Mitsubishi A6M 'Zeke'
The famous Mitsubishi A6M, popularly known as the 'Zero', was the first carrierborne fighter in the world capable of outperforming any contemporary land-based fighter it was likely to confront. Because of inept Allied intelligence it was able to achieve immediate air superiority over the East Indies and South East Asia from the day Japan entered the war. Designed under the leadership of Jiro Honkoshi in 1937 as a replacement for the neat but obsolescent A5M, the prototype A6M1 was first flown on 1 April 1939 with a 581.6-kW (780-hp) Mitsubishi Zuisei 13 radial; production A6M2 fighters with two wing-mounted 20-mm guns and two nose-mounted 7,7-mm (0.303-in) guns were fitted with the 708.4-kW (950-hp) Nakajima Sakae 12 radial, and it was with this version that the Japanese navy escorted the raiding force sent against Pearl Harbor, and gained air superiority over Malaya, the Philippines and Burma.
In the spring of 1942 the A6M3 with two-stage supercharged Sakae 21 entered service, later aircraft having their folding wing tips removed. The Battle of Midway represented the Zero's combat zenith; thereafter the agile Japanese fighter found itself ever more outclassed by the American F6F Hellcat and P-38 Lightning. To counter the new American fighters the A6M5 was rushed to front-line units; this version, with Sakae 21 engine and improved exhaust system, possessed a top speed of 565 km/h (351 mph), more A6M5s (and subvariants) being produced than any other Japanese aircraft. It was five A6M5s of the Shikishima kamikaze unit that sank the carrier St Lo and damaged three others on 25 October 1944. Other versions were the A6M6 with water-methanol boosted Sakae 31 engine and the A6M7 fighter/divebomber. Total production of all A6Ms was 10,937. (The reporting name'Zeke' was given to the A6M, and 'Rufe' to a float version, the A6M2-N.)
Specification Mitsubishi A6M5b 'Zeke'
Type: single-seat carrierborne fighter
Powerplant: one 820.3-kW (1,100-hp)Nakajima NK2F Sakae 21 radial piston engine
Performance: maximum speed 565 km/h (351 mph) at 6000 m (19,685 ft);
climb to 6000 m (19,685 ft) in 7.0 minutes; service ceiling 11740 m (38,517 ft); range 1143 km (710 miles)
Weights: empty 1876 kg (4,136 lb); normal loaded 2733 kg (6,025 lb)
Dimensions: span 11.00 m (36 ft 1,1 in); length 9.12 m (29 ft 11.1 in); height 3.51 m (11 ft 6.2 in); wing area 21.30 m2 (229.28 sg ft)