Mitsubishi A6M "Reisen" / "ZEKE"
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Mitsubishi A6M "Reisen" / "ZEKE"

ron, e-mail, 08.04.2020 04:51

By default the A6M5 got stuck with about 5.3 lbs/hp without armor or more guns.
4.3 was a meaningful advantage for the A6M8 with armor and more guns.

Ron, e-mail, 08.04.2020 04:20

4.3 lbs per hp was the P/L of the A6M8 vs 5.7 for the F6F-5 if you look at the 1620 hp WEP for the Mitsubishi Ha-112 II engine at 2,900'. Imagine if this engine powered the A6M5 back in 1943 as intended.

David Strange, e-mail, 13.07.2017 22:50

I think one of the missed opportunity was replacing the Type 97 7.7x56mmR MG with the Type 2 13x64mmB MG as the cowling weapon in the A6M. The same could be said for the Aichi D3A and Yokosuka D4Y having their Type 97 replaced by cowling Type 2. But for some reason the Imperial Japanese Navy never adopted the Type 2 (German MG131) for the purpose it was originally designed for, a cowling machine gun. The improved hitting power made available to the Zero would have made a difference against the Grumman F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair. U.S. Self sealing fuel tanks were good against Ball .50 ammo, not 13mm HE or HEI, and the 13mm API was effective against much of the armor on U.S. aircraft. It just seems like a missed opportunity to address one weak area of IJN aircraft which they had and failed to use.

Hayate84, e-mail, 19.01.2017 08:05

The Zero may have had it's faults, but the skin being flammable (at least the assertion that it was more so than other aircraft of it's day) is s myth. If it was,the US being as obsessed with aircraft structural redundancy as they were wouldn't have used to make the B-50 bomber, (basically just an uprated B-29 made out of 7075 aluminum)not to mention M-16 rifles.

Ron, e-mail, 03.01.2017 08:21

The A6M2 Model 21 Zero was able to turn a 360 in about 11 seconds, just about as well as the Ki 43-I Oscar, it's Army counterpart.
However, the Zero left the Oscar behind in speed, range, and firepower. Both lacked armor.

The Model 22 upgraded firepower with the slower but high velocity long range 20mm cannon, and combat range was restored from the penalty suffered by the clipped-wing Model 32.
Speed was better than the A6M2 as well as higher altitude performance (335.5 and 338.6 respectively vs 331mph).

After the prolific A6M5 lost the chance to upgrade to the 1,560 hp Ha-112-II engine planned by the design team, the Zero had crested already. Thus it only reached 351 mph and then declined in competence as it put on weight without more hp increase to compensate. The Navy pinned their hope on the methane injected A6M6 which failed.
The 348 mph A6M5a with more ammo and 346 mph A6M5b with thicker skin, still had no seat-back armor like the Oscar Ki 43-II had, and then the 336 mph A6M5c with armor and more guns, lost the speed advantage over the Oscar. With each improvement, speed was slower for the Zero. This disappointed the Navy so much that they relented and finally allowed the 1,560hp for the 357 mph A6M8, but that was only ready at the end (2 years too late). Meantime, the Allied fighters were leap-frogging the speed of both the Oscar and Zero which were still produced in 1945 but with 1941 performance.

Japan could have made better use of these resources by consolidating it's whole fighter industry to produce the best reliable engines and put them in the best fighters. All the rest of the production was inefficient and at cross-purposes if not outright obsolete. Japan had the reliable engine for the less than agile J2M5: 1820 hp Mitsubishi MK4U-4 Kasei 26a. The Ki 100 was a winning design but underpowered. Put them together and you have a high altitude interceptor better than either the Jack (Raiden) or radial Tony (Goshikisen) seperately. Now you have both a bomber interceptor and dogfighter in one. Put this on every fighter production line in Japanese territory starting before 1945. Now the B-29s have a high altitude threat, as does their escort! No Japanese single-seater besides about 35 J2M5s could approach that and they couldn't dogfight like a Ki 100! Imagine thousands of 1820 hp Ki 100s in place of all the others including the obsolete Zero and Oscar for the last half of WW2 or even the last year!

ron, e-mail, 11.06.2016 03:10

7.7mm Type 97:
7.7x56mm R Cartridge
800 rpm sync; 1000 rpm
600m Range
750mps M/V
Ball 11.3g
AP 11.3g
T 8.45g
I 8.63g
10.03g Ave
Sync/ 133.4gps
CP 1
GP 11

Faster RoF than Type 89 but less M/V.

ron, e-mail, 02.06.2016 13:47

The HE must be in the 20mm Type 99 cannon belt composition too, as I detailed (under the API). I should have written
2 API, 1 HE, 1 HET, 1 HEI.
The HE shell is most important.

ron, e-mail, 02.06.2016 12:35

The 13.2mm Type 3 HMG belt composition was 2 HEI, 1 TB, 1 AP:

48g Yellow HEI; 0.7g PETN; 1.6g Incendiary.

48.2g Red TB; 0.2g orange tracer lasts 8 seconds.

51.8g White AP.

A 51.6g ball round (Black) was also available.

792mps M/V. 800 rpm, synchronized 450 rpm RoF. Range 900m.

ron, e-mail, 02.06.2016 11:28

I believe a typical cannon belt composition for the Type 99 was 2 API, 1 HET, 1 HEI:

130.4g white API; 3.4g I (77.7% nitro).

124.7g dark brown HE; 10.2g PETN/TNT (60/40).

127.6g red self-desrtructing HET; 5.7g (5g PETN/0.7g gun powder); 5.5g T.

128.4g greenish-yellow with a white band HEI; 5g TNT; 3g WP & 1g Nitro incendiary.

There are 8 more choices of ammo too.

This RAAF source puts M/V of the Type 99 Mk I at 597m.
The range is 503m.

The Type 99 Mk II M/V is 743m. Range is 640m, at most (sounds low to me).

