Stage II model from the Private Collection by Yevgen Sklyar
The Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero was a long range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) from 1940 to 1945. The A6M was designated as the Mitsubishi Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter (零式艦上戦闘機 rei-shiki-kanjou-sentouki?), and also designated as the Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen and Mitsubishi Navy 12-shi Carrier Fighter. The A6M was usually referred to by the Allies as the "Zero", from the 'Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter' designation. The official Allied reporting name was Zeke.
When it was introduced early in World War II, the Zero was the best carrier-based fighter in the world, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range. In early combat operations, the Zero gained a legendary reputation as a "dogfighter", achieving the outstanding kill ratio of 12 to 1, but by 1942 a combination of new tactics and the introduction of better equipment enabled the Allied pilots to engage the Zero on more equal terms. The IJNAS also frequently used the type as a land-based fighter. By 1943, inherent design weaknesses and the increasing lack of more powerful aircraft engines meant that the Zero became less effective against newer enemy fighters that possessed greater firepower, armor, and speed, and approached the Zero's maneuverability. Although the Mitsubishi A6M was outdated by 1944, it was never totally supplanted by the newer Japanese aircraft types. During the final years of the War in the Pacific, the Zero was used in kamikaze operations. In the course of the war, more Zeros were built than any other Japanese aircraft.