How Many Zeros?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Conslaw, Sep 14, 2012.

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  1. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    I've been trying to figure out how many A6M Zero fighters Japan actually deployed in December 1941. The Wikipedia page for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service says that in 1941 (no month specified) the Japanese Navy had 660 fighters of which 350 were zeros. Some of the 350 likely never made it out of the homeland. Japan had 6 fleet carriers but some carried no more than 18 zeros. They had light carriers, but they were not fully equipped with A6M. The land-based Tainan air group did the lion's share of the fighting in the conquest of the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. At the start of the war, the Tainan group had only 45 A6M Zeros and 12 A5M "Claude" fighters. As late as May 1942, the light carrier Shoho was sent into battle with a mixed complement of A5M and A6M fighers. The bottom line is that it appears to me that the Japanese Empire reached its zenith on the backs of only about 200 zero fighters. Are there units that I'm missing?
     
  2. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #2 oldcrowcv63, Sep 14, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
    Shores, Cull Izawa list Land Based Naval Air Forces in SE Asia as consisting of: 115 A6Ms, including 25 attached to Soc Trang in SE Asia and 90 on Formosa with the 23 rd Air Flotilla: 45 at Tainan there were also 36 A5M distributed evenly between the three bases.
    and 45 at Kangshan

    At Pearl harbor: some source say there were 18 A6M On each carrier for a total of 108 A6M but others (including Wikipedia) cite 27 A6M each on Kaga Akagi, 27 A6M on Soryu, 24 A6M on Hiryu, with 15 each on Shokaku and Zuikaku for a total of 135 A6M. Total A6M deployed in the two areas appears to be 250.

    http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/J/a/Japanese_Order_of_Battle.htm

    gives the deployed number of A6M as 259 with dispositions slightly different than thise listed above. also lists about 73 A5M deployed to other carriers and SE Asian land bases

    I suspect there were a few other A6M posted at home, The above web site lists a total of about 290 A5M deployed on IJN CVs and in Japan, SE Asia and on the island bases.
     
  3. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    You mean apart from the entire IJAAF?
     
  4. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    The first Ki-43 units of the IJAAF were just starting to be deployed as of December 1941. I think there was one group in Burma, and I don't know of any others. Of course, they had lots of KI-27 "Nate" (fixed-gear) fighters. What strikes me overall is that Japan started an offensive war against the US, Great Britain and the Netherlands, with a lot fewer "modern" fighters than the defenders.
     
  5. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    I may be corrected by the WW2 Europhiles here but it seems to me there is no parallel in the ETO to the dominance of the A6M in the PTO during the first 5 months of the war.
     
  6. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    #6 buffnut453, Sep 14, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
    The 59th and 64th Sentai were both equipped with Ki-43s at the start of Japan's war against the Western powers. The balance of fighters during the Philippines campaign was pretty even. In Malaya, the Japanese fighters outnumbered the RAF. In which campaign did the Japanese have "a lot fewer" fighters than the defenders (other than Pearl Harbor)? It's also worth bearing in mind that an attacking force can concentrate to deliver effect at specific locations whereas a defending fighter force must, by its nature, be somewhat dispersed. Lack of reliable early warning/radar simply makes the dispersion problem worse and greatly reduces the odds that the defenders will successfully engage the attackers.
     
  7. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    I couldn't agree with you more. I think the A6M's greatest failing is that it was TOO good in 1941. The Japanese war planners figured the A6M would be dominant and that even a relative few would enable great conquests. If they wouldn't have had an aircraft with the zero's capabilities, perhaps they would never have launched an offensive war.

    In contrast I think the US Navy planners underestimated the virtues of their first great carrier-based air superiority fighter, the F6F Hellcat. The Hellcat was so dominant that they could have gone immediately from the Marianas to Iwo Jima then Okinawa, cutting out the Philippines campaign entirely.
     
  8. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    The Japanese rushed the Ki-43 into service precisely because the Army wanted their very latest fighter to play a pivotal role in the open phases of the war against the Western powers. That plus the large numbers of Ki-27s were the vital components in securing and maintaining air superiority over Japan's main targets for the opening stages of the campaign.
     
  9. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    You hit the nail on the head when you referred to the attackers' ability to concentrate forces. If you look theater-wide, the Allies had more (modern) fighters. Japan did an excellent job at concentrating airpower at the point of attack to get air superiority. The Zero's long range and carrier capability enabled a small force to cover a wide area. That being said, this left weak areas including much of Japan itself. Three or four American aircraft carriers attacking the Japanese home islands in April 1942 probably could have had their way for several days. Of course, there was no way for them to know that, so the Doolittle raid was a "hit and run".
     
