The first IL-2: Battle of Normandy aircraft is here and it comes in the form of the classic ‘Razorback’ P-47D-22 Thunderbolt. Not only that but this new version of the P-47 has added some features and a revamped flight model for the already available P-47D-28. Here are some of my first impressions of the P-47D-22 and how it’s changed the handling of the D-28 as well.
The 1CGS team went back to reference data for the P-47 to update the flight modeling for both the P-47D-28 that we already have as well as the P-47D-22 that was just released. The results are all kinds of small changes that make a subtle yet marked difference to the handling of the aircraft.
Let’s start with the overall feel which is both sharper and heavier. The weight of the P-47 can be felt a little more in what it does and it does this in a good way – when doing a zoom climb you feel the aircraft carrying it’s momentum through that maneuver. The same could be said even for turns where the speed bleeds off but it feels like there’s more speed being maintained.
The roll rate has been adjusted a little bit too. Although overall roll speed appears to be slightly down (and now even more in-line with that of the new DCS: P-47D-30) it does once again feel like less effort is needed to get that maximum roll rate. Overall effect is that it feels a bit more confident in the roll even if the overall speed is a bit slower.
Where it really feels improved
The elevator control is where things really start to feel different. While pulling back on the stick before resulted in a bit of a mushy feeling where the aircraft seemed to be reluctant to change direction, now the P-47 more confidently pulls into that turn or out of that dive (assuming you aren’t too fast). Turns seem tighter and energy is maintained for a little longer as well.
Perhaps the biggest difference is in stall. Deploying flaps has none of the ballooning effect that some described before and the aircraft doesn’t seem to increase in post stall turn rate with flaps deployed anymore. What it does do, however, is start to shake and subtly rock back and forth before fully stalling when pulled into a tight turn. It gives you more communication over what the aircraft is doing and where you are in reference to a stall. The result is a more controllable maximum performance turn and overall controllability advantages.
The effects above are relevant to both P-47D-22 and D-28 which, for the most part, feel similar although the D-22 variant is still a bit more responsive than the later version when it comes to overall flight maneuvering and stability and that is likely to do with the ‘Razorback’ design. It offers poor rear visibility but it does offer enhanced speed and stability.
Finally, the addition of 150 octane fuel gives a massive boost in speed at lower altitudes. I haven’t tested enough to give my full thoughts but it does offer an extra kick and one that is very much appreciated.
Compared to the later version, visbility in the P-47D-22 is complicated by the complex cockpit framing. The view forward is split by a frame and complicated by armored glass while the gunsight is positioned to the right side of the frame for visibility sake. It makes tracking targets at the front of the aircraft even more complicated than just having to deal with the large radial engine.
Looking back is somewhat worse than that with much of the six o’clock visibility obscured by the Razorback design. An default integrated mirror offers some limited visibility back there but nothing that’s as good as the later bubble canopy design. You can see why the bubble canopy is the superior option for pilot visibility even if it does degrade performance slightly.
Still this is an aircraft full of flavour and this design makes it very interesting to fly. Particularly with the performance tradeoff’s between outright speed and stability for visibility.
The Classic Thunderbolt
The ‘Razorback’ version of the P-47 Thunderbolt is historically relevant as it was the type and design that, for two years, was the premier fighter of the USAAF against the Luftwaffe in Europe. It wasn’t perfect but the D-22 variant is one of the last on the frontlines before the bubble canopy version came in.
Far from being just a visual change, the Razorback version trades poor rear and complicated forward visibility for enhanced handling and performance. Hardly a downgrade, the D-22 variant is more of a trade-off of features for this classic fighter.
Make no mistake, this is still the big, heavy, beast of a fighter that it was before. I wasn’t expecting it to change much. Also not changing is the more complex engine management which takes some time to get used to. Learn the tricks of how to get the most out of this fighter, however, and you have something with a lot of style… especially with that Razorback canopy. It’s a solid first addition to IL-2: Battle of Normandy and I look forward to more content!