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A6M Zero in the Battle of Britain

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  • A6M Zero in the Battle of Britain

    The famous Japanese ace, Saburo Sakai , once stated that if Germany had Zeros instead of Bf-109, the outcome of Battle of Britain would be very different. He believed Zero's superior range will enable Germans to strike deep into the interior of Britain.

    I am interested to know everyone's opinion on the matter. Obviously, lets assume that Luftwaffa pilots are trained to take advantage of the Zero's strength and negate its weakness.
    Last edited by IDonT4; 21 Aug 12, 10:59.

  • #2
    While they have the range, they lack the staying power. They don't have any great advantage over a Spitfire or Hurricane like dive speed, top speed, etc. Their armament is in one way weak. That is the small amount of cannon ammunition carried.
    They would also be far easier to saw up with the 8 .303 machineguns than a 109 was.

    Range, while a factor, wasn't the primary determinant in winning or losing. Sheer losses by the Germans was. Substituting the Zero isn't really going to change that. Sure, it could stay and fight longer but once the cannons ran dry it was as useless as having the Red Bull aerobatics team present. Two 7.7mm machineguns weren't going to cut the mustard in aerial combat.

    The Zero also lacks altitude capacity compared to the 109. Another thing to keep in mind as the action goes on.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
      While they have the range, they lack the staying power. They don't have any great advantage over a Spitfire or Hurricane like dive speed, top speed, etc. Their armament is in one way weak. That is the small amount of cannon ammunition carried.
      They would also be far easier to saw up with the 8 .303 machineguns than a 109 was.

      Range, while a factor, wasn't the primary determinant in winning or losing. Sheer losses by the Germans was. Substituting the Zero isn't really going to change that. Sure, it could stay and fight longer but once the cannons ran dry it was as useless as having the Red Bull aerobatics team present. Two 7.7mm machineguns weren't going to cut the mustard in aerial combat.

      The Zero also lacks altitude capacity compared to the 109. Another thing to keep in mind as the action goes on.
      Why the low opinion of the Zero.

      http://www.darwinspitfires.com/artic...-the-zero.html


      Overall, the summary from the comparative trials was not encouraging:

      'Both pilots consider the Spitfire is outclassed by the Hap at all heights up to 20 000 feet…The Spitfire does not possess any outstanding qualifications which permit it to gain an advantage over the Hap in equal circumstances.'

      Comment


      • #4
        Because in the BoB the Zero's main function would be bomber escort. As at Guadalcanal and elsewhere it didn't do that well at it. The British have the altitude initiative moreso than with the 109 and could simply use diving slashing attacks on the bombers.
        Dogfighting the enemy fighters was not the main objective. It was stopping the bombers.
        Also the Hap (clipped Zero) would not the the one in use. The lower power A6M2 version would be.
        Against the F4F Wildcat through the end of the Guadalcanal campaign the loss ratio of F4F to Zeros engaged in combat against each other was 1 to 1. The bomber loss rate for the Japanese was very high with many raids having 30% + losses.
        You see the same numbers versus the P-40. The P-39 saw less fighter on fighter action due to its short range.
        A 1 to 1 loss ratio means the Germans lose.

        Personally, I think the Luftwaffe should have started transitioning to the He 100D about the time they invaded France. That airplane would have made a difference.
        First it has almost 30% more range. It is easier to build and has more potential for armament increases. I could easily see a version by the end of 1940 with 3 20mm MG 151 (one engine, one each wing root) and possibly two 7.9mm MG on the nose.
        It is as fast as a Fw 190A and has much the same maneuverability as the 109 otherwise. It also has the high altitude performance.

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        • #5
          In support of Mr Gardiner-the Zero also did not Have self sealing tanks-which proved crucial in many a dogfight during the B.O.B.
          Also adverse British weather conditions hamperd the efficency of the American P-40 'Tomahawk in European use -I wonder how the Zero would have coped?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
            Because in the BoB the Zero's main function would be bomber escort. As at Guadalcanal and elsewhere it didn't do that well at it. The British have the altitude initiative moreso than with the 109 and could simply use diving slashing attacks on the bombers.
            Dogfighting the enemy fighters was not the main objective. It was stopping the bombers.
            Also the Hap (clipped Zero) would not the the one in use. The lower power A6M2 version would be.
            Against the F4F Wildcat through the end of the Guadalcanal campaign the loss ratio of F4F to Zeros engaged in combat against each other was 1 to 1. The bomber loss rate for the Japanese was very high with many raids having 30% + losses.
            You see the same numbers versus the P-40. The P-39 saw less fighter on fighter action due to its short range.
            A 1 to 1 loss ratio means the Germans lose.

            Personally, I think the Luftwaffe should have started transitioning to the He 100D about the time they invaded France. That airplane would have made a difference.
            First it has almost 30% more range. It is easier to build and has more potential for armament increases. I could easily see a version by the end of 1940 with 3 20mm MG 151 (one engine, one each wing root) and possibly two 7.9mm MG on the nose.
            It is as fast as a Fw 190A and has much the same maneuverability as the 109 otherwise. It also has the high altitude performance.
            Correct me if I'm wrong but during the Battle of Britain the RAF were still flying tight finger 3 formations (most figured out not to do that after the Battle of Britain) and attempted to dogfight the BF109 in the horizontal. In the Pacific the Spitfire also attempted to dogfight the zero in the horizontal that lead to disastrous results early on.

