Winter update 1.9.2 is coming, and it will bring a new branch of aircraft — US multirole fighters codenamed Thunderbolts.
Tier II — Boeing P-26 Peashooter
This aircraft was the first full-metal monoplane fighter to enter service in the USA. The first prototype made its maiden flight on the 20th March 1932. Boeing built over 100 machines during its years of service, including prototypes and export variants. The first production P-26A took flight on the 10th January 1934. As well as the aircraft ordered for the US Army Air Corps, Boeing built an export version of the Peashooter.
Its armament consisted of either two synchronized 7.62 mm machineguns or one 12.7 and one 7.62 machinegun. The fighter was capable of carrying two 45 kg (100 lb) bombs under the fuselage.
The Peashooter is a great aircraft at Tier II and allows players to use a large variety of tactics. This monoplane is equipped with a powerful engine which provides a lot of speed - both at optimum height and in dive. This is a huge advantage that will let you catch up to an enemy or evade pursuit easily. Two 100-pound bombs are effective at destroying even armored ground targets – which you’ll be getting to much quicker than allied attack aircraft. Keep in mind though that dogfighting with biplane fighters will not be a good idea — the Peashooter excels at hit-and-run tactics.
Tier III — Seversky P-35
The P-35 was created by a team of immigrants from Russia – Alexander Prokofiev-Seversky and Alexander Kartveli. It came about as a further development of the experimental SEV-2XP. Accepted into USAAC service in 1936, the first fighters were operational in May 1937.
The fighter was a full-metal monoplane with a closed cockpit, retractable undercarriage and powered by a single Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp air-cooled engine. The armament included one 12.7 mm and one 7.62 mm machinegun.
Seversky fighters were exported to Sweden (model EP-106) with upgrades that included improved armament and engines. Several of these machines that weren’t shipped to Sweden were put into service by USAAC under the P-35A designation and saw combat over the Philippines.
This Tier III machine is related to the two-seater, Tier IV Seversky 2PA premium model that many players already have in their hangar. High speed and good thrust-to-weight ratio, strong dive dynamics and excellent roll rate will let you quickly evade your enemy with a barrel roll maneuver and then force a fight on your conditions. Four machineguns will make any fighter think twice before attacking the P-35A, while 100-pound bombs will make ground attacks fast and rewarding.
Tier IV — Republic P-43 Lancer
This aircraft represents a further development from the AP-4 which in turn was an evolutionary model of the P-35.
13 YP-43 fighters were ordered by the USAAC on 12th March 1939. Their armament was increased by installing two wing-mounted 7.62 mm machineguns. The R-1830-35 engine installed in YP-43’s provided up to 1200 hp at sea level and all the machines were equipped with turbochargers. Deliveries began in September 1940 and the last aircraft were shipped in April 1941.
Even though the YP-43 was becoming somewhat obsolete by 1941, the Army still ordered54 more machines under the P-43 designation. They were virtually identical to the YP-43.
Later the aircraft was modified into the P-43A which was armed with four 12.7 mm machineguns. They were also equipped with a different turbocharged engine that provided better power at altitude. In June 1941 the P-43A-1 series started production which was intended for export to China. This modification was able to carry a bomb load.
Nearly all the P-43A-1 fighters were shipped to China via the Lend Lease program.
US forces later modified the P-43 to serve in an aerial photo reconnaissance role. This was designated the P-43B and six of them were shipped to the Australian air force in August 1942.
The Lancer retains all the typical traits of this branch of American multirole fighters. Excellent survivability and best in tier speed parameters allow it to strike at ground targets faster than any other class. The top configuration is very dangerous in aerial combat — four high caliber machineguns provide good firepower. A wide optimum altitude range and thrust-to-weight ratio make this machine effective at hit-and-run tactics. Keep in mind though that it’s still a heavy aircraft and is not as maneuverable as other multirole fighters, much less lighter ones. Nevertheless excellent dive dynamics and good roll speed will allow you to quickly disengage from an unfavorable situation. Also note that the P-43A inherited the “wet wings” scheme (fuel was contained directly inside the wings) so beware the fires.
