This World War II Fighter Could Both Take A Punch And Deliver One

Sebastien Roblin

Key point: The juiced-up engines of the P-47Ms were plagued by serious technical problems.

Pilots nicknamed early-model P-47 Thunderbolts the “Razorback,” a reference to the chunky fighter plane’s angular canopy. However, the name was more generally appropriate—like a wild boar, the hulking single-engine “Jug” was tough and hard-charging, and its eight .50 caliber machine guns packed a hell of a punch.

Lugging underwing fuel tanks, Thunderbolts based in Britain could accompany four-engine B-17 and B-24 bombers of the 8th Air Force on dangerous raids deep over Nazi Germany—and still engage German fighters on roughly even terms, especially while diving.

However, starting mid-1944, the Allied fliers grew concerned about new Nazi turbojet-powered Me-262 fighters and rocket-powered Me-163s that could outrun the speediest Allied piston-engine aircraft like the Mustang or British Tempest by 100 miles per hour or more. V-1 “Buzz Bomb” cruise missiles bombarding London, though slower, also proved difficult for Allied fighters to intercept.

On its own initiative, Thunderbolt manufacturer Republic set aside four bubble-canopy P-47Ds from its production line in Farmingdale, New York and fit them with souped-up Pratt & Whitney R-2800-57 Double Wasp engine with a turbo-supercharger. Together, these could generate 2,800 horsepower.

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