Profile Publications No. 129 The Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-Sen

A wdl-know n aircraft, as the Allies first saw it Petty Officer Koga's machine lying in the bleak marshes o f Akutan Island, where the luckless pilot attempted to land after the inconclusive Dutch Harbour strike o f 3rd June, 1942. Tadayoshi Koga was still hanging dead in his straps five weeks later, when a U.S. Navy scouting party found the Zero and took this photograph. Koga's Reisen under guard at Dutch Harbour, awaiting trans­portation. Virtually intact, it was an invaluable prize fo rAllied technical intelligence. Careful attention was paid to weight savings and anew spccial aluminium alloy (E.S.D.), developed by Sumitomo, was adopted. At this point, it should be noted that the absence of pilot's protection and self­ sealing tanks, which, particularly towards the end of the war, was to prove the major undoing of the aircraft, was not an oversight or a complete lack of concern for pilot's safety. With only 1,000 h.p. available, this protection could not be incorporated in the design if the armament and performance requirements were to be met. Early in the war, long range operations by fighter aircraft could only be achieved by either sacrificing this much needed item or by using twin-engined aircraft. This latter approach to the range requirement was proved costly when the Luftwaffe's Bf 110 had to be escorted by single- engined Bf I09's during the Battle of Britain whilst the Japanese approach was vindicated by the success achieved by Formosa-based A6M2’s operating against the American forces in the Philippines. PRO T O TYPE AIRCRAFT AND SERVICE TESTING Despite controversies in the Japanese Navy, the cannon armament, monoplane design and enclosed cockpit being unfavourably received by some pilots, the design progressed rapidly and, in April 1938, was approved by the Technical Stall'. Eleven months later the first prototype A6M1, officially designated Navy Experimental 12-Shi Carrier Fighter, was completed at Mitsubishi’s Nagoya plant and, on 19th March, 1939, it was transferred by ox-drawn cart to the nearest military airfield, the Army's training field at Kaga- migahara. At 17:30 hrs. on 1st April, 1939, the A6M1 took olT for the first time with the company’s test pilot Katsuzo Shima at the controls. Only minor Known to its crews as the Reisen, the Navy Type O Carrier Fighter Model 21 was the scourge o f the Allies in SouthEast Asia during the great Japanese advances o f early 1942. This aircraft, X -IS2 o f the 3rd Kokutai (Naval Air Corps), was photographed during operations in the Dutch East Indies in that period. Note command bands round fuselage and fin. A Model 21 serving with an unidentified advanced training unit.
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