Tier VI — Republic XP-44 Rocket
The XP-44 Rocket was initially intended as an upgraded version of the YP-43. The project was conceived as an engine change for the Pratt & Whitney R-2180-1. Overall the machine would have closely resembled the P-43 except for a changed engine cowling.
The beginning of the air war in Europe showed that the XP-44 project would not be satisfactory to demands of contemporary aerial warfare.
Experience from the XP-44 design phase was later used in creating the XP-47B — the future Thunderbolt. It became an iconic fighter from Republic, showing all the traits of future warplanes of the company — building a fighter around an exceptionally powerful engine with high altitude range even at a cost of diminished maneuverability.
At Tier V this aircraft is the first to vividly show all of the characteristic features of this branch. Its advantages are excellent speed, strong boost and dynamic characteristics, quick acceleration in dive and good roll speed. However in prolonged maneuvers it will be at a disadvantage — this machine excels at hit-and-run tactics. Excellent optimum altitude range makes it efficient both close to the ground and high in the skies, where it poses a big threat to heavy fighters due to its powerful boost. Two 250 pound wing-mounted bombs allow it to make a lightning strike on large ground targets (battleships, fortifications) and then quickly get to altitude and engage in aerial combat.
Tier VI — Republic P-47B Thunderbolt
The first prototype of the future P-47B under the XP-47B designation, took to the skies in May 1941 carrying the fuselage number 40-3051. The aircraft showed very good flight parameters right from the start. It was powered by one of newest engines of the time, a turbocharged R-2800 that provided up to 2000 hp.
The first production fighters were delivered to the USAAC in the spring of 1942.
One of the prominent design features of the P-47B was the unusually large unit load on the wings that reached 213 kg/m² thanks to a relatively small wing area.
The fighter showed exceptional altitude and speed characteristics but lacked maneuverability. One of the reasons for this was its weight — 5482 kg for the prototype!
The aircraft was armed with eight 12.7 mm Browning machineguns installed in the wings, 4 per side.
A classic strike fighter, the P-47B Thunderbolt provides exceptional firepower at close range and great outboard armament. Six M8 rockets and two 500 pound bombs will rack up the points for ground targets, while 8 high caliber machineguns won’t give unwary enemies much chance. It is not suited for turn fighting, even though it has highest roll speed among American machines; the momentum loss in turns is quite significant. It resembles a single-engine heavy fighter in playstyle more than anything else. The aircraft is quite large and will inevitably draw fire on itself, but a high HP count and resilience to critical damage compensate for that. Moreover, you can even attack fighters armed with cannons head on: the Thunderbolt will ride out all the damage, close in and turn the enemy into a sieve!
Tier VII — Republic P-47N Thunderbolt
P-47N was the last evolution of the Thunderbolt and the heaviest single-seater piston fighter in the world weighing in at more than 9 tons. This modification was developed for the long-range fighter-bomber role. Main changes included new wings, a new turbocharged engine and several new innovations such as the tail warning radar, autopilot and homing radio. The R-2800-77 engine provided up to 2800 hp. Standard armament included eight 50 cal. machineguns plus the machine could carry ten 5” rockets and bombs.
There were 1816 P-47N’s built overall. Their main role was escorting B-29 bombers on long range raids. In 1947 the model designation was changed to F-47N.
The fighter stayed in service for a long time after the war, and was finally decommissioned from National Guard as late as 1955.
The P-47N in game is a full upgrade over the previous tier model. It receives a more powerful engine, improved maneuverability, more deadly machineguns and devastating rockets (10 HVAR Mk.4 in top configuration). The play tactic remains the same — in aerial combat you should stick to a hit-and-run approach, use the powerful boost with short cooldown to keep in your optimum altitude range and rapidly approach your target to a distance where your machineguns will be most effective. Avoid turn fighting. A fully equipped P-47N will benefit from Ordnance Delivery Sights – they will enable you to deliver your outboard payload to enemy ground objects without dropping low.
