Plans of Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero

Plans of Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero

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Plans of Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero

Here we see front, below and side views of the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, the first production version, showing its rounded folding wing tips.

World War II Database

ww2dbase In Oct 1937, the Japanese Navy sent out requests for a new advanced naval aircraft to Japanese manufacturing firms Nakajima and Mitsubishi. On 17 Jan 1938, requirements were revealed to representatives of the two firms at Yokosuka, Japan, which called for an aircraft with speed of 500 kilometers per hour at 4,000 meters and a climb to 3,000 meters in altitude in 3.5 minutes. The Nakajima team immediately thought it was impossible to achieve and pulled out of the bidding process. The executives at Mitsubishi, knowing that the firm was already occupied with the navy bomber project, also considered to reject the project, but designer Jiro Horikoshi pressed hard to embark on this task, arguing that his team would be able to achieve the high performance demanded by reducing the weight of the aircraft. After negotiations, the navy dropped the bomber project, and Horikoshi was able to embark on this fighter project.

ww2dbase The result was the Type 0 Carrier Fighter (Japanese: Rei-shiki kanjo sentoki, or Reisen for short), the most maneuverable fighter aircraft in aviation history. The Zero fighters were made out of lightweight duralumin alloy for maximum maneuverability. Horikoshi and his team had to make sacrifices to achieve such high performance, especially considering the relatively weak 950 horsepower powerplant. Armor plating and self-sealing fuel tanks, for example, were deleted from the blueprint to save weight. On 23 Mar 1939, a prototype Zero fighter was taken apart, loaded onto two ox carts, and moved about 25 miles to the naval base of Kagamigahara, Japan, where it would take its maiden flight on 1 Apr. The second prototype was delivered on 25 Oct 1939. Production began soon afterwards, with the first production example delivered on 31 Jul 1940.

ww2dbase Most Japanese Navy pilots immediately found A6M Zero fighters to be the most efficient aircraft they had ever flown. Saburo Sakai later recalled that "[t]he Zero excited me as nothing else had ever done. Even on the ground it had the cleanest lines I had ever seen in an aeroplane. it was a dream to fly."

ww2dbase Zero fighters' first combat mission took place in China on 19 Aug 1940, when 12 of them escorted 54 G3M2 bombers on a bombing mission against the capital city of Chongqing. On 13 Sep 1940, the pilots of the 12th Combined Naval Air Corps shot down 27 Chinese I-15 and I-16 Russian-made fighters while flying a bomber-escort mission. After a year in combat in China, the small number of Zero fighters shot down a total of 44 Chinese aircraft at the loss of only two fighters, and they were lost to anti-aircraft fire rather than in dogfights. This led to the belief that the Zero fighters, in the hands of capable pilots, were nearly invincible. Japanese Navy aviation leadership believed that each Zero fighter would be enough to counter two to five enemy fighters. This belief was shown during the Pearl Harbor strike in Dec 1941, in which only 108 of the 400 Zero fighters available to the Japanese Navy at the time were deployed in the attack the naval commanders thought 108 were enough to handle American fighters at Pearl Harbor.

ww2dbase Initially, these commanders were correct, as the American and British had no fighters that could match the Zero fighters' high performance and long range. In the first three months of the Pacific War, from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the end of the Dutch East Indies campaign, Zero fighters claimed 471 kills out of 565 of all enemy planes destroyed. They continued to hold a technological advantage over their American counterparts until the introduction of Grumman F6F Hellcat, Vought F4U Corsair, and Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters later in the war.

ww2dbase Zero fighters were typically deployed in three-fighter flights, each called a shotai. Unlike western flights, the Japanese flight leader flew far ahead of the two wingmen, while the wingmen weaved left and right and up and down, covering more blind spots than their western counterparts. When attacking, instead of the entire flight attacking the target, the three Zero fighters would attack in succession, thus never giving the target any chance for a break during the entire attack. When the flight was attacked, however, the shotai, given the distance between the flight leader and the wingmen, was easily broken up, leaving each fighter to fend for itself. Early in the war, when the Zero fighters were by far the most maneuverable fighters, they relied on the maneuverability to recover from the occasions when the flights were broken up.

ww2dbase During the Battle of Midway in Jun 1942, Japan lost four fleet carriers and 234 aircraft. What caused the most harm was the loss of more than ten percent of the navy's experienced fighter pilots. In response, the Japanese Navy recalled many veteran fighter pilots back to Japan to train replacements. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi worked on the next major variant of the Zero fighter, which was revealed in Oct 1942. The powerplant was upgraded to the supercharged Sakae 21 engine, which was rated at 1,130 horsepower, although the armament remained the same despite the engine upgrade, however, performance remained roughly the same. Meanwhile, Allied fighters continued to improve. In order to counter the fact that Zero fighters were becoming out-classed, the three-fighter shotai was revised to four fighters each, hoping to use new tactics to bring balance to the dogfights, but by then it was already too late to make a difference. Additionally, poor Japanese fuel quality toward the end of the war also plagued the remaining Zero fighters the fuel was so bad that the Zero fighters often emitted a thin trail of dirty smoke behind them when they were at wide-open-throttle, at times even letting out bright flashes of flames from exhaust ports (interestingly, these fuel issues sometimes led to US pilots believing they had successfully damaged the enemy, which in turn led to inflated kill scores).

ww2dbase Toward the end of the Pacific War, the large numbers of Zero fighters in service and their high maneuverability made them ideal for suicide special attacks, more popularly known to westerners of the day as "kamikaze". Out of the 2,363 Japanese Navy aircraft that participated in special attack missions, 1,189 of them were A6M Zero fighters.

ww2dbase By the end of WW2, 10,937 Zero fighters were manufactured. Mitsubishi built only 3,880, while the majority of the remainder were built by Nakajima, the company that declined to bid on the original request for such a fighter.

ww2dbase After the war, most surviving A6M Zero fighters were destroyed. A few of them were sent to the United States for testing. Many of them were abandoned across the various Pacific islands, rusting very quickly in jungle climates. Only about 13 were available for museum display today, such as the Zero fighter on display at Yushukan museum adjacent to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan. Only a very small number are in flyable condition today.

ww2dbase Sources:
Bruce Gamble, Target: Rabaul
Donald Nijboer, Seafire vs A6M Zero
Dan van der Vat, The Pacific Campaign

Last Major Revision: Jan 2010

17 Jan 1938 Japanese Navy revealed requirements for the next generation of carrier fighters to representatives from Nakajima and Mitsubishi Nakajima thought the requirements were impossible and dropped out of the race, while Mitsubishi was able to meet the requirements with its prototype A6M Type 0 fighter in 1939.
1 Apr 1939 Prototype A6M Zero fighter took its maiden flight at Kagamigahara airfield, Japan.
25 Oct 1939 Mitsubishi delivered the second Zero fighter prototype to the Japanese Navy for testing.
10 Jul 1940 The Japanese deployed the new A6M Zero fighters against Chinese forces.
31 Jul 1940 Mitsubishi delivered the first production Zero fighter to the Japanese Navy.
19 Aug 1940 Twelve A6M2 Model 11 Zero fighters escorted fifty four G3M2 Type 96 bombers on a mission against the Chinese city of Chongqing this was the first combat mission of the Zero fighter.
13 Sep 1940 13 Zero fighters escorted bombers on a mission to raid Chongqing, China the Zero fighters downed 27 of the Chinese I-15 and I-16 Russian-made fighters.
1 Nov 1940 During this month, Japanese Navy began receiving the carrier version of the A6M Zero fighter.
10 Jul 1942 An American PBY Catalina crew spotted the wreck of a Japanese aircraft on Akutan Island, US Territory of Alaska.
11 Jul 1942 US military personnel studied the "Akutan Zero", a Zero fighter that had crashed in the Aleutian Islands.
15 Jul 1942 A salvage crew arrived at Akutan Island, US Territory of Alaska to recover a A6M2 Zero fighter that had crashed there during the Japanese attack in the prior month.

