A7M (Family)

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Description

The Mitsubishi A7M is a direct successor over the A6M in every regard, used by the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II.

Nicknames being:

  • ▅ - Reppū (烈風, Strong Wind)
  • ▃ - Sam

Vehicles

Rank III

History

Very soon after the A6M2 mod.11 started entering the production phase in end-1940 the Japanese Navy already requested Mitsubishi to design a direct successor of the A6M, which would be dubbed as the 16-shi. But at the time, there was no viable high-output as calculations by Jiro Horikoshi's development team who designed the A6M, suggested that to have a climb rate and top speed needed by the Navy they would have to use a minimum of 2,000hp engine. This proved to be an exceptional challenge as the two engines which theoretically could develop this power were still under development. Besides that, Horikoshi's team were still occupied with engineering the A6M2 mod.21 and designing the 14-shi interceptor (which would later be known in service as the J2M), for these reasons Mitsubishi put the plans for a Zero-successor on hold in January of 1941.

Development

In April of 1942, development of the A6M3 mod.32 and J2M2 mod.11 were finished and the navy once again tasked Mitsubishi and Horikoshi's team to design a new zero successor dubbed this time as the 17-shi Ko. The Navy requirements for the 17-shi were as followed:

     Speed345 kn above 6,000 m
   Climb rate6,000 m in less than 6 minutes
    Armament     = 2 x 20 mm and 2 x 13 mm
 Maneuverability ≥ A6M3

As before, one of the main hurdles was engine selection. To meet the specifications, the engine would need to produce at least 2,000 hp (1,500 kW), which narrowed choices down to Nakajima's NK9 "Homare" (Ha-45) or Mitsubishi's MK9 (Ha-43); both engines still being under development. These engines were based on 14-cylinder (Nakajima NK1 "Sakae" (Ha-25) and Mitsubishi MK8 "Kinsei" (Ha-33), respectively) engines converted to 18-cylinder powerplants. The early NK9 had less output but was already approved by the Navy for use on the Yokosuka P1Y Ginga, while the larger MK9 promised more horsepower.

With the larger, more powerful engine compared to the A6M's, wing loading became an issue. The Navy requested at most 150 kg/m² but wanted 130 kg/m², which complicated design considerations further. With the NK9 it could achieve 150 kg/m2, but with less power, it would not meet the specifications for maximum speed. With the MK9's 2,200 hp (1,600 kW), the engineers concluded it could fulfil the requirements; however, production of the MK9 was delayed compared to the NK9, and the Japanese Navy instructed Mitsubishi to use the NK9's 2,000 hp (1,500 kW).

Work on the 17-Shi was further delayed by factories prioritizing A6M and G4M production as well as further work on A6M variants and addressing J2M issues. As a result, the 17-Shi, which became the A7M1, officially flew for the first time on 6 May 1944, four years after development started. The aircraft demonstrated excellent handling and manoeuvrability but was underpowered as Mitsubishi engineers feared and with a top speed similar to the A6M5 mod.52. It was a disappointment, and the Navy ordered development to stop on 30 July 1944.

But previously, Mitsubishi obtained permission for development to continue using the Ha-43 engine, Saburo Sakai test-flighted with Ha-43 on 13 October 1944 and after the flight test, Sakai was extremely impressed with the A7M2. The A7M2 now achieved a top speed of 339 kn while climb and other areas of performance surpassed the Zero, leading the Navy to change its mind and adopt the ordered cancel. The A7M2 was also equipped with automatic combat flaps, used earlier on the Kawanishi N1K-J, significantly improving manoeuvrability.

Planned variants

Next to the prototype A7M1 and production ready A7M2 there were 2 direct variants of the A7M:

  • A7M3

Proposed land-based fighter version was powered by a 2,250 hp (1,680 kW) mechanically driven three-speed supercharged Mitsubishi Ha-43 with a maximum speed of 642 km/h. Armament consistent of six 20 mm Type 99 Model 2 in the wings.

  • A7M3-J

Proposed land-based interceptor version powered by a 2,200 hp (1,600 kW) turbo-supercharged Mitsubishi Ha-43 engine including an inter-cooler, with a maximum speed of 648 km/h. The armament consisted of six 30 mm Type 5 cannons, four wing-mounted & two oblique fuselage-mounted.

Usage

In late 1944 an earthquake strained the manufacturing of the A7M2 causing only 8 to be built. In early 1945, Allied bombings of Japans mainland lead to the destruction of the A7M plans. This ceased the development of the A7M2, and the plane would never see combat. Only a single A7M2 would be built in 1945 due to allied bombings.

10 A7M's were built (including prototypes), with none surviving the war.


Mitsubishi Company (三菱商会)
Fighters  A5M4 · Hagiri's A5M4
  A6M2 mod. 11 · A6M2 · A6M3 · A6M3 mod. 22 · A6M3 mod. 22Ko · A6M5 · A6M5 Ko · A6M5 otsu · A6M5 Hei
  A7M1 (NK9H) · A7M2
  J2M2 · J2M3 · J2M4 Kai · J2M5 · J2M5 (30 mm)
Hydroplanes  F1M2
Interceptors  Ki-83 · Ki-109
Bombers  G4M1
  Ki-21-Ia · Ki-21-I hei · Ki-67-I Ko · Ki-67-I otsu
Jet Fighters  Ki-200
Captured  ▃A6M2 · ␗A6M2
See also  Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (1945+)

Japan fighters
Navy 
Carrier-based fighter 
A5M  A5M4 · Hagiri's A5M4
A6M  A6M2 mod. 11 · A6M2 · A6M3 · A6M3 mod. 22 · A6M3 mod. 22Ko · A6M5 · A6M5 Ko · A6M5 otsu · A6M5 Hei
A7He  A7He1*
A7M  A7M1 (NK9H) · A7M2
Land-based Fighter 
J2M  J2M2 · J2M3 · J2M4 Kai · J2M5 · J2M5 (30 mm)
J6K  J6K1
J7W  J7W1
N1K-J  N1K1-Ja · N1K2-J · N1K2-Ja
Fighter seaplane 
N1K  N1K1
A6M-N  A6M2-N
Army 
Ki-10  Ki-10-I · Ki-10-I C · Ki-10-II · Ki-10-II C
Ki-27  Ki-27 otsu · Ki-27 otsu Tachiarai
Ki-43  Ki-43-I · Ki-43-II · Ki-43-III otsu
Ki-44  Ki-44-I · Ki-44-I 34 · Ki-44-II otsu · Ki-44-II hei
Ki-61  Ki-61-I ko · Ki-61-I otsu · Ki-61-I hei · Ki-61-I hei Tada's · Ki-61-I tei · Ki-61-II
Ki-84  Ki-84 ko · Ki-84 otsu · Ki-84 hei
Ki-87  Ki-87
Ki-94  Ki-94-II
Ki-100  Ki-100 · Ki-100-II
Other countries  ▅F4U-1A · ▅P-51C-11-NT · ▅Bf 109 E-7 · ▅Fw 190 A-5
  *Imported designation of the He 112 (A6M was in development - A7M would take A7 designation after the cancelation of the A7He)