Republic Aviation was
established in 1939 when the board of directors of Seversky Aircraft
ousted Alexander de Seversky as company president because of mounting
losses and changed the company's name to Republic. W. Wallace Kellett
became the new company president.
One of the
last planes produced by Seversky aircraft had been the AP-4, an adaptation
of the P-35, the first modern fighter. The AP-4 was equipped with a Pratt
& Whitney R-1830 radial engine enhanced by a supercharger. In March 1939,
the Army ordered 13 of these AP-4 test models, designated YP-43. They were
delivered in September 1940 as Republic P-43 Lancers. By 1941, new air
combat technology had overtaken the Lancer's technology, and Republic's
chief designer, Russian émigré Alexander Kartveli, began planning what
would turn into the P-47 Thunderbolt. But since the engine that would
power the P-47, Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp, was not yet available,
the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) ordered some almost 2,000 P-43 Lancers to
be used in the meantime. Another 108 went to the Chinese Air Force through
the Lend-Lease program. None of the U.S. P-43s saw combat duty but served
in a training, and later in a photoreconnaissance, role.
Thunderbolt that was on Kartveli's drawing board in 1940 is ranked as one
of the three best fighters of World War II along with Lockheed's P-38
Lightning and North American's P-51 Mustang. The P-47 sported a massive
fuselage, used the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine enhanced with
a turbocharger, and was the heaviest single-engine fighter to fly in the
war. The USAAC ordered the 171 prototype XP-47B in September 1940, and 773
planes more soon after. The plane was designed around the turbocharger
from the start, which was situated in the rear fuselage to keep the plane
balanced, and was connected to the engine by a long piece of ducting. It
also had an unusual telescopic landing gear that allowed room for all the
entered production in early 1942, and early in 1943 began service with
Britain's Royal Air Force as escorts to the B-17 and B-24 bombers. The
P-47s could also carry bombs, which turned the fighters into
fighter-bombers with the P-47D "Juggernaut," the first large-scale
production model. The Juggernaut version carried out strafing and bombing
missions with deadly effect in the European and the Pacific theatres until
the end of the war. The U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) ordered 850 in
October 1941. (the Army Air Corps had been reorganized as the Army Air
Forces.) Republic produced 12,602 P-47Ds, the largest number of a single
sub-type of any fighter in history. Total P-47D production was 15,660.
the P-47 ended in November 1945. The company tried two other aircraft with
little success. The Seabee amphibian incurred large losses after good
initial sales. The F-12 reconnaissance aircraft was the fastest
multiengine piston-powered aircraft ever flown. It was cancelled, however,
and Republic transformed the design into the commercial 40-seat Rainbow
ordered by American and Pan Am airlines. It, too, was cancelled, and the
company was left in precarious financial position.
post-war P-84/F-84 jet fighter-bomber returned Republic to profitability.
The company built three main varieties of this plane to replace the P-47.
The first, the P-84 Thunderjet (changed to F-84 on June 11, 1948), first
flew on February 28, 1946. It was the last of Republic's straight-wing jet
designs. The Thunderjet was a high-performance aircraft, and briefly set
an American speed record, flying at 611 miles per hour (983 kilometres per
hour) in September 1946. It kept the record for one day, when a Gloster
Meteor flying at 616 miles per hour (991 kilometres per hour) set a new
record. The last in the Thunderjet series, the F-84G, could deploy nuclear
weapons and was the first fighter capable of in-flight refuelling. Used by
American forces in Korea, by NATO troops, and by some non-aligned nations,
approximately 4,450 Thunderjets were built between 1947 and 1953.
F-84 was the swept-wing F-84F Thunderstreak. After several manufacturing
delays and a switch to a more powerful engine, the first production F-84F
flew in the fall of 1952. About 2,700 were built, with 1,300 going to NATO
forces. The F-84F served with the Tactical Air Command (TAC) and with the
Strategic Air Command (SAC). Those with the TAC were equipped to deliver
nuclear weapons using the Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS). The strategy
was for the F-84F to race toward the target at treetop level. When near
the target, the F-84F would make a half loop upward, release its bomb, and
then escape the nuclear blast with a rapid high-speed manoeuvre and head
back from where it came. Fortunately, the Thunderstreak never had to carry
out this mission in real combat.
Thunderflash was the final F-84. It was the first of the modern jets to be
designed specifically for photoreconnaissance and the first fighter-type
plane to carry cameras that could take horizon-to-horizon pictures.
Republic produced 715 of the aircraft. First flown in 1953 and used for
many years, the plane was eventually withdrawn from service in 1971.
At the same
time that Republic was working on the F-84, Kartveli and his team were
designing Republic's first swept-wing plane, a high-speed experimental
interceptor designated the XF-91 Thunderceptor. Begun in 1946, it was
America's first combat-type fighter to fly faster than the speed of sound.
The plane used a variable-incidence wing that could be adjusted in flight
for the most effective angle during takeoff, cruise, and landing. The
plane first flew at Edwards Air Force Base on May 9, 1949. In December
1951, it became the first U.S. combat aircraft to go supersonic in level
flight. The Thunderceptor never went into production because it could not
carry fuel for flights lasting longer than 25 minutes and did not have the
latest type of fire control system but it led to further developments in
advanced fighter technology.
Republic began to develop a supersonic fighter-bomber to replace the
F-84F. The F-105 Thunderchief, also nicknamed "Thud" (some say with
affection and others say because the plane was too heavy), made its first
flight on October 22, 1955, although the first production version, the
F-105B, was not delivered until May 1958. This supersonic aircraft had an
internal bomb bay, the first ever on a fighter aircraft, and was capable
of deploying nuclear weapons. It was the heaviest and most complex fighter
used by the Air Force to date. The F-105 exhibited the pinched-waist
fuselage to conform to the new "area rule" concept for reduced aerodynamic
drag at transonic speeds.
first flew in 1959 and was the main production version with more than 600
built. It was used extensively in Vietnam, flying 75 percent of the air
strikes against North Vietnam during the first four years of the war and
participating in "Operation Rolling Thunder," which began in March 1965.
Featuring highly sophisticated electronics, its navigation system
automatically supplied the pilot with current position coordinates, ground
speed, distance to target, and other information. The F-105D was
considered the first "black box" fighter and was the only aircraft that
could penetrate the Soviet-provided air defence system protecting North
production version was the F-105F, of which 86 were converted for "Wild
Weasel" missions against North Vietnam beginning in 1967. Sixty F-105Fs
were redesignated as F-105G and outfitted with greatly improved avionics.
The sophisticated electronics on these planes were used to counter hostile
radar-controlled surface-to-air weapons by jamming the enemy's radar.
flew more than 20,000 combat missions in Vietnam. More than half of the
planes built were lost in combat, not considered a bad record when
considering the number of missions flown. The F-105 was Republic's last
attempted to diversify, establishing a helicopter division in December
1957 and building the French Alouette helicopter under license. It also
introduced a turboprop airliner—the Rainbow—for short to medium-distance
routes, but interest was light and the project ended. Republic acquired a
minority interest in the Dutch aircraft firm Fokker and attempted to
market an attack plane in 1960. None of these efforts was successful.
after acquiring Republic stock, the aerospace company Fairchild acquired
Republic in July 1965. In September, Republic became the Republic Aviation
Division of Fairchild Hiller, ending Republic's existence as an