Thanks to it’s sleek lines, nimble handling and lightning-fast speed, the North American P-51 quickly became a symbol of American air power in World War Two. But while the Mustang certainly helped win control of the skies over Europe and the Pacific, it was the less glamorous Republic P-47 Thunderbolt that was the real workhorse of the Allied victory. Nicknamed the “Jug” (short for “Juggernaut”) by adoring pilots, the P-47 was a heavyweight warbird — and one that packed a devastating punch. More than 15,600 Thunderbolts were manufactured between 1941 and 1945 and they served in every theatre of the war performing a variety of missions from bomber escort to close air support.
Conceived by Georgian-born aircraft designer Alexander Kartveli, the plane that would eventually become the P-47 was originally intended to be a featherweight interceptor. Based on the small P-43 Lancer, which saw limited service in the U.S. Army Air Corps before 1941, Republic was hoping to develop an improved version of the fighter. But as the war in Europe demonstrated the need for much more robust warplanes, the company was forced to rethink its plans. Designers soon came up with bigger, more rugged machine: The P-47. A prototype Thunderbolt first took to the skies on May 6, 1941.
Despite its considerable mass, the P-47’s 18-cylinder, 2,600-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine (the same power plant used by the Vought Corsair and Grumman Hellcat) enabled the unwieldy Jug to keep pace with the Mustang. Both had a top speed of around 440 mph (700 km/h). And while the P-47 could reach altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet (12,000 meters), its range of just over 800 miles (1,300 km) gave it half the legs of the P-51.
Many of the pilots who flew the P-47 Thunderbolt, received advanced fighter training while stationed at Millville Army Airfield. The P-47 Thunderbolt; “The Jug”, was rated by many historians as the most effective fighter-bomber of World War II.
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt Specifications:
First flight: May 6, 1941
Total produced: 15, 683
Most units built – P-47D: 12,602
Average cost of P-47D: $82,997
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R2800-59
18 Cylinder Radial (P-47D-20)
Power: 2000/2300 H.P.
Propeller: 13 Feet
Dimensions Span: 40 ft. 9-5/15 in.
Length: 30 ft. 1-3/4 in.
Height: 14 ft. 8-1/16 in.
Wing area: 300 sq. ft.
Weight: 9,900 lbs. (empty) Gross: 14,000 lbs. Max: 17,000 lbs.
Speeds Max: 426 mph at 30,000 ft.; Landing: 106 mph;
Climb 6 min. to 15,000 ft.; 13.5 min to 30,000 ft.
Fuel internal: 305 U.S. gal.
Fuel external: 375 U.S. gal
Range Max: 800 miles at 10,000 ft. (4.2 hrs.)
Normal: 390 miles at 25,000 ft. .
Service ceiling: 40,000 ft.
Armament: 8 ea. 50 cal. mg with from 267 to 425 rpm
Bombs: 2 x 1000 lb., or 3 x 500, etc.; max load of 2,500 lbs.
546,000 combat sorties with a combat loss rate of only 0.7 percent.
132,000 tons of bombs dropped
135 million rounds of 50 cal. fired
1-1/2 million hours of combat
20 million gal of fuel consumed
11,878 Enemy planes destroyed; 1/2 in the air; 1/2 on the ground
160,000 military vehicles destroyed
9,000 enemy locomotives destroyed
More victories than any other American aircraft in W.W.II