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Best Japanese fighter?

Discussion in 'Air War in the Pacific' started by Poppy, Jun 25, 2010.

  1. Bryan Zero

    Bryan Zero Member

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    Although some of the aircrafts already mentioned have better specs than the Zero, I've alwas been impressed by thenfact that the Zero was such a formidable opponent for a lengthy time frame, without us being able to identify it's weakness during dogfights.

    Only after we luckily found Koga's nearly intact Zero in the Aleutians, repaired it and flew it ourselves, did the tactics necessary to level the playing field with the Zeke reveal themselves. Was this as uncommon as it seems to me? Are there examples of another aircraft's shining success for a long length of time suddenly broken by similar circumstances, or a fighter's glowing success rate ended by something OTHER than the arrival of the next generation of aviation advancements? i.e. - the next bigger/faster/improved range fighter was inevitable, developed, and it alone could get the job done against the plane that had been kicking everyone's butts?
     
  2. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    Actually it seems the USN managed to match the Zero with it's F4F's even before the discovery of Koga's Zero. The Thach Weave is brandied about as the cure for the Zero but it wasn't taught system wide till mid-1943. The USN/USMC and it's F4F's managed a 1-1 kill to loss ratio with the IJN/Zero during 1942 ,the only airforce to do so . Furthermore the Thach Weave was developed ,I think,pre-war it just wasn't taught system wide till almost mid-war.
     
  3. Bryan Zero

    Bryan Zero Member

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    Which makes me wonder if the powers that be truly believed the thatch weave was all that was needed to conquer the zero (or at least level the playing field). If so, every pilot in the Pacific theater would have changed his middle name to either thatch or weave... no? Instead, the tactic was not universally known or taught until much later.

    Perhaps another indication that most had serious doubts about Japan's ability to engineer an aircraft with such high capabilities. "Sure the thatch and weave is nice, but it's just another Japanese fighter... We can just beat it!!"
     
  4. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Of course this opinion does sort of fly in the face of the fact the the "Hellcat" was already being readied for production before the "Zeke" was found, removed, and restored. And that Thach had started working on the idea of how to combat a more maneuverable, but light opponent before that happened as well.

    "The summer of 1941, Thach's Fighting Three went ashore at NAS San Diego to reequip with Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats. This gave Thach much more opportunity to test new ideas. He liked to simulate various flying formations by laying out matchsticks on the kitchen table of his home in nearby Coronado--often a relaxing diversion before retiring for the night. The next day he would try his ideas in the the air. While he was at San Diego, information reached Thach from the Fleet Air Tactical Unit describing the new Japanese Zero carrier fighter.

    The FATU Intelligence Bureau of 22 September 1941 gave the Zero a top speed of between 345 and 380mph, a cruise of between 210 and 250mph, and an armament of two 20mm cannons and two 7.7mm machineguns. Thach also may have seen other estimates, emanating from Claire Chennault in China. Chennault possessed firsthand experience in battling the Zero. He rated its top speed at 322mph, but more important, warned of the Mitsubishi's incredible manueverability and high climb rate. At at any rate, the estimates sketched a formidable opponent, if one gave any credence to them. Thach was inclined to credit the reports he saw, as he felt they appeared to have been written by a fighter pilot. It was not comforting that the potential energy (enemy) might already possess a fighter that could outperform the F4F-3s just reaching the squadron.


    Goto:

    Thach Weave
     
  5. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    per Lundstrom some USN pilots didn't want to go from the F4F-3 to F4F-4 simply because they felt the -3 was just about equal in speed & climb to the Zero whilst the -4 was going to be far more sluggish.
     
  6. CPL Punishment

    CPL Punishment Member

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    The A6M was an outstanding design in 1940, but the United States had a much more capable naval fighter project in development at least a year before any American pilot had experience with the Zeke, specifically the Vought F4U. The prototype contract was issued June 1938, and by October 1940 the resultant aircraft flew in excess of 400 miles per hour. Grumman was given a prototype contract for their less unambitious Hellcat in June 1941, again before the A6M was a known quantity in the US. Much is made of American pre-war arrogance in not preparing an answer to Mitsubishi's fighter, however there is a case to be made against Japanese arrogance in that they seemed to believe that their fighter was more than sufficient to their needs against the putative foe, namely the United States Navy.

    The Zero was crippled by its limited scope as a design. The airframe was engineered to fit the most powerful aero engine available in Japan in 1935, the Nakajima Sakae, which in its highest-output version produced 1210 hp with water/methanol injection. Even though better engines were in development, the Mitsubishi Kasei for example, the Zero could not be adapted to use it, whereas the Corsair was designed for a much more capable power plant able to carry an aircraft well into the uppermost envelop of propeller-driven fighter performance. The only significant improvement over a fighter like the Corsair would have to be a jet.

    In terms of an adaptivity the A6M is definitely a mediocre design in contrast to the hands-down champion in this department, Willy Messerschmidt's Bf-109. The 109 first flew in May 1935 powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine (700hp). The last German-built version, the K model, flew with a 2000hp Daimler-Benz 605. After 10 years the basic design was still a viable threat to the best Allied fighters in service. The Zero was a bundle of compromises based on flawed tactical theory, specifically range and turning radius trumps high speed and high stress maneuverability, whereas the 109 was the product of a technical genius who knew where liquid-cooled piston technology was going and designed his masterpiece fighter to accommodate those advances before they were available. Just like the Corsair the only significant improvement over the Bf-109 was going to be a radical departure from propeller technology. Even after the war the Bf-109 soldiered on in the guise of the Spanish-built Hispano AviaciĆ³n HA-1112. Introduced in 1951 the HA-1112 retired 24 years later, which means that the Bf-109 lasted 30 years as a fighter design.
     
    brndirt1 likes this.

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