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Japan's Imperial Navy flag

Japan's Mitsubishi A5M fighter; Mitsubishi Type 96 Carrier Fighter
Allied code name: Claude

Photos

  • Mitsubishi Type 96-2A fighter
  • Mitsubishi Type 96-2A fighter

Design

The Mitsubishi A5M met a 1934 strict specification, the 9-Shi, that requested a fighter that could fit on an aircraft carrier, and was fast and maneuverable.

The 9-Shi specification called for:

  • Speed at 9,845' / 3,000 m: 217.5 mph / 350 kph
  • Climb to 16,405' / 5,000 m: 6 minutes 30 seconds
  • Span not to Exceed: 36' 1 1/16" / 11 m
  • Length not to Exceed: 26' 2 31/32" / 8 m
  • Armament: Two 7.7 mm machine guns

Mitsubishi came forward with the Ka-14 prototype. The design team was led by Jiro Horikoshi. The original design had inverted gull wings

Unique Features

For its time, the Type 96 had unique features incorporated into its design. It had flush rivets throughout and had washout type wings.

Cockpit

The A5M's cockpit was open allowing for an excellent field of view for the pilot.

Fuselage

The fuselage of the A5M was a metal framework with aluminum stressed skin.

Undercarriage

The undercarriage of the A5M was fixed.

Wings

This was the Japanese Navy's first monoplane fighter. The wings were placed low.

Prototype

A total of nine prototypes were finished in January 1935.

The Ka-14 prototype first flew on February 4, 1935 at Kagamigahara. It was found to be a poor performer so the second prototype had straight center sectioned wings. Four additional prototypes were constructed for testing.

Japanese Army

The Ki-18 and Ki-33 prototypes were built for the Japanese Army in 1935 - 1936. The Army choose to go with the more maneuverable Nakajima Ki-27.

Production

The A5M1 was built at the Sasebo Naval Factory with 1,094 produced until 1940. The A5M4 started production in 1938.

  • Mitsubishi Ka-14 prototypes: 6
    • Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K. at Nagoya
    • Production: 1935 - 1936
  • Mitsubishi Ki-18 prototype: 1
    • Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K. at Nagoya
  • Mitsubishi Ki-33 prototypes: 2
    • Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K. at Nagoya
  • Mitsubishi A5M1, Mitsubishi A5M2, Mitsubishi A5M3, Mitsubishi A5M4, Mitsubishi A5M5: 982
  • Mitsubishi A5M1 - A5M4: 782
    • Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K. at Nagoya
    • Production 1936 - 1940
  • Mitsubishi A5M4: 200
    • Manufacturer: K.K. Watanabe Tekkosho (39, 1939 - 1942), Dai-Nijuichi Kaigun Kokusho at Omura (161, 1939 - 1941)
  • Mitsubishi A5M4-K: 103
    • Manufacturer: Dai-Nijuichi Kaigun Kokusho at Omura
    • Production: 1942 - 1944
  • Total: ~1,000, 1,094
    • Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K.
    • Production: 1936 - ?
      • Produced by Mitsubishi until 1940, Watanabe until 1942, and Dai-Nijuichi until 1942.

Variants

  • Mitsubishi Ka-14: Initial prototype. Had Nakajima Kotobuki 5 radial engine (600 HP). It had an inverted gull wing, but all following models had straight wings.
  • Mitsubishi Ki-18: Prototype built for Japanese Army.
  • Mitsubishi Ki-33: Prototype built for Japanese Army.
  • Mitsubishi A5M:
  • Mitsubishi A5M1a: Had 2 20 mm Oerlikon cannons.
  • Mitsubishi Type 96 Model 1: Had Kokobuki Improved Model 2 engine (460 HP).
  • Mitsubishi A5M2:
  • Mitsubishi Type 96 Model 2.1: Had Kokobuki Model 3 engine (600 HP).
  • Mitsubishi A5M2a: More powerful engine.
  • Mitsubishi Type 96 Model 2.2: Larger fuselage with an enclosed cockpit.
  • Mitsubishi A5M2b: More powerful engine. Used three bladed propeller. Could carry small bombs or drop tanks under wings.
  • Mitsubishi A5M3: Experimental model. Had Hispano-Suiza V 12 engine. Had 20 mm cannon firing through propeller hub.
  • Mitsubishi Type 96 Model 4: Had Kotobuki Model 4 engine (680 HP).
  • Mitsubishi A5M4: Main production model. Had a 42 gallon / 160 liter drop tank.
  • Mitsubishi A5M4-K: Trainer. Two seat.

Usage

First entered service in early 1937.

The A5M did have some landing accidents on rough air strips. However, in the air they were extremely sturdy and one made it back to base with 1/3 of its port wing gone.

Units

China

The A5M provided air superiority in the second Sino-Japanese war of 1937 - 1940.

The first victories of the A5M was against Curtis Hawks of the Chinese Air Force.

Aces

A total of seven A5M pilots became aces, with Lt. Tetsuzo Iwamoto at the top with fourteen kills.

Carrier Operations

The A5Ms were used from aircraft carriers against Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.

Training

After May 1942 the A5Ms were sent back to Japan to be trainers.

Kamikaze

Some A5Ms were used in kamikaze attacks.