A6M8 Model 64

MachineryOne Mitsubishi MK8P Kinsei 62 fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial, rated at 1,560 hp for take-off, 1,340 hp at 2,100 m and 1,180 hp at 5,800 m, driving a three-blade metal propeller
Armament2x wing-mounted 13.2mm Type 3 machine guns 2x wing-mounted 20mm Type 99 cannon external stores carried 2x60 kg bombs (1x250kg for suicide missions)
Span21.44 m
Length9.24 m
Height3.64 m
Wing Area21.30 m²
Weight, Empty2,150 kg
Weight, Loaded3,150 kg
Service Ceiling11,200 m

A6M2 Model 21

MachineryOne Mitsubishi Zuisei 13 fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial, rated at 780 hp for take-off and 875 hp at 3,600 m, driving a two- or three-blade metal propeller
Armament2x7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in the upper fuselage decking 2x20mm wing-mounted Type 99 cannon external stores carried 2x60 kg bombs (1x250kg for suicide missions)
Span21.44 m
Length9.06 m
Height3.05 m
Wing Area22.40 m²
Weight, Empty1,680 kg
Weight, Loaded2,410 kg
Weight, Maximum2,796 kg
Speed, Maximum533 km/h
Rate of Climb15.70 m/s
Service Ceiling10,000 m
Range, Normal1,600 km
Range, Maximum3,105 km

A6M3 Model 32

MachineryOne Nakajima NK1F Sakae 21 fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial, rated at 1,130 hp for take-off, 1,100 hp at 2,850 m and 980 hp at 6,000 m, driving a three-blade metal propeller
Armament2x7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in the upper fuselage decking 2x wing-mounted 20mm Type 99 cannon external stores carried 2x60 kg bombs (1x250kg for suicide missions)
Span21.44 m
Length9.06 m
Height3.51 m
Wing Area21.50 m²
Weight, Empty1,807 kg
Weight, Loaded2,544 kg
Service Ceiling11,050 m

A6M5 Model 52

MachineryOne Nakajima NK1F Sakae 21 fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial, rated at 1,130 hp for take-off, 1,100 hp at 2,850 m and 980 hp at 6,000 m, driving a three-blade metal propeller
Armament2x7.7mm Type 97 machine-guns in the upper fuselage decking 2x wing-mounted 20mm Type 99 cannon night version carried one fuselage-mounted oblique-firing 20 mm Type 99 cannon external stores carried 2x60 kg bombs (1x250kg for suicide missions)
Span21.44 m
Length9.12 m
Height3.51 m
Wing Area21.30 m²
Weight, Empty1,876 kg
Weight, Loaded2,733 kg
Service Ceiling11,740 m

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Hobilar says:
22 Sep 2007 04:05:01 AM

The last paragraph is incorrect. Mitsubishi built 3,879 (3,880)Zeros, Nakajima built 6,215 (6,570), Hitachi built 279 and 21st Naval Dockyard built 236. (Figures in brackets are from a second published source).

2. Bill says:
18 Feb 2009 01:58:16 PM

Photo of zero in formation: Mitsubishi A6M2 Reisen (Zero Fighter) of the 12th. Rengo Kokutai shortly after the type's entry into service. On 21, July the navy decided to assign fifteen A6M2's to the 12th. Rengo Kokutai (12th Combined Naval Air Corps) for combat in China.

3. Bill says:
18 Feb 2009 02:19:02 PM

Zero fighter production: Mitsubishi 3,879, Nakajima 6,570. total production of land based fighter's 10,449. The model A6M2-N and A6M5-K are reported separately, they are: a total of 327 A6M2-N's were built Koizumi by Nakajima Hikoki K.K. between Dec. 1941 and Sept. 1943. A total of 515 A6M2-K and A6M5-K were built as follows. Dai-Nijucichi Kaigun Kokusho at Omura (Sasbo) 236 A6M2-K (Nov. 1943 to Aug. 1945. Hitachi Kokuki K.K. 272 A6M2-K mAY 1944 to Aug. 1945, and 7 A6M5-K mAR. TO aUG. 1945

4. jacob archer age 15 says:
4 May 2009 01:18:44 PM

the altutude is wrong. the A6M2 can climb to 3,000m in 4.5 minutes

5. Steve Voskian says:
19 Aug 2010 06:59:15 PM

The Zero was a good fighter when flown by an experienced pilot against an inferior foe. But it met it's match against well trained American pilots flying F4F,s F6F, Corsairs, Mustangs, etc.

6. Jan Koso says:
19 Aug 2010 07:15:08 PM

When you compromise armour for agility, you will lose when your opponent can take some battle damage and you can not.

7. Leo Grospe says:
19 Aug 2010 07:24:26 PM

its ok to compromise the armour
for the agility of the plane..
the odds are just the same..
either u die or u live
to tell about it..
. its ok to be good and excel at something than to be a jack of trades..

as for the pilots..
many japanese experienced pilots are dead
in the middle stages of the war..
thats why the imperial navy lost big time
in the marianas and the battle of leyte gulf..
it was like a turkey shoot..

8. Chris Sheppard says:
19 Aug 2010 07:46:25 PM

The Japanese and the Germans both failed in the training of pilots to replace those lost, you cannot just "Make" new pilots. In combat, experience is a big factor in survival.
The recovery of the downed Zero in Alaska, the studies of it's strengths and weaknesses aided the US airmen in taking advantage of its weaknesses.

9. Jhun Garcia says:
20 Aug 2010 04:45:03 AM

10. Jhun Garcia says:
20 Aug 2010 05:00:34 AM

what's the US counterpart of this aircraft and what engine?

11. Brooks Ashley Rowlett says:
20 Aug 2010 07:07:35 AM

The engine of the Reisen (Type 0) was actually by Nakajima:
which strangely enough was designed after the Japanese aquired a license to the Gnome-Rhone 14Kône_Mistral_Major

12. Anonymous says:
12 Jul 2011 01:36:25 PM

Is there any information on the names of the military personnel who were inspecting the crash of this plane? My step father was stationed there during this time and the thirs picture in the set of 3 has a person standing on the aircraft on the right that looks like it could possibly be him. Any info you could help me with would be very appreciated. thanks

13. Ron says:
19 Mar 2012 11:11:24 PM

The Japanese say they could overboost the A6M2 to 345+mpn level speed. This is the reason there was such a discrepancy between US tested examples and those flown by Japanese against the US pilots. When told that our tests showed the F4F-3 egual to the A6M2, the surviving US pilots would reply "NO" in no uncertain terms.
Our test pilots didn't know the boost settings used by the Japanese and got misleading performance on paper which showed both could do 331 mph and climb over 3,000 fpm. Same basically goes for the P-39 and P-40 pilots of 1942. They experienced the Zero 21 keeping in range of them in speed and climb too. Is this why initial climb for the A6M2 ranges from 2700 fpm (in US hands) to 4517 fpm as well? Never mind the Zero's 1/2 turn at 240 mph in 5.62 seconds while its carrying fuel for longer legs than any other fighter at the time! At least they agreed on that part.
I like the roll rate of the clipped A6M3 but the glory days of the Zero were ending.

