Hasegawa 1/32 P-47D Thunderbolt

KIT: Hasegawa 1/32 P-47D Thunderbolt
KIT #: 08174
PRICE: 5200 yen at www.hlj.com
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


      When Col. Don Blakeslee scored the first victory for the Republic P-47, diving from 23,000 feet on a Fw-190 flying at 12,000 feet, he was asked about the dive performance of the airplane.  “It certainly ought to dive,” he replied, “since it can’t climb for a damn.”  This encapsulated the fact that the P-47 - originally designed as an interceptor - did not in its early stages have the real performance it needed to be an air superiority fighter.  Changing the propeller from the “toothpick” to the “Paddle Prop” in early 1944 went a long way to improving the Thunderbolt’s performance in the vertical plane, but there were other attempts made by Republic to turn the P-47 into a performer.

      By the summer of 1943, it was obvious that even with the technical fixes Republic was coming up with, the P-47 would always be outperformed by the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 as an air superiority fighter.  Republic’s answer was to develop the XP-47J during the course of 1943, utilizing the C-series R-2800-57 engine, which gave 2,800 hp at 2,800 rpm at 35,000 feet in War Emergency Power, which was 133% of rated power. With this engine, the XP-47J achieved 507 mph at  34,300 feet. At Military Power, the XP-47J hit 470 mph, and could achieve 435 mph at 81% of rated power - 1,700 hp.  Not only was the airplane faster than just about any other piston-powered fighter, it had a sea level climb rate of 4,900 fpm, and did 4,400 fpm at 20,000 feet, an altitude it achieved in 4 minutes, 15 seconds, with time to 30,000 feet only 6 minutes, 45 seconds. Not only could it fly and climb fast,  it had a range of 1,075 miles, which would have made it an excellent escort fighter.  And all this was achieved with a full 8-gun armament load. Had the XP-47J been in service when the Me-262 appeared, with its critical Mach of .83, it could have chased down the German jet with a shallow dive, using the advantage of its superior service ceiling, which was 46,500 feet.

      Unfortunately, the XP-47J was seen by the USAAF as little more than a technology demonstrator, since putting it into production would have involved enough changes to disrupt the output of Thunderbolts, while the P-51 was seen as being able to provide the range necessary for escort in the European Theater.

      Concurrent with the development of the XP-47J, Republic stuck a C-series R-2800-57 in a P-47C to see what kind of extra performance could be achieved while making a minimum of changes to the basic airframe.  The performance increase was sufficient to lead to further development of what ultimately became the “hot rod” P-47M.  The need for this performance increase was the realization that the P-47D did not have a high enough performance lead over the Fi-103 “buzz bomb” or the new Me-163 and Me-262 fighters whose operational deployment was expected at any time.

      Four P-47D-27-RE airframes were taken off the Farmingdale production line at Farmingdale and fitted R-2800-57(C) engine and a larger CH-5 turbosupercharger. The new engine provided WEP of 2800 hp at 32,500 ft using water injection. The aircraft also had  the dive flaps introduced on the P-47D-28.  These four converted P-47Ds were designated as YP-47Ms.

      Performance was sufficiently superior to the P-47D that the new engine and airframe combination was ordered into production in September 1944.  The last 130 P-47D-30-RE aircraft delivered by Farmingdale were fitted with the different engine and redesignated P-47M-1-RE. Performance included a 400 mph maximum speed at 10,000 feet, 453 mph at 25,000 feet, and 470 mph at 30,000 feet. The initial climb rate was 3,500 fpm at 5000 feet and 2,650 feet per minute at 20,000 feet, while range without drop tanks was 560 miles at 10,000 feet.  This was nowhere close to the XP-47J but it was vastly superior to the P-47D series.  

     The first P-47Ms were delivered in December, 1944, and were rushed to the 56th Fighter Group, the last Eighth Air Force fighter unit equipped with the P-47. The P-47Ms began arriving in the group on January 3, 1945.  The 61st Fighter Squadron quickly converted to the new Thunderbolt, and immediately began to experience the same kind of engine problems they had confronted with the P-47C in January 1943.  Three crashes due to engine failure, one fatal, led to the P-47M being grounded in late February, putting the 56th out of business.  Dave Schilling’s extended tour as Group CO ended on January 27, and new CO Colonel Lucian Dade - who had been one of the original pilots in the 56th  and had served as squadron commander, operations officer, and deputy commander of the group - was left to deal with the engine problems that threatened to see the Group involuntarily converted to the P-51 Mustang. When war-weary P-51Bs arrived for conversion, Dade was able to stave off conversion to the dread Mustang when the engineers discovered the engines had been incorrectly “pickled” for overseas delivery, and the electrical harnesses had been corroded by exposure to salt air.  With each engine completely overhauled by March 24, 1945, the engine problems were over and the group as a whole was ready to re-commence operations. The P-47Ms were not fitted with underwing racks, since they were strictly fighters.

