Mitsubishi A6M Reisen

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a lightweight Japanese fighter aircraft. It was under operation by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) from 1940 to 1945. The origin of its official designated name was in such a way that “A” denoted a carrier-based fighter, “6” for the sixth such model built for the Imperial Navy, and “M” for the manufacturer, Mitsubishi. The Allies usually referred to the A6M as the “Zero”, as well as other codenames and nicknames, including “Zeke”, “Hamp” and “Hap”. It was the very first carrierborne fighter aircraft that went ahead to super cede all the other land-based counterparts in history. It was able to achieve a speed of 310mph. It was originally designated to fulfill a Japanese Navy requirement but the Zero eventually went on to become a legend in its own self, appearing in every major naval battle in the Pacific. It actually dominated the sky for years until Allied aircraft design, and tactics over powered it.

Mitsubishi A6M Reisen

A6M was a fairly high-lift, low-speed wing with a very low wing loading design. It was armed with a formidable array of two 20 mm cannons and two 7.7 mm machine guns. During its design, every weight-saving method was applied. Majority of its parts were made up of T-7178 aluminum, a top-secret aluminum alloy developed just for this aircraft. It was lighter and stronger than the normal aluminum used at the time, but more brittle. With its low-wing cantilever monoplane layout, retractable wide-set landing gear and enclosed cockpit, it was one of the most modern designs. In the attempts to make it lighter, no armor was carried for the pilot, engine or other critical points of the aircraft, and the self-sealing fuel tanks were ignored as well. This made the Zero lighter and more agile than most other aircraft at the start of the war, but it also resulted in it being prone to catching fire and exploding when struck by enemy rounds.

The Zero had a very low stalling speed of well below 60 km (110 km/h; 69 mph) which gave it a phenomenal turning ability, allowing it to turn more sharply than any Allied fighter of the time. Since the roll servo tabs on the ailerons, which deflect opposite to the ailerons and make the control force much lighter, they reduce the maximum roll effect at full travel, enhance rate. At 160 mph (260 km/h), the A6M2 had a roll rate of 56° per second. Because of wing flexibility, roll effectiveness dropped to near zero at about 483 km/h (300 mph) indicated airspeed.

Still, the system was quite capable of handling all of the Allied aircraft in the Far East during that era. It played an important role in showing the Japanese wrath on the American war planners in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, design wise, the system was demoted to the defense of the homeland by war’s end and became the most produced Japanese fighter of the war.

Specifications

Accommodation: 1
Hard points: 2
Length: 29.72ft (9.06m)
Width: 36.09ft (11.00m)
Height: 9.78ft (2.98m)
Max Speed: 354mph (570kmh; 308kts)
Max Range: 1,193miles (1,920km)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,812 ft/min (857m/min)
Ceiling: 37,730ft (11,500m; 7.1miles)
Empty Weight: 4,136lbs (1,876kg)
MTOW: 6,025lbs (2,733kg)
Engine(s): 1 x Nakajima NK1C Sakae 21 14-cylinder two-row radial piston engine generating 1,130hp
Armaments: 2x 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 97 machine guns in the engine cowling, with 500 rounds per gun.
2x 20 mm Type 99 cannons in the wings, with 60 rounds per gun.
Divergence of trajectories between 7.7 mm and 20mm ammunition
2x 60 kg (132 lb) bombs or
2x fixed 250 kg (551 lb) bombs for kamikaze attacks

One thought on “Mitsubishi A6M Reisen

  1. Doug Vernon

    Just read your description of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M type 00. Very interesting.
    Back in the 1980’s I was fortunate in placing myself in the position of gathering historical and technical information regarding the restoration of an A6M7-62/63 type Zero fighter/dive bomber. This type was the last production model of the A6M. To my recollection there were two A6M8 aircraft which made it to the assembly line (If you can call it that) before the Japanese aircraft industry called it quits.

    The restoration of the A6M7 was both a joy and a burden but the end result was very good…but not excellent. I won’t go into details but trying to herd a bunch of retired military people who volunteered for the restoration, in the right direction to do the right thing was a bit exasperating .

    From what I can gather after looking at three photographs of the airplane taken just a short time following the surrender it appeared to me it never saw active service but was probably test flown from time to time since it was located at a large testing facility and was indeed the newest and last of the active line.

    Thanks for your website. I’m still in the midst of enjoying it.

    Doug Vernon
    San Diego, California

    Reply

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