When Mitsubishi AGM Rei-sen entered service in 1940, western military experts shrugged off the reports that the Japanese military possessed a world-class warplane. How wrong they were. The aircraft – better known as the “Zeke” or “Zero” – dominated the skies in the early stages of the Second World War. The single-seat, low wing monoplane proved to have been the most capable carrier-based fighter in service at the time, and it gave the Japanese naval forces almost guaranteed air superiority.
The A6M, which was designed by Horikoshi Jiro, was also noted for being the first carrier-based fighter able to best its land-based opponents. However, beginning in 1943, the tide turned against the Zero with the introduction of more capable Allied fighters.
It was fast and agile
The A6M was produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and was first powered by a Nakajima Sakae radial air-cooled engine of 14 cylinders (two staggered rows of seven) that developed 1,020 horsepower. It was hardly a powerful engine, but designers did everything possible to reduce weight.
However, the effort to make it fast and light also meant that it had very little armor and was vulnerable to even the lightest caliber enemy armament. That wasn’t a problem when the aircraft’s speed and agility allowed it dominate the skies, but as more capable Allied aircraft went up against the Zero, it proved deadly for the Japanese pilots. It certainly was never even able to gain mastery over the Grumman F4F Wildcat, whose heavier armament and robust construction compensated for its slightly inferior performance and agility.
Later models of the aircraft were equipped with a 1,130-horsepower engine to turn its three-blade constant-speed propeller. The aircraft’s top speed was 350 miles per hour (565 km/h) at nearly 20,000 feet (6,100 m).
The Zero was armed with two 7.7-millimetre machine guns and two 20-millimetre cannons in its wings; it could carry two 132-pound (59.9-kilogram) bombs under the wings.
Zero isn’t really its name
The aircraft was never officially designated the “Zero,” and it wasn’t even known as such by the pilots that flew the aircraft. The Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen was officially designated by the Imperial Japanese Navy as the “Rei-shiki-kanj -sent ki – Type 0 Carrier Fighter,” and the more common moniker comes from the fact that it was essentially named for the Japanese year 2600 (1940).
Japanese military equipment of the era was named for the year – as noted by such weapons as the Type 99 light machine gun that was introduced in 1939. Interestingly, the same year the Mitsubishi A6M was introduced, the Imperial Japanese Army introduced the “Hyaku-shiki kikan-tanj ,” also known as the Type 100 submachine gun. It remains entirely unclear why the IJN used “0” while the IJA used “100” for the same year.
Most-produced Japanese aircraft of the war
More Zeroes were manufactured during the Second World War than any other Japanese aircraft, and production continued until the very end of the conflict. Sources vary, but somewhere between 10,499 and 10,939 were produced during the war in the Pacific.
Some 125 Zeros participated in the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and only nine failed to return.
Almost zero survive
Today, there are fewer than twenty surviving Zeros in the world and only a handful in factory original condition. Most in museums were restored wrecks, and the aircraft that are still airworthy have had their engines replaced with American units. Only the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California has an intact Zero with the original Sakae engine.
The aircraft is so rare that movie and TV productions have had the single-seat North American T-6 Texan – heavily modified and painted with Japanese markings – stand-in for the Zeros. Such aircraft were seen in the film Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Final Countdown, as well as the TV series Black Sheep Squadron.
An original A6M5 Type 0 Model 52, a variant built in the latter stages of the Second World War, did appear in the 2001 Michael Bay epic Pearl Harbor, the model is anachronistic for the era. In addition, that aircraft and the other replicas used in the film were painted green in color, as if they were Japanese Army aircraft. In fact, the Zeros of the IJN that raided Pearl Harbor were silver, but Bay said he liked the way the aircraft looked and that it would help audiences differentiate the “good guys from the bad guys.”
This article by Peter Suciu was originally published by 19FortyFive.com.
