A6M5 Zero


Kit Manufacturer




Out of Box (OOB) or Modified

Rating (1-10 10=best)

A6M5 Zero 52 "1995" Memorial Flight"






The A6M Zero fighter was developed in the late 1930s/early 1940s to take over from its predecessor, the A5M "Claude." The A5M was successfully used in China against the limited air opposition there, but the pilots of this open cockpit, fixed gear monoplane cried out for more range. The A6M was developed in line with the Japanese policy of the time to go for maximum range and maneuverability - achieved at the cost of some structural strength (one Japanese designer said it was designed "like swiss cheese, full of foolish holes") and provision for any pilot armor or fuel tank protection. (This was not unusual for this time frame - the Hurricaine, Spitfire, BF-109, Wildcat, and Flying Fortress all initially had none of these features.) The result was the definitive Japanese navy fighter of WWII, the A6M Zero. Armed initially with two 7.5 mm machine guns and two 20mm cannon, and highly maneuverable under 250 kt, this agile fighter caught the Allies off guard when finally encountered.

In its first combat encounter (the third combat flight - no opposition was encountered in the first two flights) the A6M completely wiped the opposing Chineese fighters out of the sky, with no losses. This was the beginning of its myth of "invincibility" - a myth that was dispelled when its speed/maneuverability limitations were disvovered (partially from a wreck in the Aleutians, among other places) and partially when tactics such as the Thatch weave were created. "Never turn with a Zero" became the fighter pilot's rule, and those that stayed with that rule typically lived. Later aircraft such as the Corsair and Hellcat (which, despite the myth, was not developed because of the Zero - it was actually well into development by the time the first Zero was captured) could outperform the Zero, and the limit of the airframe's stretch was discovered. Still, it was stretched, being turned into the A6M6 and A6M7 fighter bombers (a role it was unsuited for.)

This kit is an A6M5 "Model 52" zero, one of the last Zero variants. There were several subvariants, which added heavier armament and armor, but this is the "base model." The special edition has the markings for the restored A6M which can be seen at the "Planes of Fame" museum in Chino, CA. The original decal sheet is also included, with markings for multiple air groups. This aircraft has a much glossier finish than the Zero would have had operationally, and I attempted to replicate this as well.

The kit went together quite easily. The interior bits are detailed nicely, and with the help of the Warbird Profile on the Zero, I managed to replicate the cockpit rather well. The interior is an overall light green (the British Interior Green works well for this,) with various bits and doodads in black and dark green, and instruments painted accordingly. An interesting bit about this kit is that the side instrument panel is moulded into the front instrument panel, scored with a cut line along the back. Paint, dry, and cut - there isn't a problem here (though if you're not watching, you can be stuck wondering where the side detail is - no, this is not the voice of experience... )

Get ready to put the cockpit together when you're ready to fit the fuselage together. The cockpit works together nicely, but it helps if you can fit the fuselage together and take care of any minor fit problems (like the cockpit sidewall tops being too close together) while the sidewalls are still movable. The fuselage fit together with only a small seam on the spine, easily taken care of. Everything was taped together and let to dry.

While this was being done, I turned my attention to the wings and engine. The wings have nothing special about them - three pieces, no gaps or flaps to worry about, and no fiddly little balances to knock off. These were taped and allowed to dry, and I went to work on the engine. This fit together nicely - the rear wall has some engine detail on it, and the bits are sandwiched together, no real chance for misalignment. I didn't attach the engine, cowl, or exhausts to the fuselage until after the main bit of painting was done. The worst part in this is clearing the moulding webbing out from the cowl front opening - snip the main bits off, then carefully work the rest out with a sharp hobby knife. It's a good molding, it's just a royal pain to get cleared out. I painted the cowl flat black. (I know, diehards say it should be a blue-black, but I haven't been able to tell the difference.) The engine itself looks quite nice, though detail maniacs could get a bit more detail in it and be happy.

Next, I attached the wings and tailplane to the model. No gaps made themselves known. It fit together very nicely! Following this, I started working on the landing gear. Since this is a model of a restored Zero, and I had the pictures of itnearby, I didn't have to worry much about matching the interior colors - instead of aluminum or aotake (a bluish-green laquer,) the wheel wells and interior of the wheel covers appeared to be the same light grey as the underside of the aircraft. What do you know, less masking! The wheel struts themselves were painted black, and the movable bits were finished (carefully) with Rub ''n Buff. These were put aside for the moment, and the last bits before painting were attached. The interior under the rear canopy was painted black, the antenna added and masked off, and the canopy glass was masked and added (it's much easier this way to me.) I used a mix of masking solution, tape, and parafilm (primarily on the rear canopy) to mask.

This is an easy two-color paint job. I started out spraying the underside and fuselage sides with Gunze Sangyo Aqueous IJN Grey acrylic. I also sprayed the wheel well covers with this while they were on the parts tree. This color matches the plastic almost exactly - not really a good thing if you can't tell where you still need to go! Once that dried thoroughly, Tamiya IJN Green was sprayed. This was a new bottle, and gave me a better finish than I'd ever gotten from Tamiya acrylics before - I must have had a bad batch previously. The plane is finished similar to a Nakajima - built aircraft, with a gentle "slope" down from the tailplane to the wing (Mitsubishi built examples usually carried the green upper color under the tailplane.) This was allowed to dry, the landing gear added, as well as the engine, exhaust (a bit fiddly here, but it works well - just watch for the tabs on the exhaust) and cowl. The cowl fits a little tightly under the intake on the wing, but works in without much trouble. Finally, the propeller and spinner (finished with buffed Rub 'n Buff for a good shine) were added, the model allowed to dry, detail bits (like the cannon, which were hollowed out previously) painted, and then on to decalling.

Decals. This kit comes with two decal sheets - the main one, which gives you four operational A6M5s, and the supplemental one, which gives you the specific markings for the Chino A6M5. Both are somewhat thin but well printed. The only issue I have with them are how bright the hinomarus are! I don't know how accurate this is - and the wing walkways are just as bright, but since they don't have a white underlay, they manage to darken somewhat. Yes, that's right - Hasegawa gives you two part hinomarus, with appropriate variations for several options (size, green ring or no.) The decals reacted well to MicroSol and Set , and even the layered hinomaru on the wings and fuselage aren't so thick you lose detail. Remembering my experience with the Tamiya Meteor kit's "no step" outlines (with plenty of clear decal film in the middle to silver going over the lumps!) I cut the "no step" outline into four parts, discarding the interior clear area.A bit of careful aligning while applying is all that was needed.

I didn't weather this model, as it is representative of a (very clean) flying museum example, and is kept in tip top shape (not to mention very glossy paint!)

All in all, this model is a quick build and a good looking kit. Reccommended if you want a quick weekend (or so) project.