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Zero Design


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#1 GregP

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 03:00 AM

Hi all,

 

Over in another forum, it was purported by several that the Mitsubishi A6M was an obsolete design by the last half of the war. Specifically, they claimed it was at the end of it's design limits. I'm not all that sure the Zero was at it's design limits.

The ailerons were delightful until high speed. They could have been changed to ailerons and elevators better-suited to higher speeds and the control system mechanical advantage could also have been reworked. Just because the Sakae 31 was near it's limit does NOT mean another engine that made more power could not have been made to work. The Ha-112-II Kasei was lighter than the Sakae 31, made 1,500 HP, was reliable, and it worked quite well in the Ki-100 that originally had a much smaller overall diameter engine in it.

All of the above said, I think the Zero WAS at or near it's limit with the existing engine and design. Everything above is meant to suggest design changes to the airframe that enhance either power or higher speeds.

A lot of folks thought the P-40 was a dog. Then the XP-40Q came along and showed what could be done with design changes. That we didn't buy it is our own fault as it would have represented a major step forward everywhere the P-40 was in actual service. Wherever it went (replacing a P-40) the XP-40Q would have been a quantum leap in performance. And we used a LOT of P-40s, right to the end of the war. I completely disagree with the guys who said it wasn't needed and didn't fulfill any role. It could have replaced older P-40s that were still serving and was a MUCH better airplane than ANY of the standard P-40s. It STILL had the same range of a standard P-40, and would give a P-51 hell all day long. That's an improvement over an existing P-40, no matter how you slice it ... and we were were USING P-40s on the last day of the war.

The Fw 190 was a very good aircraft. The Ta 152, developed from the Fw 190 was quite a bit better, even if too late to be of much use.

The Spitfire got a major face lift with the change to the Griffon engine.

The P-51 started out as a good plane and got a major face lift with the change to the 2-stage Merlin.

There is nothing saying the Zero could not have been reworked in the same manner, especially with the Ha-112 II Kasei engine, and that even the arifoil cold have been reworked to be a higher-speed aircraft, keeping a LOT of the original design. That they didn't DO it is probably more a testament to the effects of continual attacks rather than inability to rework the A6M design. Would it have taken effort? Yes. But much LESS effort than was expended on things like the Kyushu J7W1 Shinden that made only one or two wartime flights, and none in combat. There are numerous others that come to mind as useless wastes of effort that might have been better put to use with a reworked Zero airframe.

 

Any opinions to offer? 

 

I'll remind everyone that ALL the big fighters at the end of the war had at least some sort of "makeover" as an upgrade; Spitfire, P-51, P-47, certainly the Fw 190 (into D and Ta 152 models), Yak-3 / 9, and even the Bf 109 (late G / K). What would stop the Japanese from doping the same?



#2 Armand

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 09:36 AM

My perception of the subject might not be thoroughly however it takes another angle: The japanese industry might have been as ridgid as the structure of the japanese society and nevertheless the military and Japan simply thought the war would be a walkover as they opposed obsolete enemies and hoped to keep USA out of the equation with the Pearl Harbour raid.
As Admiral Yamamoto have been quoted for several times: USA showed to be a bear that got awakened and prooved to have a quite different perspective of production and development.
From a military point of wiew wasn't the doctrine by the US forces as ridgid as the Japanese and introduction of simple counter measurements and tactics helped where the mechanical ability was inferior, meanwhile the Japanese airwar seemingly was quite individual hence without the same possibility of improvement :-/
The Zero might not have become obsolete by design as much as the USNAF pilots got used to exploit its inbuilt flaws, wich likely might be projected at the IJNAF doctrine and (defensive) tactics. Additional as the Imperial airforces got decimated meanwhile the US aircraft production(*) caused a rising number of opponents became the Imperial Airforces the obsolete part more than the single aircraft :-/
At the point where the Japanese veapons proved inadequate to keep the upper hand, it was too late to reconsider and develop mechanical as well as doctrines!
(*): The first year after Pearl Harbour did USA produce more aircraft than Japan did during their eight year long war :-o

Edited by Armand, 12 August 2017 - 09:37 AM.


#3 CORSNING

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 10:01 AM

Interesting idea Greg. I believe the design would have to take some major changes to be competitive in 1944.

The wings would probably have to be redesigned more for speed and the in order for any significant improvement

in speed the front of the fuselage would have to be streamlined. Maybe inline liquid cooled engine?

The A6M8 was powered by the Mitsubishi Kinsei 62: 1,500 hp. engine and its speed rose just slightly.



