The downfall of the Mitsubishi Zero

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
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Gen_Del_Pilar
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The downfall of the Mitsubishi Zero

Post by Gen_Del_Pilar » 27 Nov 2004 23:05

I've always been intrigued by how the Zero went from being regarded as a "superplane" to actually being an underdog (in a 1-on-1 vs newer American planes) in such a short space of time. I have a vague idea that the specific turning point was sometime in late 1942 or early 1943. Does anyone have a more concrete answer?

Another thing. If we consider the following head-to-heads:

a) Zero edition '41 vs Best American fighter '41
b) Zero edition '45 vs Best American fighter '45

I of course presume that in a) the former had a significant edge while in b) the latter was the favorite, but... in which of these matchups was the quality difference greater?

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procrazzy
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Post by procrazzy » 27 Nov 2004 23:12

Mabye, like in germany, due to heavy bombing, the factories had to keep on moving location and may have been short of workers, machines and materials.

cheers

Philip

Mark V
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Post by Mark V » 27 Nov 2004 23:22

It was about tactics for most part, even Wildcats and P-40s fared decently against Zeroes if proper tactics was used.

The fact that made Zero so great was that it punished wrong tactics and poor pilot training harder than any other aerial opposite before, and became an legend doing that. Slow speed dogfight against it (and against Nakajima Ki-43s) was doomed to end up in failure - aviators flying in Pacific had to learn entirely new methods of aerial combat and forget even dreaming about "traditional" turning battles.

Mark V

Tony Williams
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Post by Tony Williams » 28 Nov 2004 12:30

Part of the answer was that the Zero had little room for improvement; it couldn't take a much more powerful engine, and adding armour and heavier guns hurt the performance. So it only improved gradually whereas the US planes improved far more.

The relative pilot skill issue was also very important, as mentioned. Early in the war the Japanese naval pilots were excellent, the US ones inexperienced. As time went by the good Japanese pilots were shot down and replaced by much more poorly-trained ones, whereas the US pilots gained in experience and instituted a thorough combat training regime for new ones.

So at the start, the Japanese had the best planes flown by the best pilots, but by the end of the war the reverse was true.

Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and Discussion forum

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Sun Tsu
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Post by Sun Tsu » 28 Nov 2004 16:13

Another thing to mention, was the fact that the Zero had almost ZERO (pun not intended) armour, no self-sealing fuel tanks, and nothing else like that. The emphasis was completely on speed. Basically, if the plane was hit in a somewhat vital area, it went down (generalisation, of course).

Also, as Tony said, it couldn't be evolved so very much (such as fitting a larger engine).

At the same time, the american planes got better and better (bigger engines, better manouverability), while still maintaining their set advantages (as in armour)

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Topspeed
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Post by Topspeed » 28 Nov 2004 19:24

Sun Tsu wrote:Another thing to mention, was the fact that the Zero had almost ZERO (pun not intended) armour, no self-sealing fuel tanks, and nothing else like that. The emphasis was completely on speed. Basically, if the plane was hit in a somewhat vital area, it went down (generalisation, of course).

Also, as Tony said, it couldn't be evolved so very much (such as fitting a larger engine).

At the same time, the american planes got better and better (bigger engines, better manouverability), while still maintaining their set advantages (as in armour)
Speed was not the only positive value in ZERO. It was a long range fighter. It was nimble and light and superior to all fighters in the region when it emerged for the first time.


regards,

topspeed

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