War Master WMAPF003 Imperial Japanese Navy Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" Interceptor Fighter Seaplane - Yokohama Kokutai, Tulagi, Solomon Islands, 1942 (1:72 Scale)
"The fate of the Empire rests on this enterprise. Every man must devote himself totally to the task in hand."
- Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Navy, December 7th, 1941
Recognizing the possibilty of a war with the United States, the Imperial Japanese Navy, in the autumn of 1940, saw the need for providing fighter cover for amphibious landings in situations where carriers would not be available. They also knew that the Japanese Army's Corps of Engineers was small and not up to the task of swiftly building airstrips on remote islands and that the IJN itself lacked the equivalent of the US Navy's Seabees construction battalions. As a result, a specification was issued for a fighter to be mounted on floats.
Kawanishi received the contract for an advanced floatplane fighter which became the N1K1 Kyofu ("Mighty Wind"), but it soon became obvious that this ambitious aircraft would not be ready in time for the upcoming war with the US. The Japanese therefore decided on a temporary measure whereby a floatplane fighter was to be created from the highly successful A6M2 Zero.
The IJN assigned development of the floatplane Zero to Nakajima which also performed second-source production of the Zero. Interestingly, Nakajima ended up building more Zeros than Mitsubishi, producing over 6,500 Zeros to Mitsubishi's 4,000 by war's end. The floatplane was given the designation A6M2-N or "Type 2 Floatplane Fighter Model 11" (the N does not stand for Nakajima but for floatplane fighter). The floatplane was basically a standard A6M2 with the undercarriage replaced by a centerline float, plus an outrigger float on each wing. A larger vertical tailplane was provided as was a small "strake" underneath the tail to compensate for aerodynamic interference of the float system. Although it couldn't carry a centerline drop tank, an additional fuel tank was installed in the central float itself.
The first prototype A6M2-N was flown on December 7th, 1941, the first day of the Pacific War and the first production A6M2-N was delivered in April 1942. The A6M2-N was given the Allied code name "Rufe" under Capt Frank McCoy's system of assigning hillbilly names to Japanese aircraft. It first appeared in combat in the Solomons and was initially deployed to Tulagi, but the floatplanes were caught in the raids leading up to the American landings on Guadalcanal. Although they inflicted some serious damage on the B-17s of the 11th Bombardment Group, the A6M2-Ns were soon destroyed by enemy attacks.
The A6M2-N was also used in the Aleutians campaign. In spite of the weight and drag of the float, the A6M2-N was actually quite fast and maneuverable, retaining many of the Zero's characteristics, and could deliver a nasty surprise to many Allied fighters if they were unwise enough to try and dog-fight with this floatplane.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale diecast replica of an Imperial Japanese Navy Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" Interceptor Fighter Seaplane that was attached to the Yokohama Kokutai, then based at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, during 1942.
Wingspan: 6 inches
Length: 5 inches
Release Date: July 2011
Historical Account: "Down the Slot" - The Solomon Islands campaign was a major campaign of the Pacific War of World War II. The campaign began with Japanese landings and occupation of several areas in the British Solomon Islands and Bougainville, in the Territory of New Guinea, during the first six months of 1942. The Japanese occupied these locations and began the construction of several naval and air bases with the goals of protecting the flank of the Japanese offensive in New Guinea, establishing a security barrier for the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain, and providing bases for interdicting supply lines between the Allied powers of the United States and Australia and New Zealand.
The Allies, in order to defend their communication and supply lines in the South Pacific, supported a counteroffensive in New Guinea, isolated the Japanese base at Rabaul, and counterattacked the Japanese in the Solomons with landings on Guadalcanal (see Guadalcanal Campaign) and small neighboring islands on August 8th, 1942. These landings initiated a series of combined-arms battles between the two adversaries, beginning with the Guadalcanal landing and continuing with several battles in the central and northern Solomons, on and around New Georgia Island, and Bougainville Island.
In a campaign of attrition fought on land, on sea, and in the air, the Allies wore the Japanese down, inflicting irreplaceable losses on Japanese military assets. The Allies retook some of the Solomon Islands (although resistance continued until the end of the war), and they also isolated and neutralized some Japanese positions, which were then bypassed. The Solomon Islands campaign then converged with the New Guinea campaign.