Head to Head 1/20/11-Zero V. P-40

JOHN THURSTON is back and eager to discuss Western Martial Arts, especially relating to its history.


Head to Head 1/20/11-Zero V. P-40

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:44 am


Sorry to be so tardy in getting this along and, I suppose for the quality of the pics, which I will try and continually improve.

Image The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk/Tomahawk and the Mitsubishi A6M2 aka the Zero, or , in "Code parlance, the "Zeke".


Updating and pitting the Zeke against other Allied Warplanes will be necessary as the type basically remained unchanged for the duration of the war. The designe concept of the aircraft was initially (and permanently) based around several needs and parrameters; Nimbleness, extreme range, relatively heavy armament, available engine types and the Japaneses concept of the "pilot as warrior".

When you factor in all these needs one gets a moderately fast, moderately armed, extremely nimble aircraft.

As it was at the beginning of the war, except for possible variations in the Army model (lack of Tailhook) , one go an aircraft with a top end of about 325mph, extreme manuverability, extreme range sufficiccient to reach all points in the proposed "Greater Eastern Co Prosperity Sphere" with minimal refueling, ie: nearly 2000 miles..

Its armament was simililar to that of its Axis partner the BF109; two 20mm wing mounted cannon and two synchronized 7.7mm Jap. mgs firing from nose mounts.

Its Power was a 780hp "Zuisei" engine by mitsubishi. It weighed in at 3704-6164 lbs (loaded v full load).

Thus its weight was lnearly half its head to opponent's weigh in empty at 6,350 lbs.

It lacked, as you Probably all are aware, self sealing fuel tanks as well as any significant protective armor.

The Warhawk , by means of differentiation, (known as the Tomahawk in British service) came with widely diferentiating armament and power plants during the course of the war.

However, the version that first faced the Zeke in AVG service was probably the 1,150 hp Alison Engine with an armament of 4 .30 cal wing mounted Browning MGs and two .50 cal cowl mounted BMG's.

As stated, this armament packaged could be and was varied greatly and the version that we are most accustomed to was the six X .50 in wing mounted BMG's.

Boy, "Ma Deuce" has sure seen a long and varied service has it not?

The 50 BMG api (armor piercing incendiary) rendered any wielder great punch and fiercely flat shooting (750 gr .5 in) projectile with a Muzzle Velocity of 2,750fps.

Although the "Ma Deuce" could not "outpunch" the 20mm mounted on the Zeke, time and time again it would be shown as one of the most effective and feared ground to ground, air to air, and AAW weapons in WWII and many other wars several wars. It's effective range was nearly two miles and that always made it a potential "game changer".

However, the P-40 suffered in initial top speed because of the low power to weight ratio of its initial mounting of the Alison engine and heavy relative weight of airframe limiting the Warhawk to an initial top speed of about 330 mph It was slow in the climb, but fast in a diving attack.

Final marks would increase the top speed of this venerable fighter to over 400 mph, but, as with most American and British typest hrougout the war, its tactics would always have to pit its strengths against the weaknesses of the Zeke.

In the interests of not being repetetive, I will not go into the similar tactics which all allied fighters had to (some succesfully some not) use against the Zeke throughout the war. Other opponents to the zero included the F4F, F6F, the P-39, P47, P-38, P-51, Brewster Buffalo (Singapore) Spitfire, F4U, (suprise in CBI the) Mosquito and probably others I have not mentioned.

However, the Zero's most memorable opponent, (and perhaps the first, other than some Chinese Seversky P-35's) remains the Warhawk, probably in the configuration described.

The most memorable description of combat in the AVG (American Volunteer Group -aka the Flying Tigers. Oddly enough, the 'teeth" painted on the nose intake were invisaged as shark's teeth, which was supposedly iducive of fear in a sea faring people such as the Japanesse) remains Scott's "God was my Co Pilot".

The Warhawk's range remained at a stingy 800+/- miles throughout the war.

Imperial War planners were provided with a hard hitting and dangerous aircraft with a range that could not be delivered to the Allies in a fighter until late 1943.


Please ask questions. Later Japanese types which were quite surprisingly excellent in performance will be discussed. They are little known and infrequently discussed or even mentioned. I venture to guess that these later types which, although introduced in limited numbers, caused moderate losses in daylight "bi-ji-ni ku" (B-29) raiders as I do not think the Zeke would have been able to act as an effective Hi altitude interceptor against the B-29 formations.

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