#4 CORSNING

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 11:45 AM

(*): The first year after Pearl Harbour did USA produce more aircraft than Japan did during their eight year long war :-o

In 1942 the USA produced 46,907 military aircraft.

From 1939 to through August 1945 Japan produced 76,320 military aircraft.

 

USA 1943: 84,853

USA 1944: 96,270

USA up to Aug. 1945: 45,852

 

Jeff :)

 

http://en.wikipedia....raft_production


Edited by CORSNING, 12 August 2017 - 11:47 AM.

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#5 Armand

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 10:30 PM

The Japaneses invited British designers to Japan when WW1 ended. The aim was to get help to develop aircraft wich suited the homebuilt aero engines.
It is actually surprising that Japan didn't manage to evolve their engines in same mannner as the aircraft especially when most needed after Pearl Harbour :-/

Edited by Armand, 12 August 2017 - 11:25 PM.


#6 Kutscha

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 10:54 PM

Design Analysis of the Zeke 32 (Hamp)

 

http://rwebs.net/avh...tory/zeke32.htm



#7 Kutscha

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 01:08 AM

A reworked A6M?

 

reppu.jpg



#8 Rick65

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 02:07 AM

Like many Japanese planes the Zero started off very light for it's size and progressively got heavier as it was upgraded with combat feedback. The addition of armour, self sealing tanks, larger engine and thicker skins to increase maximum dive speed all took the Zero away from where it started which was as a highly agile plane with exceptional range and reasonable speed at low to medium altitudes.

In many ways it followed the course of the similar sized Spitfire but the problem was that the initial Zero airframe was much lighter than the Spitfire (approx 25%?) which in turn was much lighter than the P-40 and equivalent US models.

The Spitfire was redeveloped constantly so that by the end of the War the very late model Spitfire was so redesigned that it should really have been given a new name.

The development of the Zero followed a similar but less extreme path to the Spitfire however the very structural lightness that was so critical to the performance of the Zero limited what could be done to make it better capable of dealing with stronger larger and faster late war planes. The Japanese planned to replace the Zero (see above) but never really succeeded in doing so.



#9 USAF Steve

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 05:54 PM

I think what made the Zero so successful early was that it was a good design--it was light, the wing had good lift and that made it very maneuverable and gave it very good range.  Those attributes were built into the design deliberately at the cost of structural strength, ability to absorb damage, and other factors such as dive speed.  All planes obviously have to trade some attributes for others...lighter air frame = less strength in this case was a major trade off.   Once the allies learned that the Zero had some major weaknesses (dive speed, easily flamed gas tanks, little armor) they developed tactics to take advantage, so the Zero lost it's edge pretty quickly.  Planes like P-38s would dive on the Zeros, shoot, and zoom back up, and there was little the Zero pilots could do to counter this.  

 

In my opinion making the Zero into a plane capable of dealing with those types of tactics would mean totally redesigning the airframe, so it made sense for the Japanese to continue producing that model despite its shortcomings while working on new designs that could hope to compete with the larger, more rugged and generally faster US planes.  Adding a more powerful engine, assuming it would fit and not cause a major weight gain, still wouldn't change the aerodynamics of the wing, which was built for lift and maneuverability more than speed.   Change the engine and the wing and you might as well just develop a new design anyway.  I think the Japanese aircraft industry wasn't up to the challenge of designing a new generation of planes mid-war...the US had one generation going in, consisting of P-40s, Wildcats, P-39 etc. but by 1943 an entirely new generation of fighters were coming online (F4U, P-47, P-38, P-51).  The capabilities of the new generation far exceeded the older planes' abilities.  Japan wasn't able to successfully do the same in my opinion.  The allies did use P-40s and Wildcats til the end of the war but in decidedly secondary roles, while the Zero, Betty etc were still the front-line planes of the Japanese services.  



#10 Romantic Technofreak

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Posted 15 August 2017 - 06:20 AM

A successfull fighter of 1944 needed an engine of about 2,000 hp. Consider if the Zero's airframe had been capable to take that. Consider how a IJN fighter had had to look if you suppose a successfull outcome of the Marianas Battle for the Japanese. Kutscha's A7M was fine but big either. The IJN needed a carrier-based fighter also capable to operate from escort carriers. The A7M could not. The J1M was not earmarked for that. Somebody should have told Mitsubishi to produce a navalized version of the Ki-84. We discussed this already in another place.

 

Regards, RT






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