P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

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P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Kyler » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:35 pm

Reason why the P-47 was a better pursuit aircraft.
• had 8 Browning .50 caliber machine guns, while the comparable P-51 had 6 Browning’s, and the P-38 had 4 Browning’s and 1 20mm cannon. A single 1 second burst from all 8 guns would destroy any Axis fighter.
• carried 2,500lbs of rockets & bombs, while the P-51 carried only 2,000lbs, but the P-38 could carry 5,000lbs of bomb & rockets.
• used an air cooled double radial engine which could stand much more combat damage, than the liquid cooled engines of the P-51 & P-38.
• the turbo-supercharger tubing ran under the aircraft providing cushion for pilots in a crash landing, while the P-51’s radiator ran under the aircraft and often caused it to flip on to the cockpit in a crash.
• The P-47 landing gear was wide and high allowing it to operate from less prepared airfields than the P-51 and was less prone to taxi flip overs.
• was an over constructed aircraft and was able to take much combat damage than the P-38 & P-51.
• being the heaviest single engine fighter of the war could out dive any fighter aircraft, this was used to great advantage by pilots in combat.
• only required 7.7lbs of force for control stick movement while the P-51 required 20lbs, making it a much easier aircraft to fly. (If someone has this P-38 data please post information)
• are accredited in shooting down over 6,000 Axis aircraft during the war (2nd Most of any American Fighter), the P-51 is accredited with over 6,200 (The Most of Any American Fighter).
• combat loss percentage in the European Theater of Operations was .7% while the P-51 was 1.1% and the P-38 1.3% (based on number of sorties)

Important P-47 Information

• They destroyed over 8,000 aircraft on the ground, 9,000 locomotives, 6,000 tanks & armored vehicles, 68,000 vehicles, and 86,000 rolling stock. They only comparable number I could find for either the P-51 or P-38 is the P-51 destroyed over 4,000 aircraft on the ground during the war.
• With Exception of USAAF’s top P-38 pilots in the Pacific the nearly all of the rest of the USAAF’s top 20 aces were P-47 pilots or few the P-47 at some point during the war.
• More P-47’s were made than any other pursuit aircraft and with the exception of the B-24 Liberator all other aircraft in the U.S. during the 2nd World War.
• 56th Fighter Group kept their P-47’s after been told to switch to P-51’s. They ended up being the 2nd fighter group in USAAF in Europe with the most aces, and the 2nd highest scoring fighter group with the most kills over all.

P-47 Flaws
• With the huge R28-2000 & later R28-2800 the engine consumed fuel at a horrendous rate. Initial P-47B’s had a range of only 300 miles. Early external fuel tanks caused high drag and could not carry a full load of fuel. As the aircraft was redesigned this problem was helped by better external tanks, more internal tanks, and larger internal tanks finalizing with the P-47N having a range of over 950 miles.
• Early thin blade style propellers caused the aircraft to have a power climb rate and speed for such a powerful engine. This was solved with the addition of the 4 blade paddle propeller.
• Early razorback cockpits limited visibility this problem was solved with the British bubble canopy being used on the most P-47D’s and later models, this was the same solution for the P-51.
• The P-47 saw decrease in air to air performance at lower altitudes below cruising altitude and especially below 15,000 feet. Later solution was to added water injected war emergency power, and finally with the production of the P-47M which solved the lower performance problem of P-47’s at low altitude.

All of the “Famous 3” were great aircraft and all did a hell of a lot to defeat the Axis during World War 2. All had their own particular flaws and strengths, and the great pilots of the USAAF used those strengths to their advantage in combat in all theaters. While the P-47 may have not been the best aircraft for air to air combat it still did a great job compared to the P-51 & P-38. It far surpassed its two sisters in ground attack role. If looking at each aircraft merits throughout the war the P-47 comes out on top in its contributions to war. It may have not been the prettiest or fasted aircraft but it got the job done overall better than any other pursuit aircraft for the USAAF used during the war.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Bgile » Fri Feb 05, 2010 12:11 am

You left out the F-4U-4, which was superior in almost every category. The others you list were better in one or more categories. It was a fine fighter, but saying it was unquestionably the best is controversial to say the least.