Ron, e-mail, 23.01.2016 01:06


319 mph was for the A6M1 @ 11,811' alt.

A6M2 went 331 mph @ 14,927' alt.
unboosted of course.

Ron, e-mail, 23.01.2016 01:00

The A6M2 max level speed was 319 mph @ 14,927'
Climb to 19,685/7 min. 27 sec.

A6M3-32 speed was 337 mph @ 19,685' alt/7 min. 19 ses.
A6M3-22 speed was 334 mph @ 19,685' ait

A6M5 speed was 351 mph @ 19,685' alt/7 min. 1 sec.
A6M5c speed was 336 mph @ 16,404' alt/5 min. 50 sec.

A6M7 speed was 337 mph @ 19,685' alt. 26,246'/9 min 58 sec.
A6M8 speed was 356 mph @ 19,685' alt/6 min. 50 sec. Climb.

Oldgysgt, e-mail, 17.01.2016 07:02

The Mitsubishi A6M Reisen / Zeke’s strengths were also its Achilles heel. The reason for its fine performance was its light wing loading, giving it long range, a high climb rate, and expellant maneuverability. However, to achieve this it sacrificed pilot armor, self sealing fuel tanks, redundant structural members, and it used Magnesium, (a metal that burns ferociously when ignited), in its airframe. One of the main reasons it easily bested so many allied pilots early in the war was most fighter pilots had been taught the same “turn and maneuver” tactics that their fathers had used in 1917. If a pilot tried that crap against a “Zero”, he very soon found his foe was on his “six” throwing 20mikemike up his “kister”. General Chennault figured it out, before anyone else; you didn’t mix it up with Zeros. You dove through them, blazing away, kept going to gain speed, and then zoomed up at a safe distance to do it again. No one listened to Chennault at first because the serving officers in the US and UK air services figured, “What does an ex-Army Air Corps Colonel, serving as a mercenary in China, know about aerial tactics”. Once the allies started using appropriate tactics and started getting better fighters, the light Magnesium construction and lack of pilot and fuel tank protection came back to haunt Zero jockeys. With such a light airframe even the Zero’s long legs could cause problems; if a Zero suffered even moderate battle damage, and was 500 “wet” miles from a friendly landing area, its light structure might not hold together long enough to make it back to the barn. Because of this and the “Die for the Emperor” mentality of almost all Japanese military personnel, many pilots didn’t bother to wear a parachute. This willing omission practically guaranteed the loss of a fighter pilot for every Zero lost. The inadequate nature of war-time Japanese fighter pilot training, coupled with trained pilots going down with their crippled aircraft,(some lighting the sky like so many Magnesium flares), meant that eventually you had poorly trained Japanese rookies going up against highly trained, (and many combat veteran), US and British Empire opponents in the air. Check out the Marianas Turkey Shoot! In 1940 the Mitsubishi A6M was the finest carrier born fighter in the world, and probably one of the finest fighters in the world period. But by 1943 it was no longer the threat it had been, and by 1944 it was well past its prime. Unlike the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Supermarine Spitfire, the Mitsubishi A6M did have as much “stretch ability” in the original design; so unfortunately, like a lot of WWII aircraft, it was forced to soldier on past the point of obsolescence. You can only go so far relying on past glory to get by.

Ron, e-mail, 24.12.2015 15:01

Climb rate for the A6M8 at 26,240' was 3140 fpm according to Green.

Ron, e-mail, 18.02.2015 04:06

450 rpm was the RoF for the cowl Type 3 13.2mm HMG.
7.5 rps.

Ron, e-mail, 08.11.2014 10:52

The IJNAF Zero fighter proved to be the master of early Allied fighters it met on it's debut in China.
The A6M2 was only successfully dealt with by the Flying Tigers with hit and run diving tactics. But most did not heed them when they warned the US about the Zero even before Pearl Harbor was attacked. For the next 6 months it took on all comers even virtually annihilating a Spitfire Wing in Burma!

The A6M2 Zero was the first strategic escort fighter with unbelievable range. Flights could last all day.
It was able to do a full 360 turn in about 11 seconds, but roll rate was bad with speed: 56 dgs/sec @ 160 mph and 37 @ 324 mph. Stick forces were so heavy over 240 mph.
Most all early Allied fighters had worse altitude performance than the Zero.
Zero pilots could reportedly get 345 mph with boost.
It could climb 4517 fpm, but dive limit was less than 410 mph.
It had 2 light MGs and 2x 20mm cannons (just like the Bf 109E). Ammo: 60 rpg for the 20mm and MV was low. RoF was slow too @ 520-550 rpm.
It's acceleration was excellent, giving Allied pilots the impression it was faster than their planes even if their top speed was higher.
Just like early war fighters in 1939 Europe, it had no armor. The Zero's defense was offence.
Just as important, it had many veteran pilots.

The A6M3 had 2 versions. First the clipped wing Model 32 which had improved dive limit of 416 mph and better altitude performance, roll rate and acceleration. But a full turn took over 12 seconds and climb was 3100-4500 fpm, still good enough but range was much shorter causing many losses.
So the more numerous Model 22 restored the full span and added fuel tankage to become the longest range Zero. Some had the new high velocity 20mm cannons, but RoF was slower @ 490 rpm. Most now had 100 rpg ammo.
By now the Zero had lost it's mystique as well as too many experienced pilots at Midway. Besides that, a second generation of powerful US fighters were overmatching the A6M in combat with the tactics like the Flying Tigers used. They avoided fighting the Zero's fight. Zero pilots had to be good deflection shots to score with only a 6 shell cannon burst against the well armored American fighters. especially feared was the Corsair, Lightning (up high), and British Spitfire Mk VIII.
The zenith of the Zero had been reached. Now it was on the defence and still no armor when all other Japanese fighters had at least some pilot protection by this stage.

