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

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

Post by aurora » Tue Nov 11, 2014 4:56 pm

While I agree with the points made about the P-47, I have not addressed the kill ratio, which was better in the air for the P-51; but that's a little like the Spitfire / Hurricane debate, because the P-51s were tasked with escort against enemy fighters much more than the P-47s. Ground kills were only counted at all- because without that, fighter pilots could not be motivated to strafe, rather than duel. But all-around, the P-47 was I think- the more "effective" combat,as opposed to pursuit- machine.

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

Post by tommy303 » Tue Nov 18, 2014 12:37 am

The P51 had the range for long escort missions, which was probably one of its most important assets. However, if I were going to be assigned ground attack missions I would prefer the P47. The air cooled engine was much more rugged and could sustain damage that would have made it unlikely for a P51 to make it back to base; one hit in the cooling system of the P51's liquid cooled engine was enough to make a long flight home unlikely.

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

Post by Steve Crandell » Tue Nov 18, 2014 1:48 am

tommy303 wrote:The P51 had the range for long escort missions, which was probably one of its most important assets. However, if I were going to be assigned ground attack missions I would prefer the P47. The air cooled engine was much more rugged and could sustain damage that would have made it unlikely for a P51 to make it back to base; one hit in the cooling system of the P51's liquid cooled engine was enough to make a long flight home unlikely.
I read a book (can't recall the name atm) by a P-51 pilot who spent his entire tour in Italy. They didn't encounter very many German fighters and spent much of their missions strafing stuff. Their losses were pretty heavy, as might be expected.

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

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Nov 18, 2014 2:30 pm

tommy303 wrote:The P51 had the range for long escort missions, which was probably one of its most important assets. However, if I were going to be assigned ground attack missions I would prefer the P47. The air cooled engine was much more rugged and could sustain damage that would have made it unlikely for a P51 to make it back to base; one hit in the cooling system of the P51's liquid cooled engine was enough to make a long flight home unlikely.
This was proven in Korea. When the Korean War came around the P-47 had been retired from service, so the F-51 had to be pressed into that role. The losses were much greater than the P-47 when used to fly the same type of missions due to the liquid cooled engine and the belly scoop.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Nov 18, 2014 3:12 pm

aurora wrote:While I agree with the points made about the P-47, I have not addressed the kill ratio, which was better in the air for the P-51; but that's a little like the Spitfire / Hurricane debate, because the P-51s were tasked with escort against enemy fighters much more than the P-47s. Ground kills were only counted at all- because without that, fighter pilots could not be motivated to strafe, rather than duel. But all-around, the P-47 was I think- the more "effective" combat,as opposed to pursuit- machine.

aurora
I knew a P-51 pilot that flew with the 20th FG during the war and also after the war in the Air Guard. He did his advanced training in P-40s before receiving training and flight time in P-47s before shipping out. He wanted to fly the P-47. Once he got to England he was assigned to the 20th, however, which was a P-38 group in the 8th AF. The 20th was transitioning from P-38s to P-51Ds. He flew all of his combat missions in P-51s but he had flight time in all the major AAC fighters. There was little doubt in his mind that the P-51 was far superior as an air to air fighter than any other American fighter of the time period. When I pointed out published numbers about top speed and so forth he said as a combat pilot those numbers didn't matter that much. He also described the P-51 as superior to the F4U Corsair in the air combat role. There was an Naval Air Station at Denver which flew F4Us and they used to engage them in mock dogfights. The P-51s consistently bettered the F4Us.

He instructed me on what made the P-51 a superior air combat aircraft was not top speed and such numbers, but that it was such a clean aircraft aerodynamically. It retained more energy during air combat manouvering because of less drag and the laminer flow wing. It recovered from a high g manouvers more quickly. Energy management is what air combat flying is all about. It had a much higher rate of climb than most Allied fighters. It could match the smaller and lighter BF-109 in climb rate after manouvering. The P-51 could go transonic in a dive and still be controlled because of its wing shape. The P-51 could trade altitude for speed and speed for altitude better than most other fighters of the era.

It was similar to the Spitfire. The secret to the Spitfire was its very thin wing and eliptical wing shape. It had enough wing to manouver without greatly increased drag. The Spitfire had the advantage of being a very forgiving and easy aircraft to fly. The Spitfire warned its pilot of a stall and it could recover from a stall relatively easy. The P-51 is often described as a pilot's airplane compared to most, but the Mustang was more demanding of piloting skills compared to Spitfires. The Mustang was a more dangerous aircraft to operate near the ground and it had little warning of a stall.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Post by tommy303 » Wed Nov 19, 2014 5:29 pm

One of the aspects of air combat was the top speed was never the best turning speed. Top speed was useful in intercepting or breaking off action, but most combat was done at considerably less than a plane's theoritical maximum speed. As Dave says, the P51 excelled in its ability to maneuver without losing speed or altitude as rapidly as many other fighters. Like any fighter though, the pilot had to be careful not to be caught low and slow as that was a certain recipe for disaster.

