Aviation Nation 2014: WW2 Imperial Japanese Navy A6M3 Zero

There were plenty of World War Two USAAF and US Navy aircraft on display at Aviation Nation 2014 but an old enemy popped up too. Yes there was a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M3 (Type 0, Model 22) Zeke “Zero” that was put through its paces in a period flying display. Now this is a rare bird and one of only a handful of real Zero’s flying today.

CAF Southern California Wing's Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeke "Zero" Aviation Nation 2014 Nevada Nellis AFB
The fine lines of the Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeke “Zero”

Owned by the Southern California Wing of the Commemorative Air Force the A6M3 was originally assigned to the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Group 3 during the war and knocked out of action during the conflict in then New Guinea (according to their website 560 A6M3 Model 22s were built between December 1942 and mid 1943). The wreck was not recovered until 1991 from Babo in Papau New Guinea . It was later partially restored from several A6M3 wrecks in Russia before it came to the United States in the mid to late 1990’s for final restoration. Due to a shortage of original Sakai engines it is flown with a Pratt & Whitney R1830 engine. Note the folding wingtips to save space when stowed below decks on a carrier. The A6M3 (Type 0, Model 22) also featured an increased fuel capacity to increase operational range and an armament of 2 x 7.7mm machine guns mounted above the engine cowing and 2 x 20mm wing mounted cannons.

CAF Southern California Wing's Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeke "Zero" Aviation Nation 2014 Nevada Nellis AFB
CAF Southern California Wing’s Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeke “Zero”
CAF Southern California Wing's Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeke "Zero" Aviation Nation 2014 Nevada Nellis AFB
At the outbreak of the Pacific war in 1941 the “Zero” was a real shock to allied air forces as it was fast, agile and well armed. To be that fast though they compromised on armour to protect the pilot and engine. A big mistake!
CAF Southern California Wing's Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeke "Zero" Aviation Nation 2014 Nevada Nellis AFB
A fantastic restoration
B-25J Mitchell and CAF Southern California Wing's Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeke "Zero" Aviation Nation 2014 Nevada Nellis AFB
Friend or foe. The Zero lines up with a USAAF B-25J Mitchell bomber

It is fantastic to still be able to see an aircraft take to the skies some 70 years after it first took flight. Well done to the CAF for keeping her going.

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