A6M2 Type 0 Model 21 Zero


Model review

Hasegawa 1/48 A6M2 Type 0 Model 11 Zero (JT 42)

Box cover and painting guide

Kit
Inspirer of this model was a Japanese fighter ace Saburo Sakai, actually his book "Samurai" which I read for the first time many years ago. In his book Sakai tells us about the life and the battles of Japanese fighter pilots, Zero pilots, in the Pasific area during the second world war. I was very impressed of the book at the time and I think it is one of the best books about aerial war of the second world war. During my Zero building process I read the book again, can't remember number of the times I had done it before! But back to the business.

Hasegawa's JT42 kit depicts A6M2 Type 0 Model 11 Zero but it also includes all parts for Model 21. Both of the types can be built out of the box. You can find many parts that are marked "not to be used" in this kit. Hasegawa uses these same sprues also on later type Zero kit's. The kit is moulded in typical middle grey and quite hard plastic that Hasegawa use. Kit's main component's are accurate in shape and in dimensions. Surface detailing is nicely engraved but it may be too prominent on the wings. There is no flash on the kit. For some reason there are casting seams on the engine cowling but they can easily be removed with sanding paper. Kit's cockpit is nicely detailed and will be sufficient for most modellers. Landing gear wheel wells are too low, especially at front of the wells. This is very difficult to correct and I leaved them as is. Painting scheme and decals are only for Model 11.

I wanted to built A6M2 Model 21 plane which differs a little from the earlier Model 11. Next the most important visible differencies between these two types from a modellers view. There were also differencies between initial and late production versions of the Model 11, they are mentioned on the text. A6M2 Model 11 had two types of air intake below the engine cowling. The front part of the air intake was different on initial series and late production machines. The initial production Model 11 machines had a little curvature inwards below the front part of the air intake which lacked from the late production Model 11 and Model 21 machines. The second and more visible difference between the initial or the late production Model 11 machines is the location of the exhaust tubes. The first 34 Model 11 machines had the exhaust tubes on the fourth cowling flap. Later Model 11 and Model 21 machines had the exhaust tubes lower on the fifth cowling flap.

A change was made to the rear part of the cockpit canopy of A6M2 Model 11 planes starting from the 47th serial plane. The last window panel was covered with metal. This type of cockpit canopy was also used on A6M2 Model 21 planes. Wing cannon apertures were rectangle on initial production Model 11 planes and round on the late production Model 11 and Model 21 planes. The cockpit's fresh air ventilator gap on the right wing root was elliptic on initial production Model 11 planes and rectangle on late production Model 11 and Model 21 planes.

External mass balance weights were added under the ailerons of A6M2 Model 21 to prevent flutter at high speeds. They were used on the first 326 Mitsubishi built machines. From the 327th plane onwards the external mass balance weights were replaced with internal weights. On the ailerons of the Model 21 Flettner-type trim tabs were also used. The flaps were developed and assembled by the "Imperial Japanese Navy Air Depot" and they were in use only on 80 planes starting from the 127th serial plane. Although the Flettner-type trim tabs were used again later on Nakajima built planes.

A6M2 Model 11 was not capable for carrier use because it lacked arrester hook, DF-antenna and folding wing tips which came in use with the A6M2 Model 21. Often land-based units removed their untrusty radios and antennas from their planes (also DF-antenna) to save weight. My model depict Sakai's plane which also had it's radio equipment removed. The kit has two type of spinners, the shorter one was used on Model 11 and Model 21 planes.


Although the kits main components are accurate in shape and well detailed there is some imperfections and flaws that needs to be corrected when building a A6M2 Model 21 Zero model :

- pilots seat is lacking holes from back rest and from side edges of the seat
- you have to decide if there was external or internal mass balance weights on the plane you are going to model
- you have to decide if there was Flettner-type trim tabs on the plane you are going to model
- exhaust pipes protprudes from the fifth cowling flap on Model 21 planes
- wing cannon apertures were round on Model 21 planes
- cockpit's fresh air ventilator gap on the right wing root was rectangle on Model 21 planes
- Model 21 was the first carrier capable version. It had arrester hook, DF-antenna and folding wing tips
- Model 21 canopy had metal covered rearmost window panel (Model 11 had that rearmost window)
- rectangle shaped opening behind the overthrow strut is missing from the kit
- below the rear fuselage and ahead of arester hook a small protrusion have to be removed, I didn't see it on any photos I examined
- Zero's tailwheel well had a fabric covering which looked like a hanging bag, it's missing from the kit
- small rods above each wing indicating that landing gear is down are missing from the kit


Construction
I started building glueing wing halfs together. My model depicts Saburo Sakai's plane at the beginning stage of the Pasific war when Sakai flew A6M2 Model 21 Zero. Initial production Model 21 planes in service at the beginning stage of the war had external mass balance weights to prevent aileron flutter at high speeds, I installed them also to my model. Probable ailerons of Sakai's plane were later changed to internal mass balanced type. This change was carried out to all Model 21 Zeros on production lines or on field maintenance units. There's a small uncertainty with the Flettner-type trim tabs. I removed the Flettner-type trim tabs and their actuating rods from my model filling the trim tab panel lines with CA glue and sanded them off. Only a small number of all Model 21 planes had Flettner-type trim tabs.