Now came the most numerous A6M5 Model 52. The design team intended it to get a 1500+ hp engine upgrade but this was turned down by the Navy Brass! This combined with abbreviated pilot training, doomed not just the Zero but Japan.
It did about 350+ mph with the short span of the clipped Model 32. The Model 52 took over 16 seconds to complete a full 360 turn (the A6M5a,b,c and especially the A6M7 would take more time than the lighter A6M5). It also got 125 rpg for the cannons. With the A6M5b came bullet proof glass in front and some fire protection.
By the end of the war the last 240 Zeros (A6M5c & A6M7) finally got armored pilot seatbacks (but only about half the 16mm thickness in the Ki 61-II pilot armor) out of over 10,000 produced! This degraded their top speed to 340-345 mph but these could dive 460 mph. They now had at least 5 guns too. 13.2mm MGs were added, fist to the cowl (replacing one 7.7mm gun) with 230 rpg, later to the wings with 240 rpg. RoF was 800 rpm; 400 rpm synchronized in the cowl. Now overweight, it was obsolete, a shadow of past glory. Even the late model P-40N was a now a threat (at least down low)!

The IJNAF torch had long since been passed to the N1K Shiden fighter-bomber and J2M Raiden interceptor.

Ron, e-mail, 07.11.2014 08:09

Rate of roll for the A6M2:
Best was at speeds much less than 160 mph, but at that speed it rolled 56 dgr/sec.

It really started to stiffen controls with speed:
52 dgr/sec @ 230 mph;
50 dgr/sec @ 250 mph;
37 dgr/sec @ 324 mph (NACA chart limit for Model 21 Zero).

Zero pilots likely preferred to stay far from 324 mph rolls, or even 250 mph. Who knows how good it rolled off the slow end of the NACA chart? None of the other fighters did their best rate under 160 mph so that's where the comparison chart starts unfortunately.

Ron, e-mail, 01.11.2014 01:41

Of about 6,000 A6M5s, 470 were A6M5bfrom mid 1944;
93 were A6M5c from Sept, 1944.
These were produced after Jiro Horikoshi was replaced and, failing to get the intended Kinsei 62, were out-performed by even the Ki 43-IIIa in speed as well as max range, climb, acceleration and aerobatics. However the Zero had improved it's firepower and was catching up in protection.

Ron, e-mail, 22.10.2014 00:21

Since Allied fighters were less agile, they tended to take straight shots especially the USAAF.
If the Japanese planes all added a cannon in the tail-cone, it could have played havoc with would-be assailants. Low percentage deflection shots would be resorted to even more by the Allied pilots.
Perhaps the obsolete Zero and Oscar would have had more of a fighting chance after the first year of glory. Even when diving away after attacking B-29s, a 30mm cannon stinger could give a telling parting shot from Japanese interceptors (perhaps a 37mm cannon on twin engine Japanese fighters). Any US escort fighter would be distracted if not intimidated.

As it was, the slow Zero and Oscar soldiered on beyond their prime and Japanese pilots liked it that way, unfortunately for them.
Perhaps this simple addition of a high velocity tail-stinger on ALL their fighters would have gone a long way to even the odds when Japan was thrown onto the defensive.

Ron, e-mail, 04.10.2014 11:06

A6M3/5 pilots who didn't want to lose their speed would do fast yoyos and limit turns to 45 dgs. Over Okinawa some used fast barrel rolls and violent skids in the Zero. Energy tactics capilaizing on initial acceleration, but not as extended as the Allied pilots.

Ron, e-mail, 09.09.2014 07:34

Anthony Cooper's 'Darwin Spitfires' site posts the RAAF Spitfire Vc Trop comparison with the Zero 32.
There it has the 1G stall speed of 55 knots per hour IAS or 63 mph for the Hamp and a max level speed of 291 knots or 335 mph @ 16,000' and a ceiling of 32,500'.

Though the Mk VcT had a speed and ceiling advantage, the Hamp was competitive due to it's lighter wing and power loading even around the Spit's critical altitude of 21,000' (5,000' higher than it's own). It's acceleration compensated up to 30,000' for speed limit disadvantage. A loop would cause the Spit to stall at the top if it followed. Even a dive initially favored the A6M3 due to acceleration not to mention the carb problem requiring the Mk VcT to half-roll first to dive. The Zero could do a negative-g dive no sweat.
The new engine of the Hamp gave it better altitude prowess than the old A6M2.

Perhaps the sluggish Mk VcT was the weak link in the chain of Spitfire contenders vs the zenith of the Zero Hamp before fading into obsolesence when the A6M5 was denied an engine upgrade.

Ron, e-mail, 08.09.2014 12:27

Many are unaware of the fact that Zeros and Spitfires met in combat for 5 months of raids on Darwin, Australia.

I posted the mock dogfight evaluation by the RAAF between a captured A6M3 Hamp and a Spitfire Mk V Trop at the Spitfire site.

The pilots on both sides of the battle included many aces so they weren't below average, second string greenhorns as suggested by some after trying to rationalize the results.

The tactics had been already adjusted following the previous annihilation of a virtual Wing of Spitfires in Burma against Japanese pilots (Oscars mostly).

So the Spitfire pilots were overconfident, not expecting even a stand-off or draw this time.
Problem is the new cipped wing Zero 32 showed up!
It owned the Spitfire below 20,000'. But it avoided combat over 30,000'. Niether side could win.
Too many Spitfires were lost but they held the sky.

Thing is the lowly P-40E did better at Darwin than the Spitfire did against the Zero!
The Curtis lacked the climb rate and high altitude performance but had reliable guns that didn't freeze and malfunction up there either; it also had better acceleration than the Mk V tropicalized Spit, not to mention better dive and roll.
With enough warning both RAAF fighters could dive on the Japanese bombers with firing passes and escape the Zeros.

Jack, e-mail, 03.09.2014 02:58

The following is from an AIAA report, dated 1976.

