Hi! This is War Thunder and WW2 Pages of History. In this episode: the history of of one of the most legendary, yet controversial fighters of WW2. The Japanese Mitsubishi A6M, or as it is better known – the Zero. This aircraft was first conceived in 1937, when the Japanese Imperial Navy announced that it required a new naval fighter, with the following characteristics: 1) It has to be as maneuverable as its predecessor, the A5M. 2) A max speed – above 300 mph (500 km/h). 3) Reasonable mission loiter time with full tanks – at least six hours. 4) A takeoff distance – below 70 meters. The aircraft would also require powerful cannons. In addition to that, it would have to be able to survive a hard landing on the deck of the carrier, without falling apart. Back in 1937 these requirements were not just “hard”, they were “barely achievable”. Nevertheless, just two years later the brand new A6M1 went on to make its maiden flight. The machine satisfied the military in all regards, except for the max speed. Later the propeller was modified and the engine replaced, which solved the problem of max speed, even increasing it above the desired level a bit. Either way, in July 1940, the machine was adopted by the Japanese Navy. It was designated “Type 0 Carrier Fighter”, hence its nickname, the Zero. The Zero achieved its first victories over the skies of China, where it clearly dominated over the enemy aircraft. Japanese fighters reported 99 air victories, while only losing two Zeros, both to flak fire. Then the war moved on to the Pacific, where Japanese fought versus US pilots. The balance was still in Japanese hands. Thanks to the lengthy practice they had before, the pilots of the Rising Sun managed to squeeze every bit out of their new machines and were once again dominating in the skies. But in 1943 the situation changed. The US pilots adopted a hit & run tactic, which proved very unpleasant for the Japanese. The brand new Hellcats and Corsairs were better than the Zero in terms of speed, toughness and climb rate. The Japanese designers were in a desperate race against their US counterparts. The A6M was modified and improved upon numerous times, but it was still lagging behind the competition. All the while, Japan continued losing experienced pilots, only to replace them with rookies. The attrition ratio was 10 Japanese fighters versus 1 American. Nevertheless, in the hands of an Ace, any Zero was very deadly until the very end of the war. In one particular case, Japanese pilot Saburao Sakai was attacked by 15 enemy Hellcats and suffered no damage in a whole 20 minutes of air combat against them. He then lured the enemy into friendly AAA fire. All that despite being a one-eyed pilot. The Zero is an aircraft of extremes. Powerful weaponry, but a very humble ammo stock. Amazing maneuverability, but rather low speed. Immense flight range and mission time, but extremely low toughness. While being one of the most powerful fighters in 1940, it became one of the worst in 45, despite all design efforts. We also have to mention another modification of the Zero, the A6M7. You have probably heard of it, maybe under a different name. This modification was designed specifically as a kamikaze plane and was basically a flying bomb. It was fitted with a 250kg bomb and its pilot was given a last cup of sake before taking off one last time. Finally, we would like to quote the memoirs of one American pilot, who inspected one of the latest modifications of the A6M at the end of the war. “I flew over Le Mans and Africa, I saw many different enemy aircraft. I saw Fiats, Messerschmidt’s and Focke-Wulf’s. But I was only ever afraid of the Zero. Even when flying very high, outside of their effective range, I would just imagine a Zero on my six, That was enough to make my stomach churn. I dreamed about how that fighter was chasing me; I could not turn away or outrun it. He was getting ever closer, becoming larger until it blocked the sky and covered me with his black shadow… then I would wake up. Then, finally I saw one of those fighters – just after the war. They loaded it on a carrier deck and lowered it in the hangar. I went down to take a look… it was the very same Zero from my nightmares. It mockingly smiled with his steely teeth of engine cylinders, as if saying: “i will get you!”. I ran out of the hangar.” That’s it for today. Thank you for watching our History Pages! See you around!