BBI BBI001094 Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" Fighter - Saburo Sakai, 'V-103', Tainan Air Group, Borneo, 1942 (1:18 Scale)
"In desperation, I snapped out a burst. At once the Grumman snapped away in a roll to the right, clawed around in a tight turn, and ended up in a climb straight at my own plane. Never before had I seen an enemy plane move so quickly or gracefully before, and every second his guns were moving closer to the belly of my fighter. I snap-rolled in an effort to throw him off. He would not be shaken. He was using my favorite tactics, coming up from under."
- Japanese ace Saburo Sakai, discussing an engagement with a Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter, August 8th, 1942
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a light-weight carrier-based fighter aircraft employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940 to 1945.
It is universally known as Zero from its Japanese Navy designation, Type 0 Carrier Fighter (Rei shiki Kanjo sentoki), taken from the last digit of the Imperial year 2600 (1940), when it entered service. In Japan it was unofficially referred to as both Rei-sen and Zero-sen. The official Allied code name was Zeke (Hamp for the A6M3 model 32 variant); while this was in keeping with standard practice of giving boys' names to fighters, it is not definitively known if this was chosen for its similarity to "Zero".
A combination of excellent maneuverability and very long range made it one of the best fighters of its era. In early service the Zero gained a legendary reputation, outclassing its contemporaries. Later, design weaknesses and the increasing scarcity of more powerful aircraft engines meant that the Zero became less effective against newer fighters.
Pictured here is a 1:18 scale replica of Saburo Sakai's Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, which was attached to the Tainan Air Group, then based at Borneo during 1942. Note: Due to the immense size and weight of this item, it does not qualify for the free UPS ground shipping discount. Sold Out!
Wingspan: 24 inches
Length: 20 inches
Release Date: June 2009
Historical Account: "Sword of the Samurai" - Within just a few months following the Pearl Harbor raid, Japan had destroyed most of the allied air forces defending the Pacific. Interestingly, Saburo Sakai's Tainan Squadron, based in the Philippines, took credit for destroying the most allied planes in the history of Japanese military aviation.
On August 7th, 1942, 18 Zeroes from the Tainan Squadron received the order to attack Guadalcanal. The distance from Rabaul to Guadalcanal was roughly 560 miles, barely within the range of the Zero fighter.
Nevertheless, Sakai singlehandedly managed to shoot down three F4F Wildcats flying over the island then eyed eight additional enemy planes, which he presumed to be more Wildcats. Sakai was wrong.
They were SBD Dauntless dive-bombers which carried rear machine gunners. In the ensuing battle, Sakai shot down three SBDs, but was struck in the head by a bullet, very nearly blinding him in one eye and leaving him somewhat paralyzed. He survived the ordeal, flying four hours and almost 600 miles back to Rabaul. By the time he landed, his gas tank was completely empty and he was immediately taken to hospital.
Sakai would eventually resume flying, but his bad eyesight got him into trouble on other occasions. On June 24th, 1944, he approached 15 planes that he thought were Zeros, but were, in fact, US Navy Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters. In a high-flying chase that has become legendary, Sakai eluded every single attack made by the Hellcats for over 20 minutes, enabling him to return to base untouched if a little shaken. Eventually, Sakai would go on to become Japan's top surviving ace, credited with destroying 64 enemy planes.