By the spring of 1944, the Western Allies were deep into preparations for the invasion of Europe and the opening of another front in the war. The top secret operational plans to invade Europe by way of Normandy had been hatched many months earlier while weather forecasters and scouts determined the suitability of each of the landing sites. Four beaches, invaded by the American, British, and Canadian armies would serve as a beachhead for the eventual retaking of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and then on into Germany.
In the air, Allied tactical air forces such as the 9th Air Force and 2nd TAF supported the preparations by striking targets both near and far from the landing sites. Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe, siphoned of much of its western strength to defend other areas, attempted to keep the Allied aircraft at bay. This is the backdrop for the Battle of Normandy installment of the IL-2: Great Battles Series.
The P-47D-22 was one of the last P-47 models to come out before the type transitioned to a new bubble canopy design. The so-called ‘Razorback’ versions were faster and more stable than their later brethren but had reduced overall visibility – especially to the back. The Thunderbolt was used for the first couple of years over Europe as a mid-range escort fighter able to travel further than the Spitfires but not far enough to escort bombers all the way to target.
Best used at high altitude thanks to its sophisticated turbosupercharger, the P-47 was one of the largest and heaviest single engine fighters of WWII. It had tremendous structural strength and heavy firepower thanks to eight .50cal machine guns. It was also considered relatively agile considering its size. However, it was the large scale group tactics, excellent pilot training, and high altitude performance that ultimately proved the Thunderbolt to be a deadly fighter. By mid-1944 the P-47 was well on its way to becoming a different aircraft altogether – an attack aircraft and in this role the types toughness and ability to carry large bombloads provide to be a valuable asset.
- Powerful and fast at high altitudes
- Incredible firepower thanks to eight .50cal machine guns and a wide variety of bombs and rockets
- Available 150 octane fuel boost gives the type impressive speed
- Visibility is somewhat problematic due to its ‘Razorback’ design
- Heavy weight limits the types agility and low altitude performance