Japanese lightly built carrier aircraft

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by The Basket, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    The info on the Zero is that it is very lightly built to dogfight but it also has to be rugged enough for carrier operations.

    That is certainly a contradiction especially as American carrier aircraft were built like tanks.

    Any info on that?
     
  2. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    There was no doubt the A6M could dogfight at low to medium airspeeds but its structure wasn't built to withstand high speed manoeuvers.
    Biggest problems:
    No pilot or other armour until late models - still under protected, even with armour.
    Big, unprotected fuel tanks.
    Low dive Vne compared with American fighters, even in late versions with reinforced thicker wing skins.
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Could any version of A6M reach 360mph in level flight?
     
  4. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    A6Ms were strong airframes, but conversely were highly susceptible to combat damage. The numbers of fasteners, the numbers of ribs and stiffeners were all reduced to the barest minum. There was absolutely nothing over-engineered in the design. The result was a design that remained strong unless there was a failure in the structure. It also meant the Zero was a difficult design to make accept increases in power or weight.

    Having said that, I have anecdotal evidence that supports the notion that the japanese suffered a higher rate of non-combat related attrition than the western opponents. I doubt that the structural strengths of the Zero had anything to do wiith that. Japanese aircraft were often forced to operate from inadequate and primitive strips, with poor or irregular maintenance.

    And Japanese Zeroes could be aerobatted at high speed, as Sakais book clearly shows. they just were less manouverable at those high speeds, the controls becoming very heavy and unresponsive. Ive never heard of manouvres not being possible because of a lack of structural strength.


    They were pretty poor diving aircraft and depending on who you read (and the altitude) , the zero had exceelent, okay or terrible rates of climb. But how is that different to anybody else.
     
  5. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    #5 Shinpachi, Mar 3, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
    I heard the arrestor hook and its holder had enough strength to prevent frame distortion.
    Let me attach drawing. Red area shows the holder which was designed so as to distribute the stress.

    173&Hook_cropped.JPG
     
  6. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    From a 1944 design analysis of the A6M3 by a US aviation magazine.

    The full analysis:

    Design Analysis of the Zeke 32 (Hamp - Mitsubishi A6M3)
     
  7. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    The light weight of the Zero would in itself have assisted it in standing up to carrier operations. For example, it's airframe gear may have been of lighter construction than the F6F's but it could afford to be, because if both aircraft hit the carrier deck at the same verticle speed, the airframe of the much lighter Zero would be required to absorb far less stress. Likewise in aerobatics: the zero did not need the Helcats heavier airframe because its lighter weight meant it generated lower stresses (this would not be true of control surfaces, though)> Kind of a virtuous circle - the Zero was lightly built, therefore it didn't generate such heavy stresses on itself, therefore it could afford to be lightly built.
    Unfortunately, incoming MG bullets and cannon shells generate their own kind of stress, and that's where the Zero came undone.
     
  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    My theory - Overweight aircraft such as P-47 and F6F were tougher to kill simply because there was more metal for bullets to blow away.

    The theory falls apart if the enemy have decent 20mm cannon. Not even a flying brick like the P-47 can shrug off 20mm hits.
     
  9. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Light weight and low stalling speeds can significantly reduce the stress of carrier landings. Assuming a landing speed of 75mph for the Zero and 85mph for another plane with the carrier moving at 30mph the relative landing speeds drop to 45mph and 55mph. the Difference in energy to be absorbed by the arresting gear (both ship and aircraft) is almost 50% higher per pound of aircraft weight for the faster airplane.

    Actual landing speeds may be a bit closer but the bigger wings needed by the heavier planes to get a low landing speed add to the stress. Hellcat wing weighed just over 2000lbs. Of course it folded, held six .50 cal guns plus over 720lbs of ammo and was required not to bend while pulling 6-8 "G"s at 11,500-12,000 pounds. :)
     
  10. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    Wasn't too low staling speed an issue for the Seafire?
     
  11. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    I'm missing why that's a contradiction. I've never heard of any problems with these in terms of taking to carrier ops. It's not like these were made of balsa wood.
     
  12. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    If the Japanese could make light carrier aircraft then why couldnt the Americans who made a big fuss of their robustness.