            So yes, tactics could negate the Zeke's strength but such tactics did yet exist during BoB.

            "The British fared no better than the Americans did. The RAF squadrons stationed in Malaya were flying the American Brewster Buffalo; a short barrel shaped fighter that was outmoded before it reached the front. Aware of its lack of performance the British had banished the fighter to Burma, away from combat with the superior German Bf-109. The general impression was that the Japanese had nothing but outdated biplanes that would not be a match for the Brewster fighter. When the British Buffaloes came in contact with the A6M they were sliced to ribbons.

            To reduce their losses the RAF decided to replace the outmatched Buffalo with the more formidable Hawker Hurricane, famed for its decisive role in the Battle of Britain. Unfortunately, its pilots also found that fighting a Zeke on its terms was practically hara-kiri. Finally, the British threw their best at the Japanese, the fabled Supermarine Spitfire. To the Allies dismay, this fighter also could not compare with the incredibly nimble Zero. In only two engagements, Zeros downed 17 of 27 while losing 2 of their own.

            It seemed the A6M was an unstoppable juggernaut. It soon gained the reputation of being invincible. Everywhere it was encountered, the Zero vanquished its enemies."

            -http://www.chuckhawks.com/p-40_vs_zero.htm
            Last edited by IDonT4; 22 Aug 12, 10:03.

            Comment


            • #7
              The Battle of Britain was also won on the relative aircraft and pilot strengths, attrition and replacement rates, not marginal fighter performance.

              The Zero had range (at a low cruising speed) and better low-speed manoeuvring than a Spitfire or Hurricane, but was out-dived and rolled by both. It was also, as indicated, a very light design likely to be even worse at bringing its pilots back than the 109.

              Most of the fighter losses in 1940, as in other theatres, occurred during 'bounces', something for which the Zero was not optimised in either attack or defence (as its opponents learned).
              History is not tragedy; to understand historical reality, it is sometimes better to not know the end of the story.

              Pierre Vidal-Naquet

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bluenose View Post
                The Battle of Britain was also won on the relative aircraft and pilot strengths, attrition and replacement rates, not marginal fighter performance.

                The Zero had range (at a low cruising speed) and better low-speed manoeuvring than a Spitfire or Hurricane, but was out-dived and rolled by both. It was also, as indicated, a very light design likely to be even worse at bringing its pilots back than the 109.

                Most of the fighter losses in 1940, as in other theatres, occurred during 'bounces', something for which the Zero was not optimised in either attack or defence (as its opponents learned).

                Landbased Spitfires met A6M2's in only one period, during 1943 in defence of Darwin, Australia. The results per each side's loss records were very heavily in favor of the Zeroes. They downed around 28 Spitfire V's v. 3 A6M's and 1 Japanese Army Oscar (they flew one of the raids). It was over a number of escorted bombing raids and fighter sweeps by the Japanese, not just two. The Spit losses do not include heavy operational (fuel and engine failure) losses they suffered.

                The Hurricanes did meet Japanese Navy fighters (Zeroes) on a couple of occasions in Malaya/DEI, and over Ceylon; they were completely routed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Landbased Spitfires met A6M2's in only one period, during 1943 in defence of Darwin, Australia. The results per each side's loss records were very heavily in favor of the Zeroes. They downed around 28 Spitfire V's v. 3 A6M's and 1 Japanese Army Oscar (they flew one of the raids). It was over a number of escorted bombing raids and fighter sweeps by the Japanese, not just two. The Spit losses do not include heavy operational (fuel and engine failure) losses they suffered.
                  There were many occasions in aerial operations when one force was heavily hit under some circumstances; it does not change the central argument. The Darwin-based Spits seem to have performed poorly on this occasion; they should have wiped the floor with them.

                  The Hurricanes did meet Japanese Navy fighters (Zeroes) on a couple of occasions in Malaya/DEI, and over Ceylon; they were completely routed.
                  Since 'routing' does not really apply to aircraft, that’s open to question. However, it again does not prove anything; Zeros did well against many fighter types who did not really understand how to fight them. What were the relative positions, serviceability and pilot experience? In a prolonged campaign against 11 Group over England, they were going to fare no better than the 109.
                  History is not tragedy; to understand historical reality, it is sometimes better to not know the end of the story.

                  Pierre Vidal-Naquet

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by IDonT4 View Post
                    Correct me if I'm wrong but during the Battle of Britain the RAF were still flying tight finger 3 formations (most figured out not to do that after the Battle of Britain) and attempted to dogfight the BF109 in the horizontal. In the Pacific the Spitfire also attempted to dogfight the zero in the horizontal that lead to disastrous results early on.