I corrected wing cannon holes round and made a rectangle cockpit's fresh air ventilator gap (Model 21) to the right wing root. I drilled out the exhaust tubes and glued them to the fifth cowling flap. Next to the cockpit. Kits cockpit is well detailed and it was good enough for me without any aftermarket items. I painted the cockpit with Mitsubishi Interior Green and after painting the small details I built it ready. I detailed the cockpit with few levers and used Eduard's pre-painted photo-etched seat-belts. Eduard advice to use only one shoulder harness for the "Late" model, this is correct for Model 21 where the shoulder harness was took in use for the first time. Shoulder harness goes over pilots left shoulder and is attached to seat-belt. Previous Model 11 had only seat-belts. I painted fuselage interiors with Aotake color which was corrosion protection paint.

After I had glued fuselage halfs together I noticed from photos that a rectangle shaped opening behind overturn rack on top of the fuselage under canopy is missing from the kit. I marked the place of the openening with a pencil according photos and then drilled small holes close to each others along the line. Then I cutted the piece off with hobby knife and flattened sides of the opening with a file. I had fitting problems on upper side of the front fuselage. Upper part of the front fuselage didn't fit well on it's place, there was a little step which needed putty. Puttying and sanding seams faded out panel lines which had to be re-scribed. Sanding the panel lines also faded away machine guns service panel's fastening screws which had to be drilled out. I also re-scribed two upermost panel lines on the rear fuselage. This kit is moulded with finely engraved panel lines and details which easily dissapears when sanding.

After the cockpit was glued in its place it was time to connect wings to the fuselage. It was tricky job due to bad fit of the wing/ fuselage joint at the trailing edge of the wing and under the nose. First I glued front edge of the wing to the fuselage under the nose with CA glue. Then I glued rear part of the wing to the fuselage also with CA glue using a clamp and tape. Then I adjusted wings v-angle exact with a tape strip which went from wingtip to wingtip over the fuselage. Tape tightened wing/ fuselage joint in place so it was easy to glue the wing /fuselage joint together with liquid cement. I had to putty and sand bad seams under the nose and fuselage. Also the dissapeared panel lines had to be re-scribed. Next I glued tailwheel and Model 21's arrester hook in their places. The kit is lacking tailwheel well fabric cover which on photos looks like a hanging bag. It was used on all Zeros and it protected tailwheel hydraulic and wheel well from dust and mud. I made the bag out of putty and when dry I sanded it to right shape. On the rear fuselage there is a depression above tailwheel at sides of the fuselage. Borders of the depression extends too high. I filled the depression with putty and re-shaped the spot according to the photo mentioned before.

Back edge of engine cowling is too thick plastic and it's good to make it thinner for more realism so the engine exhaust gas collector tubes at backside of the engine can be seen like they are in original plane. The job is easy to do with a hobby knife with new blade. Engine cowling sits well in its place after thinning it's back edge because the supports at the sides of the engine are pressed against inner sides of the engine cowling's supporting surfaces.


Painting
My model depicts A6M2 Model 21 manufactured by Mitsubishi and its painting differs from Nakajima built planes. Next a little about paintings and colors of Mitsubishi built A6M2 Model 21 planes.

Engine cowling looks often black on photos but on Mitsubishi built planes it wasn't black but rather blue black, often inside of the cowling too (cowling's inside could also have been natural metal or aotake). The closest FS-match is 25042 which is same color as the US Navy Sea Blue and it depicts well sun faded color. Cockpit canopy frames inside the cockpit and upper rear fuselage deck under the canopy was painted with this color. Also instrument panel decking was painted with this color.

Cockpits were painted Mitsubishi's Navy Aircraft Green which was a near match for the USN Interior Green (FS 34151) being a little darker and browner. I used FS 34151 straight from the can.

At the beginning stage of the war back sides of propeller blades were redbrown, later also front sides of propellers and also spinners were painted with redbrown. The color match is a little lighter than FS 10080. I used Humbrol HU9 which I shaded a little darker with black.

Front sides of propeller blades were polished aluminium. Because my model depicts a front line machine I didn't want to make the propeller blades too shiny. XtraColor's Silver is a good match and near to the original lustre and shade. After the paint was dry I polished the propeller blades and with a soft cloth. Spinner and wheel rims were also aluminium color. The color I used was XtraColor's Silver X501.

Engine's gearbox cover was marked to be painted "steel" color on the instruction booklet but I could not find a single photo on the internet that could have verify it. Though I found many photos where the gearbox cover was painted with light blue gray or light greenish color. I painted my model's gearbox cover against the instructions with light blue gray color (Humbrol HU 127).

Mitsubishi used blue-green corrosion protection lacquer that was called Aotake on all interiors. I used XtraColor's X355 on my model.