It was not until late 1942 that a captured Zero was made available to the U,S, Technical Intelligence Unit for flight test. Excerpts from the USATI are as follows.

The zero fighter is superior to all our present service type aircraft in regards to maneuverability. It is necessary to maintain a speed of over 3oo mph indicated tp successfully combat this aircraft. This superiority is recognizable in the fact that maximum manifold pressure can be maintained from sea level to 16,000 feet.
2 Never maneuver with the zero at speeds less than 300mph indicated
Never follow the Zero in a climb at low speeds. Service type ships will stall at the steep angle where the Zero has reached its most maneuverable point. At this point it is possible for the Zero to complete a loop and attack from the rear.

Ron, e-mail, 07.07.2014 22:35

The RoF for the synchronized 13.2mm cowl HMG, starting with A6M5b Zeros, was perhaps 400 rpm. It's been said that it is faster than the heavier US Browning gun but that may be true only of the P-39 cowl 0.50 (12.7mm) HMG (reduction gear drive), not prop drive designs like the P-40C ets... After all, the 13.2mm Type 3 is even larger caliber than the MG131's 13.1mm and the round is heavier. Therefore, the way faster 700 rpm synchronized rate found at some forums are suspect in my opinion since it is still a Browning based design like the Army Airforce Ho-103 at 900 rpm and 400-450 rpm synchronized.
400 rpm is a 50% reduction from the uninterrupted 800 rpm wing mounted Type 3s of the A6M5c and A6M7. That seems in line. I've seen 400 rpm online as well as 700 so I'll lean toward the 400 as more credible.

Speaking of the underpowered A6M5c and 7, I can't see weighing down the wings with a pair of Type 3s but leaving only 1 Type 3 in the cowl instead of a pair. The 0.30mm has no place by this late date against US aircraft!

If the only ace the Zero can play by then is manuverability, don't add this weight to the wings until more power is under the hood, if then.
What's your opinion?

Ron, e-mail, 25.06.2014 21:00

The A6M3 Model 32 with clipped wings lessened control stiffness at speed.
It was the full span A6M3 Model 22 that got the high velocity cannons. It also restored the range lost by the Hamp.

Oldgunny, e-mail, 23.05.2014 22:23

Make that, (Some old myths never die).

Oldgunny, e-mail, 23.05.2014 22:16

Some old myths never lie, such as the old WWII chest-nut that the Mitsubishi A6M was a copy of the Howard Hughes R1 racer. The only things these two aircraft have in common are they both are single seat single radial engine monoplanes with a wide tract landing gear. The wing profile, fuselage, and control services are all different. The R1 was made with aluminum alloy and the A6M used large amounts of Magnesium in its airframe. This material and the lack of self-sealing fuel tanks and little or no pilot armor protection gave the A6M a very low wing loading, making it very maneuverable and giving it an excellent range. Once the US pilots learned not to get into a turning match with the A6M, the Zeke’s vulnerability became apparent.

Chung, e-mail, 20.05.2014 12:03

Is there a evidence to prove that zero fighter was even sent from Japan to Germany during WW2?

Ron, e-mail, 16.05.2014 22:57

The disappointing A6M6 failed to reach production status.
The A6M7 production run of 148 Zeros coincided with the Mk5 of the Model 2 Type 99 production from May 1945. This could br significant. Hold that thought.

This fighter-bomber not only had full protection but also bomb and rocket rails that slowed it down and still without the needed engine power of the faster A6M8.

If they were finally armed with that new faster Mk5 cannon, they now had a 5kg salvo per second of high velocity fire!
These 20 mm cannons had a rate of 750 rpm each and the 13.2 mm HMGs, also wing-mounted had a rate of 800 rpm each and the one in the cowl was 700 rpm synchronized. How many fighters can match that? 9.9g of HE in some of it's 20 mm shells and over 63 rps pattern of density with the heaviest standard MG in WW2. The J2M or N1K had 48 rps pattern density.

Many A6M7s were used as night fighters in 1945, not just as bomb toting kamikazes.

Even If it was now surpassed in speed by the latest Ki 43-IIIa (still just 2 MGs), the A6M7 certainly improved its bite at least (that's smart. Its slow top speed could be less of a handicap than as a day fighter).
The cannon armed Ki 43-IIIb was only pre-production to my knowledge.

Ron, e-mail, 14.04.2014 09:12

The A6M2 could out-gun, outloop and out-run the Ki 43 but not out-roll or out-turn it.

The A6M3 had the new high velocity 20 mm cannon (Type 99 Model II)

The A6M7 fighter-bomber had a level top speed of 340 mph (no water-methenol injection). 150 produced. Used for Kamikazi mostly.

Ron, e-mail, 14.04.2014 08:31

Hughes statement to that effect before congress was an obvious attempt to enhance his stature with hubris evoking a stereotype that had traction back then.

However it was more factual that the Fw 190 was inspired in part by his 1935 racer, not the Zero! This was so dispite the fact that the Focke-Wulf tail looked different.

It's true that the Hughes racer had the pointy tail-end as did the A6M Reisen (like its predecessor the Mitsubishi A5M), but so did other fighters of WW2 like the Macchi and Fiat designs. But the propaganda wouldn't 'fly' if those were mentioned instead of the vaunted Japanese fighter. No one would believe the Italian or German planes were 'copies'.

Jiro Horikoshi didn't sit still for this slander by Hughes either. It's a matter of record.

This is a good site for exploding such false myths about Japanese fighter designs or anyone elses.
The vail of WW2 propaganda should be lifted by now. It had its day already.

machia, e-mail, 22.03.2014 09:57

Any truth to the old rumor that Mitsubishi was influenced by the Howard hughes racer built in 1935 in the design of this airplane? Epinage design is very similar.

