Mitsubishi A6M Reisen
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After capture, the aircraft displayed the identification numbers 2-182 on the tail surfaces, and an exterior data panel on the port rear fuselage. No doubt other manufacturers data plates were extant at that time, but a visual search of engine and airframe by Messrs Lewis and Duxbury in 1981 revealed no other useful information.
The Australian War Museum, Canberra, was in 1985 attempting to build a display A6M2 Model 21 out of three incomplete airframes, and two RAAF personnel, Flight Lieutenant W. Scholz and Flight Sergeant D. Doggett, carried out some dismantling of NZ6000 early in 1985 in order to provide technical data for their project. In the course of this work they were able to identify some panels from other Zeros, and pointed out that the constructors number could normally be found on the engine firewall underneath the oil tank.
Armed with this knowledge, the author and Andrew Wilkins removed the fastening straps around the tank and, not without difficulty, shifted it forward. No information was found in this area, but during reassembly of these components, the manufacturers plate was finally found, welded to an engine bearer.
This plate, which relates to the machine that provided the 'front half' of the aircraft tells us that it was a Mitsubishi-built airframe, constructors number 3835, and had a net weight of 1800.0kg. Unfortunately, the space for date of manufacture was blank.
The exterior data panels translated, reads: Type Zero Type Carrier Fighter Model 22 Manufacturers number Mitsubishi No.3844 Unit attached (painted over) This panel has been corrupted. There should be a further line (between the manufacturers number and the unit) giving the manufacturing date.
This evidence confirms rumours that the airframe is built up from components of many damaged machines. We know that it was damaged and repaired at Kara. Shrapnel scars are still visible in the wing interior. The rear fuselage of the Zero was very susceptible to bomb blast damage. The normal method of 'splitting' these aircraft for ground transport or repair was to separate the fuselage just behind the wing root - the cockpit section being an integral part of the wing spar construction. Therefore it would be an easy task to marry the front of one Model 22 Zero with the rear fuselage/tail section of another Zero - not necessarily of identical model. The early production Model 22 had a ground adjustable outset rudder trim tab, while later Model 22 production was fitted with an air adjustable inset tab. This aircraft has the inset tab and also the cockpit control and linkages for this feature.
In summary, we have a composite airframe. The front section is from a late-production Model 22 c/n 3835, and the rear half from a similar Model 22 c/n 3844. Minor componentry identified as coming from other airframes Flight Lieutenant Scholz and Flight Sergeant Doggett are:
LH wing root accesory panel 3278 Both sides gun port panels 3616 Top engine accessory cowl 3616 Top engine cowl 3616 Tail cone 3844 RH gun chute access panel 3616 LH gun chute access panel 3217 Both sides gun blast panel 3616
Also noted were that some panels are of obvious NZ manufacture (probably dating from 1958) and some other detail items (e.g. pitot head) are of English origin.