Mitsubishi built A6M2 and A6M3 planes had all exterior surfaces, insides of wheel well covers and wheel wells painted with a color called J3. A lot of depate has been arosen on many forums about this color. After many years lasting long debate it has come true that the clean light grey or blue grey color of A6M2 Zero during the initial years of the war has been wrong. The right color is darker which can also be seen on original war time photographs. J3 has often described as greenish khaki, olive grey, ash grey etc. There are many model paint manufacturers for Japanese ww2 era aircraft paints but unfortunately they don't seem to have the right shade for J3 color. Debate of Zero's color during the initial stage of the war is still going strong on many forums and I doubt that we still have not heard the final truth. If you are interested of the subject you can find almost complete presentation on Aviation of Japan web site. Researcher James Lansdale's presentation in easily understandable format can be found here. Below one mixing guide for Tamiya paints by Greg Springer who has many years experience of the subject. There are two mixes because Mitsubishi has different paints for metal and fabric surfaces.

Mixing guide for J3 color on metal surfaces with Tamiya paints.
100 parts J.A. Grey XF14
40 parts Khaki XF49
3 parts Neutral Grey XF53
3 parts White XF2
2 parts Red XF7

Mixing guide for J3 color on fabric surfaces with Tamiya paints.
105 parts Sky Grey XF19
15 parts Lt. Sea Grey XF25
20 parts Khaki XF49

Rather than using Springer's mix on my model I made my own mix of J3 color. For a base color I used WEM's AMT-1 light grey and added alternately green, red, yellow and white until the shade pleased me. My own mix is near to FS 26350 being a little lighter. Greg Springer's J3 is closer to FS 14201, which I think is too dark for a model as it is, and it should be lightened a little. FS 26350 and FS 14201 colors are most often mentioned to be "the right" J3 colors for Mitsubishi built A6M2 aircraft according to James Lansdale and that's why I added them to the chart below. It should be mentioned also that when new J3 was glossy but it dimmed quickly in tropical sun. Sun's ultraviolet radiation changed the shade of J3 considerably lighter and colorless and eventually it changed almost matt. When new J3 changed it color shade according to lighting.


Paints used on the model:
The first figure which indicates sheen level of a color on FS number is dropped off. X=XtraColor, LC=LifeColor, HU=Humbrol, R=Revell, WEM=White Ensign Models. (Between brackets alternative paints).

J3 Ash grey, light olive grey FS -6350, -4201 See the article and mixing instructions above! All exterior surfaces, insides of wheel well covers and wheel wells
Mitsubishi Cowl Blue-Black FS -5042 X121 Engine cowling, cockpit canopy frames inside the cockpit, upper rear fuselage deck under the canopy
Mitsubishi Interior Green FS -4151 X117 Cockpit
Red Brown FS -0080 HU 9 Backsides of propeller blades
Black FS -7038 WEM AII Black (R 8, HU33) Landing gear legs
Aluminium FS - X501 Front sides of propeller blades and spinner. Wheel rims
Aotake FS - X355 Blue-green corrosion protection lacquer for metallic interiors.
Light blue grey FS -6375 HU 127 Engine's gearbox cover

Decals
Kit's decal sheet include markings for two of the 12th Flying Group A6M2 Model 11 planes on China in 1940. Pilots of the planes were Japanese China war ace lt. Minoru Suzuki and NAP 1/C Saburo Sakai.

Because I wanted to built Saburo Sakai 's A6M2 Model 21 plane later on the war I used Berna Decals decals. All planes on the sheet are A6M2 Model 21s. On the sheet there are decals for two Saburo Sakai's plane he flew in the famous Tainan Kokutai in the years 1941 - 1942. I leaved off victory markings on the bottom the fin of Sakai's "White V-103", probable there has never been any victory markings on his plane. On the j-aircraft.com web site there's a discussion of Sakai's victory markings. On the sheet there are also markings for two Pearl Harbour planes flying from the carriers Hiryu and Kaga. The fifth plane on the sheet belonged to Tainan Kokutai in 1942 on Bali Island. The sixth plane belonged to "Oppama's Unit" in 1943.

Berna Decal's decals were thin and glossy and printed in perfect register with minimal carrier film. Decals didn't settle down to panel lines well althoug I used MicroSol. Wing's walking area red lines are missing from the sheet but they can be found on the kit's decals sheet. Kit's sheet offers also individual instrumets or whole instrument panel if you prefer to use them. I used three individual gauges which I cutted out of carrier film and placed them in their places one by one. Remainder instrumets I painted.

Conclusion
Hasegawa's A6M2 Zero was in time the best kit available in 1/48 scale and it is a good kit still. It is quite accurate in shape and scale and has good level but it's not as easy to construct as Eduard's and Tamiya's new kits are. But with precise construction and with few little corrections you can easily build good looking Zero model. Because I didn't use kit's decals on my model I can't say anything about their quality. Typical Hasegawa's quite good quality kit of one of the most famous world war 2 era fighter /fighter bomber/ kamikaze plane.

Photos from different stages of the work
Hold mouse cursor over thumbnail for a while before clicking !