Ron, e-mail, 27.02.2014 04:40

'The wind rises' movie is highly recommended. This tribute to the love of flight shared among plane designers isn't aimed only at aviation buffs.
The pre-war back-story of Mitsubishi fighters is the main focus of the A6M designer's saga rather than WW2 and its aftermath which are very brief but present in the film. Horikoshi's romantic love interest is compelling for all audiences, to round out the movie.

Ron, e-mail, 20.01.2014 09:04

Till the end the Zero made up at least half of the Japanese fighters encountered.

Since it was effectively obsolete for the last half of the Pacific war, I wonder what it would have been like if they had teamed up with other more competent types like the Shiden for a given mission -- like the Allies did with Ausie P-40s down low, F4U mid-level, and P-38s higher up.
Maybe they did and I haven't heard of it.
As a 'what if' scenario at least, since the A6M5 had the numbers and the N1K had the competence, combined - both types would be better off as one fighter force together. Maybe even some Raidens could serve as top cover on short flights. Leaving out army fighters for now since inter- service rivalry was so strong.
Maybe 1 unit of J2Ms, 2 units of NiKs, and 7 units of Zeros.
Not such a walk-over as all A6M5s alone!
Same for the army side. Perhaps the Oscar's numbers could be spearheaded with late war types likewise. Again, maybe they were. I think Ki 43s and Tonys complimented eachother on flights.
Can you imagine trying to dive from a Zero - only to find a Jack pouncing on you?

Ron, e-mail, 13.10.2013 18:45

We can say the A6M is the greatest Japanese fighter just based on its production. Its predecessor, the A5M was just over a tenth of the quantity, and its successor, the J2M was only one twentieth as many.
However a second glance shows that of the 10,937 Zeros, more A6M5s were built than any other model and the Zero was by then obsolete (Marianas turkey shoot). Thus the question arises if the resources couldn't have been better utilized on the J2M Raiden or at least the Nakajima factory that helped on the Zero could switch back to there own Ki 84 Hayate?
Alternately, Mitsubishi should have stuck to its guns on a new engine for the A6M5 as planned until the delayed methenal boosted engine matured (A6M6). Then do a fly-off between it and the stock A6M5 before mass production was committed to. In that case perhaps the Zero design team would have won the day. But the fact is 2 years later the A6M8 was accepted with the more powerful engine that was supposed to be in the A6M5 back in 1943. Too late now to correct the mistake! The prototype flew but then it was all over.
When you look at the puny production of all the late-war Japanese fighters except the A6M5,6, and 7, you may question if resources weren't misplaced. The Zero wasn't so great in 1944 and 1945.

Ron, e-mail, 18.10.2012 01:59

I was reading somewhere else about the A6M2 vs the Spit V.
Many can't fathom how the Spit fared so poorly when on paper it looks superior to the Zero.
Even after Allied tactics were adjusted and even when the Zero had to fly orders of magnitude farther to engage combat.

My answer is the light weight of the Zero. It's quickness and initial climb are invisible on paper where ceiling and maximum speed are relied on.Take off weight doesn't apply when it enters combat with only half it's fuel weight on board after 500+ miles one way. This was imposible to the Allied pilots. Not expecting any Jap fighters also had alot to do with the results.

Ron, e-mail, 18.10.2012 01:33

Hey bombadier.
I think if the Zero design team had their way, The A6M5 would not have been underpowered. They finally got permission for that engine in the A6M8. Of course now the war was all but over. In 1943 it would have kept the Zero more competitive. US pilots can thank the JINAF authorities for this blunder. Horikoshi is not to blame.

bombardier, e-mail, 02.09.2012 19:48

While it was impossible to fit the Zero with an engine that would keep it's speed equal to Allied fighters without increasing it's weight to unacceptable levels it was possible to fit it with more armour and self-sealing fuel tanks from the start.

Ron, e-mail, 23.03.2012 21:02

I found a dive limit for the A6M3 of 416.3 mph; 410 mph for the A6M2.?!
Of course lower speeds were more prudent since this is before the thicker skinned A6M5a (b, or c depending on source) to reach 460 mph terminal dive, to within about 30 mph of the typical F4U dive speed.
The A6M5c finally had the armored pilot seat but also added a fuel tank behind it that messed with the cg (ala P-51D) that pilots frowned on. Also gone was the last superfluous 7.7 mm MG. 3x 13.2 mm MGs now complimented the 2 high velocity 20 mm cannon and a belated fire suppression system piled on the weight. The needed power increase was not authorized by the Navy so level speed declined to the 340-348 mph range while the rival Ki 43-III caught up at 348 mph. in the last year of the war this is quite academic. They needed double the hp to matter in 1945, not 1300hp! In 1940 the Zero could do 345 with overboost and in 1945 the same - Just heavier weight. Too bad for Japan.

Hiroyuki Takeuchi, e-mail, 23.03.2012 09:29

The widely spread information that the engine quits on negative G on the A6M2 is misinformation from the test reports on the captured Zero with the carbs not adjusted properly. I say this because there was a valve located on the carb specifically for preventing the negative G engine stalls and Saburo Sakai, in one of this books published in Japan comments that he has never had a negative G engine stall on any Zero models, questioning the condition of the Zero tested in the US.

Ron, e-mail, 18.03.2012 06:27

Recently I came across the fact that the US testing of the first captured A6M2 was not flown in over-boost while the Japanese did use over-boost in combat against US fighters. Their pilots could get 345-348 mph out of it while US tests only went 331mph at best! Now I know why. Over-boost!
Perhaps that explains wide discrepancies in published initial climb rate as well. The US tests were 3100 fpm or less, but I've seen 4517 fpm elsewhere.
I used to wonder why the US pilots who survived the Battle of Wake Is, for example, would be not only out-turned but out-climbed and even out-run by A6M2 pilots although their USN F4F-3 could climb 3300 fpm and go around 330 mph. Yet they would complain about how out-classed they were in speed and climb as well as turn. Fantastic performance like 5000 fpm climb and unrealistic speeds were claimed for the Zero by the USN pilots. US Army P-39 and P-40 pilots too (from various battles)... and they could go over 331 mph. Go figure!
Before, I would think it was the quick acceleration of the A6M2 that explained the false impression of maximum speed and fpm initial climb rate. True, acceleration was a big advantage for the Japanese. But over-boost performance in the hands of Japanese pilots puts it all in a new light for me now.

