7 P-47 Thunderbolt – 15,660
Russian-born Alexander Kartveli, Seversky’s chief designer in the mid-1930s, continued in that role when Republic Aviation took over the company. He had designed an outstanding monoplane fighter in the limited-production Seversky P-35, and when the European war exploded, he designed the highly successful P-47, originally as an interceptor. The Thunderbolt’s size and sturdy structure that worked for it in combat worked against it in terms of production. Its empty weight of approximately 10,000 pounds— versus the Mustang’s 7,600—meant that a lot more parts, some of them pretty hefty, had to be built. Still, the airplane filled a niche and was still doing its job on the last day of the war in the Pacific.
The Pratt & Whitney R2800, probably the most used American engine of the war, was a large powerhouse not given to the design of tiny airplanes, and Kartveli’s ingenuity was required to produce an aerodynamically clean airframe around it. Complicating the design and production was the necessity of locating the turbocharger behind the pilot in the bottom of the fuselage. This was presumably done for center-of-gravity reasons, but it needed very long exhaust and intake ducting that ran nearly the length of the airplane. That gave the airplane its rotund shape and gave production designers headaches.
The Thunderbolt was not a small airplane, and getting it into the combat theaters presented some difficult shipping problems. (Photo courtesy of Stan Piet)