Republic P-47 "Thunderbolt"
Although the P-51 "Mustang" was, perhaps, the most famous single seat fighter the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) put into the sky during the Second World War, in reality the P-47 "Thunderbolt" represented the USAAF's workhorse. Affectionately known by its pilots as the "Jug" 15,683 were built between 1940 and 1945. All told USAAF pilots flew more than 500,000 combat sorties in the Jug between March 1943 and August 1945 in both the European and Pacific Theater of Operations. In particular, the most numerous model, the P-47D, carved out a reputation as one of the best fighters to patrol Europe's skies during World War II.
A massive 2,535 h.p. Pratt & Whitney radial engine powered the P-47D and enabled the heavy fighter, weighing 10,660 lbs. empty, to reach a maximum airspeed of 430 m.p.h. - a comparable top speed to its most common foe; the German Me-109G. Besides matching the lighter German aircraft in airspeed the P-47D could also climb higher and far outranged the Me-109G - with a range of 1,860 miles against a 435 miles range for the Me-109G. In addition to outperforming its Axis opponents the P-47D brought tremendous hitting power to the skies - provided by eight .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine guns. The P-47 was also one of the best fighter-bombers of the War, with a rugged airframe able to absorb tremendous punishment, and dish it out as well. The P-47 could carry externally upwards of 2,500 lbs. of bombs, rockets or napalm - with these weapons used to devastating effect against the Axis.
Picture Courtesy of Steven Mercatante