    I see the point that a lightweight, low speed, good slow speed agaility who make a safe carrier aircraft.
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    We couldn't make a decent torpedo, squad machinegun or 20mm cannon either yet we built the atomic bomb.

    The 800lb gorilla isn't necessarily best at everything. :)
     
  14. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    I don't doubt that the USA could have built a fighter along the lines of the Zero, but even after the recovery and examination of the Aleutian Zero they elected not to. The American design philosophy of bigger airfames and engines allowed for far more performance potential than the low power, super-light concept which led to the Zero. The Japanese themselves recognised this late in the war and introduced heavier, faster fighters like the Frank and George, but it was too little too late.
     
  15. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    June 1942. Even if design work begins during July 1942 the war would be over before it enters operational service.

    F4F, F6F and A6M were designed to pre-war specifications. Unless the war drags on for 10 years chances are most of your military hardware will be designed during peacetime, without benefit of recent wartime experience.

    P-51 and Me-262 are exceptions to the rule but they entered service in large numbers only when WWII was almost over.
     
  16. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    634 Mustangs built in 1942.
    1710 Mustangs built in 1943.

    These numbers do not include the A-36.

    War was almost over in 1943???

    BTW about 1800 FW 190D-9s were made. 2800 Mustang airframes by the end of 1943 may not be a huge number but it is right up there with any number of late war German or Japanese models.
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    some changes were made to the Hellcat design after the potential of the Zero was revealed. I dont know what those changes were, or how significant they were, but my book on the Hellcat at home will probably give some further details.

    The successor to the Hellcat which I even forget the name of (its at home too), but its not one of the more commonly known types looked very much like a Zero, and was a return to the lighweight fighter concept. I dont think it was actually the bearcat, but might have been. It was intended to bring this aircraft into service from the end of 1945, but the war ended before it was needed.

    The aircraft was intended to be light and agile , but unlike the Zero also resistant to combat damage.
     
  18. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    Irrespective of when the designs of aircraft like the F4F and F6F were initiated, I have heard of zero (pun intended) evidence that the US ever seriously consisdered adopting the design philosophy behind the A6M2 or Ki-43, where light weight was the first, second and third priority. Of course, all fightesr will be made as light as possible within the design parameters, but in the US those parameters included provision for things like armour, survival gear, self sealing tanks and the like.
    The Nakajima Sakae engine the A6M2 used produced about 950 hp, modest even for 1940. To get the required performance from his fighter Hirokoshi produced the lightest aircraft with the lowest wingloading possible. As well as giving the zero its exceptional agility and renowned tendancy to disintegrate when hit, this greatly limited its development potential. The zero could never have taken the progressive upgrades in power seen with many allied designs, even accounting for the airframe modifications those aircraft underwent.
    Regarding the Zeros performance in the first year or so of the Pacific war, it's worth remembering that this excellent fighter was flown by some of the most expert pilots in the world genrally against against inexperienced opponents flying inferior equipment. If I could pose a hypothetical scenario, how would the zero have gone against equally excellent fighters flown by pilots who knew how to use their machines against tighter turning opposition - the Luftwaffe in their Bf109F for example?
     
  19. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    In 1943 the war was or might have been in some doubt. In 1944 it wasn't. Just a question of time and casualties.
     
  20. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Based upon the experiences from Western European campaign of 1940, the US air forces recognized that pilot must be protected. Hence the light fighters lost any appeal in the USA, long before US entry in ww2.

    The Zero was eventually fitted with Mitsubishi Kinsei; the Ki-100 being another well-known plane with that engine. So the airframe was suitably strong, but this was the case of too little, too late - only two prototypes were built in 1945.
    In retrospective, the Japanese wasted too many resources time into developing the Kawainshi Kyofu float-plane fighter, instead of 'proper' land based fighter, and a perspective replacement for the Zero.

    Good call about Zero not being the uber-fighter. There is much more to the air force than just the planes it flew, and Japanese have had most of the cards in 1942, the experienced pilots indeed being the IJN/IJA greatest asset. The IJA/IJN air forces would've fared bad vs. Luftwaffe of any war year, as would against the full-strength RAF.
     
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