Mitsubishi A6M Zero
Mitsubishi A6M Zero was the most produced Japanese aircraft of World War II. It was the symbol of Japanese air power.
This long-range fighter aircraft was produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry. First tests of the aircraft were completed in July 1940. Battle trials of A6M2s were performed in China. There, 15 pre-series A6M2s destroyed 99 Chinese aircrafts, with the loss of only two of their own.
The production had begun on July 1940 under the name Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter Model 11. With a combination of excellent firepower and maneuverability this model quickly became an extremely deadly weapon.
At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Imperial Navy had 420 Zeros in The Pacific Theater. With maximum speed of 331 mph (532 km/h) and the ability to climb to 6,000 m in 7 minutes 27 seconds. It was the first shipboard fighter capable of surpassing land-based aircraft.
On December 7th, 1941, 353 aircraft from six carriers of Japanese Imperial Navy performed a surprise attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, sunk 4 and seriously damaged 8 US Navy battleships.
All previous classic air fight tactics of Allied forces were completely inefficient against acrobatic Zeros. Soon, Allied pilots developed “boom-and-zoom” tactics to withstand Zero fighters, taking advantage of A6M’s bad armor protection.
During World War II a total of 10,938 Zero fighters were constructed. They quickly gained complete mastery in the air over the Pacific Ocean until June 1942, when the Battle of Midway had happened. From this turning point of the Pacific War, the role of Zero noticeably declined.