Kagero's Mitsubishi A5M Claude


Darius Paduch




$33.95 from Casemate Publishing


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 3075. ISBN 978-83-66673-35-9, 76 pages

This latest volume in Kagero's Monograph series is on the A5M Claude naval fighter. The A5M was a response to a set of navy requirements that was felt to be extremely difficult to meet. Previous attempts to meet earlier requirements met in failure of all the entries. However, Mitsubishi's Ka-14 prototype, not only met but exceeded the requirements.

What made it unique at the time was that it was a monoplane. Naval fighters needed to have fairly slow landing speeds to be able to properly alight on aircraft carriers and it was thought that a monoplane would not be able to meet those requirements. The Ka-14 was built in two variants. One with reverse gull wing and another with straight wings. Both had an open cockpit and fixed gear. The latter was the case as it was felt the aerodynamic benefits of retractable landing gear would be negated by the additional weight and maintenance requirements.

The Ka-14 was accepted as the winner and entered service as the A5M. At the time of its introduction, it was the finest carrier borne fighter in the world, a position it held until the advent of the F4F in 1940/41. It initially saw combat in China during 1937 where it outclassed all of its opposition from the Chinese Air Force. It wasn't until the intervention of the Soviets with their I-16 that an aircraft was met that gave it a good fight. The A5M was fairly unique in its ability to escort bombers to the target and back. What made this possible was the use of a separate drop tank, a first for fighter aircraft.

The Claude remained in front line service into 1942 as the production of its replacement, the A6M was unable to meet demand of all fleet squadrons. So the A5M operated from the smaller carriers until mid-1942 and from land bases even longer than that. Many units that were formed in 1942 had the A5M as their initial service aircraft. There was a two seat trainer developed into the A5M4-K and extant fighters were used as advanced trainers until the end of the war, when several were expended as kamikaze aircraft.

The author has done a fine job with this book, especially in obtaining more Claude photos than I've seen in one place before. The historical section is nicely researched and I found it interesting that a number of close-up photos came from Russia as the Soviets were presented with an intact version which was thoroughly tested. The book is generally divided into a section on development and another on its combat service, much of which was in China.  Kagero books have always provided a nice selection of full color profiles and this one is no exception. In addition there are plans in 1/48 within the book and two huge additional sheets for the 1/32 plans. A book that is well worth picking up. 

August 2021

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