History

Source: Wikipedia "Mitsubishi A6M Zero"
Edited by Jari Juvonen
(Few incorrectness on Wikipedia are corrected, source "A6M Zero in Action by Shigeru Nohara; Squadron Signal Publications n:o 59")

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a long-range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) from 1940 to 1945. The A6M was designated as the Mitsubishi Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter. The A6M was usually referred to by the Allies as the "Zero", from the 'Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter' designation. The official Allied reporting name was Zeke. When it was introduced early in World War II, the Zero was considered the most capable carrier-based fighter in the world, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range. In early combat operations, the Zero gained a legendary reputation as a dogfighter, achieving the outstanding kill ratio of 12 to 1, but by mid-1942 a combination of new tactics and the introduction of better equipment enabled the Allied pilots to engage the Zero on more equal terms. The IJNAS also frequently used the type as a land-based fighter.

By 1943, inherent design weaknesses and the increasing lack of more powerful aircraft engines meant that the Zero became less effective against newer enemy fighters that possessed greater firepower, armor, and speed, and approached the Zero's maneuverability. Although the Mitsubishi A6M was outdated by 1944, it was never totally supplanted by the newer Japanese aircraft types. During the final years of the War in the Pacific, the Zero was used in kamikaze operations. In the course of the war, more Zeros were built than any other Japanese aircraft.

Design and development

The Mitsubishi A5M fighter was just entering service in early 1937, when the Imperial Japanese Navy started looking for its eventual replacement. In May they issued specification 12-Shi for a new carrier-based fighter, sending it to Nakajima and Mitsubishi. Both firms started preliminary design work while they awaited more definitive requirements to be handed over in a few months.

Based on the experiences of the A5M in China, the Navy sent out updated requirements in October calling for a speed of 500 km/h (370 mph) and a climb to 3,000 m (9,840 ft) in 3.5 min. With drop tanks, they wanted an endurance of two hours at normal power, or six to eight hours at economical cruising speed. Armament was to consist of two 20 mm cannons, two 7.7 mm (.303 in) machine guns and two 30 kg (70 lb) or 60 kg (130 lb) bombs. A complete radio set was to be mounted in all aircraft, along with a radio direction finder for long-range navigation. The maneuverability was to be at least equal to that of the A5M, while the wing span had to be less than 12 m (39 ft) to allow for use on aircraft carriers. All this was to be achieved with available engines, a significant design limitation.

Nakajima's team considered the new requirements unachievable and pulled out of the competition in January. Mitsubishi's chief designer, Jiro Horikoshi, felt that the requirements could be met, but only if the aircraft could be made as light as possible. Every possible weight-saving measure was incorporated into the design. Most of the aircraft was built of a new top-secret 7075 aluminium alloy developed by Sumitomo Metal Industries in 1936. Called Extra Super Duralumin (ESD), it was lighter and stronger than other alloys (e.g. 24S alloy) used at the time, but was more brittle and prone to corrosion (it was painted with an anti-corrosion lacquer as a countermeasure). No armor was provided for the pilot, engine or other critical points of the aircraft, and self-sealing fuel tanks, which were becoming common at the time, were not used. This made the Zero lighter and more agile than most other aircraft at the start of the war, but also made it prone to catching fire and exploding when struck by enemy rounds.

With its low-wing cantilever monoplane layout, retractable, wide-set landing gear and enclosed cockpit, the Zero was one of the most modern aircraft in the world at the time of its introduction. It had a fairly high-lift, low-speed wing with a very low wing loading. This, combined with its light weight, resulted it a very low stalling speed of well below 110 km/h (60 kn; 69 mph). This was the main reason for its phenomenal maneuverability, allowing it to out-turn any Allied fighter of the time. Early models were fitted with servo tabs on the ailerons after pilots complained control forces became too heavy at speeds above 300 km/h. They were discontinued on later models after it was found that the lightened control forces were causing pilots to overstress the wings during vigorous maneuvers. At a speed of 260 km/h A6M2 could roll 56 degrees/s but over 483 km/h rate of roll reduced to allmost zero depending of flexibility of the wings.


Operational history

The first Zeros (pre-series A6M2) went into operation in July 1940. On 13 September 1940, the Zeros scored their first air-to-air victories when 13 A6M2s led by Lieutenant Saburo Shindo attacked 27 Soviet-built Polikarpov I-15s and I-16s of the Chinese Nationalist Air Force, shooting down all the fighters without loss to themselves. By the time they were redeployed a year later, the Zeros had shot down 99 Chinese aircraft (266 according to other sources).

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor 420 Zeros were active in the Pacific. The carrier-borne Model 21 was the type encountered by the Americans. Its tremendous range of over 2,600 km (1,600 mi) allowed it to range farther from its carrier than expected, appearing over distant battlefronts and giving Allied commanders the impression that there were several times as many Zeros as actually existed. The Zero quickly gained a fearsome reputation. Thanks to a combination of excellent maneuverability and firepower, it easily disposed of the motley collection of Allied aircraft sent against it in the Pacific in 1941. It proved a difficult opponent even for the Supermarine Spitfire. Although not as fast as the British fighter, the Mitsubishi fighter could out-turn the Spitfire with ease, could sustain a climb at a very steep angle, and could stay in the air for three times as long.

