| Mitsubishi A6M Zero |
Rays of the Rising Sun
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero (零式艦上戦闘機 rei-shiki-kanjou-sentouki) is the Japanese initial fighter. It is extremely fast, cheap, and well equipped, making it the best fighter available at the beginning of the game. This quick fighter can be deployed in great numbers as an aerial defense, or as raiders of construction trucks or recon units. It should be noted that although the Zero has many advantages, it is very lightly skinned with virtually no armor, making it an easy target for enemy anti-aircraft guns or swarms of fighters. This flaw can be countered by deploying large amounts of Zeros to control the skies.
Saburo Sakai flew this aircraft during most of the war, yet he was able to hold his own against powerful American Hellcats.
A Japanese player should note that when Zeroes are shot down, they explode in spectacular fashion when they reach the ground, dealing far more damage than any other crashing plane. This can be used to the player's advantage when flying over enemy formations, but be careful when flying over your own troops.
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a true symbol of Imperial Japan even more than the Spitfire was a symbol of Great Britain. The delicate lines of the Reisen, as it was known in Japan, masked a long-range, hard-hitting capability, just as the delicate manners of Japanese diplomats posted to Washington had masked their country's war aims.
The West had long been dismissive of Japan's potential for air warfare, comfortably and stupidly assuming that Japanese aircraft were merely inferior copies of Western designs, and that Japanese pilots were unable to successfully engage in dogfights. This attitude prevailed despite the demonstrated competence of the Japanese Army and naval air forces in battles with both China and the Soviet Union, despite the very specific warnings of no less an authority than Claire Chennault, who would soon lead the American volunteer Flying Tigers in China.
The overwhelming successes of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero during the first six months of the war stunned Western observers, who now catapulted the Zero to the ranks of a super-plane, flown by super-pilots. This was not too much of an exaggeration in 1942, for the Zero was indeed superior to every fighter it faced, land-based or carrier-borne, and the Japanese Navy's elite force of experienced pilots was equal to or better than any in the world.
In time, the very design features Jiro Horikoshi had used to achieve the required performance -- light weight, minimum armor, non-self-sealing tanks -- would allow opposing American fighters to gain the upper hand. Continually updated with new equipment, the Zero was kept in production long after it was obsolete, with 10,499 being built. It seemed as if considerable losses could not waver the indomitable spirit of the Japanese fighting force.
By 1943, the performance of the Zero and the quality of its pilots were on irreversible downward spirals. Particularly damaging was that Japan's experienced pilots died in great numbers relatively early in the war. Conversely, American aircraft and pilots continually improved. The Mitsubishi A6M Zero's final role was a sad one: a kamikaze sacrifice of plane and pilot.
Strategies and TacticsEdit
- Deploying several Zero fighters can make a seriously effective aerial fighting force.
- The Zero can outclass nearly every fighter in engages in 1939, and even into 1942. Take advantage of the technological superiority while it is there.
Two 7.62mm MGs and two bore sighted 20mm cannons attached to the wings.