      With only a few weeks of war left in Europe, the 56th was able to clearly demonstrate that the P-47M was indeed a “hot rod” that turned the Thunderbolt into an air superiority fighter. The unit had been chosen to test the new T-48 incendiary round, which was designed to explode the low grade/high flash point fuels the Germans were using, which resisted ignition by .50-caliber strikes. In April, the 56th flew a series of airfield strafing attacks using the T-48 round, ending with Dade leading 49 P-47Ms to Eggebek airdrome on April 13, 1945, where they found 150 to 200 aircraft parked on the main field and two nearby satellite strips.  With the 62nd Fighter Squadron flying top cover at 15,000 feet and the  61st Fighter Squadron orbiting at 10,000 feet, the 63rd Fighter Squadron made the attack.  After a pass to  suppress ground fire, the squadron made 140 individual passes, claiming 44 destroyed. This was followed by the 61st who made 94 passes and claimed 25 destroyed, with the 62nd then making 105 and claiming 26. One P-47M 44-21134 of the 63rd FS, UN: P, Teacher's Pet, flown by 1st Lt. William R. Hoffman, was shot down with Hoffman killed when his parachute failed to open. The mission total was 339 passes, 95 aircraft destroyed, 95 damaged, and more than 78,000 rounds of ammunition expended. The top scorer was 2nd Lt. Randall Murphy of the 63rd FS, who was credited following review of his gun camera film with 10 destroyed.  Another strafing mission on April 16, saw the group’s final combat loss when Capt. John W. Appel of the 62nd FS was shot down, though he successfully returned to Allied lines the next day.  On April 21 the group flew its final combat mission.

      The group’s final aerial victory was an Me-262 of JG 7 shot down April 10, 1945 by 2nd Lt. Walter J. Sharbo of the 62nd FS, near Wittstock, Germany.  Five other jet kills were made with P-47Ms.  Maj. George Bostwick and 2nd Lt. Edwin M. Crosthwait - also of the 63rd FS - shot down an Me-262 on March 25, 1945, over Parchim, while Capt. William F. Wilkerson of the 62nd  FS, shot down another Me-262 on April 10, moments before Sharbo’s final score.  Additionally, two Ar-234 jet bombers were shot down on March 14, 1945 by pilots of the 62nd FS - one by 1st Lt. Norman D. Gould and the other shared by 1st Lt. Sandford N. Ball and 1st Lt. Warren S. Lear. Mike Gladych also claimed an Me-262, though it was not officially credited to the 56th.

     The 56th Fighter Group was credited by the Eighth Air Force with 674˝ claims for German aircraft destroyed in air-to-air combat. U.S. Air Force Historical Study No. 85 gave 665.5 aerial victories to the unit, second in the ETO behind the 354th Pioneer Mustang Group with 701, and  the highest aerial score among all Eighth Air Force groups.  This is also the highest score of all P-47 groups of the USAAF in all theaters.  The 61st Fighter Squadron was the top-scoring squadron with 232 shot down by 68 pilots. The 62nd Fighter Squadron was credited with 219.5 kills by 79 pilots, the 63rd Fighter Squadron with 174.25 kills by 64 pilots, and group headquarters with 39.75 kills by 4 pilots.


     Essentially, this second release of the bubbletop P-47 follows Hasegawa’s long-time strategy of re-releases of major kits with different decals and such.  The kit includes both the Hamilton-Standard prop associated with the P-47D-25, the Curtiss-Electric “paddle-prop” used by the P-47D-27-40, and a very anemic-looking late paddle prop associated with the P-47M.  The decals include the famous “Big Ass Bird II,” a P-47D-30 of the 9th Air Force’s 405th Fighter Group, and “Big Stud,” the P-47D-40 flown by former 325th Fighter Group CO Colonel Bob Baseler, while he was in charge of a training organization in the United States in 1945.  The decals aren’t that great, being a bit “cartoonish”, but the yellow/black checker decals for the tail of Baseler’s airplane is definitely something to save to use on the Trumpeter P-47D razorback if one wishes to do a “Checkertail Clan” P-47.


