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The P-47 Thunderbolt, or Jug as it was also called, was designed to take on the role of the aging US Army’s P-40 Warhawk (known as the Kittyhawk in British and Soviet service). The heavily armed fighter excelled as a long-range escort fighter as well as an adept ground-attack plane.
By 1940 the army needed a dedicated heavy fighter to contend with the German fighters of the time. The aircraft was truly a monster from its not-so-humble beginnings. Powered by a massive Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp two-row 18-cylinder radial engine, the aircraft could achieve 412 mph (663 kph) at an altitude of 25,800 ft (7,864 m). It weighed 9,900 pounds (4,490 kg) empty and flew into combat with eight 0.50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns, four in each wing.
The P-47 first saw combat in early 1943 and saw a limited use as fighter interceptors and escorts during the majority of the year. However it wasn’t long before the Thunderbolt demonstrated its value as an excellent ground-attack fighter.
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