MARINER, e-mail, 29.01.2012 02:45


ARNOLD ANDERSON, e-mail, 29.09.2011 03:46

There is a lot of wild conjecture which is totally incorrect. To understand the origin of the Mitsubishi 0 obtain book, Eagles of Mitsubishi by, Jiro Horikoshi.
The author was lead designer of the airplane.

Ron, e-mail, 28.02.2011 00:44

I found this:
"Considering the contemporary service aircraft were biplanes, Hughes fully expected the United States Army Air Forces to embrace his aircraft's new design and make the H-1 the basis for a new generation of U.S. fighter aircraft. His efforts to "sell" the design were unsuccessful. In postwar testimony before the Senate, Hughes indicated that resistance to the innovative design was the basis for the USAAF rejection of the H-1: "I tried to sell that airplane to the Army but they turned it down because at that time the Army did not think a cantilever monoplane was proper for a pursuit ship..."[7]

Aviation historians have posited that the H-1 Racer may have inspired later radial engine fighters such as the P-47 Thunderbolt and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190.[8] After the war, Hughes further claimed that "it was quite apparent to everyone that the Japanese Zero fighter had been copied from the Hughes H-1 Racer." He noted both the wing planform, the tail empennage design and the general similarity of the Zero and his racer.[9][N 2] Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi Zero strongly refuted the allegation of the Hughes H-1 influencing the design of the Japanese fighter aircraft."

Lynn seems to take Hughes' verbose posturing concerning the Zero as fact.
Even a rudimentary comparison of the A6M Zero to his H-1 racer shows no such copying took place.
Historians see it inspiring possibly the P-47 or maybe the German Fw 190 but they don't include the Zero even if Hughes does.
Further, being inspired by a pre-war racer is not the same as buying it and copying it as a fighter plane.
His point that the US Army mentality was slow to accept the monoplane fighter concept like his H-1 was to prove true. But all fighter designers of WW 2 followed this path generally speaking.
Hughes' postwar hyperbole to stress his point was pandering to the war propaganda against Japan and the A6M Zero.

And certainly it deserved a challenge then and even more so now.
What are your thoughts?

Ron, e-mail, 18.01.2011 06:55

D Lynn,
Do you have any credible evidence or proof.
Such a post is hard to take seriously otherwise.
Perhaps a half-truth maybe. Maybe not.
It begs for some light of day.
There was a time when such would pass for fact without further rigor, but that was in 1941 or 42!

D Lyn, e-mail, 04.01.2011 21:36

I have heard that Howard Hughes designed the Zero and offered it to the U S but they wern't interested. It was made of spruce Plywood. The Japanese later bought it.

Bill Brickhouse, e-mail, 02.01.2011 04:35

Looks like the ZERO has been cut short here. The A6M series started with the Model 11 and went thru the Model 63. Showing only the Model 21 is hardly telling the story of the A6M, I realize you cant show every detail but there is a lot missing.

Ron, e-mail, 29.11.2010 23:09

For all the inexperienced pilots in the new A6M5, I'm amazed that only a couple of fighters did any better than it did to the end.

Aaron, e-mail, 21.09.2010 18:39

Confidental report titled COMPARATIVE PERFORMANCE AND CHARACTERISTICS REPRESENTATIVE ENEMY AND ALLIED AIRCRAFT lists the ZEKE 32 and ZEKE 52 along with seven other Japanese fighters. The following are characteristics of the A6M2 type 32 ZERO: ZEKE 32 type 0, Mitsubishi/Nakajima.
Engine: Nakajima Sakae 12. 1120hp/S.L. 930hp/16,600ft. Armament: 2x20mm + 2x7.7mm. Range: 1,585mls/184mph/228gallons of fuel. Climb: 3580fpm/S.L. 2940fpm/18,600ft. 10,000ft/2.7min. 20,000ft/6.1min. This would make maximum climb rate around 3800fpm/5000ft. Maximum Speed: 297mph/S.L. 348mph/20,600ft.
The following is for the A6M5 type 52 ZERO: ZEKE 52 type 0, Mitsubishi: Engine: Nakajima Sakae 21. 1115hp/S.L. 965hp/19,700ft. Armament: 2x20mm + 2x7.7mm. Range: 1640mls/147mph/243gallons of fuel. Climb: 2800fpm/S.L. 2470fpm/19,700ft. 10,000ft/3.4min. 20,000ft/7.4min. Maximum Speed: 289mph/S.L. 354mph/21,000ft. Service Ceilings are listed as: ZEKE 32 - 35,900ft. and ZEKE 52 - 39,300ft.
Test weights were ZEKE 32 - 5650lbs and ZEKE 52 - 5920lbs.

Ron, e-mail, 20.09.2010 07:33

Put another way, if the J2M had worked out when planned without the delays or the N1K had a BMW like reliable power plant, they could have replaced the Zero sooner on the production lines to better match the production of the new US Navy fighters. Meantime the Army's Ki 61 Tony was doing it's part (aside from the engine trouble).

Ron, e-mail, 20.09.2010 07:03

Even though some Zeros dove up to 460 mph from the later A6M5 models through the A6M6, and 7; but most A6M5 Zeros (the prolific initial lighter model before the A6M5a, b, and c) were only able to dive to 410 mph! So I presume your post is about the early war Zeros like the Model 11, 21, 22, and 32, which is true.
My post was obviously fanciful. It's interesting to wonder if the Japanese could have influenced each other a bit more (like the Allies), the Germans wouldn't have a 3+ second gap in turn vs Yaks and the Japanese wouldn't have suffered such a turkey shoot over the Marianas with slightly tougher, faster Zeros.

