About This File
A6M2 Sen Baku in the Battle of the Philippine Sea
Ryan Toews from j-aircraft.com
The fighter-bomber version of the A6M2 is probably the least documented Zero variant. This article is an attempt to shed some light on some of the distinguishing details of this plane.
First, allow me to offer a few a words on the proper nomenclature. Most published sources call this Zero a “Bakusen”. However, in the last year Manabu Kawasaki wrote a new study entitled A New View of the Battle of Philippine Sea. This book points out that the official records term the Zero fighter-bomber the Sen Baku; this is also supported by the memories of a number of pilots. My thanks to Kenji Miyazaki for drawing this to my attention.
The A6M2 Sen Baku was introduced in early 1944. The D3A Val carrier-borne dive-bomber was recognized as becoming increasingly inadequate for front line use and the replacement IJN dive-bomber, the D4Y Judy, needed a longer take-off roll than could be accommodated on the light carriers comprising part of the First Mobile Fleet. Accordingly, a number of A6M2s were modified to carry a 250 kg bomb by replacing the drop tank so as to fit a centre-line bomb rack. These modified Zeros lacked dive brakes and bomb-throwing racks and so were restricted to less effective shallower bomb approaches, but it was thought that the flight decks of the American carriers could be damaged enough to render them incapable of aerial operations.
Concurrent with the introduction of the A6M2 Sen Baku was the rebuilding of the Japanese carrier force. Training for both the 601 Kokutai only began in February of 1944 and 652 Ku and 653 Ku began training a month later. Very likely then the Zero Sen Baku only began arriving from the factory sometime in the period from February to April.
Mitsubishi had stopped producing the A6M2 in mid-1942, so it can be safely assumed that all of the A6M2 Sen Bakus were built by Nakajima. Gakken 33 gives Nakajima’s monthly production numbers for both the A6M2 and the A6M5. Production of the latter was well underway in March 1944 and it was in full production by April. Yet production of the A6M2 only shut down gradually, with 111 aircraft still being built in April and May 1944. It may very well be that this drawn out production of the A6M2 during the time the A6M5 was being turned out in strength was due to the need for additional Sen Baku variants of the Zero. As will be explained below, the Zero fighter-bombers were not a simple conversion and were much more likely to have been given their necessary modifications on the assembly line.
The A6M2 Sen Baku also appears to have been the first Zero to make use of two wing drop-tanks. On page 82 of Aero Detail 7 is a small notation which states that a number of A6M5bs were modified to carry both a centre-line bomb load as well as wing tanks. This was done to maintain the same range performance as regularly equipped Zeros. A photo on pages 20-21 of the recently published Japanese Naval Air Force in Action shows several carrier-borne A6M2s equipped with wing mounted drop-tanks. (Image 1) The tail codes visible on several other aircraft in the foreground help identify the image as having been taken some time before the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Using the evidence from this photo, it can be argued that the bomb carrying A6M2s used during the Battle of the Philippine Sea were also equipped with wing drop-tanks. Further substantiation for this can be found in looking at the battle itself. The Japanese strategy was to use the advantage of their planes’ longer range to be able to attack before the Americans were within range themselves. And to maintain this longer range the A6M2 had to be able to use the additional fuel available in external drop-tanks.
A6M2 Sen Baku Markings
Information on markings for the Battle of the Philippine Sea Sen Bakus is likewise very sparse, being limited to only one such aircraft. The picture below is form the USMC collection at NARA. It is identified as being taken on Guam in July of 1944. According to Jim Lansdale a second photo in the same series appears to show the same plane in the background of the image with the code of “323“ visible on the tail (Image 12)
It is assumed here that the “2” in the “247” part of the tail code identified the role of plane “47” as a bomber instead of a fighter, continuing a practice used previously by IJN carrier units. The tail code prefix of “323” serves to further identify the plane as belonging to the 3rd Carrier (Ryuho) of the 2nd Carrier Division. All of the aircraft of the 2nd Carrier Division were administratively assigned to the 652 Kokutai.