      Construction was a carbon copy of what I experienced with the first Hasegawa bubbletop kit, other than I used the extended fin which the kit provided, and assembled the flaps in the up position as an exercise to see if they could be put in that position successfully.  Some flaps-down kits really can’t be done with the flaps up (think the Tamiya P-51D and F4U series) without extra effort.  These flaps were as easy to assemble in the up position as were the flaps on the Trumpeter kit.

      I had experienced difficulty fitting the engine and cowling to the first kit, which resulted in a “step” on the lower profile that required me to use quite a bit of Mr. Surfacer 500 to solve.  I solved this problem this time by raising the upper line of the opening for the flap plate, so that the assembled engine and cowling sat correctly without any step.  This fix was considerably easier than using all the putty, and is commended to all modelers as the “fix” that works for this kit.

      With all the extra parts left over from the Trumpeter kit, I was able to create a P-47M using the unused engine parts from the Trumpeter kit that are correct for the later R-2800-57(C), and the far superior extended paddle prop.  Hasegawa will undoubtedly release a P-47M in the near future, and you will want to get hold of the Trumpeter prop, since the big prop in this kit was seriously anemic with regard to the blades.  The engine parts from the Trumpeter kit were easily used by modifying the attachment surfaces to fit the Hasegawa cylinders.

      I used the Eduard 1/32 USAAF photoetch seat belts, which really make the kit-supplied cockpit look just fine. 



      Since I had decals for Mike Gladych’s “Pengie V”, I was very glad to make use of the article over at HyperScale that shows a model made for Gladych by his crew chief, using the original paint used on the upper surfaces of this airplane.  The 61st Fighter Squadron is supposed to have had the upper surfaces pained black, though research has shown these airplanes all differed, with color ranging from a super-dark cobalt blue to a purplish tone.  Gladych’s airplane was in the latter.  I created this color by mixing Gunze-Sangyo “Wine Red” with “Gloss Black” till I achieved the desired shade.  I don’t know how well this color will come across in photos on the net, but in person it is indeed the “very dark plum” color described in that article.

      The natural metal surfaces were painted with Talon acrylic Aluminum, with their dark metal color used for different panels.  This paint works fine if you do not polish the plastic surface a lot.  If you do, the paint can “bead” when airbrushed.  If you do polish the model, it is best to apply a light grey primer before using the Talon paint, which then goes down nice and smooth.  This paint has the added plus that you won’t have to haul out the industrial orange extension cord to take the air brush outside to apply the metalizer paint, which is what I have to do when I use lacquer-base metalizer paints.  The Talon paint had no problem being masked with both Tamiya tape and regular drafting tape, after it had been left to dry thoroughly for 24 hours.

      The red nose and rudder were painted with Gunze “Red Madder,” which was then masked off and the “dark plum” was then applied.


     The Techmod sheet that has “Pengie IV” and “Pengie V” has markings for the P-47M as seen in photographs taken in May-June 1945.  The national insignia on the lower right wing had been removed and replaced with “anti-buzz codes” of the squadron ID letters, along with underwing pylons being attached.  I decided to use the wing insignia from the Hasegawa kit sheet, to do the insignia on both wings as seen on other P-47Ms during the war, so that this model depicts Gladych’s airplane as it might have looked on operations in late April 1945, when the fin extension was being attached to the units P-47Ms.


      Now that I have built two of the Hasegawa P-47s and one from Trumpeter, I have to say that the Trumpeter kit has the better production design as far as problem-free assembly is concerned.  I don’t know how Hasegawa managed to screw up the attachment of the engine and cowling to the fuselage, but it shouldn’t have happened, and has caused much head-scratching among modelers.  The Trumpeter detail parts are also superior.  While I do like the lack of rivet divots on the Hasegawa kit, it is only on that issue and price that the Hasegawa kit is in any way superior to the Trumpeter kit.  That said, the Hasegawa kit obviously makes up into a nice model, and is highly recommended.  But if you’re going to do advanced models like the P-47M, you need the “aftermarket set” the Trumpeter kit provides.

 Review kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan.  Get yours at www.hlj.com

Tom Cleaver

November 2007

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