Soon, however, Allied pilots developed tactics to cope with the Zero. Due to its extreme agility, engaging in a traditional, turning dogfight with a Zero was likely to be fatal. It was better to roar down from above in a high-speed pass, fire a quick burst, then zoom back up to altitude. (A short burst of fire from heavy machine guns or cannon was often enough to bring down the fragile Zero.) Such "boom-and-zoom" tactics were used successfully in the China Burma India Theater (CBI) by the "Flying Tigers" of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) against similarly maneuverable Japanese Army aircraft such as the Nakajima Ki-27 and Ki-43. AVG pilots were trained to exploit the advantages of their P-40s, which were very sturdy, heavily armed, generally faster in a dive and level flight at low altitude, with a good rate of roll.

Another important maneuver was Lieutenant Commander John S. "Jimmy" Thach's "Thach Weave", in which two fighters would fly about 60 m (200 ft) apart. If a Zero latched onto the tail of one of the fighters, the two aircraft would turn toward each other. If the Zero followed his original target through the turn, he would come into a position to be fired on by the target's wingman. This tactic was first used to good effect during the Battle of Midway, and later over the Solomon Islands.

The American military discovered many of the A6M's unique attributes when they recovered a largely intact specimen on Akutan Island in the Aleutians (which was called the Akutan Zero). During an air raid over Dutch Harbor on 4 June 1942, one A6M fighter was hit by ground fire. Losing oil, Flight Petty Officer Tadayoshi Koga attempted an emergency landing on Akutan Island about 20 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor, but his Zero flipped over in soft ground in a sudden crash landing. Koga died instantly of head injuries, but the relatively undamaged fighter was found over a month later by an American salvage team and shipped to Naval Air Station North Island USA where testing flights of the repaired A6M revealed not only its strengths, but also its deficiencies in design and performance.

A6M Zero was constructed only for offensive duty, it had long range, good aqility and firepower but all this was achieved by leaving off pilots armour and self sealing fuel tanks. Many highly experienced Japanese aviators were lost in combat, resulting in a progressive decline in the quality of the opponents faced by Allied pilots, which became a significant factor in Allied successes. Unexpected heavy losses of these irreplaceable pilots at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway dealt the Japanese carrier air force a blow from which it never fully recovered.

In contrast, Allied fighters were designed with ruggedness and pilot protection in mind. The Japanese ace Saburo Sakai described how the resilience of early Grumman aircraft was a factor in preventing the Zero from attaining total domination:

"...I had full confidence in my ability to destroy the Grumman and decided to finish off the enemy fighter with only my 7.7 mm machine guns. I turned the 20mm. cannon switch to the 'off' position, and closed in. For some strange reason, even after I had poured about five or six hundred rounds of ammunition directly into the Grumman, the airplane did not fall, but kept on flying! I thought this very odd—it had never happened before—and closed the distance between the two airplanes until I could almost reach out and touch the Grumman. To my surprise, the Grumman's rudder and tail were torn to shreds, looking like an old torn piece of rag. With his plane in such condition, no wonder the pilot was unable to continue fighting! A Zero which had taken that many bullets would have been a ball of fire by now".

When the powerful Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair appeared in the Pacific theater, the A6M, with its low-powered engine, was hard-pressed to remain competitive. In combat with an F6F or F4U, the only positive thing that could be said of the Zero at this stage of the war was that in the hands of a skillful pilot it could maneuver as well as most of its opponents. Nonetheless, in competent hands the Zero could still be deadly. Due to shortages of high-powered aviation engines and problems with planned successor models, the Zero remained in production until 1945, with over 11,000 of all variants produced. It is said that Zeros destroyed at least 1550 American aircraft during the course of the war.


A6M1, Type 0 variants:

A6M1, Type 0 Prototypes
The first A6M1 prototype was completed in March 1939, powered by the 780 hp (580 kW) Mitsubishi Zuisei 13 engine with a two-blade propeller. It first flew on 1 April, and passed testing in a remarkably short period of time. By September, it had already been accepted for Navy testing as the A6M1 Type 0 Carrier Fighter, with the only notable change being a switch to a three-bladed propeller to cure a vibration problem.

A6M2 Type 0 Model 11
While the Navy was testing the first two prototypes, they suggested that the third be fitted with the 940 hp (700 kW) Nakajima Sakae 12 engine instead. Mitsubishi had its own engine of this class in the form of the Kinsei, so they were somewhat reluctant to use the Sakae. Nevertheless, when the first A6M2 was completed in January 1940, the Sakae's extra power pushed the performance of the Zero well past the original specifications.

The new version was so promising that the Navy had 15 built and shipped to China before they had completed testing. They arrived in Manchuria in July 1940, and first saw combat over Chungking in August. There they proved to be completely untouchable by the Polikarpov I-16s and I-153s that had been such a problem for the A5Ms currently in service. In one encounter, 13 Zeros shot down 27 I-15s and I-16s in under three minutes without loss. After hearing of these reports the Navy immediately ordered the A6M2 into production as the Type 0 Carrier Fighter, Model 11. Reports of the Zero's performance filtered back to the US slowly. There they were dismissed by most military officials, who felt it was impossible for the Japanese to build such an aircraft.