According to Hata and Izawa as well as Tillman the 652 Ku launched either 25 or 26 of its full complement of 26 A6M2 fighter-bombers as part of the second Japanese air strike on the 19th of July. This force came in from the north and had minimal contact with American forces. In spite of this, 4 A6M2 fighter-bombers were lost. It seems safe to assume that any of these 4 planes might have crashed on Guam.
From all of the above it may be possible to reconstruct the appearance of at least one of the rather elusive A6M2 Sen Baku that took such heavy losses in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Bearing the tail code of “323-247” it was equipped with two wing mounted drop tanks as well as a flush-mounted bomb rack to carry a 250 Kg bomb.
Over the past months Dave Douglas has been allowing me to berate him with endless suggestions concerning his outstanding series of Zero profiles. He has been kind enough to take my contradictory notes and comments and create a profile of the Sen Baku which has been described above. (Image 13) Dave has also provided a drawing of the bomb rack used on the A6M2 Sen Baku. This illustration also provides a better look at the Type 99 #25 Model 1 Ordinary bomb and its markings. The bomb’s markings are of the earlier war pattern which were continued up to July 1944. (Image 14)
A6M2 Sen Baku Package: for SF/WoV/WoE WW2, PTO installs
This little modification creates a new aircraft based off ArmorDave's A6M5 "Zeke" IJN fighter and Wrench work. Included in this package are the skins, inis, and some various small and sundry bits. The aircraft LOD and cockpit folders are NOT included - you 'll be transfering them over from the stock A6M5. Therefore, it is NOT a complete aircraft package.
= You MUST have the latest Weapons Pak installed for the WW2 Weapons!!! =
Obviously, you must have AD's Zero's installed to use the package....
Unzip, as I always reccomend, the "A6M2 Sen Baku.zip" to a temp folder somewhere that easy to find.
Create a new folder, "A6M2 Sen Baku" in your game's main /Aircraft folder.
Copy/paste all the new items; inis, skin folder, and the various and sundry bits I've supplied, into the new A6M5C folder.
From the original A6M5, transfer over (copy/paste) the following items:
A6M5.OUT (usefull for decaling)
Cockpit folder -- the whole, entire folder :)
Copy/paste the "LavEngine.wav" into your sounds folder, if you don't have it already. This is from Hinchbooke, and was (duh!) designed for the Soviet Laggs and the LA-9 and 11. It has a nice raspy radial sound.
Hangar and Loading screens are included. They're my old one's for a way's back.
That's pretty much it...go fly!
ArmourDave for creating the Zero in the first place;
Volksjager and Lansen for the original skins;
MoonJumper for finding the PappaRomeo EAW sight pack;
Hinchbrooke for the LavEngine sound;
All the other WW2 Junkies out there;
TK for creating the open sourced marvel for use to play with
Famous Airplanes of the World #55: Mitsubishi A6M, Model 11-21
Aero Detail #7: Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighter
Aircam #16: Mistubish A6M Vol.1
Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #22: Imperial Japanese Navy Aces 1937-1945
Kagero: 3/202 Kokutai
Mushroom YS 3: Mitsubishi A6M Zero
Profile #236: A6M5-A6M8
Profile Aircraft #129: Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-sen
Squad/Signal #1059: A6M Zero In Action
Any problems, questions, comments or other ideas can be directed to me on the CombatAce and SimHQ message boards.
This is freeware; it CAN be distrubuted as such if permission is granted by me, AD, and the original readme and all pieces of the package remain intact.
The Mitsubishi A6M5 remains the intellectual property of ArmourDave (and Mitsubishi Aircraft, it's heirs and/or successors)
See the original readme documentation for further allowances and restrictions
Any persons wishing to make further modfications of the aircraft inis, skins, cockpit, etc, MUST obtain permission from the whole of the developers/moders.
This package may NOT in any way, shape or form be used in any payware addition without permission of myself, ArmourDave, or anyone associated with it.
Percentages of payment are -always- open for negotiation.