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How to fly a Mitsubishi A6M Zero


Guest Heliosiah
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The A6M Zero of any "MOD" Modification was an all around excellent dog fighter. Known for its exceptional ability to turn. It is a traditional fighter in the sense of pure elegant maneuverability. Anyone foolish enough to attempt a turning battle with this plane will surely die.

 

Designed by

Jirō Horikoshi.

Jiro_Horikoshi.jpg

 

Notable Aces.

Saburō Sakai

Saburo_Sakai_flightgear.jpg

 

"-What was your convergence range for the 20mm cannon?

 

Saburo Sakai: In the Japanese Navy, the setting was 200 meters on the cannon. But all the pilots wanted a much closer convergence. I asked my subordinate to adjust it because it's much better closer in. So we asked the men to adjust the convergence to become much shorter."

 

 

Combat Element.

Sea level - 16,000 ft, and at low speeds, the Reisen was a carrier based naval plane. Several models had folding wing tips for increased carrier storage. Part of this planes legacy is due to its range, simplicity, and high on-board carrier numbers, allowing them to be taken anywhere in the Pacific. Being able to take off and land from a carrier is highly advantageous to a Pacific Theater plane. 

 

 

The most produced Japanese fighter.

 

Type_zero_fighter_en-hierarchy.png

 

 

The allied opinion of the Zero was that it was "built like a fine watch," "marvel of simplicity ..."

 

The early version of the A6M, the A6M2, had an incredibly low wing loading, this meant it was light weight and maneuverable, it could complete a vertically sustained turn unlike any other aircraft it went up against. This version also had folding wingtips for increased carrier storage efficiency.

  • In 1942 the performance of the Zero's engine was superior to the American's up-to and below 16,000 feet.

 

 

 

 

Notable characteristics.

  1. It is light weight. (no armouring)
  2. Has incredible Maneuverability.
  3. Low Stall Speed.
  4. Low wing loading.
  5. Longest Range of Any single engine fighter.

 

  1. Little to No armouring or self sealing fuel tanks. (makes it light weight.)
  2. Low diving capabilities.
  3. Low damage tolerance.
  4. Low speeds.
  5. Low ammo count.

 

 

A6M2, A6M3, A6M5.

The M2 could not roll exceptionally well, however it's counterparts the M3 and M5 were  contemporaneously better at rolling but worse in maneuverability. This was a commonly continuing theme as the engine became stronger and structural integrity increased, maneuverability decreased, at an unequal ratio. This is not a typical horizontal turning aircraft. It is not designed for scissor tactics. It is designed with the ability to pitch at a superior rate, this means that although it cannot roll at a superior rate, it can pull straight up vertically, rolling at the peak of the vertical-turn, pulling-OVER its opponent, and allowing the pilot to then easily see his opponent and turn in any direction that he could have not rolled-in. The M3 also had a slightly larger and more rounded spinner, and a larger propeller. The carburetor air scoop moved from the bottom lip to the top behind the propeller, as well as having a larger ammo capacity.

 

(Hineri Komi)

rwsl.png

h97v.png

 

 

However this does not mean the Zero is crippled in this respect. Most noticeable when using a joystick, the Zero is capable of maintaining a gun solution on a target that rolls out of its line of fire by manipulating its rudder.

[media]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=644K6YhE5Lo[/media]

 

 

Both the M3 and M5 had higher altitude performance abilities and higher power than the M2. Neither had the folding wing tips. Both had larger ammunition belts and superior diving abilities than the M2. However they were still extremely difficult to control at high speeds, the cloth covered control surfaces would behave poorly at high speeds. 

  1. The A6M5 was 26% heavier than the A6M2 but received an engine only 16% stronger.
  2. The A6M5 was thus more armoured and contained self sealing fuel tanks, but became less nimble. 

 

 

When it comes to the early versions of the Zero, this makes anyone who tries to follow you in this turn, which nothing besides a biplane can turn as sharply, an easy target. You easily maintain enough energy due to your low weight and strong engine, to turn, while anyone who has tried to turn with you does not. However the roll rate of the Zero becomes even more lethargic above 400km/h True airspeed. Attempt to coax bandits below 350km/h and fight them below 16,000 ft. This will give you your best advantage to run them down, and out turn them. But the A6M5 is much heavier than its predecessor, and allied planes have what the allies called a "Window of Advantage," over the M5 at certain times. Above stall speeds even a Hellcat can gain this window of advantage, and possibly get guns-on if caught in a flat turn fight.

 

American pilots were told not to stick around with the zero, they were taught to surprise them from above, try to hit them, and if you miss, keep going. To Boom and Zoom. They were also taught team-tactics, such as the thatch weave. Keep an eye on all Tangos, especially when:

 

  1. They are higher.
  2. They outnumber you.

"Saburo Sakai: I am confident that Japanese pilots were superior on a one-on-one basis. But the ability to work as a team both offensively and defensively that the Americans had was very impressive. Perhaps this comes from the team spirit and thinking they developed playing American football. This hit us particularly hard in the air engagements from the middle war onwards (teamwork and search patterns)."