Anthony Pandolfino says
It was a great aircraft- most recognized useful aircraft in World War II! That would be the flying Fortress of course the most effective! Later on the CIA even got into that and realized yes that’s just considered the most effective plane for The ongoing battle with the Pacific since it always was! It wasn’t found by the civilian intelligence agency til around the 60s
—-Had better ones was Germany’s side!!!! Their planes were flying backwards in World War II and really created that they could go 20! Yeah they’re rich as hell so we draft everybody and take them out I’ll give them a little more! Russia smoked the German soldiers after World War II right out of the sky in there on the shark tooth planes! And then I walked into Russian camps for the crimes that were actually involved! And with the same form of government! Instance Eric Carmen- He was a shark tooth German plane flyer! Conspiracies of South Park definitely yes!! He was a survivor of World War II out of 🇩🇪 – He was shot down after it when the war was good to go in America didn’t care anymore or Canada after pretty much equivalent deaths from each other! And walked into a Russian camp for years!! And lived somehow I don’t know how but to me that dude is a hybrid loser hero to 🇺🇸! It’s a tossup as we were all done we had gained the rights or path to human equality rather than strictly human rights- They just had a lot of War crimes! And it was a Jewish thing I don’t even know where I’m going with us I had no plan I’m just gonna keep going who cares!!
There are different practices of the Jewish holiday one of the main people to do that is known to be 🇷🇺 – Massively hurt by Germany was Russia! Every single handshake you have ever seen him in any form of peace treaty between us and Russia they actually stood up to World War I and previous all the way up through a mainly all wars dictatorship against the same issues! Rich Kermit mustache bastard Bastards who fart and Slapped ‘ cause you’re an idiot 🇺🇸🎖🎖🎖🎖🦅🇺🇦 😞 sorry🙏
Tony pandolfino says
I’ll check stated that I survived the World War II Russian camp I’m sorry I didn’t !! Sorry Spellcheck faked my World War II survival in Russian camp survival German valor- thanks for more messups with that 2 brilliant one!
Robert Deis says
Some places do build replicas and restore wrecks to factory original condition. Very difficult, expensive, master craftsman work, but wonderful to behold.
The facility near me usually makes an effort to find original operators and invite them to visit the restored machines, their stories are amazing.
As mentioned the cost of building exact copies of the original zero in large numbers would cost a fortune. That would be something like America foolishly just deciding for some odd reason to try and build another version of the Saturn 5 rocket and try to go back to the moon. Oh yeah I forgot we are doing that. Just kidding. Anyway as far as Japan goes they are only allowed to build what we say they can. I guess that is what you get when you sign a paper for unconditional surrender on the USS Missouri huh? The good thing is that there are a number of the real greatest fighter craft of WW2 around, being the Mustang that is. A fighter like that going from only an idea to a completely operational plane in less than 110 days is only something that the great minds of America can do.
The Mustang was actually designed by a German and then it wasn’t good for much more than ground attacks until the British decided to drop one of their own Merlin engines same as the Spitfire and out came the American Allison engine and now you have a German plane with a British engine so on the bright side American labours did help make them but it’s not as American as Apple Pie.
If they were going to reproduce Zero’s then you would also be able to purchase new Mustangs’ Thunderbolts, BF-109s etc. They could even make them better than the originals with modern technology but unless old warbirds become a preferred mode of transportation for daily commutes nobody is making them. Mitsubishi still exist and they would probably need paid to reproduce the Zero as well since Japan and the USA are allies now and not enemies.
Joseph Luke says
There. Is. No. Reason. That. More. Zeros
Could. Be. Built
There. Must. Have. Been. A. Set. Of.
Blueprints. To. Build. The. Zeros. At. The
Plants. . could. Take. Blueprints. And. Build
Another. Way. Is. To. Measure. And. Original
Zero. And. Make. New. Prints. Like. At. Ford. You. Can. Obtain. Blueprints. Of parts
Could they make Zero replica’s? Yes but it would be costly to do and they wouldn’t really be worth anything like an original. They would be more expensive than the average joe could afford. There wouldn’t be enough interest to build a factory to produce them in large scale which would make them cheaper and more available. Movies can modify other planes to look similar like the Kate for instance has no surviving planes in existence but a Pearl Harbor or Midway film would need them as that was the main torpedo bomber in that timeframe. I don’t think there are any Val’s either but all these planes could be remade it’s just not profitable enough to do so.
There was a Val flying In Canada a few year back. It was powered by a Wright R-2600 which gave it substantially better performance that the original.
Thank you for sharing sir – In all worldwide dictionary- Thank you for sharing means if you have shared as a gift 🎁 of Anything you spent time or effort with as well means thank you for your service- Terms for like all of you – 🎖🎖🎖🎖🇺🇸