Specifications

  Ka-14 #1
Engine (Type) Nakajima Kotobuki 5
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 550
Propeller blades 2
Dimensions  
Span 36' 1 3/16"
11 m
Length 25' 1 21/32"
7.67 m
Height 10' 8 17/32"
3.265 m
Wing area 191.597 sq ft
17.8 sq m
Weight  
Loaded 3,087 lb
1,373 kg
Performance  
Speed at 10,500' / 3,200 m 280 mph
243.5 knots
Climb to 16,405' / 5,000 m 5 minutes 54 seconds
  Ka-14 #2
Engine (Type) Nakajima Kotobuki 3
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 640
Propeller blades 2
  Ka-14 #3 - #5
Engine (Type) Nakajima Hikari 1
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 700
Propeller blades 2
  Ka-18
Engine (Type) Nakajima Kotobuki 5
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 550
Propeller blades 2
Dimensions  
Span 36' 1 3/116"
11 m
Length 22' 1 3/8"
7.655 m
Height 10' 4"
3.15 m
Wing area 191.597 sq ft
17.8 sq m
Weight  
Empty 2,447 lb
1,110 kg
Loaded 3,135 lb
1,422 kg
Performance  
Speed at 10,000' / 3,050 m 276.5 mph
445 kph
Climb to 16,405' / 5,000 m 6 minutes 26 seconds
  Ki-33
Engine (Type) Nakajima Ha-1a
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 710
Propeller blades 2
Dimensions  
Span 36' 1 3/16"
11 m
Length 24' 9 1/6"
7.545 m
Height 10' 5 19/32"
3.19 m
Wing area 191.597 sq ft
17.8 sq m
Weight  
Empty 2,496 lb
1,132 kg
Loaded 3,223 lb
1,462 kg
Performance  
Speed at 9,845' / 3,000 m 295 mph
475 kph
Climb to 16,405' / 5,000 m 5 minutes 56 seconds
  A5M
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type)  
Fuel capacity 135 gallons
Dimensions  
Span 36', 36' 1"
11 m
Length 24' 7", 24' 9.75"
7.56 m
Height 9' 10", 10' 8.75"
3.27 m
Wing area 180 sq ft
Weight  
Loaded 4,400 lb
Maximum load 4,700 lb
Armament 2: 7.7 mm MG
Upper fuselage 2: 7.7 mm MG
Bombs 132 lb
  A5M1
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Nakajima Kotobuki 2 KAI
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 580, 630
Propeller blades 2
Dimensions  
Span 36' 1 3/16"
11 m
Length 25' 3 17/32"
7.71 m
Height 10' 6"
3.2 m
Wing area 191.597 sq ft
17.8 sq m
Weight  
Empty 2,370 lb
1,075 kg
Loaded 3,307 lb
1,500 kg
Performance  
Speed at 6,890' / 2,100 m 252 mph
219 knots
Climb to 16,405' / 5,000 m 8 minutes 30 seconds
Armament  
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 89
  A5M1a
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Armament  
Nose 2: 20 mm Oerlikon FF
  A5M2
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Armament  
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 89
  A5M2a
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Kotobuki 2 KAI 3A
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 610, 690
Propeller blades 2, 3
Armament  
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 89
  Type 96-2a
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) 1: Mitsubishi A-14 Kinsei
Cylinders Radial
Cooling Air
Net HP 730
Propeller blades 3
Dimensions  
Span 36'
Length 24' 6"
Weight  
Loaded 4,300 lb
Performance  
Speed 250 mph
Range 450 miles
Armament  
Fuselage 2: MG
Wings 2: MG
  A5M2b
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Kotobuki 3, Nakajima Kotobuki 3
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 640, 715
Propeller blades 3
Armament  
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 89
Bombs - under wings 2: 66 lb
2: 30 kg
  A5M2b Model 22
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Armament  
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 89
  A5M3
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Armament  
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 89
  A5M3a
Type Carrier Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Hispano-Suiza 12Xcrs
Cylinders V 12
Cooling Liquid
Net HP 610
Propeller blades 3
Armament  
Nose 1: 20 mm Hispano
  A5M4
Type Carrier Fighter, Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Nakajima Kotobuki 41
OR Nakajima Kotobuki 41 KAI
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 710, 785
Propeller blades 2, 3
Fuel capacity - drop tank 42 gallons
160 liters
Dimensions  
Span 36' 1", 36' 1 3/16"
11 m
Length 24' 9 27/32", 24' 10"
7.565 m, 7.57 m
Height 10' 8.75", 10' 9"
3.27 m
Wing area 191.597 sq ft, 192 sq ft
17.8 sq m
Weight  
Empty 2,675 lb, 2,681 lb, 2,784 lb
1,216 kg, 1,263 kg
Loaded 3,684 lb, 3,751 lb, 4,017 lb
1,671 kg, 1,705 kg, 1,822 kg
Performance  
Speed 270 mph
440 kph
Speed at 9,845' / 3,000 m 270 mph
434 kph
235 knots
Climb 2,790'/minute
850 m/minute
Climb to 9,800' / 9,840' / 9,845' / 3,000 m 3 minutes 35 second, 3.6 minutes
Service ceiling 32,150', 32,200'
9,800 m
Range 746 miles, 750 miles
746 statute miles
1,200 km
648 nautical miles
Range with drop tanks 746 miles
1,200 km
Armament 2: MG
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 89
Bombs 132 lb
Bombs - under wings 2: 66 lb
2: 30 kg
OR  
Drop Tanks 35.2 Gallons
160 liters
  A5M4-K
Type Trainer
Crew 2
Engine (Type) Nakajima Kotobuki 41
OR Nakajima Kotobuki 41 KAI
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
Net HP 710
Propeller blades 3
Armament  
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 89

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of World War II, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  3. A6M Zero in Action, Shigeru Nohara, 1983
  4. Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II, Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa, 1989
  5. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  6. Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, US War Department, 1991
  7. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  8. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, René J Francillon, 1970
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