The P-47C soon replaced the P-47B on the production lines, incorporating the most important changes required after experience with the earlier model. Most importantly, the fabric covered control surfaces of the B were replaced by metal covered surfaces. The P-47C was the first model of Thunderbolt to see active service, going fully operational on 8 April 1943, and seeing its first combat on 15 April.
The P-47C was very similar to the earlier P-47B, with the addition of metal covered control surfaces fitted at the factory. Minor changes included an improved oxygen system and a change of turbo supercharger regulator. 57 P-47Cs were completed, starting on 14 September 1942, but like the P-47B they were not considered combat ready.
The P-47C-1 saw a major change. The aircraft was stretched by eight inches, moving the engine forward. This change was made as part of a Quick Engine Change package, which also improved the ease of access for less dramatic maintenance. It also improved the centre of gravity of the Thunderbolt, which in turn improved the general handling characteristics of the aircraft. However, the C-1 still could not take extra fuel, and so remained a conversion aircraft. Fifty five were built.
The C-2 was the first model of Thunderbolt to see active service. With this model the Thunderbolt finally gained the ability to use an external fuel tank. This was a bulbous 205-gallon tank, carried below the fuselage, and was not suitable for use in combat. Despite this, a number of the 128 C-2s produced did see combat with the 4th, 56th and 78th Fighter Groups from bases in England. Early operations in March 1943 failed due to problems with the radio equipment in use.
As produced the C-5 was very similar to the C-2, but with a British radio, after problems developed with the original American equipment. 362 C-5s were produced, and this type became the first to see combat in large numbers. Once in the field, most of these aircraft were retrofitted with a bulged keel kit, containing the plumbing and shackles needed to use a droppable belly tank. The same shackles could also be used to carry a single 500lb bomb. This kit became a standard factory fitting from the P-47D-5-RE onwards.
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-21
Max Speed: 433 mph at 30,000ft
Span: 40ft 9.25in
Length: 36ft 1in
Range: 400 miles at 25,000ft, 835 miles at 10,000ft