A6M2 Type 0 Model 21
After the delivery of only 65 aircraft by November 1940, a further change was worked into the production lines, which introduced folding wingtips to allow them to fit on aircraft carriers. The resulting Model 21 would become one of the most produced versions early in the war. When the lines switched to updated models, 740 Model 21s had been completed by Mitsubishi, and another 800 by Nakajima. Two other versions of the Model 21 were built in small numbers, the Nakajima-built A6M2-N "Rufe" floatplane (based on the Model 11 with a slightly modified tail), and the A6M2-K two-seat trainer of which a total of 508 were built by Hitachi and the Sasebo Naval Air Arsenal.

A6M3 Type 0 Model 32
In late 1941, Nakajima introduced the Sakae 21, which used a two-speed supercharger for better altitude performance, and increased power to 1130 hp (840 kW). Plans were made to introduce the new engine into the Zero as soon as possible. The new Sakae was slightly heavier and somewhat longer due to the larger supercharger, which moved the center of gravity too far forward on the existing airframe. To correct for this the engine mountings were cut down by 20 cm (8 in), moving the engine back towards the cockpit. This had the side effect of reducing the size of the main fuel tank (located to the rear of the engine) from 518 L (137 US gal) to 470 L (120 US gal).

The only other major changes were to the wings, which were simplified by removing the Model 21's folding tips. This changed the appearance enough to prompt the US to designate it with a new code name, Hap. This name was short-lived, as a protest from USAAF commander General Henry "Hap" Arnold forced a change to "Hamp". Soon after, it was realized that it was simply a new model of the "Zeke". The wings also included larger ammunition boxes, allowing for 100 rounds for each of the 20 mm cannon.

The wing changes had much greater effects on performance than expected. The smaller size led to better roll, and their lower drag allowed the diving speed to be increased to 670 km/h (420 mph). On the downside, maneuverability was reduced, and range suffered due to both decreased lift and the smaller fuel tank. Pilots complained about both. The shorter range proved a significant limitation during the Solomons campaign of 1942. The first Model 32 deliveries began in April 1942, but it remained on the lines only for a short time, with a run of 343 being built.

A6M3 Type 0 Model 22
In order to correct the deficiencies of the Model 32, a new version with the Model 21's folding wings, new in-wing fuel tanks and attachments for a 330 L (90 US gal) drop tank under each wing were introduced. The internal fuel was thereby increased to 570 L (137 US gal) in this model, regaining all of the lost range. As the airframe was reverted from the Model 32 and the engine remained the same, this version received the navy designation Model 22, while Mitsubishi called it the A6M3a. The new model started production in December, and 560 were eventually produced. This company constructed some examples for evaluation, armed with 30 mm Type 5 Cannon, under denomination of A6M3b (model 22b). A few late-production A6M3 Model 22s had a wing similar to the later shortened, rounded tip wing fitted to the A6M5 Model 52. These were probably a transition model, at least one was photographed at Rabaul-East in Mid-1943. Model 22 had the longest range of all Zero models, even 160 km longer than Model 21.

A6M4 Type 0 Model 41
The A6M4 designation was applied to two A6M2s fitted with an experimental turbo-supercharged Sakae engine designed for high-altitude use. The design, modification and testing of these two prototypes was the responsibility of the First Naval Air Technical Arsenal (????????) at Yokosuka and took place in 1943. Lack of suitable alloys for use in the manufacture of the turbo-supercharger and its related ducting caused numerous ruptures of the ducting resulting in fires and poor performance. Consequently, further development of the A6M4 was cancelled. The program still provided useful data for future aircraft designs and, consequently, the manufacture of the more conventional A6M5, already under development by Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K., was accelerated.

A6M5 Type 0 Model 52
Considered the most effective variant, the Model 52 was developed to face the powerful American F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair, superior mostly for engine power and armament. The variant was a modest update of the A6M3 Model 32, with Model 32's shorter wing with rounded wing tips and thicker wing skinning to permit faster diving speeds, plus an improved exhaust system. The latter used four ejector exhaust stacks, providing an increment of thrust, projecting along each side of the forward fuselage. The new exhaust system required modified "notched" cowl flaps and small rectangular plates which were riveted to the fuselage, just aft of the exhausts. Two smaller exhaust stacks exited via small cowling flaps immediately forward of and just below each of the wing leading edges. The improved roll-rate of the clipped-wing A6M3 was now built in. The A6M5 had a maximum speed of 540 km/h (340 mph) and reached a height of 8,000 m (26,250 ft) in nine minutes, 57 seconds.

A6M5 sub-variants:

A6M5a Model 52a «Kou»," featuring Type 99-II cannon with belt feed of the Mk 4 instead of drum feed Mk 3 (100 rpg), permitting a bigger ammunition supply (125 rpg)

A6M5b Model 52b «Otsu»," with an armor glass windscreen, a fuel tank fire extinguisher and the 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 97 gun (750 m/s muzzle velocity and 600 m/1,970 ft range) in the left forward fuselage was replaced by a 13.2 mm/.51 in Type 3 Browning-derived gun (790 m/s muzzle velocity and 900 m/2,950 ft range) with 240 rounds. The larger weapon required an enlarged cowling opening, creating a distinctive asymmetric appearance to the top of the cowling.