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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Kyler » Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:32 am

I did not include Navy fighter in the comparison since they were not deployed nor used in the vast numbers as the USAAF's pursuit fighters during World War 2. I say it is by pic for best USN fighter during the war, since it also made an excellent ground attack aircraft and night fighter
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby minoru genda » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:07 am

Kyler wrote:Important P-47 Information

• They destroyed over 8,000 aircraft on the ground, 9,000 locomotives, 6,000 tanks & armored vehicles, 68,000 vehicles, and 86,000 rolling stock. They only comparable number I could find for either the P-51 or P-38 is the P-51 destroyed over 4,000 aircraft on the ground during the war.

Something must be wrong with those figures. In other threads the lost of tanks due to air attacks has been said to be +-15%. You wrote "6,000 tanks & armored vehicles, 68,000 vehicles" destroyed by P-47 alone! :shock: Did the Germans ever deployed that many vehicles in the West?

12,000 aircraft destroyed on the ground by P-47 and P-51 also seems excesive.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Kyler » Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:55 am

minoru genda wrote:
Kyler wrote:Important P-47 Information

• They destroyed over 8,000 aircraft on the ground, 9,000 locomotives, 6,000 tanks & armored vehicles, 68,000 vehicles, and 86,000 rolling stock. They only comparable number I could find for either the P-51 or P-38 is the P-51 destroyed over 4,000 aircraft on the ground during the war.

Something must be wrong with those figures. In other threads the lost of tanks due to air attacks has been said to be +-15%. You wrote "6,000 tanks & armored vehicles, 68,000 vehicles" destroyed by P-47 alone! :shock: Did the Germans ever deployed that many vehicles in the West?

12,000 aircraft destroyed on the ground by P-47 and P-51 also seems excesive.
'

You could be easily correct that the figures could be off by +/- 15%. Remember 68,000 vehicles includes anything from Opel truck to a Mercedes staff car. Fighter aircraft after escorting bombers would often strafe targets of opportunity on their way home. Imagine a squadron of P-47's flying over a vehicle production facility destroying everything they could on the ground. Don't forget American also exaggerated their claims just like everyone else. So this information can be taken with a least a few grains of salt. Don't forget Germany produced over 100,000 aircraft during the war. So 12,000 in the air & ground is a fair number
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Byron Angel » Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:55 pm

Bgile wrote:You left out the F-4U-4, which was superior in almost every category. The others you list were better in one or more categories. It was a fine fighter, but saying it was unquestionably the best is controversial to say the least.



..... I'd suggest that this is a case of different horses for different courses. From what I've read, the F4U was a good performer and a dangerous opponent up to about 25,000 feet altitude, but its performance fell off rapidly above that height. This is not a criticism of the Corsair design; there was simply no reason to provide such high altitude capabilities in an aircraft intended for carrier operations. The original P47 was a land-based fighter intentionally designed for optimal performance above 25,000 ft. The cost of that high altitude ability was modest performance below 25,000 ft and mediocre performance below 15,000 ft. However, the addition of water injection, paddle-blade props and increased horsepower during the war vastly improved P47 performance at mid and low altitudes (primarily in sustained climb rate). Both aircraft, for such large fighters, had very good overall maneuverability within their favored performance height bands.

I can't say that the case for naming the P47 as the best pursuit fighter of the US in WW2 is by any means a slam dunk, but neither is it without merit. The P47 constituted the majority of 8AF escort fighter strength until (IIRC) about July 1944. The Mustang was a great fighter design in its own right and could indeed reach into airspace beyond the limits of the P47, but it was the P47 which actually crippled the Luftwaffe fighter arm over Germany. Kartveli's design, once fully matured, excelled at high altitude operations, was successful as an escort fighter within its range capabilities, emerged as the hands-down best Allied single-engine close air support fighter-bomber of the war, and, from the point of view of per sortie loss rate, ended the war as the safest USAAF fighter of all to fly in combat.


