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Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sen 22
Nakajima A6M2-N

A6M Zero-Sen

On 5 October 1937 the Japanese Navy furnished the Mitsubishi and Nakajima companies with its requirements for a new fighter. Mitsubishi alone accepted the task and design work began under the direction of Jiro Horikoshi. The power plant for the new navy fighter, on which work began in 1938, was the Mitsubishi MK2 Zuisei 13, a fourteen cylinder radial of 780 hp / 582kW, later known as the Ha.31/13. Care was given to structural weight and extensive use was made of Extra-Super Duralumin. In March 1939, at Mitsubishi’s Nagoya plant, the first prototype was completed.

The prototype A6M1 was first flown on 1 April 1939 by Katsuzo Shima with a  Mitsubishi Zuisei 13 radial, and accepted by the Navy as the A6M1.

With a Nakajima NK1C Sakae 12 engine of 925 hp / 708kW, the third prototype became the A6M2, first flying on 18 January 1940. At the end of July 1940 the A6M2 was officially adopted as the Type 0 Carrier Fighter, Model 11, or Zero-Sen. Production A6M2 fighters were fitted with two wing-mounted 20mm guns and two nose-mounted 7.7mm guns. It was with this version that the Japanese navy escorted the raiding force sent against Pearl Harbor, and gained air superiority over Malaya, the Philippines and Burma. The reporting name 'Zeke' was given to the A6M.




A Japanese Navy specification was issued in 1940 for a single-seat fighter seaplane to cover early phases of amphibious landings and for the defence of small islands where hard runways were unnecessary or impracticable. The Nakajima firm was building the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero under licence and was ordered in February 1941 to develop a float seaplane version.

After removing the wheel landing gear and fairing over the wheel wells of a standard A6M2, Nakajima mounted a large float under the fuselage by means of a forward-raked central pylon and a pair of V-struts below the cockpit; two cantilever stabilizing floats were also mounted under the wings. The standard Zero gun armament was retained, and the first prototype was flown on 7 December 1941, the day on which the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor.

Nakajima A6M2-N

Entering production as the Nakajima A6M2-N and codenamed 'Rufe' by the Allies, the new fighter still displayed a creditable performance, being first issued to the Yokohama Kokutai and deployed to Tulagi in the Solomons where the Japanese had first landed during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Almost all the 'Rufes' were destroyed in a strike on the seaplane base by 15 Grumman F4Fs from USS Wasp on 7 August 1942.

Better success attended the 'Rufes' which fought in the later Aleutian campaign, but losses soared as soon as American fighter strength could be built up. During the final year of the war, when American heavy bombers and naval aircraft opened their great attacks on the Japanese homeland, 'Rufes' of the Otsu Kokutai, based on Lake Biwa, were thrown into the battle as interceptors in defence of Central Honshu but suffered very heavy losses. Total production of 'Rufe' amounted to 327 before being halted in September 1943.




In the spring of 1942 the A6M3 with two-stage supercharged Sakae 21 entered service, later aircraft having their folding wing tips removed.

The Battle of Midway represented the Zero's combat zenith; thereafter the fighter found itself outclassed by the American F6F Hellcat and P-38 Lightning. To counter the new American fighters the A6M5 was rushed to front-line units. This version, with Sakae 21 engine and improved exhaust system, possessed a top speed of 565km/h, more A6M5s (and subvariants) were produced than any other Japanese aircraft.

It was five A6M5s of the Shikishima kamikaze unit that sank the carrier St Lo and damaged three others on 25 October 1944.

Other versions were the A6M6 with water-methanol boosted Sakae 31 engine and the A6M7 fighter/dive-bomber.

Total production of all A6Ms was 10,937.




Engine: Mitsubishi MK2 Zuisei 13, 780 hp
Armament: 2 x 20mm cannon & 2 x 7.7mm mg

Engine: 1 x Nakajima NK1F Sakae 12, 705kW
Max take-off weight: 2410-2796 kg / 5313 - 6164 lb
Empty weight: 1680 kg / 3704 lb
Wingspan: 12.0 m / 39 ft 4 in
Length:9.06 m / 29 ft 9 in
Height: 3.05 m / 10 ft 0 in
Wing area: 22.44 sq.m / 241.54 sq ft
Max. speed: 525 km/h / 326 mph
Cruise speed: 330 km/h / 205 mph
Ceiling: 10000 m / 32800 ft
Range w/max.fuel: 3050 km / 1895 miles
Range w/max.payload: 1850 km / 1150 miles
Crew: 1
Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 60kg of bombs

A6M2 Model 11
Engine: Nakajima NK1C Sakae 12, 925 hp

A6M2 Model 21
Max speed: 317 mph @ 16,400 ft
Time to 19,680 ft: 7 min 27 sec


Wingspan 11 m (36 ft. 1 in.)
Length 9.12 m (29 ft. 11 in.)
Height 3.51 m (11 ft. 6 in.)
Empty weight 1,876 kg (4,136 lb.)

A6M6c Model 53C
Engine: Nakajima NK1P Sakae 31
Power: 1120 hp @ 2800 rpm (T/O), 1210 hp (war emergency @ 8000 ft), 1055 hp @ 20,400 ft.
Wing span: 36 ft 1 in (10.99m)
Length: 29 ft 9 in (9.06m)
Height: 9 ft 2 in (2.79m)
Empty wt: 3920 lbs (1778 kg)
Operational wt: 6026 lbs (2733 kg)
Max speed: 346 mph (556 kph) @ 19680 ft (5998m)
Service ceiling: 35,100 ft (10698m)
Range: 1130 sm (1818 km) @ 152 mph (244 kph), 875 sm (1408 km) @ 212 mph (341 kph)
Max range: 635 sm (1022 km)
Armament: 2 x Type 99 (Oerlikon) 20 mm cannon, 3 x 13.2 mm mg & 1 x 7.7 mm mg.

Nakajima A6M2-N
Engine: 1 x Nakajima "Sakae-12", 705kW
Wingspan: 12 m / 39 ft 4 in
Length: 10.1 m / 33 ft 2 in
Height: 4.3 m / 14 ft 1 in
Wing area: 22.44 sq.m / 241.54 sq ft
Max. speed: 435 km/h / 270 mph
Cruise speed: 300 km/h / 186 mph
Ceiling: 10000 m / 32800 ft
Range: 1150 km / 715 miles
Range w/max.fuel: 1780 km / 1106 miles
Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 7.7mm machine-guns
Crew: 1

Mitsubishi A6M Reisen / ZEKE



Nakajima A6M2-N RUFE





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