D.Jay, 12.09.2010 18:09

Ron the Zero with MG 151 cannon an armoured seat and a BMW engine would not have worked,it was so manouverable because it was made with a light and feabel airframe. To take these mods it would have to have been strengthend so much it would then be heavy so turn rate would have not been so inpresive. also it was unflyable at speeds over 380mph (in a dive) and at over 400 the wings would come off. It was no Spitfire, where the Spitfire could take bigger engines and bigger guns with out much trouble the zero had no room for improvments.

Ron, e-mail, 03.09.2010 22:52

Francis, Japan did get a Bf 109 and an Fw 190 from Germany.
I haven't heard of the reverse.

Ron, e-mail, 08.08.2010 05:36

In 1940 if the Luftwaffe got an A6M2 Model-11, Can you imagine the range and turn rate German planes would incorporate afterward. Maybe they would return it back to Japan later on with 2 or 4 fast MG 151 cannon and an armored seat not to mention a boosted BMW radial engine!

Francis Dec, e-mail, 04.08.2010 07:11

Did Japan ever sell export versions of their aircraft? Imagine Poland buying A5M's and using them in 1939?

Ron, e-mail, 03.06.2010 06:34

Sorry the Zero makes you feel that way. Take a look see at the Mitsubishi J2M5 Raiden. The RAF was impressed.
Want quantity? Try the Nakajima Ki 84 Hayate. The US took notice.
The one that impressed the Japanese themselves was the Kawasaki Ki 100 Goshikisen!
Of course the A6M2 Zero was king in 1942. Unfortunately it was forced to stay in the ring well past it's prime. This kept the major production effort away from those newer contenders. So, Japan suffered. Thus you have reason to like the Zero. Think about it Dude.

Ian, e-mail, 28.05.2010 11:49

I wish to build a 75% flying aircraft ( light sports aircraft) can anyone help with construction plans please

Ta-183 Huckebein, 16.05.2010 16:04

That airplane starred in 'Tora, Tora, Tora!', 'Pearl Harbor', and 'The Countdown'

Mike Dunne, e-mail, 18.03.2010 07:36

The very knowlegable Captain Eric Brown RN test flew just about every plane used in WWII including even the Me 163. He was a great admirer of the Zero. He tested them quite extensively and declared (and still does to this day) that the Zero was the best FIGHTER of the war up till mid 1943!

Forget outright speed! When the air fight starts, everyone is doing around 300mph max! If you haven't been in a sky full of hotheads hurtling about trying to kill one another, you really don't get the picture! The Zero was doing its best work at this speed...throttle right open and FIGHT! Same goes for the Hellcat...

Leo Rudnicki, 29.11.2009 11:13

Thank you for the correction on 20 mm cannons. Regarding radios, all Zeroes were originally fitted with radios and radio direction finders. All shipboard Zeroes carried radios for RDF. Unit commanders had a code key for reporting. However, voice comm was not possible using the set since installation and static suppression had never de-bugged due to lack of coordination between a/c, engine and radio manufacturers. Hence the use of flares at Pearl Harbour. Hence the mention by Saburo Sakai that he regretted not being able to warn fellow pilots that they were being bounced. Land-based Zeroes commonly removed the sets completely to save weight since RDF was not a factor.

DW75, e-mail, 28.11.2009 00:19

According to mr Gustin:
The Ho-5 20mm gun was based on the Browning .50, while 800 MG151/20 were delivered to Japan, these were not copied in any way but used "as is".
The MG-FF was a rebuild of the Oerlikon FF-F, while the Type 99-1 was a straight copy of it.
And where ever did you get the faerytale about Japanese not using radios from? As wrong as can be.

The P-39s 37mm has no relation to Madsen, but a Madsen cannon was COSIDERED for the P-39.

dude, 21.09.2009 13:09

japs suck!!!***%%$$######$$$$%%%%^^^&&&

Peter Mikelssen, 12.09.2009 22:54

I'm building a scale model of the Zero. Could someone tell me if the landing gear bays are interior green or metallic blue?

CHINESE, 14.06.2009 19:38


leo rudnicki, e-mail, 30.04.2009 17:15

I had a cg problem installing an integral tank .049 on a rubber powered Guillow. I shortened the nose by one former. If nobody notices Charlton Heston flying 6 planes on one mission, they won't notice if you lengthen the nose. The Japanese didn't use radios, too heavy. CG problems.

Ian Pratt, e-mail, 30.04.2009 16:59

I like the Zero for an RC project however balancing it is a big problem (because of the short distance the fuselage extends beyond the leading edge of the wings). Question: how did the Japanese solve this problem in the full scale Zero?

leo rudnicki, e-mail, 28.04.2009 01:47

My source on MG151/20 is totally unremembered, possibly some scurrulous site mentioning a German U-boat delivering them and then extrapolating the fact that the Ho5 must be the MG151/20, either delivered or copied. The best documented performance figures were obtained in actual fly-offs with the Aleutian A6M2 Zeke 21 and Saipan Zeke 52's against contemporary American iron. Now, I don't even know why I mentioned the MG151/20, altho it was pretty good. Never used on Zekes. I forgot my context. I had a bad encounter trying to find info on the P-39's 37mm cannon and nobody refered to it as a Madsen design, rather a Olds/colt M4 or a AAC T9. Crappy gun. I'm getting to old for this.

