Kagero's A6M Reisen Vol. 1


Dariusz Paduch




$28.95 from Casemate Publishing


Scott Van Aken

Notes: #3072. ISBN 978-83-66673-01-4, 130 pages

One of the more popular Japanese fighters of WWII was the A6M 'Zero'. The aircraft took 'those who know' by surprise as it was felt that the Japanese were incapable of producing world class aircraft. Obviously the 'experts' were not paying attention and were ignoring reports from the far east regarding Japan's war with China and the Soviet Union.

The A6M was born of a set of requirements that no one thought could be reached. The combination of maneuverability, rate of climb, speed and endurance were felt to be too much. Too bad no one told Jiro Hirokoshi, the main designer of the aircraft. Through the use of lightweight materials and construction, he was able to get the most out of Japan's relatively low powered radial engines. In addition, the speed, rate of climb and especially endurance were exceeded.

This is not to say the type did not have its issues. All aircraft run into snags during development and some are never truly fixed. The biggest one for the A6M was a limitation on the speed the aircraft could reach. Though this speed was only available in a dive, it was one that would often prove to be disasterous. Still, it was what the IJNAF wanted and the earlier Hirokoshi design, the A5M, was quickly retired from service to secondary postings and roles once the A6M was in fleet service.

Early use of the A6M against Chinese and western air forces in 1941/42 gave it an aura of invincibility. The aircraft was fairly heavily armed and could outmaneuver most western types. However, it was not so much the airframe that was the deciding factor, but the way the pilots were trained to use it. An interesting anecdote regarding the A6M;  both it and the Army's Ki-43 were powered by the same Nakajima engine. Yet the A6M outflew the Ki-43 in almost all aspects of a comparative competition. So impressed were the Army brass that they wanted the plane for themselves. The Navy turned them down flat stating, rightly, that there were not enough to fill the Navy's needs.

This is the first volume of this book from Kagero, and one can easily anticipate at least one or two more to follow. This one concentrates on the development of the aircraft and the very early variants. Specifically the prototypes, A6M1, A6M2 Model 11 (which was strictly land based), A6M2 Model 21, and the Nakajima built/designed A6M2-N float fighter, which just entered service in time to be sent to the Aleutians and the Solomons. We are provided the rather large numbers of differences between and within variants as well as plans in 1/72 and 1/48 scale. These include fuselage and wing sections. A fair number of nice photos accompany the book along with some very well done profiles and four views.

In all, it is a great addition to the Kagero line of books and I'm very much looking forward to following volumes on the type. If you are a fan of the type, this is one you really should have on your shelves.

March 2021

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