The next plane on my count down is one of the heaviest to ever take the sky, but despite its weight, it was feared across the skies. Meet the P-47 Thunderbolt.
The Thunderbolt was built between 1941 and 1951, during the height of the war and was one of the heaviest planes in the Allies fleet. When fully loaded it could weigh around 8 tons! But despite that, the R2800 Double Wasp engine (also in the Hellcat and Corsair) could power this large bird into the air where it gained a reputation as a fierce fighter.
The Thunderbolt was primarily a short-medium escort fighter or even used as a primary dog fighter over the skies of Europe and Asia. Nicknamed the “jug” because of its big size, took on various variations throughout its history in the war, but what they were all known for was their ability reach high altitude, 43,000 was the ceiling, and effectively fight at that height or dive down on enemy fighters that could not follow or climb with them in combat.
15, 636 of the Thunderbolts (across the variations) were built during the war, gaining victories all over the world. The Thunderbolt had a range of 800 miles and could hit a max speed of 433 MPH. The Thunderbolt was also armed with 8 x 50 M2 Browning machine guns with 3400 rounds of ammo on board. It could carry up to 2500 lbs. in bombs and had 10 x 5 (127 mm) rockets that it could fire on ground target. It was pretty much a large tank in the air and the modern day A-10 Warthog was built following the similar pattern of the Thunderbolt. This was a monster of a plane.
Overall, the Thunderbolt was a big, heavy bird, but she could fight and fly with the best and remains among the greatest in the war’s history.