14. takushi tachibana says:
28 Jul 2013 04:38:53 AM

We have zero fighter's manual.air frame and engin.
These documents is not ten pieaces in japan.Please
buy Thease Document.

15. Kermit says:
25 May 2014 08:07:59 PM

I think 'span' figure is incorrect. 12m for the A6M2 Model 21 but 11m for the clipped wing for the rest.

16. Ron says:
18 Oct 2014 03:32:27 PM

Along with Chris' post, the Axis didn't plan on a long war.
The Zero was up to the task if the war would end as planned within a year, but the Allies had other ideas.

Losing 4 carriers at Midway was a game-changer. All those veteran pilots would be sorely missed while the planes could be replaced. Credit goes mostly to the Dauntless dive bombers. The obsolete Devestator torpedo planes didn't score much but they used up the Zeros, leaving the Dauntless with full reign up high. So the sacrifice worked.

As for the Zero, the Model 22 A6M3 (full span) still held it's own especially with the likes of Nishizawa on the trigger of it's high velocity 20mm Type 99-II cannons.
The A6M5 would have done OK if Jiro and his team had their way and installed the 1500 hp engine intended. But Navy Brass said no, like they knew better. Then they were chastened by the Marianas turkey shoot! But they reversed their decission too late and the A6M8 missed the show. The A6M5 had to make do with the added thrust of the exhaust to keep up with a new generation of US fighters. The injected motor of the A6M6 that the Brass was banking on didn't reach production. The weighed down A6M7 with bomb racks and rocket rails was slower at 340 mph than the latest Oscar Ki 43-IIIa at 358 mph! Of course the Ki 43 still was armed with only two 12.7mm guns while the new Zero may have gotten the fast 750 rpm Type 99-II Mk 5 20mm wing-cannons since both this cannon and the A6M7 were produced from May 1945 onward. It was finally fully armored like the Ki 43. Only 148 A6M7s were built. Some were used as night fighters but the rest were kamakazis. Either way, speed wasn't such a big handicap.
You can't fault Jiro Horikoshi and his design team for an obsolete Zero for the last 2 years of WW 2. In any case the torch had passed to the Kawanishi N1K1-J George fighter for the all-around Navy air superiority contender.
After the fall of the Philippines force of about 70 USN fighters were attacked by a force of only 34 N1K1-J fighters. The Georges lost 12 but claimed 20 US fighters destroyed!
Even if the US losses don't match Japanese claims we know that after this engagement, US pilots had instant respect for the George and it's pilots looked upon F6F Hellcats as relatively easy prey.

17. jmb2fly says:
1 Apr 2015 08:29:42 AM

The Zero was an extraordinary aircraft, but I disagree with some of what is said in this article. Part of the Zero's superiority was the inferior tactics of many of their enemies at the war's beginning. The Flying Tigers in P40-Bs have an impressive air to air combat kill ratio against the Japanese Air Force in 1941 and the first six months of 1942. Although most of the Flying Tigers combats were against older Japanese fighters, the Flying Tiger pilots said that they prefered to fight the Zero's because the older open cockpit fighters they were going against were more manueverable and harder to hit than the Zero's. When the Flying Tigers met Zero's in combat they usually shot them down. They also refused to fight the Zero in the horizontal plain. They forced them to fight in the vertical plain where the P40-B had the advantage when attacking from above. The USAF adopted much from the Flying Tigers in air combat tactics against the Japanese.

18. dilla5 says:
11 Apr 2015 06:15:42 AM

How many Zero's are left flying now ? are there any based In the UK

19. Anonymous says:
2 Dec 2015 09:26:13 AM

How many are left? Are any purchasable?

20. Anonymous says:
4 Apr 2016 09:09:08 PM

A word should be said here about the A7M Reppu.
Mitsubishi and the IJN began planning for the A6M Zero's replacement in 1940. This later became the A7M Reppu. 1 was produced that survived at the end of the war. So it was way too late.
Mitsubishi was stretched too thin. As soon as Saburo Sakai test flew the A7M2, they should have rammed this plane onto the Zero production lines and immediately stocked the remaining carriers with the 390 mph Reppu. It's automatic combat flaps gave it a 12 second full 360 turn time like the A6M3 Zero! The Zero's glory was fading fast already. The Reppu's new engine should have been produced in more than a singe plant. After all, it was going to also power Ki 84s too since it was reliable. Of course they didn't and the engine factory was put out of action for a spell.

The Reppu could have been a worthy replacement if the Zero production at Mitsubishi were halted after the Reppu test flight was such a success. Japan should have put most of it's resources behind this project before the end of 1944.

The A7M is not so well covered so that's why I mention it here.
The 400 mph (estimated) A7M3 never flew but it's my favorite one with better altitude performance and 6x20mm Type 99-II type 5 fast wing cannons! That would have threatened the B-29.

Then there is the redesigned A7M3-J land based version with 6x30mm Type 5 cannons (2 dorsal). It had a long nose and more wing area. This interceptor version Reppu had the best altitude performance but was scheduled for 1946. It had no folding wings or tailhook . etc. But the earlier short nose A7M3 climbed better (estimated of course).

It should have gone a few rounds before it retired. But the Navy lived and died with the Zero as a higher priority. In my opinion, Nakajima could have made all the kamikazi Zeros and Mitsubishi should have been freed up for the Reppu. To me this is part of the Zero story.

21. RB says:
30 Jan 2017 09:07:53 PM

The Zero was a hot plane in 1940- 1942. By 1943 the torch should have passed to the N1K1.

The spell was broken. The bulk of the late model Zeros were perhaps the last to get seatback armor of any fighter in WW2!
The A6M5c finally got the armored seat but speed dropped to 335 mph or so! Not good in 1945. To compete with Corsairs, it should have had the
MK9A 2200 hp engine to keep up, but it still had the 1130 hp engine of the A6M3 from late 1942. The A6M8 with 1560 hp wasn't enough and it missed the war. Can you imagine a Reppu engine in the A6M5 and 7? That would go like a Bearcat on fire with double the power of the stock A6M5!
I know the MK9 had vibration and with the turbo, the MK9C version was unreliable. That delayed the Reppu. But the supercharged MK9 was OK and the A6M5 was most prolific in strong numbers. If the MK9 factory had duplicated itself, perhaps the Zero would have more than 335 mph to end the show on. Certainly more than the heavy 390 mph A7M2.

22. TC says:
22 Apr 2017 06:52:27 PM

I have a piece of a wing from a Japanese zero that was shot down outside of our Santo Tomas prison camp in Manila PI, 2-5-45. The identification is imprinted on the wing in Japanese. Can you interpret the markings if I send you a picture?

