P-47 Thunderbolt Aces of the Eighth Air Force

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56th Fighter Group

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WWII P-47 “Thunderbolt” Pilot Strafing German Aerodrome(4/13/1945)

Best Selling in Nonfiction See all. While he was in the U. Seversky had heard of the mass executions of his fellow officers and promptly applied for American citizenship. Even in his early years in America, Seversky was obviously skilled at promoting himself, because he managed to gain a position as a test pilot and consultant with the fledgling United States Army Air Service. Over the span of the next 8 years, Seversky applied for no less than U. This included a gyro-stabilized bomb site purchased by the Army Air Corps.

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He even managed to obtain a commission in the Army Air Corps Reserve. Major Seversky formed a company registered as Seversky Aero Corporation. Unfortunately, the small company did not survive the stock market crash of Undaunted by this serious financial setback, Seversky attracted enough investors to form a new firm. In February of , he was elected president of the new Seversky Aircraft Corporation. The Major quickly surrounded himself with several expatriate Russian engineers including Michael Gregor and the man who would ultimately head the P design team, Alexander Kartveli.

The Russian connection quickly produced fruit.

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Designed as a low wing monoplane design, this first aircraft, designated the SEV-3, was a float plane. Edo, being the leading manufacturer of aircraft floats, was an ideal choice when one considers that Seversky had no manufacturing facilities. Painted in stunning bronze, the SEV-3 was one of the more advanced aircraft in the world. Several months later and fitted with a more powerful engine, the SEV-3 set a new world speed record for amphibians.

This basic wing design would still be seen on the P a decade later. Seversky turned out several variations on the SEV-3 theme over the next several months and tried to sell the design to the Air Corps. The company finally gained a contract to manufacture a new Air Corps trainer designated the BT It was very easy to spot the resemblance to the original SEV Eventually a further development of the SEV-3 would be submitted for an Air Co rps fighter design competition.

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It was the only two seat aircraft in the competition and this combined with serious engine difficulties would result in a poor showing. The new fighter incorporated a redesigned fuselage and tail section. Further development resulted in an Air Corps order for the fighter, now given the new designation P The one glaring fault of the P was its retractable landing gear layout.

In an era where flush folding landing gear were becoming common-place on new fighter designs, the P used a method that was minimally effective in reducing drag, as compared to a fixed landing arrangement. Seversky's Farmingdale, Long Island facility as it appeared circa Note the P in the lower left of this Steve Hudek photograph. Seversky, feeling the severe pinch of the depression combined with American isolationism was quickly being overwhelmed by red ink.

The Major began marketing his aircraft and design experience to several nations. These production runs kept the factory running and provided enough cash to make payrolls. Nonetheless, it was becoming obvious that Seversky would not be able to continue selling aircraft that were rapidly becoming obsolescent. If a new opportunity did not come along soon, Seversky would be forced to closed their doors.

P Thunderbolt Aces of the Eighth Air Force (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 24) - Scutts, Jerry

That new opportunity arrived in Two aircraft were entered by Seversky. In most respects, these two fighters were very similar. The turbo-charger installation was unusual in that it was mounted in the fuselage behind the cockpit. This complexity was offset by the outstanding high altitude performance of the aircraft.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

The XP, even with its flush folding landing gear offered only mediocre performance at low altitude and demonstrated a rapidly degrading level of performance above 15, feet. The AP-4 was clearly the better of the two and certainly the best performing fighter in the competition. No matter, Curtiss won the competition with its XP largely based upon its ability to begin full production immediately.

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Fortunately, the AP-4 was not ignored. A contract for 13 Service Test examples was issued. However, these would not be manufactured under the watchful eye of Major Seversky. He would be deposed as the head of the company that he had created and molded. The AP-4 would be refined and manufactured by a hastily reorganized company and the new fighter would be known as the Republic YP Seversky's installation of a turbo-supercharger in the aft fuselage of the AP-4 led to excellent high altitude performance. It resulted in the P Lancer of and foreshadowed the P Thunderbolt of By September, the company had been reorganized and renamed Republic Aviation Corporation.

Seversky did not go without a fight. By the time Seversky was finally satisfied with the settlement, it was well into September of The YP contract was truly based upon more than keeping Republic operating. The decision was also predicated upon the outstanding performance of the AP I above 22, feet. Although the major contract had been awarded to Curtiss for the low altitude P, the Air Corps was well aware that much of the aerial combat now underway in Europe was being conducted at higher altitudes than that which the P was capable of operating at with any reasonable level of performance.

In this composite photo of the XP and AP-4, the differences between the two are evident. The AP-4 has a superior landing gear design. You can also see the turbo-supercharger beneath the rear fuselage of the AP The XP uses a different air intake than that in the AP-4's wing root. The AP-4 was not the only U. Each of these aircraft used the Allison V V engine and each was suffering teething troubles. Ultimately, the Curtiss fighter was relegated to the scrap heap.

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The Air Corps stripped the XP of its turbo-supercharger, reducing the Airacobra to being one of the most ineffective fighters of its day. The XP, after years of development, would eventually go on to be one of the finest fighters of the war. However, it would not be combat ready until well into Special thanks is in order to author Warren Bodie for his generous permission to use his personal photos in this story.

Once a contract for the 13 YP fighters had been issued, Kartveli's team began refining the AP-4, reducing the amount of glass behind the cockpit and moving the air inlet from the leading edge of the wing root to a location below the engine. This resulted in the classic oval cowling that continued with the P The redesigned cockpit glass would also be carried over to the Thunderbolt. The contract called for certain performance guarantees. Maximum speed was required to equal or exceed mph. The YP bettered that by 5 mph.