Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen

Japanese navy fighter, fighter-bomber and Kamikaze plane

A restored Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen.

A restored Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen.

Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen
Type:
Japanese carrier-based fighter and fighter-bomber.

History:

Though the A6M3 was an ideal fighter with the original high manoeuvrability of the A6M1 and higher speed performance than the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero , the evolution of air warfare and the introduction of new generation 2,000hp-class American fighters, like the Corsair , Hellcat, P-47 Thunderbolt , P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning , forced more improvement of the Zeke (Allied code-name).

This was realized in the Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen with enhanced speed and firepower. The engine was still the Sakae 21 from the A6M3, but modifications were made to the airframe. To improve speed without change of the engine it was necessary to shorten the wing span. Another measure to increase speed was the introduction of thrust-type individual exhaust pipes.

The first prototype of the Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen made its first flight in August 1943 and reached a maximum speed of 351 mph. However, its horizontal agility was reduced and the endurance was only two and a half hours of cruising (8 hours with A6M2).
Nevertheless, the Japanese Navy adopted the Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen, deciding it was suitable to the situation of the day. Mitsubishi produced 747 of it.

As one of the fire-power improvements, from the 465th A6M5, the wing cannon was replaced by Type 99 Mark 2 fixed gun Model 4 with a belt-feed system, carrying 125 rounds. Also, the wing outer skins were thickened to increase the limit speed in dive to 460 mph. The aircrafts incorporating these changes were designated as A6M5a. Mitsubishi continued production of the model A6M5a until August 1944 during which 391 were built.

Launching of first succesfull Kamikaze attack

Mabalacta airfield in the Philippines, is seen on 25 October 1944 as Lt Yukio Seki’s kamikaze flight, with accompanying escorts, prepares to sortie in the first succesfull Kamikaze attack carried out against US warships.

There were also a fighter-bomber versions of the A6M5 and A6M5a, which were converted by the Naval Air Arsenals or by field units. They were introduced into combat from the Battle of Marianas and eventually mainly used in Kamikaze-attacks.

It was five A6M5 fighter-bombers of the Shikishima Kamikaze unit that sank the US aircraft-carrier St Lo and damaged three others on 25 October 1944.

The production of the Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen by Nakajima was started in November 1943, but the total number produced there is not known, though it was more than twice the numbers built by Mitsubishi.

The A6M5c had more powerful armament of two 13mm guns added outside of each 20mm cannon in the wings and permanent equipment of fixed racks for 30-60-kg bomb under the wings. The port nose 7.7mm machine gun was removed.
The panel arrangements of upper and lower sides of the wings outside the landing gears were extensively revised, while the under fuselage installation of the drop tank was changed to four-point support carrying a wooden tank with stabilizing fins. The protection was further improved with additional 55mm-thick bullet-proof glass and 8mm-thick armor plate behind the pilot seat.

The A6M5 set right earlier weakness in the Zero – insufficient armament, light structure and lack of protection for pilots and fuel tanks – but in the end proved no match, qualitatively or quantitatively, for the Allied fighters.

The final model A6M7 was a fighter-bomber version, used mainly for Kamikaze-attacks.

A final attempt to achieve parity with the Allied fighters was made with the A6M8 powered by a 1,560 hp engine. The prototype appeared in April 1945, but WW2 ended before the proposed production programme with 6,300 aircraft could had been started.

Total A6M Reisen production amounted to 10,937, of which 6,217 were built by Nakajima which also designed and built 327 of the attractive A6M2-N single-float seaplane fighter version.

Users: Japan (Imperial Navy).