23. ive flown a s4 Wyvern says:
2 May 2017 10:38:23 AM

when i test flew a A6m in Japan i was amazed at its turn rate it was incredible
especially for how old the plane was

24. Anonymous says:
29 May 2017 04:06:27 AM

the locally famous zero that sat behind the old Rose home on peachtree st in Atlanta is now in a museum in washing state.

I had know about this plane and seen it many times.

the museum is rather rude and acted like a horses *** ..I had offered information about this aircraft. they must assume they know everything. ignorance is bliss.

25. Anonymous says:
26 Oct 2018 11:28:32 AM

this page helped me so much

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.


The Wildcat was born out of 1936 U.S. Navy requirement for a new monoplane fighter. Grumman entered the competition with the F4F-2, an aircraft that had originally been conceived as a biplane with retractable landing gear. Problems with the plane’s Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine plagued prototypes and the Navy instead opted for the Brewster F2A Buffalo. In the meantime, France had expressed interest in the new Grumman monoplane and ordered 81 in 1940. Deliveries were halted when the country fell to the Nazis in May of 1940 Great Britain took over the contracts, designating the plane the Martlet Mk. I. One of these airplanes scored the first Wildcat/Martlet kill when on Christmas Day, 1940, a Martlet I shot down a German Ju-88 over Scapa Flow.

Grumman continued to improve the F4F and by 1941 the U.S. Navy was placing orders for Wildcats to replace its Buffalo squadrons, which were already proving to be obsolete.

On the other side of the Pacific, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was in the market for a fast, modern fighter to replace its fixed gear, open cockpit Type 96 fighters (Allied code name Claude). Development of what became the Zero began in 1936 with an emphasis on maneuverability, long range and rate of climb.

Japanese aeronautical engineers went to great lengths to ensure the new airplane was as light as possible, yet strong enough to survive carrier operations. Researchers at the Sumitomo Metal Company created Extra Super Duralumin alloy, which was stronger, lighter and easier to fabricate than what was being produced in the rest of the world.

The first A6M prototypes were turned over to the IJN in September 1939 and production orders followed in July 1940. Zeros first saw combat in China where their sudden appearance and outstanding performance gave the American Volunteer Group (the “Flying Tigers”) a shock.

Mitsubishi A6M Zero (1939)

Popularly known as the ‘Zero’, the Mitsubishi A6M was the world’s most capable carrier-based fighter at the time of its appearance, out-performing all land-based contemporaries. Latterly outclassed, it remained in service until the end of the war. This A6M2 was on strength with the 2nd Sentai, 1st Koku Kentai and was operating from the carrier Hiryu during the Battle of Midway in June 1942. In the course of the battle, the IJN put up large formations of Zero fighters for protection, but these could not prevent the loss of four Japanese carriers by the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The brainchild of prolific designer Jiro Horikoshi, the Mitsubishi A6M (Allied reporting name ‘Zeke’) was schemed as a replacement for the same company’s A5M carrier fighter. A cantilever low-wing monoplane, the A6M1 prototype completed its maiden flight in April 1939 and in this form was powered by a Mitsubishi Zuisei 13 radial engine. In production form, the A6M2 of early 1940 introduced a new Nakajima Sakae 12 powerplant and was armed with a pair of wing-mounted 20mm (0.79in) cannon, plus two machine guns in the nose. The new engine was a result of early testing, in which the A6M1 had demonstrated excellent performance with the exception of maximum speed, which had failed to meet the original specification.

The Japanese attack on Rabaul in January 1942 was typical of the whirlwind successes in which the A6M was pitched in the initial phase of the war in the Pacific. Air power on Rabaul, the key strategic base on the island of New Britain, was provided by Australian Hudson light bombers and Wirraway reconnaissance aircraft, but there was no genuine fighter cover. On 20 January, a force of 120 A6M2s, Aichi D3A1s and Nakajima B5Ns took off from the carriers Zuikaku, Shokaku, Kaga and Akagi, attacking installations at Rabaul. Slicing through gallant opposition put up by the Wirraways, the IJN aircraft paved the way for a task force of 5300 men that landed at Simpson Harbour on 23 January, securing the port and the airfield at Kavieng. After capturing Rabaul, Japan established a major base and proceeded to land on mainland New Guinea, advancing towards Port Moresby and Australia.

As early as 1937 the Imperial Japanese Navy began searching for a craft to replace its A5M carrier-based fighters. That year it issued specifications so stringent that only Mitsubishi was willing to hazard a design. Specifically, the navy wanted a fighter of prodigious range and maneuverability, one able to defeat bigger land-based opponents. A design team headed by Jiro Horikoshi originated a prototype in 1939. The A6M was a study in aerodynamic cleanliness despite its bulky radial engine. It had widetrack undercarriage for easy landing and was heavily armed with two cannons and two machine guns. Tests proved it possessed phenomenal climbing and turning ability, so it entered production in 1940, the Japanese year 5700. Henceforth, the new fighter was known officially as the Type 0, but it passed into history as the Reisen, or Zero.

A small production batch of 30 Zeroes was sent to China in the summer of 1940 for evaluation, and they literally swept the sky of Chinese opposition. The official military designation for the new warplane was Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter and in 1940 initial combat trials were undertaken in China by a preproduction batch. The antiquated Polikarpov fighters flown by the Chinese proved to be no match for the Zero. It was in the course of these operational trials that the Zero recorded its first aerial victory, in September 1940. By the end of that year, the Zero detachment had claimed 59 victories without loss.

Such prowess was duly noted by Claire L. Chennault, future commander of the famed Flying Tigers, but his warnings were ignored. Zeroes subsequently spearheaded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and over the next six months they ran roughshod over all Allied opposition.

Once entering combat in World War II, the highly agile A6M2 proved itself an immediate success, quickly gaining aerial supremacy during the Imperial Japanese Navy’s campaigns in the East Indies and Southeast Asia. The A6M2 was the IJN’s premier fighter during the raid on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, in which eight Zero fighters were lost from a total of 105 involved in the surprise attack on the U.S. Navy fleet. The A6M remained the service’s pre-eminent fighter in theatre as fighting extended to Malaya, the Philippines and Burma. Along the way, it demonstrated its superiority against lesser Allied types in theatre, including the Brewster Buffalo, Curtiss P-36 and P-40 and Hawker Hurricane fighters. Japan’s leading ace of the Pacific war, Saburo Sakai, flew a Zero, who is believed to have achieved 64 aerial kills.

An improved A6M3 entered service in spring 1942, now powered by a Sakae 21 with two-stage supercharger. Not only supremely manoeuvrable, the Zero was also well equipped for fighting at the extended ranges encountered in the Pacific theatre. The aircraft could carry a fuel tank under the fuselage to increase the endurance of its long-range fighter patrols. Even before the arrival of the powerful Hellcat, however, the A6M had begun to suffer at the hands of the Grumman F4F Wildcat, which, although inferior in terms of performance and agility, was better able to withstand battle damage and possessed heavier-hitting armament, self-sealing tanks and armour protection for the pilot. While the Zero was always fast, it was also underpowered, and as a result the design stressed lightweight construction. This, in turn, led to a fighter that was vulnerable to even machine gun fire, and had little in the way of armour protection.