A6M5c Model 52c «Hei»" with thicker armored glass in the cabin's windshield (5.5 cm/2.2 in) and armor plate behind the pilot's seat. The wing skinning was further thickened in localized areas to allow for a further increase in dive speed. This version also had a modified armament fit of three 13.2 mm (.51 in) guns (one in the forward fuselage, and one in each wing with a rate of fire of 800 rpm), twin 20 mm Type 99-II guns and an additional fuel tank with a capacity of 367 L (97 US gal), often replaced by a 250 kg bomb.

A6M5d-S (modified for night combat), armed with normal forward firing armament and with one 20 mm Type 99 cannon, inclined back to the pilot's cockpit (like the German schräge muzik).

A6M5-K "Zero-Reisen" (model l22) tandem trainer version, also manufactured by Mitsubishi.

A6M6c Type 0 Model 53c
This was similar to the A6M5c, but with self-sealing wing tanks and a Nakajima Sakae 31a engine featuring water-methanol engine boost.

A6M7 Type 0 Model 63
Similar to the A6M6 but intended for attack or Kamikaze role.

A6M8 Type 0 Model 64
Similar to the A6M6 but with the Sakae (now out of production) replaced by the Mitsubishi Kinsei 62 engine with 1,560 hp (1,164 kW), 60% more powerful than the engine of the A6M2. This resulted in an extensively modified cowling and nose for the aircraft. The carburetor intake was much larger, a long duct like that on the Nakajima B6N Tenzan was added, and a large spinner—like that on the Yokosuka D4Y Suisei with the Kinsei 62—was mounted. The larger cowling meant deletion of the fuselage mounted machine gun, but armament was otherwise unchanged from the Model 52 Hei (20 mm cannon x 2; 13 mm/.51 in MG x 2). In addition, the Model 64 was modified to carry two 150 L (40 US gal) drop tanks on either wing in order to permit the mounting of a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb on the underside of the fuselage. Two prototypes were completed in April 1945 but the chaotic situation of Japanese industry and the end of the war obstructed the start of the ambitious program of production for 6,300 machines, none being completed.



A6M2 Type O Model 21 Zero technical data

Engine 950 hp Nakajima Sakae 12, two-row, 14-cylinder, air-cooled radial engine
Dimensions Span 12,00 m; lenght 9,06 m; hight 3,05 m; wing area 22.44 m²
Weights Empty weight 1680 kg; max. flying weight 2410 kg
Performance Max. speed 533 km/h at 4550 meters; rate of climb 945 m/min
Ceiling 10000 m
Range With internal fuel ? km, with drop tank 3105 km
Armament 2× 7,7 mm model 97 machine guns on engine cowling, 500 rounds/gun
2× 20 mm model 99 guns in wings, 60 rounds/gun
2× 60 kg bombs or 1× fixed 250 kg bomb for kamikaze attacks
Production All models 10 939 (Mitsubishi and Nakajima)
Users Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan (Republic of China), Thailand



Saburo Sakai

Source Wikipedia "Saburo Sakai"
translated by Jari Juvonen

(26.8.1916 – 22.9.2000) was an Imperial Japanise Navy fighter pilot. He has also writen the famous book "Samurai" in which he tells about his experiences at the controls of the famous Zero fighter plane during the second world war on the Pasific theatre of the war.

Sakai wasn't member of samarai-clan so he has to start his career as an ordinary seaman on a battleship. Life in his home province still followed old Bushido rules. Saburo Sakai was brought up according those rules. His family was poor and came from a smallholding near a small town Saga. The smallholding was founded by his ancestors during the reform of Japan when samurai class privileges were abolished. Sakai was accepted to grammar school but continuous troublemaking caused him to expel from the school to disappointment for his family and village.

Sakai enlisted to navy on may 1931 and after basic training he served on battleships Kirishima and Haruna. While in hard military service on a ship he studied to non-commissioned gunner officer. He applied for admission to pilot training in 1937 and was approved. Sakai was the best of his course.

In 1938 Sakai was ordered to China where China-Japan war was still under way. Japanese press wrote about Sakai when he was the only Japanese pilot who managed to get airborne under bombing attack to his home base, he also wounded slightly by a fragments. He managed to catch up SB-2 bomber with his Mitsubishi A5M (codename "Claude") fighter and fire it but scarcity of fuel forced him to turn back and his kill couldn't be confirmed. Sakai served in China until 1941 achieving two confirmed kills with A5M and A6M (codename "Zero") fighters.

At the beginning of the second world war Sakai was corporal but at Navy ranks of enlisted men he rose first to the rank of warrant-officer, later he was promoted to sub-lieutenant and to lieutenant before the war ended.

Sakai shot down 64 enemy planes in the world war two. His mainly flew with Mitsubishi Zero fighters. He was trained as carrier pilot but after he had completed the carrier course with the best ratings he never flew from carriers but instead from land bases. In April 1942 he was ordered to Lae at New-Guinea where he served untill he wounded.

When airborne Sakai always used his own judgement. For example in 28th of February 1942 Sakai alone was patrolling over Java when he sighted a lone DC-3 east of Surabaya. Sakai wanted to observe the unarmed plane and flew beside it. When he saw two child and a light haired woman observing enemy fighter through the window of "Dakota" he decided not to attack and leaved the plane to continue it's journey in peace.