 

When fighting lower tiers, 7 and lower in the A6M2 against P-40s or Wildcats, a viable counter measure when encountering enemies head to head that out number you was to fake a head on with an opponent and then dive out for the deck, their engines should not be strong enough to catch you. However this does not work against stronger engine fighters like the Hellcat or Corsair.

 

 

[Performance] A6M3http://forum.warthunder.com/index.php?/topic/69439-a6m3-performance/

 

 

 

This is how allies are trained to fight you:

 

Informational intelligence summary 59

 

http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/japan/intelsum85-dec42.pdf

 

EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORT OF ARMY AIR FORCES PROVING GROUND GROUP
Eglind field, Florida

1. CONCLUSIONS:

The Zero fighter, because of its low wing loading, has superior maneuverability to all our present service aircraft.

It is necessary to maintain a speed of over three-hundred (300) miles per our indicated to successfully combat this airplane.

In developing tactics against the Zero, cognizance should be taken of two facts:

1. The slow rate of roll of the Zero at high speeds. 2. Inability of the Zero engine to continue operating under negative acceleration.

The engine performance of the Zero is superior to the present service type engine without turbochargers. This superiority is recognizable in the fact that maximum manifold pressure can be maintained from sea level to sixteen-thousand (16,000) feet.

2. RECOMMENDATIONS:

That all pilots entering the theatre of action where the Zero can be expected, be instructed in the following:

1. Never attempt to dog fight the Zero. 2. Never maneuver with the Zero at speeds below three-hundred (300) miles per hour indicated unless directly behind it. 3. Never follow a Zero in a climb at slow speeds. (Service type ships will stall out at the steep angle where the Zero has just reached its most maneuverable speed. At this point, it is possible for the Zero to complete a loop putting it in a position for a rear quarter attack)

That airplanes be used against the Zero be as light as possible and that all equipment not absolutely necessary for combat be removed.

3. OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE TACTICS:

The most important features to consider in developing successful tactics against the Zero would appear to be its slow rate of roll at high speeds and the failure of its engine to run under negative acceleration.

4. AIRPLANE GENERAL:

The Zero fighter is a low wing, single engine, single seater monoplane, of all metal construction, flush riveted, with fabric covered control surfaces. The airplane is constructed entirely as one unit. Replacement of any part of the airplane structure would necessitate a depot repair job with facilities for re-riveting.

 

 

 

 

This is how the Japanese were taught to fight back

 

The five stages of aerial combat

 

http://forum.warthunder.com/index.php?/topic/60639-japanese-fighter-tactics/

 

 

Cockpit.

62mo.jpg

 

 

 

 

So, when flying this plane recap;

 

  1. You want to always check above you and your 6, since you're at your most vulnerable with opponents above you.
  2. You do NOT want to dive on an enemy or attempt to follow one in a dive, you WILL rip your wings off at low speeds. (except when fleeing from an opponent at low tiers)
  3. Use your guns conservatively. Fire at close ranges. 
  4. Be wary of fighting at a ratio of 2:1 or more. 
  5. Be wary of the rear gunners of bombers.
  6. Be wary of AAA.
  7. You have a GREAT ability to turn vertically over your opponent, while slanting(Hineri Komi). This is best applied when in close combat, especially when being closely pursued(Kanzen), the Zero is best at this type of level dog fighting(Suihei Hasen). When you make your turn, be sure to follow through, your opponent will almost certainly never obtain a gun solution. 
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Yeah, and people will still complain. So I put this here so I don't have to repeat myself in the future.

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After todays patch the roll rate on A6M3 is really good compared to before. 16 kills and 1 death.. this plane performs well in derp games.

 

 

A6M3 rolls good, and now the a6m2 rolls well as well. the A6M'S  got better this patch

 

 

The zero works beautifully now. Thank you very much for this patch!

And hooray! HB is back!!

 

 

The current postings on the new FM seem quite positive actually

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I only just got into this game so but I flew the Zero and other Japanese aircraft for a number of years in other games in the past.  I think Japanese aircraft were very unforgiving towards inexperienced pilots historically.  The Japanese pilots learned how to fly fighting over China and by the time the war in the pacific started they were already competent pilots and to new recruits instructors.  The Zeros power and also its weakness come out of its light construction,  at the start of a battle it was pretty much a war for height superiority.  The Japanese would try to gain as much height as possible before a battle so they were able to maintain the upper hand on their opponents.  

 

Like was said a lot of pacific fighting happened in the vertical and the zero could turn much steeper than most of the US aircraft which were made to have thinker armor   They could also turn inside of any American combat aircraft and take the advantage.  Initially the US didn't know the boom and zoom type tactics so would get chewed up by the Japanese in combat, then they worked towards very heavy aircraft with large engines so they could use speed against the Japanese.  The lightening was a favored aircraft for this and as long as the pilot didn't loose their heads they could avoid the Japanese fire.  Flying the zero needs a lot of skill and patience to use its strengths and not fall into its weaknesses ;low speeds at low levels.         

