Republic P-47D Thunderbolt (226671)Republic P-47D Thunderbolt (226671) 

Republic P-47D "Thunderbolt" (226671)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt (226671)Republic P-47D Thunderbolt (226671)One of the truly great fighter aircraft of all time! The largest and heaviest [7 tons] single-seater piston-engined fighter in history and the most numerous American fighter ever produced.  Nicknamed the "Jug" it was a hugely successful high altitude escort and a formidable ground attack aircraft.  It could take almost as much damage as it could hand out, quickly establishing a reputation for allowing pilots to walk away from all but the most horrendous crashes and absorbing extraordinary amounts of battle damage, hence its success in the ground attack role.

226671 is the only airworthy example of a Republic P47-D Thunderbolt  in Europe.  Built in 1945 at the Republic's Evansville factory in Indiana as a P-47D-40-RA, 226671 served briefly in the US Army Air Force before serving with the Peruvian Air Force.  A detailed record of the USAAF service is not known, although 226671 did serve with the Air Training Command during the last few months of the War, and was eventually stored at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma with the Air Material Command.  Restored to full operational status at Hensley Field in Texas in 1952, after the Rio Pact had been signed by the USA and was assigned to the Military Assistance Program in September of that year.  In 1953 it formed part of a group of P47's which found their way to the Peruvian Air Force, who paid the princely sum of one dollar for each of the 25 aircraft it took from the USA.  In the hands of the grateful Peruvians it gave good service until 1967, initially as a front line fighter and then as a fighter trainer, being numbered '119' and having had an all over silver paint scheme applied.  226671was very badly damaged in a forced landing accident at Tulsa, Oklahoma on 8th February 1980.  When The Fighter Collection, RAF Duxford, purchased 226671 in late 1984 the restoration of the aircraft was about 70% complete.  In the photographs 226671 sprayed silver overall, with D-Day invasion markings, and the features the black-and-white chequered cowling of the 78th Fighter Group, which had been based at RAF Duxford during the period 1943 to 1945.  The serial no 226671 and codes MX-X were chosen, depicting the aircraft, “No Guts, No Glory”, flown by Lt Col Ben Mayo, CO of the 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group.

The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt represented the culmination of a line of aircraft which had its origin in two 1936 designs, the Seversky P-35 and P-43.  The original XP-47 and XP-47A prototypes were designed around the Allison engine, but designer Alexander Kartveli realized that this powerplant, with its mediocre performance at high altitude, would not be suitable.  He therefore drew up an alternative design around the most powerful engine then available, the new 2000hp Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp radial.  The new proposal was submitted in June 1940 as the XP-47B and was immediately accepted, orders being placed in September for 171 production P-47Bs and 602 P-47Cs.  The two were basically similar, except that the P-47C had a slightly longer fuselage to improve stability.  The XP-47B flew for the first time on 6 May 1941.  In June 1942 the 56th Fighter Group began to rearm with the P-47 and in December 1942 to January 1943 it deployed to England.  Flying its first combat mission, a fighter sweep over St Omer, on 13th April 1943.

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt (226413)

Republic P-47D "Thunderbolt" (226413)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Following a complete restoration in the mid 1990's at Duxford 226413 is displayed in the colours of 42-26413 "Oregan's Britannia'.

In all, 12,602 P-47Ds were built by Republic in four batches, a further 354 being built by Curtiss-Wright as P-47Gs.  The RAF acquired 354 early-model P-47Ds as the Thunderbolt I, while a further 590 later model P-47Ds were supplied as the Thunderbolt II.  All the RAF’s Thunderbolts were assigned to squadrons in South-East Asia Command (India and Burma), where they replaced the Hawker Hurricane in the ground-attack role.

Republic P-47D (45-49295)Republic P-47D (45-49295)Republic P-47D "Thunderbolt" (45-49295)

Republic P-47D "Thunderbolt" (45-49295)  [@ RAF Hendon]

45-49295 did not serve with the RAF and saw no operational service.  Delivered to the USAAF on the 11th July 1945 and then flew with the US National Guard.  On the 27th May 1952 45-49295 was transferred as one of 150 Thunderbolts to the Yugoslav Air Force.  The Yugoslavs used the Thunderbolts to equip ten front-line squadrons as fighter-bombers until replaced by jet fighters and relegated to trainers during the late 1950s.  However some Thunderbolts remained in the training role until 1961.  Stored at the Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum in Belgrade 45-49295 was exchanged for Spitfire LFXIVE TE356 the former gate guardian of RAF Leeming, Yorkshire.  Arriving at RAF Cosford in 1986 45-49295 was painted in the markings of "KL216", a Thunderbolt II, of RAF 30 Squadron as a tribute to RAF Thunderbolt units in the Far East.

The next production version was the P-47M, 130 being completed with the 2800hp R-2800-57 engine.  It was built specifically to help combat the V1 flying bomb attacks on Britain.  The last variant was the P-47N, a very long-range escort and fighter-bomber, of which Republic built 1816.  Overall P-47 production, which ended in December 1945, was 15,660 aircraft.

Republic P-47D (44-20371)Republic P-47D (44-20371)

Republic P-47D "Thunderbolt" (44-20371)  [@ Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, Paris - Le Bourget]

44-20371 was in the service of the L'Armee de L'Air until 1954 and subsequently used for technical training at Le Mans.   Retired to the Museum in 1963.