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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:13 pm

I have considered the P 47 as an homologue of the Focke Wulf whilst the P 51 is the real air superiority plane the US had in Europe.

In the Pacific I think Bgile is right: the Corsair was the superior fighter.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby lwd » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:44 pm

Kyler wrote: ...You could be easily correct that the figures could be off by +/- 15%. ...

There is a good chance they are based on "claims" in which case they are likely too high by a factor of at least 50%.

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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Kyler » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:36 pm

Let me point out again, my comparison was only of US Army Air Force pursuit aircraft, not US Navy aircraft. The F4U is a great fighter possibly the best overall during the war for the US, but it is unfair to compare it the P-47, P-51, and P-38 since it was built and used for a different branch of the military.

The P-47 was not the best air to air combat aircraft, looking at the facts you can tell that. Though overall in the types of missions from Escort, Ground Attack, and others the P-47 was the best pursuit aircraft the USAAF had during the war. The major reason why the P-51 replaced the P-47 in escort was due to lack of range not its quality of air to air combat. The 56th Fighter Group is a prime example, they refused to give up their P-47's for P-51's and still put up great numbers, and they even had the highest and most of the highest scoring aces of the ETO.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Bgile » Fri Feb 05, 2010 6:29 pm

Kyler wrote:The 56th Fighter Group is a prime example, they refused to give up their P-47's for P-51's and still put up great numbers, and they even had the highest and most of the highest scoring aces of the ETO.


I think that had less to do with the performance of the P-47 than the fact that most US fighter missions involved ground attack, and you were more likely to survive in a P-47.

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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Kyler » Fri Feb 05, 2010 6:53 pm

The 56th was tasked with escorting not ground attack, when they were told to give up their P-47's for P-51's for escort missions Garbeski convinced his superiors not to make the switch aircraft.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby tommy303 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:01 pm

I agree with Bgile--once the primary escort mission was accomplished, pilots were frequently instructed to seek out targets of opportunity on the ground if they ammunition and fuel left. The P51 was the ideal escort fighter because of its longer range, but the P47 was the better for Flak suppression and air field attacks in the face of ground fire as it had a higher survivability rate due to its rugged construction and radial engine.

There is also a possibility the 56th did not wanted to change over to the P51 for the simple reason that during the transition period between one fighter type and a new one, casualties in combat and accidents goes up rather dramatically until the pilots have gotten to know the limits of their new planes. While they may know every trick in their old plane, a completely new one means having to learn it all over again, discovering each strength and weakness through experience, and in that time one is a bit more vulnerable, either actually or psychologically.

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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Byron Angel » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:46 pm

tommy303 wrote: There is also a possibility the 56th did not wanted to change over to the P51 for the simple reason that during the transition period between one fighter type and a new one, casualties in combat and accidents goes up rather dramatically until the pilots have gotten to know the limits of their new planes. While they may know every trick in their old plane, a completely new one means having to learn it all over again, discovering each strength and weakness through experience, and in that time one is a bit more vulnerable, either actually or psychologically.



..... Not to mention the possibility that an entirely new set of tactics (not necessarily so in this particular case) may be required to effective fight and survive in the new aircraft.


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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Postby Dave Saxton » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 am

For many years I knew a person that flew P-51's in combat in the ETO. He told me once that he originally hoped to get assigned to Jugs. He said his desire to fly Jugs was extreme as he thought them the ultimate at the time, plus it was considered "life insurance" among the young pilots. He finished up his advanced training in P-40's in Florida and then transfered to NY state to check out in both the P-47 and the P-38. He was assigned to a P-38 Group in the 8th and was very dissapointed about not getting assigned to a P-47 Group. After crossing the pond, his Group was changing from P-38's to P-51's. He told me that he very quickly got over his dissapointment about missing out on flying Jugs. He remained a strong P-51 devote for the rest of his life. When ever I would bring up any other fighter planes, and he eventually flew most of them, he would look at me and say "your joking right?"
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