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I think one of the most important points here is that - as per the OP - people need to learn to fight VERTICALLY with the Zero. You can't roll and roll and roll to keep up with planes however they decide to maneuver. However your plane is lightweight and excellent at nose-up maneuvers, it can do tight loops, and it can change direction VERY fast when being nose-up or upside down (well, most planes can, but the Zero's energy retention when toying in the vertical planes makes it really good at it).

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thats because most people here are trapped by their daily life and only think 2dimensional as they are used to by their car driving experience. Even with fixed roll rates it will be one of the slowest rollers in game so better listen to what OP says.

 

Turning doesnt say anything about the orientation of the turn btw.

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Yeah I've heard a lot of people happy with the new FM fix. I've even heard someone cry it's op now. LOL.

 

But the Zero was still intended to use it's vertical turning ability to its advantage. 

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I use it as a micro-boom'n'zoomer. Don't just go in co-alt and start turning, get slightly above and drop in on them from behind as you would a boom'n'zoom aircraft allowing you to match the speed of faster planes.... but then instead of zooming, just kill the throttle and stick on their tail. Nothing can escape a zero stuck to their tail unless you're a terrible shot.


The Japanese planes are a little frustrating due to the one burst-dead thing, but the turning ability is like a get out of jail free card - as long as you see the attack before they get a solid burst in, you can take out any single enemy or usually handle two or more.

 

If you see bullets, turn as hard as you can into the turn and you'll be behind them within two orbits.

The thing to remember, for me, is that just because you're a turn-fight professional, doesn't mean altitude and airspeed are worthless - getting one kill at low altitude is easy, surviving against several boom'n'zoomers is not, so go high. You can always kill off altitude/airspeed if you need to, but avoiding being boom'n'zoomed is the way to long term success/survival. If you start a fight at the same altitude and airspeed as an enemy, you're 95% sure of survival, 70% sure of the kill (higher if the enemy pilot doesn't realise that they should try to escape).

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That was a pretty good clip Lemsko, I'm just not good with recording programs and my graphics quality isn't always on high. So I looked for something on YT where it showed a Zero going vertical .

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thx, still want to make a longer vid for Zeke only. Oh and i only record replays since recording and playing at same time reduces my framerate.

 

My advice for all people is go to a ww2 airshow, enjoy the day, come back and tell me how many flat turns you have seen that day.

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  • 1 month later...

This is actually an amazing plane, and when used with skill can really destroy enemys during dogfights. Didn't it also get a better roll with a buff around 1.31 it feels like a better roll than spitfires? xD

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is possible to use this maneuver amazing what you did using the mouse, or just with the joytick? :dntknw:

It's possible with both mouse and joystick.

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So really the idea behind these, is stop people thinking
hqdefault.jpg

And to start thinking...
+_4ca301f5361b1d1079986e5eb00d6c19.jpeg

(SORRY FOR ANY NIGHTMARES CAUSED)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here you can listen to Japanese ace Saburo Sakai, through out you can see and listen to him talk about and demonstrate use of the elevator to out maneuver someone. 

 

 

[media]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnugytm5N7g[/media]

 

 

In the beginning he is basically saying this:

 

"About the Zero fighter -

One of the best features of Zero I want to tell you is her superior cruising ability. She could fly for a very long time.
No matter how excellent combat ability she may have, if not enough time for a pilot to fight, no better idea for his tactics will come up. I think the cruising ability is the most important factor.
 
Another one is the excellent elevator which Dr Horikoshi designed from his hard work. The elevator is designed to respond as pilot wants accurately in whichever low or high speed. Thus Zero is so superior in vertical maneuverability in looping above all. Once we captured opponent's back at distance about 100 to 120 feet, they were placed in a key-locked condition of wrestling and we never failed to shoot them down. They were unable to escape unless the pilot was a boy.
 
In rare case, even if we were captured in our back, we could recover taking their back after 3 or 4 times looping. Zero's vertical maneuverability was so superior and each our pilot developed each style called 'Twisting attack'."
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  • 1 month later...
Just started grindi the Japanese tree. Had some nice rounds with the Ki-45, I am very used in flying destroyers (like we say in Germany) / heavy attackers. Unlocked the first A6M an got asskicked so bad. Then started research and found this guide. It is amazong how you an perform real strategy tips in the game. I had several rounds with 5 or more klls and 0 deaths. Zeros have to be flown like hovering cherry blossoms. In fact they do not have to be flown, they have to be felt. I currently think the Japanese tree is the most challenging nation to fly. Thank you all!
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Just started grindi the Japanese tree. Had some nice rounds with the Ki-45, I am very used in flying destroyers (like we say in Germany) / heavy attackers. Unlocked the first A6M an got asskicked so bad. Then started research and found this guide. It is amazong how you an perform real strategy tips in the game. I had several rounds with 5 or more klls and 0 deaths. Zeros have to be flown like hovering cherry blossoms. In fact they do not have to be flown, they have to be felt. I currently think the Japanese tree is the most challenging nation to fly. Thank you all!

I'm glad it helped you become more successful :D

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1) Get an A6M
2) Climb as hard as you can
3) Fuck shit up

It's very difficult to beat an A6M with as much energy as you. Either the enemy runs away to set up a head-on (easily evaded) or hangs around to be shot down.

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