Pimp my Zero!

Just a fantasy wish list about gearing up the A6M5 Zero, for late-war fights.

1) Kinsei 62 Engine

The Zero really needed an engine upgrade after two years. 1100 hp just wasn’t going to do it, and you can’t squeeze any more from the old Sakae engine. The Zero was very good at pulling its nose up, and was very light so that the initial climb seemed impressive, but the speed soon levelled off. Allied planes could run going up (eventually) or diving down.

It should have had the Kinsei 62 engine (1550 hp) for the A6M5 upgrade, like the engineers wanted.

2) Aileron servo tabs

Very important to improve the roll rate at high speeds. The Zero’s ailerons became very stiff at 300mph, barely moveable. Servo tabs increase leverage and will make them usable. Rolling well makes the plane’s movements less predictable and pilots can respond more quickly.

The Zero actually had them in the beginning, but pilots went wild and overstressed the wings doing high-speed roll and tight turns, risking break-up in mid-air. So Horikoshi removed them to get the pilots to slow down.

Put them back on. Late-war aces don’t do steep turns, they fly fast, barrel-roll and slide a lot.

3) IJAAF Ho-5 cannon

The Navy’s Type 99-1 autocannons had poor firing rate and muzzle velocity. You had to be close in to hit anything. The Type 99-2 had higher muzzle velocity but worse firing rate, you can shoot further out but tend to miss. You could install a bunch of them and compensate for the firing rate, if the plane could take it, like the Shiden-Kai and the Raiden. But the Zero is just too small. There’s just no room.

Meanwhile the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force had a good autocannon of their own, the Ho-5. Muzzle velocity like a Type 99-2, and firing rate like a machine gun.

A couple of hot Ho-5 on a Zero would be just nice. You turn your plane and rip your target at a shocking distance, just when he thinks he’s beyond range.

4) A Working Radio

Team tactics are hard to do without a working radio. Actually there was nothing wrong with the radio itself. The engine’s ignition system was interfering with it, every time a spark plug fired. Somehow it took them almost three years to realize it and shield the radio.


So… increased engine power, tabs for better high-speed roll, Army autocannons, and a shielded radio. Not too much ask for, Shirley?

Aww, forget the Zero. Put four hot Ho-5 in a Shiden-Kai please.


2 thoughts on “Pimp my Zero!

  1. If the Zero did get those improvements it would be common sense in hindsight.
    Also, the pilot schools would have to gear-up for war-time attrition like they never did adequately.
    I get the impression that Japan made improvements by the inch compared to the USA.
    As you point out, the Zero was still messing around with 1200 hp for years.
    The Reppu began before the war and never replaced the Zero as planned until the war was ending.
    Did that happen elsewhere? That was a long frustrating project. They should’ve tried the Reppu engine in the strengthened A6M7 and go straight into combat with 2200 hp! Enough of the Reppu delays. The Turbo was holding it all up. In the meantime use the MK9 base engine and ramp up engine production in bomb-proof mountain factories.

    So , in summary:
    1. Improve the Zero like you said.
    2. Improve pilot training volume as well as quality.
    3. Prioritize reliable engine production with equal hp to the Allies in quantity.

  2. The range of the A6M2 Zero was rare in fighters of it’s time.
    If it lacked speed, it’s acceleration compensated. Pilots knew how to boost it to 345 mph!
    It had 11 second full 360 turn time!
    It’s pilots were blooded in China and were world class.
    It dove 410 mph. The Ki 43-I could not touch that.
    Nothing the US had at the time could out-climb it.
    Those US planes could not fly as high as a rule.
    It had the equivalent guns of the all-conguering Bf 109E.
    It lacked armor, but fighters lacked armor when the war started in Europe too.
    This is one thing I would add to your super Zero, seat-back steel plate. The slow A6M5c finally got it after the Turkey Shoot but that was too late. Did you mention pilot armor?

    If your super Zero was armored and constituted the A6M5 from it’s start with your improvements, there would’ve been no turkeys. The F6Fs would’ve had some competition from the super Zero.
    Of course the new pilots were an important factor too.

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