However, following the Japanese defeat at Midway in June 1942, the fabled fighter lost much of its ascendancy to new Allied fighters and a growing shortage of experienced pilots. New and more powerful versions of the Zero were introduced to stem the tide, but relatively weak construction could not withstand mounting Allied firepower. Furthermore, the additional weight of new weapons and equipment eroded its famous powers of maneuver.

Changing Fortunes

The Battle of Midway of June 1942 represented a watershed for the Zero, and thereafter the Japanese fighter began to be increasingly outclassed by U.S. opposition, in particular the U.S. Navy’s Grumman F6F Hellcat, which proved to be faster than the Zero at all altitudes. While the A6M3 version had helped to offset the appearance of the Wildcat, it could do little in the face of the Hellcat.

In an effort to wring additional performance out of the basic airframe, the IJN introduced the A6M5, with Sakae 21 and an improved exhaust system. This version was actually slower than the A6M2, but enjoyed a superior rate of climb and was faster in the dive. It was also built in greater numbers than any of the other Zero models. As the tide of the war turned against the Japanese, the Zero was also used for kamikaze raids, and in one action, five A6M5s sunk the U.S. Navy carrier St Lo and damaged three others in October 1944.

The last models in the Zero line comprised the A6M6 of late 1944, with a water-methanol boosted Sakae 31, and the A6M7 fighter/dive-bomber of mid-1945 with a rack under the fuselage for the carriage of a single 250kg (551lb) bomb. In total, in excess of 10,000 Zero fighters were completed, including a floatplane version built by Nakajima as the A6M2N (Allied reporting name ‘Rufe’). As such, it was the most prolific Japanese fighter of all time.

Although the A6M’s vulnerability to the Hellcat in particular was clear by the time of the Battles of the Philippines and Leyte Gulf in 1944, the lack of an adequate replacement meant the Zero was forced to soldier on in IJN service until the bitter end.

By 1945 most A6Ms had been converted into kamikazes in a futile attempt to halt the Allied surge toward the homeland. A total of 10,964 were constructed.

The legendary A6M (the dreaded Zero) was the first carrier-based fighter in history to outperform land-based equivalents, and it arrived in greater quantities than any other Japanese aircraft. Despite the Zero’s aura of invincibility, better Allied machines gradually rendered it obsolete.

A6M5c Type 0 Model 52

Considered the most effective variant, the Model 52 was developed to face the powerful American Hellcat and Corsair, superior mostly for engine power and armament. The variant was a modest update of the A6M3 Model 22, with non-folding wing tips and thicker wing skinning to permit faster diving speeds, plus an improved exhaust system. The latter used four ejector exhaust stacks, providing an increment of thrust, projecting along each side of the forward fuselage. The new exhaust system required modified “notched” cowl flaps and small rectangular plates which were riveted to the fuselage, just aft of the exhausts. Two smaller exhaust stacks exited via small cowling flaps immediately forward of and just below each of the wing leading edges. The improved roll-rate of the clipped-wing A6M3 was now built in.

Sub-variants included:

* “A6M5a Model 52a «Kou»,” featuring Type 99-II cannon with belt feed of the Mk 4 instead of drum feed Mk 3 (100 rpg), permitting a bigger ammunition supply (125 rpg)

* “A6M5b Model 52b «Otsu»,” with an armor glass windscreen, a fuel tank fire extinguisher and the 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 97 gun (750 m/s muzzle velocity and 600 m/1,970 ft range) in the left forward fuselage was replaced by a 13.2 mm/.51 in Type 3 Browning-derived gun (790 m/s muzzle velocity and 900 m/2,950 ft range) with 240 rounds. The larger weapon required an enlarged cowling opening, creating a distinctive asymmetric appearance to the top of the cowling.

* “A6M5c Model 52c «Hei»” with more armor plate on the cabin’s windshield (5.5 cm/2.2 in) and behind the pilot’s seat. The wing skinning was further thickened in localised areas to allow for a further increase in dive speed. This version also had a modified armament fit of three 13.2 mm (.51 in) guns (one in the forward fuselage, and one in each wing with a rate of fire of 800 rpm), twin 20 mm Type 99-II guns and an additional fuel tank with a capacity of 367 L (97 US gal), often replaced by a 250 kg bomb.

The A6M5 had a maximum speed of 540 km/h (340 mph) and reached a height of 8,000 m (26,250 ft) in nine minutes, 57 seconds. Other variants were the night fighter A6M5d-S (modified for night combat, armed with one 20 mm Type 99 cannon, inclined back to the pilot’s cockpit) and A6M5-K “Zero-Reisen”(model l22) tandem trainer version, also manufactured by Mitsubishi.

Japan’s Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighter was Amazing, Except for 1 Weakness

How effective can an aircraft carrier-based fighter be without carriers?

Here's What You Need To Remember: The Wildcat never exceeded the Zero in performance, but over time the non-existent armor protection and loss of entire carriers took a heavy toll on Japanese aviators, eroding their experience advantage. In 1943, new, much faster U.S. fighters such as the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair decisively won air superiority for the Allies.

Japan began the Pacific War with two major technological advantages over the U.S. Navy: the much more reliable Long Lance torpedo, and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero carried-based fighter, a design that defied expectations by outperforming land-based fighters when in it was introduced into service in 1940.

Designer Jiro Horikoshi maximized the Zero’s performance by reducing airframe weight to an unprecedented degree by cutting armor protection and employing an “extra super” duralumin alloy. Combined with an 840-horsepower Sakae 12 radial engine, the A6M2 Type Zero could attain speeds of 346 miles per hour, while exhibiting extraordinary maneuverability and high rates of climb. For armament, the Zero boasted two punchy Type 99 20-millimeter cannons in the wing—though only with sixty rounds of ammunition—and two rifle-caliber machine guns firing through the propeller.

The elegant airframe weighed only 1.85-tons empty, giving the Zero a tremendous range of 1,600 miles—very useful for scouting for enemy ships and launching long-distance raids. By comparison, Germany’s excellent contemporary Bf 109 fighter could fly only 500 miles, fatefully reducing its effectiveness in the Battle of Britain.

The Zero debuted fantastically in combat in July 1940, with thirteen land-based A6M2 Zeros shooting down twice their number of Russian-built I-16 and I-153 fighters in a three-minute engagement.

When Japan launched her surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and on British and Dutch possessions in East Asia, the 521 Zeroes serving in the Japanese Navy quickly became the terror of Allied fighter pilots. U.S. Army P-39 Airacobras struggled to match the Zero’s high altitude performance. Even the pilots of agile British Spitfires found they were likely to be out-turned and out-climbed by a Zero.

The U.S. Navy at the time was phasing in the Grumman F4F Wildcat at the expense of the infamously awful F2A Buffalo. The tubby-looking Wildcat was heavier at 2.5 to 3 tons and had a range slightly over 800 miles. The Wildcat’s supercharged 1,200 horsepower R-1830 radial engine allowed it to attain speeds of 331 mph while armed with four jam-prone .50-caliber machine guns, or 320 mph on the heavier F4F-4 model with six machine guns and side-folding wings for improved stowage.