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

Post by aurora » Wed Nov 19, 2014 7:15 pm

In the light of all the argument, I have to disagree that P47 was the USAAF's BEST "PURSUIT" aircraft-that accolade must go to the P51D; but I still think the P47, like the British Hawker Tempest,was a mighty fine Combat aircraft :clap:
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Post by alecsandros » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:43 am

aurora wrote:In the light of all the argument, I have to disagree that P47 was the USAAF's BEST "PURSUIT" aircraft-that accolade must go to the P51D; but I still think the P47, like the British Hawker Tempest,was a mighty fine Combat aircraft :clap:
It was very good indeed,
Still we shouldn't forget that the P-47 and P-51 entered heavily into service at a time when Luftwaffe's strength was greatly diminished, both quantitavely and qualitatively.

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

Post by aurora » Thu Nov 20, 2014 9:33 am

Yes -alecsandros I do believe they ie,P47 and 51 first entered the ETO,in large numbers; in the first half of 1944 and the Luftwaffe was no longer at it's best-but that is not to say- that they had lost the will and means to fight.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Nov 21, 2014 3:52 pm

I saw a P-47 fly over a year or two ago. Big! It is stunning just how massive this fighter is. Everything about the P-47 is massive; massive size, massive firepower, massive horse power, massive fuel consumption, and massive (for an aircraft) armour protection. It was like a huge war horse with both chain and plate armour, in brightly displayed colors, that simply ran over and obliterated anything that got in its way. It was oblivious to almost any of the puny arrows the enemy threw up in it path.

To motivate all that mass the biggest, most powerful, engine that could be fitted was used. It's true that the P&W R28000 was also used by many other American aircraft but in the case of the P-47 it was also turbocharged instead of being merely supercharged which gave it much more power, and much more fuel consumption, than the other applications. A turbocharger still performs well at great altitude, and superior high altitude performance is an advantage in air combat.* Indeed almost all of the interior space of the central airframe was taken up by all the plumbing for the turbo. After the advent of the paddle blade prop it could utilize that power to climb as well as dive. It could beat the Jagdwaffe at it own game. They could not escape it by diving away like they could a Spitfire and they could no longer out climb it either.

*An interesting thing happened to the P-51D's engine that caused a lot of complaints from pilots. Operational Research found out that most shoot downs happened at 14,000 feet. So they had the supercharger re-scheduled to provide more power at medium altitudes at some cost to high altitude performance. Pilots yelled that a combat may end at 14,000 feet but it rarely started out there.
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Post by aurora » Fri Nov 21, 2014 4:10 pm

Hi Dave-I remember some years back visiting my sister in law on Long island NY; where we were taken to a restaurant adjacent to Republic Field.The restaurant was constructed in WW2 fashion with sand bagged entrances and decked out interior wise in the manner of the times and Glen miller playing.The biggest surprise of all was just outside the window was Hub Zempke's P47-as you say an enormous beast of an aircraft, with its gigantic four bladed prop-it was over the perimeter fence- along with a DC3 in it's Invasion Stripes.I took a photo of it, but can I find it after all these years-Hell No!! I guess all the aircraft and indeed the restaurant will have been long gone. :( :(
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Re: P-47 Thunderbolt: The USAAF's Best Pursuit Aircraft

Post by tommy303 » Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:13 pm

One interesting aspect of the P47 that took me by surprise, was when it was coming at you in a strafing run with the engine throttled back, it hardly made any noise at all during the approach until the pilot opened fire.

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

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Nov 21, 2014 8:49 pm

tommy303 wrote:One interesting aspect of the P47 that took me by surprise, was when it was coming at you in a strafing run with the engine throttled back, it hardly made any noise at all during the approach until the pilot opened fire.
This may have been due to the muffling effect of the turbocharger and its plumbing.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Nov 21, 2014 9:04 pm

aurora wrote:The biggest surprise of all was just outside the window was Hub Zempke's P47-
Zemke also found himself on the receiving end of P-47s after he became a POW. He was being transported by train when the train was strafed by P-47s. Many German civilians were killed as if recall correctly was his military escort, but Zemke also saved the lives of two young German girls during the incident. If I recall correctly (its been many years since I read his book) his life was in turned saved by a pistol armed Luftwaffe pilot who was on the same train.

Zemke was the son of German immigrants to Montana, and he had cousins flying for the Luftwaffe. During interrogations he rebuffed efforts by his interrogator to get him to switch sides. He hated the Third Reich with a passion and loved America though. Zemke spoke at least three languages.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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

Post by aurora » Sat Nov 22, 2014 9:29 am

Thank you Dave- for details of Col/Zemke and his capture after being shot down in a P51!!! He was certainly a remarkable man.I give below one tribute to him that I picked up.Col. Hub Zemke retired from the Air Force in 1966, and died Aug. 30, 1994, at Oroville, Calif. In the words of John Frisbee:

"He was an extraordinary man, outspoken, courageous, and of unflagging personal integrity and conviction. These qualities, which made him one of our greatest wartime leaders, did not endear him to some of his military superiors and probably denied him the rank and responsibilities he deserved. Nevertheless, he will remain a symbol of military excellence long after others are forgotten."
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