                    So yes, tactics could negate the Zeke's strength but such tactics did yet exist during BoB.

                    "The British fared no better than the Americans did. The RAF squadrons stationed in Malaya were flying the American Brewster Buffalo; a short barrel shaped fighter that was outmoded before it reached the front. Aware of its lack of performance the British had banished the fighter to Burma, away from combat with the superior German Bf-109. The general impression was that the Japanese had nothing but outdated biplanes that would not be a match for the Brewster fighter. When the British Buffaloes came in contact with the A6M they were sliced to ribbons.

                    To reduce their losses the RAF decided to replace the outmatched Buffalo with the more formidable Hawker Hurricane, famed for its decisive role in the Battle of Britain. Unfortunately, its pilots also found that fighting a Zeke on its terms was practically hara-kiri. Finally, the British threw their best at the Japanese, the fabled Supermarine Spitfire. To the Allies dismay, this fighter also could not compare with the incredibly nimble Zero. In only two engagements, Zeros downed 17 of 27 while losing 2 of their own.

                    It seemed the A6M was an unstoppable juggernaut. It soon gained the reputation of being invincible. Everywhere it was encountered, the Zero vanquished its enemies."

                    -http://www.chuckhawks.com/p-40_vs_zero.htm
                    Initially yes, the RAF did. They pretty quickly dumped that idea and went to the same finger four two pair formation the Germans were using.
                    In Malaysia the problem was mainly one of pilots having very few hours of flying time total and almost none on the Buffalo. Most Commonwealth pilots had fewer than 100 hours, many less than 50 in flying time.
                    The Commonwealth nations had such a pilot shortage that in Malaysia half the Buffaloes available sat either unused or still crated for lack of pilots.

                    That more than their mounts accounted for the Zero's success. USAAF pilots varied in skill level from a few hundred to over 1000 hours flying time. The high hour pilots sawed Zeros up with fair regularity regardless of what they flew. The same is true of USN pilots who pretty uniformly had hundreds to well over a thousand hours flying time and matched the skill levels of Japanese pilots. That is a major reason the F4F did so well in combat.

                    Pilot skill counts for far more than the aircraft they are flying.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post

                      Pilot skill counts for far more than the aircraft they are flying.
                      Yes indeed. Pilot skill and tactics. Differences between the aircraft would usually run a distant third, I think. The early, seemingly overwhelming successes of the Zero against Allied fighters (whether they were American, British/Commonwealth or whatever) were mostly due to those first two factors. Once Allied pilots became 'Zero savvy' and changed their tactics accordingly, that was pretty much the end of the Zero 'legend'.

                      I do recall one Australian Pilot being interviewed who was talking about the time he and his squadron mates - flying P40s in this case IIRC - started changing their tactics to capitalize on their own aircrafts strengths and negate those of the enemy. Their success rate against Japanese fighters improved very substantially.
                      "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
                      Vice Admiral Beatty to Flag Captain Chatfield; Battle of Jutland, 31 May - 1 June, 1916.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes indeed. Pilot skill and tactics. Differences between the aircraft would usually run a distant third, I think.

                        The Battle of Britain was also won on the relative aircraft and pilot strengths, attrition and replacement rates, not marginal fighter performance.
                        History is not tragedy; to understand historical reality, it is sometimes better to not know the end of the story.

                        Pierre Vidal-Naquet

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by panther3485 View Post
                          Yes indeed. Pilot skill and tactics. Differences between the aircraft would usually run a distant third, I think.

                          And this has held true throughout the history of aerial combat.
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                          BLACK MOTORCYCLES MATTER!

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                            Pilot skill counts for far more than the aircraft they are flying.
                            Pilot skill is a function of resources required to train the pilot. By late war, Japan just did not have the resources (mainly fuel) to have highly skilled pilots compared to the allied air forces. Same is true for the Luftwaffe.

                            Having said that, the thread is about what if the Luftwaffe have the Zero in its order of battle in the Battle of Britain. That means a bomber fleet escorted by BOTH the A6M and the BF-109. The Zero has advantage that the BF-109 doesn't (longer range and loiter time plus superior manueverability) and the BF-109 has advantage that the Zero doesn't (the Vertical fight).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by IDonT4 View Post
                              Pilot skill is a function of resources required to train the pilot. By late war, Japan just did not have the resources (mainly fuel) to have highly skilled pilots compared to the allied air forces. Same is true for the Luftwaffe.

                              Having said that, the thread is about what if the Luftwaffe have the Zero in its order of battle in the Battle of Britain. That means a bomber fleet escorted by BOTH the A6M and the BF-109. The Zero has advantage that the BF-109 doesn't (longer range and loiter time plus superior manueverability) and the BF-109 has advantage that the Zero doesn't (the Vertical fight).
                              The 109 also has the advantage of armored protection. The Zero does not. Loiter time isn't as important (its still important) if you can't withstand the slightest damage and keep functioning.
                              The First Amendment applies to SMS, Emails, Blogs, online news, the Fourth applies to your cell phone, computer, and your car, but the Second only applies to muskets?

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