Jugs Over the Sinai; Israeli Thunderbolts

by Chaim Joshen


Photos of Revell Germany P-47 built and photographed by Terry D. Moore


In late 1948, five P47Ds landed at Ramat David to be put into Israeli use. The next day, they were joined by a sixth which had encounted minor mechanical difficulties, forcing it to fly in later. They joined the First Fighter Squadron which was still flying Avia S-199s at the time. Over their olive drab, a generic sand color was applied haphazardly to camouflage the Jugs. In addition, wing mounted rocket tubes were procured to make the Thunderbolts more valuable ground attack machines. In less than a month, Egyptian infantry and armored columns were shocked when they weare strafed and rocketed by two of the ground attack Jugs. Because of problems procuring spares, however, no more than two Thunderbolts ever attacked a ground target at the same time.

These ex-Brazilian Air Force P47s were flown from Italy to Switzerland (ostensibly) to be modified for civil use as fire bombers carrying external chemical tanks. Instead, they were then flown to Austria (where they were given another bogus registry), and to Czechoslovakia before they were able to cross over to Israel. In this way, the pilots flying them were able to stay one step ahead of any officials who might have been too curious about the Jugs presence.

While there were air to air encounters between these Jugs and other aircraft, their primary role was ground attack. There has been much speculation on how well the Israeli Jugs would have fared against Egyptian Spitfire MkIXs, but they never actually faced each other. The Spitfire would have had the edge in maneuverability and range of cannons, but the Jug was faster in a dive or flat out and had heavier (due to rate of fire) weaponry at closer range. Also, the Jugs had much sturdier construction than the water-cooled Spit had. Against other competition, the P47s gave better than received; in one instance a flight of two Thunderbolts viciously attacked a flight of six Egyptian Macchi C.205 Veltros at low altitude. Two of the Macchis went down immediately and two others limped back to their bases. The Israeli Jugs made a single pass and were gone before the Egyptian pilots knew where the attack was coming from.

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