In April of 1942, a new A6M model fighter was launched. The main difference between the A6M3 (model 32) and the A6M2 Model 21 was the new Sakae 21 engine (1130 hp), which had a two-stage supercharger making it more stable at higher altitudes and a screw diameter of 3.05 m (150 mm greater than that of its predecessor). The engine was much heavier and longer than those used in previous models, so to prevent displacement of the center of gravity the engine was moved closer to the cockpit and the main fuel tank’s capacity was reduced from 518 to 470 liters.
Also, the folding wingtips were removed, which increased the plane’s dive speed limit but reduced its maneuverability and range. The latter side effect was particularly important as it made it impossible to use the A6M3 effectively during the 1942 campaign in the Solomon Islands. The 20-mm guns were replaced by Type 99-I model 3s, and their ammunition was increased to 100 rounds. Also, the aircraft could carry two 60-kg bombs.
A total of 343 A6M3 Model 32s were made for the Japanese navy.