At least 40 of Sakai's kills could have been identified accurately from allied losses and his battle with Julien "Pug" Southerland's Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter in 14th of August 1942 over Guadalcanal is one of the best documented aerial battle of the second world war.

Immediately after this battle Sakai attacked US Navy's Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bomber formation he mistakenly identified as F4F fighters.

Sakai wounded seriously to the head and to the right eye by back-gunners defensefire and paralyzed temporarily. Description of his flight back to his base almost blind is one of the most impressive story of aviation history. Eye operation to maintain his sight without anaesthesia was made in homeland and was partly succesful, his left eye recovered as before.

After recovery time Sakai entered to flight service being a flying instructor at first. He requested back to active duty and achieved four more kills at the end of the war. During his service at Iwo Jima he was nearly shot down in June 1944 because he did not discover in time US Navy's F6F Hellcat fighters due to his bad right eye's depth-sight. He managed to break and fly over the island whereby anti-aircraft artillery drove away enemy fighters which didn't have had a single hit to Sakai's plane. He was evacuated in 4th of July in the second group according his military rank together with ten others.

During the closing stages of the war he worked as a test pilot of new types, for example Shinden-Kai "George", he also worked as flying instructor. At the last moments of the war on the 17th of August 1945, two days after Japan has announced it's surrender (capitulation documents were signed on the 2nd of September 1945), Sakai started with three Kawanishi N1K Shiden-Kai and 14 Zero fighters to intercept four photo-reconnaissance Consolidated B-32 Dominator. Next day two American B-32 Dominators repeated the photo-reconnaissance flight. The B-32 flying at 6000 meters could escape the Japanese fighters but lieutenant John M. Andersson's B-32 which flew at an altitude of 3000 meters was attacked by warrant-officer Sadamu Komach's Shiden-Kai fighter. The B-32 was badly damaged and it hardly managed back to Okinawa. Members of the crew of the B-32 senior sergeant Joseph Lacharite was badly wounded and sergeant Anthony Marchione was killed, he was the last American killed in the second world war.

In 1957 Sakai wrote his Samurai-memoirs. He speaks bluntly about many untold facts of the war, of the basic training time when trainers could beat recruits as they wished, even lame. Sakai also tells that just a year before Americans landed Iwo Jima it was totally unfortified rocky island that could be easily taken by the Americans.

Sakai also tells of the Japanese manner to evacuate people from a garrison which is to be abandoned. The withdrawal was strictly ruled by an old Japanise military caste system, only man's military rank influenced when it was one's turn to evacuate, no other things affected. Although Sakai was picked up later with a separately sended plane because his actual evacuation squadron filled up before it was time to evacuate Sakai and his group.

He describes his cross-purposes between traditional sense of honour and a desperate battle which failed in the 2nd of July 1944, on a mission where he was ordered to a kamikaze mission with torpedo bombers and ordered to collide with enemy ships at last. This was the first time when an well considered order was given to the pilots to purposely sacrifice themselves. Although Sakai tells in his book that there were great numbers of voluntary pilots to join to real Kamikaze units. He enlisted also many times but his superiors always refused his requests.

Patrolling F6F fighters intercepted the formation and Sakai and his wingman managed to escape to a cumulus cloud with great difficulty. As he continued his flight he makes a difference between a real possibility of victory and between blind traditional sense of honour when he says, that there is no real possibility to accomplish the mission. Yet his comrades could still believe that the mission had been accomplished or that they have had death of a hero. He cosiders this immoral.

He came back with his wingmen through a thunderstorm in very difficult condition and he considered this flight and surviving from the enemy as an evidence of the skills and value of those pilots. During this same mission also another ace pilot Kinsuke Muto and one torbedo bomber pilot made oneself same decision and turned back.

He was a long time engaged with a girl from a respected family, named Fudziko Nior, but the engagement was cancelled when he wounded. Sakai thought that he was an outcast and would not be a worthy husband to a girl like she was. Anyway, at the end of the war he married his cousin Hatsujo who lived in Tokiyo. He told that the marriage was happy but ended without a child when his wife died after a short disease.

These two women together made for Sakai at the beginning of the war the famous white belt on which they collected, standing on a corner of a street, red stitches from 998 women passing by. This old tradition was carried out by a countless number of Japanese soldiers mothers, wifes, brides, sisters and cousins.

Later Sakai married again and he has two children (one boy and one girl) from his second marriage.

After the war Sakai became a printing house owner. He looked for and took to work many widows and brothers of his battle mates when his busines advanced. In 1982 he met one of the SBD's back-gunners that fired him, Harold L. Jones. Despite blindness of his right eye and invalidity by his war injures Sakai is a skillful golf-player.



Sources

  • Wikipedia "Mitsubishi A6M Zero"
  • Wikipedia "Saburo Sakai"
  • j-aircraft.com (Japanese Aircraft, Ships @ Historical Research)
  • Aviation of Japan
  • Internet
  • Imperial Japanese Navy Aces 1937-1945 by Henry Saikada; Osprey Aircraft Of The Aces n:o 22
  • A6M Zero in Action by Shigeru Nohara; Squadron Signal Publications n:o 59
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