Mitsubishi A6M Reisen ("Zeke")

A6M2 (20kb)
A pair of A6M2s from the 12th Kokutaï

The Zero was the most widely produced Japanese fighter of World War 2.
It was Mitsubishi's answer to a 1937 Japanese request for a shipboard fighter armed with 2 guns and 2 cannons, able to reach 500 km/h (310 mph) at 12,000 ft and with 6-8 hours of cruise economy endurance. The Nakajima company thought these specifications were unreachable, and left Mitsubishi as the sole competitor.

Why is it nicknamed the "Zero" ?

A designation system for airplanes had been in use in Japan since the early 1920s, and was based on the last two digits of the year of delivery to the Army or Navy. For example, the A6M's predecessor, the Mitsubishi A5M "Claude", was delivered in the year 2596 of the Japanese calendar (1936), and had the title of "Navy Carrier Fighter Type 96". The A6M2 entered service in Japanese year 2600 (1940), and was therefore the "Navy Carrier Fighter Type Zero".
It was nicknamed "Reisen" by the Japanese (short for "Rei Sentoki", meaning "Zero Fighter").
American-proposed nicknames were "Ray", "Ben" (boy names, as usual for Japanese fighters), but only the nickname "Zeke" chosen by Capt Frank McCoy's air intelligence team in July of 1942 became widely adopted for the Zero.

Development

Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21
Engine Nakajima Sakae 12, 14-cylinder air-cooled radial 940 hp
Armament 2x 7.7mm guns + 2x wing-mounted 20mm cannons (60 rounds)
Performance Max speed: 510 km/h (320 mph) - Ceiling: 10,300 m (33,800 ft)

A6M2-N (28 kb)
A brand new Nakajima A6M2-N floatplane.

Mitsubishi A6M3 Model 32 Mitsubishi A6M3 Model 32 "Hamp"
Engine Nakajima Sakae 21, 14-cylinder air-cooled radial 1,130 hp
Armament 2x 7.7mm guns + 2x wing-mounted 20 mm cannons (100 rounds)
Performance Max speed: 540 km/h (336 mph) - Ceiling: 11,050 m (36,255 ft)
Production 343 planes produced from April 1942 to August 1943

A6M3 Model 22 (32 kb)
Japan's #1 ace (87 kills) Hiroyoshi Nishizawa in his A6M3 Model 22 over the Solomon Islands, 1943

Mitsubishi A6M5a Model 52A Mitsubishi A6M5a Model 52A
Engine Nakajima Sakae 21, 14-cylinder air-cooled radial 1,130 hp
Armament 2x 7.7mm guns + 2x high velocity 20 mm cannons (125 rounds)
Performance Max speed: 550 km/h (342 mph) - Ceiling: 11,100 m (36,255 ft)

A6M5c (29 kb)
These A6M5c are sent back from Korea to the Kyushû island, to take part in a Kamikaze attack (early 1945)


Stof's notes about this plane in iMOL's WarBirds

The opinions expressed below are only my own, and nothing more...
This plane offers perfect handling at low speeds, but is too fragile to be useful in a multi-plane engagement. When you fly a Zero in a combat zone, never fly straight, and take care of "boom&zoom" attacks from faster opponents.

Strong points:

Weak points:


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(Plane picture: Le Fana de l'Aviation HS n°3)