Mitsubishi A6M Zero

The Japanese Navy’s agile A6M Reisen “Zero” fighter thoroughly deserved the legendary status it acquired in the epic carrier battles of the Pacific War. Designed by Jiro Horikoshi, the single-scat aircraft was optimized for manoeuvrability and range. It had excellent aerodynamics and was lightweight, its skinning and main spar being
made from the new extra-super-duralumin alloy. The armament was impressive, with two 20mm cannon in the wings and two machine
guns above the engine.
Introduced in 1940. the Zero easily outclassed opposing Soviet and American fighters in combat over China. Its extraordinary range made it well suited for bomber escort work, a role it performed on
7 December 1941 when Zeros accompanied the force that struck Pearl Harbor. Faster, more manoeuvrable, and better armed than
US Navy fighters, the Zero took a heavy toll of American aircraft during the Battle of Midway in June 1942. But after that point
the Japanese fighters were outstripped by a new generation of US carrier aircraft.
Although later models were equipped with armour protection for the pilot and self-sealing fuel tanks to improve survivability, by 1944 they were being thrown away in kamikaze attacks. In total, 10,449 Zeros were built before Japan’s defeat finally ended production in 1945.