Pictures of Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen


Data for Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen

Technical data
Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen data
Type carrier-based fighter plane
Power plant one 1,130hp Nakajima NK1F Sakae 21 14-cylinder two-row radial engine, air-cooled
Accommodation 1
Wing span 36 ft 1 in
Length overall 29 ft 11 in
Height overall 11 ft 6 in
Weight empty 3,920 lb
Weight maximum loaded 6,025 lb
Maximum speed 351 mph at 19,685 ft
Climb rate 3,150 ft/min
Service ceiling 38,520 ft
Range 1,194 miles
Armament
Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen data
A6M5 Two 20mm Type 99 Mk 4 cannon with belt of 85 rounds, two 7.7mm machine guns [550 rpm, velocity 2,067 ft/sec] in fuselage
A6M5a 125 rounds in belt for cannon
A6M5b as 5a but one 7.7mm replaced by 12.7mm machine gun
A6M5c Two 20mm cannon with belt of 125 rounds, two 13.2mm machine guns in wings, optional one more in fuselage
as fighter-bomber Wing racks for two 132 lb bombs
Service statistics
First flight August 1943
Production delivery not later than November 1943
Final delivery (A6M5c) August 1945 (A6M5a August 1944)
Total production figure Total: 10.937 (of these 327 A6M2-N, approx. 2,200 A6M5, 1,100 A6M5a)

Animated 3D model of Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen

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2 Comments

  1. Too bad the design team didn’t get their way for a 1500 hp upgrade for the A6M5!
    Also the Zero seemed to be the last WW2 fighter to get seat-back armor (A6M5c). This among many other things added weight without adding power, so even the Ki 43-IIIa passed the A6M5c in speed.
    The obsolete A6M5 was the most produced version, but all of this effort could have been better spent on a real contender mid-war. Nakajima could have made more of it’s own Ki 44s instead of continuing Mitsubishi Zero production. Mitsubishi should have prioritized the A7M faster. I like the A7M3-J with dorsal twin and wing quartet 30mm cannons. 2200 hp! short of that, the J2M needed more resorces and proved to be more of a match for the Allies than the Zero. These 2 projects were late to the party with the resources mostly going to the ‘over the hill’ Zero. By the time the Navy brass admitted their mistake since the boosted A6M6 failed. The A6M8 finally got the 1560 hp Ha 112-II but by then it was obsolete too and the war was over.
    There were other fighters that could have used those misplaced resources too. I only mentioned the most obvious ones.
    I’m not saying that the Ki 43 Oscar was much better either. It was the second most produced Japanese fighter. Those resorces could have been better spent mid-war as well. Again the Ki 44 Tojo could be the beneficiary. Maybe the cannon armed Ki 44-III could have had a crack at the B-29s. If so, I believe a properly mass produced Tojo would be far more famous today. Maybe 6,000 at least. That would leave a mark.
    I could continue.

  2. Given the choice between the A6M5 with a more powerful but bigger Ha-112-II motor intended by the designers and one with the same old engine from the lighter A6M3, what does the all knowing IJN do?
    They nix the bigger engine and gamble for more power with the old one, turbo boosted in the A6M6. This failed. What do the design engineers know?
    Unfortunately, Mitsubishi is obliged to mass produce obsolete under-powered A6M5s, more than any other version.

    What if they were on the same page and accepted the power increase?
    The Oscar would not have surpassed the A6M5c in speed.
    It would be an A6M8 in 1943, not 1945!

    The Zero replacement, the Reppu, could follow with the 2,200 hp MK9 engine in 1944. Both could be on the carrier strike force in the Marianas battle. The Reppus could protect the carriers while the ‘A6M5s’ strike offensively. If they would be mistaken for A6M3s, surprise! The turkey shoot would have less turkeys.
    A 360 mph A6M5 beats a 340 mph A6M7 too. The real replacement is the 390+ mph Reppu. I like the high altitude A7M3 with 6x20mm cannons. It would’ve been a better interceptor than the Raiden against B-29s.

    Guess what the IJN did with the A7M?
    You guessed it! fought the engineers over the engine power again and delayed it. So, the Reppu missed the whole war. Just like the A6M8 Zero.

    The Army rival to the A7M was the Ki 84 Hayate. Thanks to the IJA, 3,500 were produced. That makes the IJN look bad.

    Imagine 3,500 Reppus running loose by 1945.

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