  10. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #10 oldcrowcv63, Sep 15, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
    The problem was also that even with RADAR warning the aircraft deployed to the far east were generally not suited to high altitude intercepts. On Luzon, in the PI, the defending fighter-interceptor forces WERE largely concentrated, initially had RADAR advanced warning, and were scrambled in response to the oncoming threat, at least until their response was apparently diluted by conflicting priorities and air control micromanagement. The heavy P-40E with its single stage Allison Supercharger, as deployed, was a poor high-altitude interceptor, the Buffalo with its Wright engine and single stage supercharger was little, if at all better and the late coming merlin powered Hurricane IIB were, at least initially, equipped with 12 x 303 MGs and so were evidently intended for ground attack not interception. In any event, even when lightened, there weren't enough Hurricanes operational at any one time to counter the concentrated forces of the combined IJN and IJA. Give 100+ relatively modern fighters altitude superiority in most air battles against insufficient numbers of generally poorer performing interceptors and you have the ingredients for theater disaster. IMHO
     
  11. krieghund

    krieghund Member

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    Japanese Navy Carrier Aircraft Order of Battle
    December 7 1941
    AKAGI
    B5N2 = 27
    D3A1 = 18
    A6M2 = 27

    KAGA
    B5N2 = 27
    D3A1 = 27
    A6M2 = 27

    SORYU
    B5N2 = 18
    D3A1 = 18
    A6M2 = 27

    HIRYU
    B5N2 = 18
    D3A1 = 18
    A6M2 = 24

    SHOKAKU
    B5N2 = 27
    D3A1 = 27
    A6M2 = 15

    ZUIKAKU
    B5N2 = 27
    D3A1 = 27
    A6M2 = 15
     
  12. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Sure you want to stand by that statement? The IJN sank one carrier and damaged another at Coral Sea. At Midway, a tiny force severely damaged the Yorktown.

    And USN dive bomber pilots still had a lot of problems hitting a moving target. The US torpedo bombers were essentially useless and nothing but cannon fodder.

    No, it would be the Japanese who would man handle the US carriers.
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I think you mean the IJA Ki-27. Somehow that 275 mph fighter aircraft managed to achieve air superiority over the Philippines, Malaya and East Indies.
     
  14. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Actually, it was the Ki-43 that did all the damage in Malaya. It was used in "aerial extermination action" as one Japanese historian has put it. The Ki-27 was relegated to air protection of convoys and local airfield defence for most of the Malayan Campaign.
     
  15. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    On reflection I think you are right.

    Malaya was the Japanese main effort during December 1941. They received the best IJA divisions and the few available Ki-43s. Other operations such as the Philippines used green or 2nd rate IJA units supported by Ki-27s.
     
  16. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #16 oldcrowcv63, Sep 15, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
    Ooops... brain fa*t or senility setting in. Never-mind...
     
  17. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #17 oldcrowcv63, Sep 15, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
    Nope, I mean the A6M. Reading Bartsch "Doomed...", it seems to me the P-40s handled the KI-27s but were confounded by the A6M which seemed to inspire real fear. I don't get the impression the Ki-27s played all that significant a roll until after the FEAF P-40 force was essentially destroyed. The early destruction was at the hands of the initial swarms of A6Ms flying in from Formosa. The few Ki-27s that were deployed to the Northern captured bases didn't appear in sufficient numbers to have done the massive damage done in the first few days. They didn't have the range and had to island hop to get to Northern Luzon.
     
  18. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #18 oldcrowcv63, Sep 15, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
    The Ki-27s don't show up until December 10 when they are flying patrols out of Batan Island about half way between Formosa and Luzon. No engagements are recorded with these aircraft until Friday, December 12, when the Ki-27's are beginning to appear with their deployment to the small Vigan and Appari airstrips. 18 Ki-27s are lost in the PI between 8 and 15 December. Initial losses are most likely operational during landings in the northern islands as no combats are recorded until the 12th. In comparison, by December 10th, FEAF is reduced to 22 P-40 and 8 P-35s out of the original 105 P-40 and 57 P-35 sent to the island before hostilities. That number for pratical purposes was whittled down to about 80 P-40 and less than 30 P-35s by December 7 due to accidents and operational losses. Data from Shores et al. and Bartsch
     
  19. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    I'm not doubting that but pray tell where is that from? I hope not some 16-year-old posting to Wikipedia.
     
  20. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    In a dogfight the Zeroes ruled due to the fact that they could turn inside anything flying at that time. The Hellcats picked them off like clay pigeons because they didn't have to "mix it up" with the Zeroes like that, effectively nullifying the Zeroes' advantage.
     
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