Mitsubishi A6M ZERO (1939-1945)

Probably the most famous Japanese fighter of World War II the Rei-sen or Zero became seen as a symbol of Japanese Airpower. It saw widespread service before the battle of Pearl Harbor which was to make it famous, yet was unknown to the Allied commanders. When it first saw action against the Allies its excellent manoeuvrability and good firepower allowed it to easily outclass the fighters sent against it. Despite having to operate from carriers its excellent range often convinced Allied Commanders that they were much more numerous than they actually were - with a drop tank they could fly a sortie of 9 hours! The first prototype flew in 1939 and after a few modifications was regarded as outstanding in almost every respect. By the time of Pearl Harbour the Imperial Navy had 328 in service and within days of war breaking out they had swept the Allied forces from the air in the Pacific Theatre. After the battle of Midway in 1942 most Zero's had to operate from land and like their Luftwaffe counterparts they had to continue in service because promised replacements never came. By the end of the war over 10,000 had been produced but it was sadly outclassed being under gunned and very vulnerable although still extremely manoeuvrable. In October 1944 many were equipped with 551lb bombs and used in suicide missions. 327 of the Floatplane version code named Rufe by the Allied were also produced between 1941-43.

Maximum speed - 565 km/h (351 mph);
Maximum range - 1922km (1,194 miles);
Weapons; 2x7.7mm MG, 1x13.2mm, 2x20mm (final version)

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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T. (30 December 2000), Mitsubishi A6M ZERO, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_zero.html

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