Thus the U.S. Navy’s top fighter was slower and less maneuverable than the Zero. But unexpectedly—after a rough start, and despite starting the war with less combat experience, Wildcat pilots managed to trade-off evenly with Zeroes. At Wake Island, just four Marine Wildcats helped repel besieging Japanese forces for two weeks and even sank the destroyer Kisaragi. In February 1942, Wildcat pilot Edward “Butch” O’Hare managed to shoot down three Japanese bombers and damage three more during a raid.

Though the Wildcat didn’t claim air superiority over the nimble Japanese fighters, they performed well enough to allow American dive and torpedo bombers to sink five Japanese aircraft carriers in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway—finally turning the tide of the war in the Pacific.

How did they pull it off?

The Zero’s lack of armor and a self-sealing fuel tank (which have internal bladders that swell to close off holes) meant they were infamously prone to disintegrating or catching fire after sustaining light damage. Meanwhile, once a Zero pilot expended his limited supply of 20-millimeter shells, the remaining rifle-caliber machine guns struggled to down better-armored Wildcats. Navy and Marine Wildcat pilots learned to make slashing attacks from above leveraging their superior diving speed. But it simply wasn’t always possible to avoid getting into a turning dogfight with a Zero.

Contemplating this problem, naval aviator John Thach, devised the tactic called the Thach Weave in which two Wildcats flying side-by-side laid a trap for pursuing Zeros. Both the “bait” and “hook” plane would complete two consecutive 90-degree turns towards each other, forming a figure eight. A Zero choosing to pursue the bait plane would end up having its tail in the sights of the hook.

After successfully testing the maneuver with Wildcat ace Edward O’Hare, John Thach had a chance to try his Thach Weave the Battle of Midway. On June 4, Thach’s six F4Fs of VF-3 squadron from the carrier Yorktown were escorting Devastator torpedo bombers when they were bounced by fifteen to twenty Zeros, one of which immediately set a Wildcat ablaze while another knocked out the radio on the Wildcat of Thach’s wingman.

Thach called on the radio for rookie pilot Ram Dibb to help him perform the Weave maneuver. Steve Erling’s book Thach Weave recounts what happened next:

“With so many enemy planes in the air, Thach was not sure anything would work, but the answer came when a Zero followed Dibb during one of his turns… Thach found himself angry that the young inexperienced Dibb was the target of this Zero. Wisdom called for a short burst of shells to hopefully cause the Zero to break off the pass, but it was apparent this Zero was not going to break off. Anger rising, Thach continued straight ahead, the firing button depressed, rather than ducking under the Zero. At last the Zero broke off, and as he passed close by, Thach could see flames pouring from its underside.”

“Continuing the weave now discouraged the Zeros from following the Wildcats in their turns, but one made the same mistake as Thach’s first kill, and when he was too slow in his pullout, Thach shot him down and added a third mark on his kneepad. Soon after, Dibb erased another enemy fighter converging astern of Thach and Macomber.

By then the Zeros had shot down all but two of the torpedo bombers and might have finished off the Wildcats. But at that moment, two squadrons of SBD dive bombers came screaming out from the clouds on the now unprotected Japanese carriers. The Zeros were too low and far afield to intercept them, and bomber proceeded to fatally cripple the carriers Akagi and Kaga.

The Thach Weave was subsequently adopted by other Navy and Marine squadrons, and top Japanese ace Saburo Sakai described the maneuver vexing a squadron mate’s attack run over Guadalcanal in his biography.

The Wildcat never exceeded the Zero in performance, but over time the non-existent armor protection and loss of entire carriers took a heavy toll on Japanese aviators, eroding their experience advantage. In 1943, new, much faster U.S. fighters such as the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair decisively won air superiority for the Allies. In the 1944 Great Marianas Turkey Shoot over the Philippine Sea, Allied fighters and flak gunners shot down over 500 Japanese warplanes for just 123 USN aircraft lost.

Both the Zero and Wildcat saw action through the remainder of World War II, many of the former ending their days as Kamikaze aircraft. The Wildcat carried on a little-known but surprisingly successful career with the U.S. and Royal Navies in the European theater, dueling French fighters over North Africa, flying from small escort carriers to hunt Nazi bombers and submarines, and even embarked on the last Allied air raid of the war, sinking a U-Boat in Norway on May 5, 1945.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This first appeared in December 2018.

The Zero's lightly loaded, high lift wing and low weight make it a dream to fly at speeds below 400 km/h, with an ability to execute wild gyrations and zoom climbs at the whim of the pilot. However, the Zero is hard to handle as it approaches speeds of 480 km/h.

Force an enemy pilot into a dogfight at 370 - 400 km/h and below 6,000 meters. At this speed and altitude, no enemy fighter can out-manoeuvre or out-climb you. Jump on cruising enemy aircraft from above. Fasten onto the tail of the bandit, use your superior manoeuvrability to match his evasive moves, and put enough rounds into him to bring him down. Use your machine guns first to "bore-sight" the enemy - once you get hits on him, finish him off with your cannons. Below 480 km/h you can fling the Zero all over the sky to get on an enemy's tail or to shake off all but the most determined attacker. Climb away from most enemy aircraft, hanging on your prop in a near-vertical climb. Manoeuvres like the Immelmann are easy, and heavier fighters can't stay with you. The Zero rolls faster to the left than to the right. Roll left to tighten your turn and get onto the enemy's six. Don't dive away from attackers - your plane doesn't have the power or weight to out-run most fighters. To exploit your plane's best performance, force the enemy lower and slow down the pace of the engagement.

