Thunderbolt with Royal Air Force

Last revised July 5, 1999




The Royal Air Force was supplied with a total of 830 P-47Ds. In RAF service, the "razorback" P-47D was known as the Thunderbolt I and the "bubble canopy" P-47D was known as Thunderbolt II. Thunderbolt Is were delivered in two batches--serials FL731 to FL850 and HB962 to HD181. They were delivered to the RAF from the P-47D-22-RE production blocks. The "bubble-topped" Thunderbolt II fighters were from the P-47D-25/-30-RE and the P-47D-30/-40-RA production blocks, and four main batches were delivered--serials HD182 to HD301, KJ128 to KJ367, KL168 to KL347, and KL838 to KL976. A few aircraft in the last two batches were equipped with the dorsal fin strake.

The RAF Thunderbolts were evaluated in Europe, but most of them were shipped to the CBI theatre, where they fought against the Japanese. The following RAF squadrons --the 5th, 30th, 79th, 123rd (later became 81), 134th (later became 131), 135th (later became 615th ), 146th (later became 42nd), 258th and 261st Squadrons in 1944, and the 34th, 42nd, 60th, 81st, 113th, 131st and 615th Squadrons in 1945. However, many of these late arrivals were not in time to see any action. One of the first RAF squadrons to see action was the 5th Squadron, which was based in Burma and which had previously flown Mohawks and Hurricanes. They flew patrols under the direction of visual ground posts and caused tremendous damage among Japanese troops and supply lines.

Following V-J Day, most of the Thunderbolts rapidly disappeared from RAF squadrons, which were either disbanded or were reequipped with British-built aircraft. The last RAF squadron (No 60) disposed of their Thunderbolts in October of 1946. Sources:

  1. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1987.

  2. War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters, Volume Four, William Green, Doubleday 1964.

  3. United States Military Aircraft since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  4. The Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, Aircraft in Profile, Edward Shacklady, Doubleday, 1969.

  5. Famous Fighters of the Second World War, Volume I, William Green, 1967.
  6. Thunderbolt: A Documentary History of the Republic P-47, Roger Freeman, Motorbooks, 1992.