The quality of Japanese aircraft came as an unpleasant surprise to the Allies at the outbreak of the Pacific War, and it was personified in one type, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero.
One of the finest aircraft of all time, the Mitsubishi A6M Reisen (Zero fighter) first flew on 1 April 1939. It soon showed itself to be clearly superior to any fighter the Allies could put into the air in the early stages of the Pacific campaign. Armed with two 20mm cannon and two 7.7mm machine-guns, it was highly maneuverable and structurally very strong, despite being lightweight.
Instead of being built in several separate units, the Zero was revolutionary in that it was constructed in two pieces. The engine, cockpit and forward fuselage combined with the wings to form one rigid unit; the second part comprised the rear fuselage and the tail. The two units were joined by a ring of 80 bolts. Although the Mitsubishi Zero had some serious drawbacks in combat, the greatest of which was its inability to absorb punishment because of its lack of self-sealing fuel tanks and armor plating, its greatest assets were its maneuverability and its long range.
In 1942 the Americans allocated the code-name Zeke to the A6M, but as time went by the name Zero came into general use. During the first months of the Pacific War, the Zeros carved out an impressive combat record. For example, in the battle for Java alone, which ended on 8 March 1942, they destroyed 550 Allied aircraft. As the war progressed, however, the Zero gradually came to be outclassed by American fighters such as the Grumman F6F Wildcat and Vought Corsair. In the latter months, many were fitted with bombs and expended in Kamikaze suicide attacks.
This book provides a perfect introduction to the design and combat career of a fighter that made history. Why was the Zero conceived? What was it like to fly in combat? How did it compare with Allied types? Who were the engineers and designers who brought it to fruition and the pilots who became aces while flying it? Here is a feast for the modeler, with a wealth of technical information, photographs and color profiles.