-The Mitsubishi A6M Zeke-


By the time Japan decided that was with the western Allies was un-avoidable, the Imperial
Navy had a foidable air component built around a efficient carrier group. To support dive
bombers and torpedo bombers the A6M zero was Japan's superb fighter. Japan's location
called for a fighter in itself with a long range, with a capable range of 1,000 miles. The
Mitsubishi A6M made it maiden test fligh in April of 1939. Despite a series of crashes-for
which there was no cause or solution- the designers were able to overcome the obstacle with
skill and application. In July of 1940 the "Zeke" or "Zero" as the Allies called it, entered service
with a force of 328 by the time Pearl Harbor came about. Following early victories, at the time
of the Battle of Midway in June of 1942, the Japenese Navy sufffered heavy losses. Total
aircraft losses were 247 including 94 A6M2s.
With the heart of the carrier force neutralized, the Imperial Navy based many of its fighters on
land and deployed a massive supply of highly skilled pilots to contain Allied airpower.
Japenese fighter aces took a steady toll of opposing aircraft but due to the ever stronger
Allied airpower Japenese pilots were slowly wittled down in number. Despite growing air
superiority few Allied pilots cared to prejudge the outcome of combat against a zero. In the
early part of the war numerous pilots paid the price for ignoring the edict, "Never dogfight with
a Zero". But as the war dragged on the number of pilots that were able to get the most out of
the Zero grew fewer. With the worsening war situation the Zero was tasked with difficult
interception sorties against B-29 raids and Kamikaze attacks.

The Mitsubishi A6M2
Type: Single-seat fighter

Span: 39' 4.5"
Length: 29' 8.75"
Height: 10' 1"
Weight empty: 3,704 lbs.
Number built: 3,432
Power plant: 780 hp Zuisei
Armament: 2 X 20 mm Type 99 MK I wing cannon plus 2 x fuselage-mounted 7.7-mm Type 97
machine guns; boms load up to 264 lbs of bombs .


Maximum speed: 316 mph
Range: 1,940 miles
Surface ceiling: 33,790 ft

The Mitsubishi A6M5
Type: Single-seat fighter

Span: 36' 1"
Length: 29' 11"
Height: 11' 6"
Weight empty: 4,136 lbs.
Number built: 5,704
Power plant: 1,100 hp Zuisei
Armament: 2 X 20 mm Type 99 wing cannon plus 2 x fuselage-mounted 13.2-mm TYpe 3
machine guns; bomb load up to 1,102 lb; 8 x 22 lb rockets or 2 x 132 lb.


Maximum speed: 408 mph
Range: 980 miles
Surface ceiling: 43,000 ft