  • In Simulator, the A6M Zero is overall a great plane to fly. Its advantages include the extremely smooth handling, impressive turn rate, low stall speed, the ability to not enter spins in extreme manoeuvres, and decent rear visibility. It is able to pull really tight turns or barrel rolls without losing control or going into a spin, allowing the player to use this stability to their advantage. Its disadvantages, however, are the fragile protection, wing-mounted guns with very little ammo, and the cockpit scattered with frames. Although not thick, these frames can still be obstructions in a fight. Also the gunsight is small and mounted very low, resulting in inadequate visibility over the nose. This can limit the player's ability to see the target in a turn fight since to lead the target, the player must cut inside its turn, meaning the nose will now block the target. The A6M can perform dogfighting, some ground pounding and some intercepting.
  • You can bring the minimum amount of fuel (29 minutes) since this model of the Zero only has a 60-round drum per cannon, as a result you might need to constantly return to airfield to reload so there is no need to bring more fuel. Set the convergence to 150-300 m. When taking off, the A6M will shift severely to the left so it is best to set separate keybind for left and right brakes to counter the torque.
  • For dogfighting, it is better to engage with an altitude advantage so climb to around 2,500 m. Track the opponent using lead or pure pursuit, as with lag pursuit you will eventually end up at the 6'o clock of the target aircraft whose fuselage will soak up most of your MG bullets, and your wing mounted cannons will become really awkward to aim. With the amazing stableness the aim should be easy. Target their wings or nose and avoid the back half of the fuselage as there is usually nothing in there. You can turn with most planes with your combat/takeoff flaps deployed. Note that it is best to fire in 5-round/half-second bursts to avoid wasting cannon rounds. Once the cannons are out, the leftover 7.7 mm MGs can only effectively damage single engine fighters.
  • The American Zero does not have access to any bombs so the ability is greatly limited. However the 2x 7.7mm MGs have plenty of ammo. For ground pounding with the MGs, your targets are trucks, AAA and howitzers. Dive at it and stabilise the plane so the gunsight stays overall still at the target. Then, once the target fills out around 1/6 of the gunsight, open fire. If your aim is accurate you can destroy one target in a single pass. However, it is very recommended to set keybind for firing MG only as you can definitely not waste the valuable cannon rounds. Save them for any unexpected dogfights.
  • Landing is easy thanks to the low stall speed and lovely handling. Line up and approach the airstrip at treetop, decrease speed to at most 210 km/h and deploy combat, takeoff and landing flaps in order. Further decelerate so the touchdown speed is no more than 180 km/h to avoid bouncing up. Keep braking until the plane reaches a full stop, you don't have to worry about the nose dipping down and causing a propeller strike.
  • P-61: this plane is one tough nut to crack. It is quite fast, packs a fatal punch, has a searching radar, and a deadly turret on top. The turret consists of 4 x 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine guns that cover the upper half of the plane, and most P-61 players tend to fly low or get you into their upper half to target you with the turret. Avoid being above them at all costs, utilise the Zero's manoeuvrability and sneak under their belly. Its appearance resembles a P-38: a center fuselage with two engine nacelles extending backwards and forming the twin tail like a frame, you will know it is a Black Widow and not a Lightning when red tracer bullets start shooting out from it.
  • I-16: the late I-16s are equipped with ShVAK cannons that can be pretty dangerous to your fragile airframe. They can turn equally well as the Zero, have superior roll rate but the stability is so terrible that as soon as they pull a little more on the stick, they will enter spins. Therefore it is quite easy to counter them: engage a turnfight with them and turn tighter and tighter, or do a few barrel rolls. They will quickly lose control and start spinning and it is quite hard to recover. Then simply get some separation, turn around and put some solid shots into them. They have an I-15's short and fat fuselage, a flat radial engine and triangular stabilisers located right after the low-mounted mono wings, all covered in olive green paint.

Manual Engine Control

MEC elements
Mixer Pitch Radiator Supercharger Turbocharger
Oil Water Type
Controllable Controllable
Not auto controlled
Not auto controlled
Not auto controlled
Separate Not controllable
1 gear
Not controllable

Pros and cons

  • A6M for Carrier-based fighter:
    • Strictly air-to-air role
    • Decent cannon armament
    • Extremely manoeuvrable
      • Excellent turn rate
      • Excellent roll rate
      • Common Navy plane construction:
        • Excellent manoeuvrability
        • Nose mounted armament
        • Small radiator drag
        • A6M for Carrier-based fighter:
          • Strictly air-to-air role
          • Limited ammo
          • Slow
          • Low dive speed, and easily compressed in a dive
          • Common Navy plane construction:
            • Poor MG offensive armament: 7.7 mm Type 97 MG
            • Poor Cannon offensive armament: 20 mm Type 99 Model 1 Cannon
              • Very low muzzle velocity

              Mitsubishi A6M Zero

              The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a long range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) from 1940 to 1945. The A6M was designated as the Mitsubishi Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter (零式艦上戦闘機, rei-shiki-kanjou-sentouki?), and also designated as the Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen and Mitsubishi Navy 12-shi Carrier Fighter. The A6M was usually referred to by the Allies as the "Zero", from the 'Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter' designation. The official Allied reporting name was Zeke.

              When it was introduced early in World War II, the Zero was the best carrier-based fighter in the world, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range.[1] In early combat operations, the Zero gained a legendary reputation as a "dogfighter", achieving the outstanding kill ratio of 12 to 1,[2] but by 1942 a combination of new tactics and the introduction of better equipment enabled the Allied pilots to engage the Zero on more equal terms.[3] The Imperial

              Japanese A6M2 Zero (Zekke) WW 2 carrier based fighter aircraft

              Mitsubishi Jukogyo & Nakajima

              2 - 20 mm Type 99 Cannons
              2 - 7.7 mm Type 97 Machine Guns

              The Mitsubishi A6M2 Reisen (Zero) went into production on July 31, 1940 as the Navy Type 0 carrier fighter, Model 11.

              Nakajima engineers felt that the design specifications were unachievable so they pulled out of the design competition which left only Mitsubishi. The Mitsubishi's design team was headed by Jiro Horikoshi and they came up with the A6M1 prototype. Careful attention was paid to weight savings, and a new special aluminum alloy developed by Sumimoto was used through out the airframe. The first prototype A6M1 did not achieve the air speed and rate of climb required by the design specifications so the Mitsubishi 780 hp Zuisei 13 engine was replaced by the 14 cylinder twin row radial Nakajima NK1C Sakae 12 and the aircraft re-designated as the A6M2. Initial test trials were completed on the prototype in July 1940 and production started immediately.

              The A6M2 achieved great success early in the war as it easily out performed all of the allied aircraft in the Pacific theater. It was not until June of 1942 when a crash landed but virtually undamaged A6M2 was recovered in the Aleutian islands that the US was able see and fly, first hand, this advanced fighter aircraft to see where its vulnerabilities were.

              The A6M2 was replaced in service by the A6M3 (Hamp) Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter Model 32 in early 1943 which was powered by the more powerful Nakajima Sakae 21 engine with a 2 speed super charger. The folding wing tips which were necessary for the A6M2 fighter to fit on the Carrier elevators were replaced by a shorter squared off wing. For more information about the A6M-3 Hamp you can read a reprint of the in-depth Aviation Magazine article on this fighter aircraft. The A6M2 aircraft which remained in service were were relegated to second line duty and used as training aircraft.

              By late 1942, early 1943 the US had introduced the Navy F4U Corsair and the Air Force P-38 into the Pacific theater. All of these new US aircraft were an equal match for the A6M3 and because of their heavy pilot armor and fuel tank armor they could take a lot of punishment and still be an affective adversary. The A6M3's ineffective dive speed was being used to the advantage of the American pilots who found that they could engage the Zero and dive away to relative safety without fear of being followed.

              By June of 1944 the newly redesigned A6M5 was in full production and had been deployed as the Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter Model 52. It now had a top speed of 351 mph and could dive at speeds of 410 mph thus eliminating the faults of its predecessors. The first major engagement in which this aircraft took part was the the Marians (Philippine Sea) on June 19th 1944 where it was engaged by the newly outfitted US carrier F6F Hellcat fighter aircraft.

              The A6M Reisen was the first aircraft to be used in Kamikaze attacks against the US fleet on October 25, 1944 which was carried out by Japanese Air Group 201 and launched from bases in the Philippines.

              Over 10,900 A6M2 through 5 Reisen Zero's were produced during the war by Mitsubishi and Nakajima and it was the most widely encountered Japanese fighter aircraft. The A6M remained in production up until the final day of the war.

              The main failing of the A6M2, 3, and 5 fighter aircraft were the lack of armor for the pilot and its fuel tanks were not self sealing and once breached the aircraft was lost.

              Up until the introduction of the P-38 Lightning, the F6F Hellcat, and the F4U Corsair the A6M Zero was the premier fighter aircraft in the Pacific. It could out maneuver anything in the sky and with it's twin 20 mm cannons and twin 7.7 mm machine guns in the hands of a skilled pilot it was a terrifying and worthy adversary.

