Mitsubishi A6M Reisen
Aircraft Series


Genesis and Development

War Prize

The Lean Years

Aircraft Identity

Colour Schemes

Power Plant



Zero and its Opponents

Preserved Zeros


References & Acknowledgments


Royal Thai Air Force Museum



All text material on this site is
© Peter Lewis
1985, 1999
unless otherwise acknowledged


The Zero and its Opponents

In comparison with its earliest opponents - Chinese Polikarpov 1-15 biplanes and 1-16 monoplanes, RAF Buffalos, USAAF P-36 Mohawks - the Zero was in a different league, able to outperform its opponents in every spectrum of performance. Due to its low wing loading. it could even out-turn slower biplanes in classic dogfight situations.
The only early combatants of the Zero able to maintain any show of equality were the P40B Tomahawk and the Hawker Hurricane. However, pilots of both these aircraft had to dictate the terms of the fight - any attempt on their behalf to dogfight a Zero had only one certain ending, Instead, hit and run tactics were essential. Diving into Japanese formations, chewing off one or two aircraft, and running were the tactics employed by Chennault's Flying Tigers with considerable success.
The downfall of the Zero was its lack of development and replacement. Against the P-38 Lightning and the F4F Wildcat, the match was more even, The P-38 pilot could select the moment when he wanted to fight, with superior speed, firepower, altitude ability and ruggedness. The F4F was more manoeuverable than the P38, but given pilots of equal skill,the Zero still had the advantage in a dogfight.
The third generation of American fighters attempted to combine this advantage in power, speed and strength with the ability to manouvre with the Zero. The F4U Corsair and. more particularly, the F6F Hellcat could take on the Zero under any conditions. Coupled with overwhelming numerical superiority, this performance advantage relegated the Zero to such short-term employment as dive bombers and Kamikaze attacks. It was left to the small number of higher performance Japanese fighters to defend the Home Islands against the B29s and their supporting P51 Mustangs.