Ronald, e-mail, 27.04.2009 13:22

I believe when you say Zero, you mean the A6M2 Model 21, not the slower Model 11 of China fame. The A6m3 and later versions changed motors from the one that choked in the A6M2 when it dove. I'm with you on the FF cannon but can you share your sources on the MG 151/20 comment?
the Tony initially had these imported

leo rudnicki, e-mail, 10.04.2009 15:05

the type99 cannon was an oerlikon,swiss, same as german MGFF. Ho5 was the german MG151/20.the one piece wing was important when you dropped your sunglasses. Nice floor. On the TV show "dogfights" on history channel, max speed is given as 316mph. max for f4f given as 318. but they say the Zero is faster. I like the 331mph figure, got used to it. And Zero can't pull negative G, the engine quits.

Robbie Lownds, e-mail, 20.03.2009 18:46

To my fellow readers I apologize for spelling Horikoshi incorrectly. It was spelled Honkoshi in the information about the aircraft on the site.

Robbie Lownds, e-mail, 20.03.2009 18:44

To my fellow readers I apologize for spelling Horikoshi incorrectly. It was spelled Honkoshi in the information about the aircraft on the site.

Robbie Lownds, e-mail, 20.03.2009 18:19

The A6M "Zero" was beautifully designed and truly is a classic of World War II. Designer Honkoshi did a masterful job. The Zero did suffer from one major flaw in that the fuel tank had a terrible habit of exploding when hit by intense gunfire. The Hellcat for example was better protected and could take much more punishment in terms of structural endurance. I thank you for the opportunity to leave this message

Robbie Lownds, e-mail, 20.03.2009 18:18

The A6M "Zero" was beautifully designed and truly is a classic of World War II. Designer Honkoshi did a masterful job. The Zero did suffer from one major flaw in that the fuel tank had a terrible habit of exploding when hit by intense gunfire. The Hellcat for example was better protected and could take much more punishment in terms of structural endurance. I thank you for the opportunity to leave this message

Jill, e-mail, 07.01.2009 20:47

Any idea where I can find details and dimensions of the tail?

bao, e-mail, 06.01.2009 14:37

the zero ace pilot Saburo sakai surviving after wwii was the famous zero fighter pilot . he shoot down over 80 enemy plane

Ronald, e-mail, 15.10.2008 05:30

To solve the dilemma of an elevator control small enough not to be oversensitive at high speed and yet large enough to give adequate control for landing, Horikoshi and his team used finer strands of connecting cables and more flexible torque tubes to the elevator. With this innovation, at high loads due to speed the stretch would cause less elevator movement but when at landing speed there would be full travel of the elevator. This A6M2 feature was patented in Japan in 1940. They struck the right balance, avoiding high speed elevator flutter and non-responsive spongy controls at the same time. But aileron high speed flutter still limited dive speed even after it was largely solved by 12/7/41. You might wonder if the tail was placed further aft for dive stability like the P-40F (late version). While this was likely a good outcome, it was really done to stabilize the greater recoil of the 20mm wing cannon. The FFS motor cannon in the imported Dewoitine D.510 impressed the Japanese with it's hitting power. When FF cannons were tested on the wings of a Claude fighter for comparison in August 1938, it did better generally than the D.510 but for accuracy. The Claude had some horizontal scatter. When Jiro Horikoshi heard of this he made the tail design correction in the Zero. Why cannons on a weight saving fighter? The D.510 was the writing on the wall for the Zero. The thinking was to not only match what a future enemy fighter might pack but surpass it!
Besides the cannons on the A6M2 weren't that heavy. They were compact and light. At first the Type 99-1 cannon had limited ammo and muzzle velocity but with Navy approval it was a start.

Ronald, e-mail, 13.10.2008 21:18

Most Japanese fighters were designed to withstand a force of 7g. From 1932 all Japanese warplanes were required to meet a safety load factor of 1.8 so the limit for the A6M had to be 12.6g (1.8x7g). Thus weight had to be saved throughout it's design for example the wing and cockpit were made as one assembly with a one piece main spar when other fighters were bolting wings onto their fuselage at heavy casting points. Not only did this save weight, it gave the Zero's wings seamless integrity as well. Officially 391 mph was the terminal dive limit for the model 21 Zero. Stall speed was 73 mph.

Ronald, e-mail, 13.10.2008 04:03

Roll rate was 56 deg/sec @ 160 mph; 35 deg/sec @ 340 mph. At 100 mph it could roll with a spitfire Mk V (not the clipped LF), under 150 mph it out rolls the F4F-3 and P-47C, under 160 it out rolls the P-39D and P-51B, under 180 it out rolls the F6F-3 and P-38L, under 210 mph it out rolls the P-38F. Above 180 mph ailerons were sluggish and virtually ineffective above 230 mph. This and it's inferior dive acceleration gave allied pilots an escape by diving with a high speed roll. The Model 21 was the peak of Zero supremacy by virtue of close-in aerobatics together with 20 mm cannons and surprising range at such an early stage. Succeeding models offered only slight improvements when the Allies made giant leaps.

Ronald, e-mail, 12.10.2008 03:36

At 230 mph the A6M2 Zero 21 did a 1118' radius 180 degree turn was done in 5.62 seconds. For slower turns the radius was 612'. Normal positive g-load factor was 7g, safety limit was 8.8g; and normal negative was 3.5g with a safety factor of another 1.8g or 5.3g limit. Wing loading was 22 lb/sq. ft. Stability was neutral around all three axis, controls were light and beautifully harmonized. Stall was gentle and complemented it's slow speed dogfighting prowess. However as speed and altitude increased this diminished especially above 26,000'. Initial climb rate was 4517 fpm, not bad for 940-950 hp! 19,685' was reached in 7 min. 27 sec. Power loading was 5.59 lb/hp.

John, e-mail, 14.07.2007 02:06

For Zero details including cockpit try

Ross, e-mail, 02.03.2007 10:28

Dave Kirby, e-mail, 05.12.2006 10:00

Trying to verify a japanese aircraft part from pearl harbor attack is authenic. How can I get maybe a blue print of a Zero or maybe cockpit photos.

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