Mitsubishi Zero-Sen

aka "Zero"

A Second World War era Japanese single seat monoplane fighter aircraft.

In the year 1937 Japanese Navy had to replace their old warplanes, especially the outdated Mitsubishi Type 96 (A5M) model, so they placed an order for blueprints from Mitsubishi and Nakajima companies. The requirement specification the Navy had placed was viewed as unrealistic by Nakajima, but Mitsubishi started the work, led by Jiro Horikoshi. Later on, Nakajima provided engines for this aircraft. One of the building materials used was Extra-Super-Duralumin (ESD), a very lightweight alloy developed by Sumitomo Metal Industry Company especially for aircraft.

On April 1st, 1939 the Zero had its first flight, piloted by Katsuzo Shima, Mitsubishi's test pilot. The Japanese Navy accepted the prototype on september 1939, under the designation "A6M1 Carrier Fighter". The first 15 planes were delivered to the Japanese Navy in July 1941, and at the end of the month plane was accepted by the Navy as "Type O Carrier Fighter Model 11" or Zero-Sen, as it was more popularly known. The nickname was shortened to "Zero" by Allied pilots, and it stuck ever since.

Over its glorious career, there were over 10,000 Zero-sen's built, in various versions, with new engine designs and new weaponry. The plane was under continuous development throughout the war, adapting to the enemy's new planes and so on. Alongside the Spitfire, this is definitely one the most famous airplanes that have flown in the skies during World War II - no other planes were as much feared by their enemies as these two.

Technical information: Mitsubishi A6M6c Model 53C "Zero-Sen"

Dimensions:

Span: 36 ft. 1 in.
Length : 29 ft. 9 in.
Height : 9 ft. 2 in.
Wing area : 229.271 sq .ft.

Weigths:

Empty : 3920 lb
Normal loaded : 6026 lb
Maximum : 6508 lb

Armament:

Two type 99 20 mm cannon

Three 13.2 mm machineguns One 7.7 mm machinegun

Powerplant:

One Nakajima NK1P Sakae 31 14-cylinder air-cooled two-row radial engine, generating 1210 hp at 2800 rpm for take-off, and 1210 hp at 8100 ft. and 1055 hp at 20,400 ft.

Performance:

Maximum speed : 364 mph (at 19680 ft), 289 mph (at sea level)
Cruising speed : 201 mph
Maximum range : 1130 miles at 152 mph, 875 miles at 212 mph
Initial climb rate : 3140 ft./minute
Time to 20000 ft. : 7.8 minutes
Service ceiling : 35100 ft

Technical information from William Green's "Famous Fighters of the Second World War", MacDonald & Co, 1957.

Designed to meet the incredibly high bar made by the Japanese navy (an aircraft capable of 500mph, two 25mm cannons, and two 7.5mm machine guns, bombing ability), the A6M was originally designated the “Hamp” by the Allies, before being called the “Zeke”, then finally settled on “Zero”, because of the Japanese designation “Navy Type Fighter 00 (or double-zero)”.

Due to the aforementioned requirements, lead designer Jiro Horikoshi made the aircraft as light as possible (a new super-light alloy was created just for this aircraft), stripping all protection away from the pilot, the engine, and all other critical points of the plane. Drop tanks' were added for ones intended for long journeys.

Testing was done in the early '40s over China, were a confirmed 269 Chinese aircraft were shot down by a single force consisting of 15 A6Ms.
The first major engagement that A6Ms were involved was the attack on Pearl Harbor, making up the bulk of the Japanese force.
The planes were superior in almost every way to equivalent Allied aircraft of the time, though it severely lacked resilience; a A6M could use it’s ammunition on one F4F, and still have the F4F be capable of flight, while the A6M itself could only take a small amount of damage before being rendered inoperable.

Still, its speed and great numbers put it in a favorable position against other Allied aircraft (at least during the mid-years of the war), making it useful as a fighter, and, once again, its speed made it excellent for use in hit and run attacks’, and several later Japanese as well as Allied planes began incorporating features from it.

Unfortunately, its one advantage on the field (speed), was lost when the Allied Grumman F6F Hellcat, Vought F4U Corsair and Lockheed P-38’s were brought to the pacific theatre of the war (the above-mentioned aircraft were partially designed as a retaliatory response to the A6M).

Because of its lost superiority, remaining A6Ms were used for the last part of the war as kamikaze suicide bombers, due to there still respectable velocity.

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