Tier VIII — Republic XP-72
The Republic XP-72 prototype was developed as a further improvement on the P-47 Thunderbolt’s successful design. It conducted its first flight on the 2nd February 1944. The machine was powered by an experimental Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engine that provided 3450 hp. The intended armament was to include either six 50 cal. machineguns or four 37 mm cannons. Additionally the XP-72 could carry bomb and rocket ordnance. Republic built two prototypes that showed excellent performance during test flights. Nevertheless the American military did not accept the machine into service and cancelled the initial order of 100 aircraft. The jet-powered warplane era was dawning, and even the most successful piston engine-powered aircraft could not compete with them.
The XP-72 in game will be a typical intermediate model between piston- and jet-powered warplanes. Good engine and powerful boost make it capable of reaching its target rapidly and engaging at close range. The XP-72 is equipped with six machineguns against eight on the P-47N, but the top configuration features upgraded M3 versions that deal more damage. A notable feature is the XP-72’s high optimum altitude — considering that the Thunderbolt branch has a wide altitude range overall, this allows a huge variety of tactics. You can strike ground targets with bombs and rockets and then stay close to the deck to intercept attack aircraft and other low-flying targets, or you can climb higher than almost anyone right from the start of the battle. The XP-72 is a decent heavy fighter hunter, it climbs and flies comfortably at their altitude, boost keeps it on their tail and shortens distance easily, while heavy fighters’ maneuverability rarely gives them a chance to evade a point-blank machinegun salvo.
Tier IX — Republic F-84B Thunderjet
This was the first mass-produced modification of a single engine jet-powered fighter-bomber designed by Republiс Aviation. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to install a jet engine on the P-47 Thunderbolt, Alexander Kartveli started working on a new aircraft. Republic received a commission for 15 pre-series YP-84A’s and 85 P-84B’s in January 1946. The XP-84 prototype bearing number 45-59475 conducted its first flight on 28 February 1946. The F-84 became one of the first jet-powered fighters to enter service in the USA. It differed from early prototypes in several details: an ejection seat was installed, M3 machineguns were mounted instead of the M2, the avionics included a homing radio, and other small improvements were made. Despite its popularity, the aircraft had several drawbacks. For example, it required long runways for takeoff and landing.
The P-84B was renamed as the F-84B on 11 June 1948.
The armament included six 50 cal. machineguns, additionally the fighter was equipped with pylons accommodating 5” rockets and bombs.
F-84B is not the typical multirole fighter that we are used to seeing in game, like the US Navy branch (Corsairs). This machine is tailored to deal extensive damage to enemy ground right from the start of the battle. Its outboard armament is on par with the arsenal of an attack aircraft — twelve 5” HVAR Mk. 25 rockets are supplemented by either two 500 pound bombs or extremely devastating Tiny Tim rockets. This loadout, when used correctly, can get you the Thunder achievement in the first minutes of the battle. Of course, the heavy Thunderjet lacks the maneuverability of nearly any other equal-tier fighter, but wide altitude range, decent horizontal turn rate and high endurance to critical hits allow it to evade unfavorable engagements and force a fight on its own terms.
Tier X — Republic F-84F Thunderstreak
The F-84F was created as an attempt to bring the speed characteristics of the F-84 on par with those of the F-86 Sabre. In order to achieve this, Republic installed a new swept wing and J35-A-25 engine onto the latest F-84E modification. Shortly after mass production was started Republic found that the old equipment was not well suited for building the F-84F. Due to numerous delays in production the aircraft was only finally declared operational in 1954.
Over 2000 Thunderstreaks were built, 1301 of them were shipped to US allies in NATO. The F-84F was decommissioned in 1957, but in 1961 some warplanes was recommissioned due to an escalation in tensions between the USA and the USSR. After the final decommissioning from the military in 1967 it continued to serve in the National Guard until 1971.
In game, the evolution of F-84B into F-84F follows the path of the P-47B into the P-47N — all the parameters are improved across the board. The Thunderstreak has a much more powerful engine, is effective in a wider range of altitudes and is slightly more maneuverable. Nevertheless it retains the typical traits of the F-84 — first and foremost this is a strike fighter whose main advantage is its outboard armament. The gameplay of this machine is built accordingly: rush the enemy ground targets, then rise to preferred altitude and defend.