              Specifications (A6M2 Type 0 Model 21)

              Data from The Great Book of Fighters[18]

              * Crew: 1
              * Length: 9.06 m (29 ft 9 in)
              * Wingspan: 12.0 m (39 ft 4 in)
              * Height: 3.05 m (10 ft 0 in)
              * Wing area: 22.44 m² (241.5 ft²)
              * Empty weight: 1,680 kg (3,704 lb)
              * Loaded weight: 2,410 kg (5,313 lb)
              * Powerplant: 1× Nakajima Sakae 12 radial engine, 709 kW (950 hp)
              * Aspect ratio: 6.4

              * Never exceed speed: 660 km/h (356 kn, 410 mph)
              * Maximum speed: 533 km/h (287 kn, 331 mph) at 4,550 m (14,930 ft)
              * Range: 3,105 km (1,675 nmi, 1,929 mi)
              * Service ceiling: 10,000 m (33,000 ft)
              * Rate of climb: 15.7 m/s (3,100 ft/min)
              * Wing loading: 107.4 kg/m² (22.0 lb/ft²)
              * Power/mass: 294 W/kg (0.18 hp/lb)

              * Guns:
              Divergence of trajectories between 7.7 mm and 20mm ammunition

              o 2× 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 97 machine guns in the engine cowling, with 500 rounds per gun.
              o 2× 20 mm Type 99 cannons in the wings, with 60 rounds per gun.
              * Bombs:
              o 2× 60 kg (132 lb) bombs or
              o 1× fixed 250 kg (551 lb) bombs for kamikaze attacks

              Mitsubishi A6M Zero

              The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a lightweight fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) from 1940 to 1945. The origin of its official designation was that "A" signified a carrier-based fighter, "6" for the sixth such model built for the Imperial Navy, and "M" for the manufacturer, Mitsubishi. The A6M was usually referred to by the Allies as the "Zero" — a name that was frequently misapplied to other Japanese fighters, such as the Nakajima Ki-43 — as well as other codenames and nicknames, including "Zeke", "Hamp" and "Hap".

              After the delivery of only 65 planes by November 1940, a further change was worked into the production lines, which introduced folding wingtips to allow them to fit on the aircraft carriers. The resulting Model 21 would become one of the most produced versions early in the war. When the lines switched to updated models, 740 Model 21s were completed by Mitsubishi, and another 800 by Nakajima. Two other versions of the Model 21 were built in small numbers, the Nakajima-built A6M2-N "Rufe" floatplane (based on the model 11 with a slightly modified tail), and the A6M2-K two-seat trainer of which a total of 508 were built by Hitachi and the Sasebo Naval Air Arsenal.

              Texas Flying Legends Museum A6M2 Model 21 Zero “Last Samurai”

              The Texas Flying Legends Museum has one of only a few flying Japanese Zeros left in the world. Mitsubishi designed the Navy Type Zero Carrier-Based Fighter in 1937 and it became known for its design and production volume during the war. Of course, it is also known for being the symbol of Japanese air power during World War II. The Allies referred to the Zero as “Zeke” and American pilots gained experience fighting them in China with the American Volunteer Group, known as the Flying Tigers.

              A combination of nimbleness and simplicity gave the Zero fighting qualities that no Allied plane could match at the beginning of the war. Lightness, simplicity, ease of maintenance, sensitivity to controls, and extreme maneuverability were the main elements that the designer Jiro Horikoshi built into the Zero. Saburo Sakai, Japan’s highest-scoring surviving World War II ace, with sixty-four kills, believes that if the Zero had not been developed, Japan “would not have decided to start the war.” We understand his comment to indicate that the Zero gave the Japanese a false sense of superiority.

              The white circle around the Hinomaru, the rising sun, indicates that this navel plane was manufactured by Nakajima. Its model number is the same as those that attacked Pearl Harbor, but the Last Samurai, an A6M2 Model 21 Zero, was made a bit later. This fighter was one of many that filled the skies over the bloody Solomon Islands. It witnessed the beginning of the end of Japan’s dream of victory. The Battle of Guadalcanal and Santa Cruz resulted in the loss of ships, aircraft, and men from which Japan could not recover. The allied island hopping strategy was met with heavy resistance, displaying some of the largest aerial battles in the Pacific. Warriors and their machines would duel overhead small islands like Bougainville, Rabaul, and Ballale.

              The aircraft was resurrected from the island jungles of Ballale in the late 60’s. It is a small island south of Bougainville that was used by the Imperial Japanese Naval and Army Air Forces. This aircraft might have been seen by Admiral Yamamoto, if he wasn’t shot down in April of 1943 – since Ballale Island was his destination. It might have been one of the fighters belonging to the 251 or 201 Kokutai (Naval Air Group) stationed at Ballale. It could have been flown by Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, the “Naval Ace of Aces,” who shot down 87 plus allied aircraft. It could also be one of the fighters in a photo taken during the war showing the Japanese pilots on Ballale Island.

              But one thing is for sure, a perfectly restored A6M2 Model 21 fighter can be seen – sometimes flying – but usually on display. This Zero, reclaimed and restored by the Blayd Corporation, has been praised by Japanese aeronautical engineers and world experts. It is the only Zero built in exact detail with the exception of its DC-3 engine. It is the Last Samurai that will take to the air with the same performance that allowed it to dominate the skies in the ear

              Plans of Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero - History

              Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

              Zero, also called Mitsubishi A6M or Navy Type 0, fighter aircraft, a single-seat, low-wing monoplane used with great effect by the Japanese during World War II. Designed by Horikoshi Jiro, it was the first carrier-based fighter capable of besting its land-based opponents. It was designed to specifications written in 1937, was first tested in 1939, and was placed in production and in operation in China in 1940. Although Allied forces code-named the aircraft “Zeke,” it was generally known as the Zero, a term derived from one of its Japanese names—Reisen Kanjikisen (Type Zero Carrier-based Fighter Airplane), abbreviated Reisen. The year its production began, 1940, was the 2,600th anniversary of the ascension to the throne of Japan’s legendary first emperor, Jimmu, hence the “zero” designation.

              The Zero was made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and was first powered by a Nakajima Sakae radial air-cooled engine of 14 cylinders (two staggered rows of seven) that developed 1,020 horsepower. Later it used a 1,130-horsepower engine to turn its three-blade constant-speed propeller. Its top speed was 350 miles per hour (565 km/h) at nearly 20,000 feet (6,100 m), and it was armed with two 7.7-millimetre machine guns and two 20-millimetre cannons in its wings it could carry two 132-pound (59.9-kilogram) bombs under the wings.

              When it first appeared, the Zero could outmaneuver every airplane it encountered. Moreover, its 156-gallon (591-litre) internal fuel tank was augmented with a 94-gallon external tank that could be dropped when empty, thus enabling the Zero to fly far beyond its expected range. The Allies did not field fighters that could defeat it in aerial combat until 1943. Many Zeros were converted to kamikaze craft in the closing months of the war. In all, nearly 10,430 of them were built.

              This article was most recently revised and updated by Emily Rodriguez, Copy Editor.

              Watch the video: Pearl Harbor flight featuring the PoF Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero (July 2022).


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  2. Neramar

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