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Weapons of World War Two

Mitsubishi A6M Reisen

Version depicted: A6M5

Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen

During decades the motivations that led Japan to the action of Pearl Harbor were very discussed. The American propaganda showed the good at one side and the bad ones in a separate side. But undoubtedly, even with its imperialist and expansionist policies, if Japan effectuated that tremendous step was also pushed by the material necessity of economical survival, of which United States was not totally unaware. But the American propaganda continued hitting, as it was logical, against the aggressor, even trying to ridiculize it. Very serious mistake. The Japanese were portrayed as yellow little men, a sort of monkeys with spectacles deprived of the most minimal wit, only able to roughly imitate the products of the western technology.

It would suffice the roar of the Japanese engines to undo those ridiculous topics, but meanwhile these would be the main cause of the death of a good number of Allied soldiers. And think that it would have sufficed to listen to a certain aviation officer! Because Colonel Chennault had delivered to the Pentagon the characteristics of an until then known Japanese fighter, which by speed, maneuverability and operational range outmatched any American fighter then in service. The American attitude in respect of the Japanese and their technique should have been very different. But to the cry of alarm from the Colonel replied the bureaucracy by giving the usual passes to the note written by Chennault and then burying it in a sea of paperwork. And think that the jewel manufactured by Mitsubishi had not received the deserved attention!

Born from a request for a naval fighter made in May 1937, the first prototype could take off for flight tests in March 1939. The Mitsubishi A6M "Reisen" was a low-winged monoplane of entirely metallic structure and retractable landing gear. The wing, of trapezoidal shape, united the advantages of a notable lightness with a foolproof robustness. On the other hand, this constructive concept had been applied to the realization of the entire aircraft, and a wide utilization of light alloys and vanguard technical solutions had been made. To avoid adding more weight to the "Zero" (as it had been denominated in the Allied code), in the first models did not exist armor for the pilot nor protection for the deposits, features which were not introduced until the version A6M5, already advanced the war.

The engine, initially a Zuisei 13 of 780 horsepower, would be soon replaced by a Nakajima Sakae 31 of 1130 horsepower, which would allow to reach a speed of 560 kilometers/hour and an operational range of 1922 kilometers (A6M5). The armament, initially rather light, was later notably enhanced, but it would be always inferior to the American one, which had as basic weapon the 12.7-millimeter machine gun (between six and eight), while the Japanese was generally based in four weapons, if not less: two of 7.7 millimeters and two of 13.2 millimeters or 20 millimeters.

Undisputed owner of the sky during the first year of the war, from 1943 it had a holding pattern when being introducted the most powerful enemy fighters. It was the beginning of the defeat. The last "Zero" took part in the tragic "kamikaze" attacks against American ships, with the crazy fantasy of containing the invasion to be able to deal a decisive counterattack. But for Japan no more divine winds would blow.

Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen
Designer: Technical team led by engineer Jiro Horikoshi

First flight: March 1939 (A6M1)

Wingspan: 12 meters (A6M1); 11 meters (A6M3 and A6M8)

Wing area: 22.44 square meters (A6M1); 21.53 square meters (A6M3); 21.30 square meters (A6M8)

Length: 9.06 meters (A6M1 and A6M3); 9.24 meters (A6M8)

Height: 3.05 meters (A6M1); 3.51 meters (A6M3); 3.64 meters (A6M8)

Full load/Empty weight: 2343/1652 kilograms (A6M1); 2544/1807 kilograms (A6M3); 3150/2150 kilograms (A6M8)

Payload/Crew: 691 kilograms/1 (A6M1); 737 kilograms/1 (A6M3); 1000 kilograms/1 (A6M8)

Engine: Mitsubishi Zuisei 13 of 780 horsepower (A6M1); Nakajima Sakae 31 of 1130 horsepower (A6M3); Mitsubishi Kinsei 62 of 1560 horsepower (A6M8)

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 7 minutes 19 seconds (A6M3); 6 minutes 50 seconds (A6M8)

Cruising speed: 371 kilometers/hour (A6M3)

Maximum speed: 510 kilometers/hour at 3600 meters (A6M1); 545 kilometers/hour at 6000 meters (A6M3); 573 kilometers/hour at 6000 meters (A6M8)

Service ceiling: 10000 meters (A6M3); 11200 meters (A6M8)

Defensive armament: Two 20-millimeter cannons and two 7.7-millimeter machine guns (A6M1 and A6M3); two 20-millimeter cannons, two 13.2-millimeter machine guns and two 7.7-millimeter machine guns (A6M8)

Drop armament: 60 kilograms of bombs (A6M1 and A6M3); 500 kilograms of bombs (A6M8)

Operational range: 1820 kilometers (A6M1); 2830 kilometers with auxiliary deposits (A6M3)

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