handful of P-47Ds (and far more on P-47Bs and P-47Cs). However, the British then came up with a much better solution, devising an all-round vision "bubble" canopy for the Hawker Typhoon. USAAF officials liked the bubble canopy, and quickly adapted it to American fighters, including the P51 and the Thunderbolt. The first P-47 with a bubble canopy was a modified P47 D-5 completed in the summer of 1943 and redesignated XP-47K. Another older P-47 D was modified to provide an internal fuel capacity of 370 U.S. gallons (1,402 L) and given the designation XP-47L. The bubble canopy and increased fuel capacity were then rolled into production together, resulting in the block 25 P47 D (rather than a new variant designation). First deliveries to combat groups began in May 1944.

It was followed by similar bubble-top variants, including the P47 D-26, D-27, D-28 and D-30. Improvements added in this series included engine refinements, more internal fuel capacity, and the addition of dive recovery flaps. Cutting down the rear fuselage to accommodate the bubble canopy produced yaw instability, and the P-47D-40 introduced a dorsal fin extension in the form of a narrow triangle running from the vertical tailplane to the radio aerial. The fin fillet was retrofitted in the field to earlier P47 D bubble-top variants. The P-47D-40 also featured provisions for ten "zero length" stub launchers for 5 inch (127 mm) High Velocity Aerial Rockets (HVARs), as well as the new K-14 computing gunsight. This was a license-built copy of the British Ferranti GGS Mark IID computing gyroscopic sight which allowed the pilot to dial in target wingspan and range, and would then move the gunsight reticle to compensate for the required deflection.

The bubbletop P47s were nicknamed "Superbolts" by combat pilots in the field.[8]

P-47 N
The P47 N was the last Thunderbolt variant to be produced. It was designed as an escort fighter for the B-29 Superfortress bombers flying raids on the Japanese home islands. Increased internal fuel capacity and drop tanks had done much to extend the Thunderbolt's range during its evolution, and the only other way to expand the fuel capacity was to put fuel tanks into the wings. Thus, a new wing was designed with two 50 U.S. gallon (190 L) fuel tanks. The second Y P-47 M with this wing flew in September 1944. The redesign proved successful in extending range to about 2,000 miles (3,200 km), and the squared-off wingtips improved the roll rate. The P47 N entered mass production with the uprated R-2800-77(C) engine, with a total of 1,816 built. The very last Thunderbolt to be built, a P-47 N-25, rolled off the production line in October 1945. Thousands more had been on order, but production was halted with the end of the war in August. At the end of production, cost of a Thunderbolt was $83,000 in 1945 U.S. dollars.


(credits: US Air Force History Support Office)

 
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REPUBLIC P-47 THUNDERBOLT P47
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