A single-seater, carrier-based, all-metal monoplane fighter with an open cockpit and fixed landing gear. The world's first carrier-based monoplane. A prototype of this fighter first flew on February 4, 1935. After extensive adjustments, the fighter was commissioned by the Japanese navy and designated carrier fighter type 96 (A5M). Mass production began in the fall of 1936.
In 1938, the fine-tuned A5M4 (model 4, later re-designated the model 24) variant was launched. This model had several new features: a new, more streamlined cockpit canopy with improved visibility, advanced fairings, and a radio transmitter. Since bombers often had to operate in the dark, the plane had landing lights and lights for flights over the open seas at night. The plane was equipped with a film camera near the left of the landing gear.
The power plant was a 9-cylinder radial air-cooled Nakajima Kotobuki 41 with a rated capacity of 795 horsepower. The plane had a two-bladed (later three-bladed) wooden variable pitch propellor, the Sumitomo VDM. Later planes began to use the Kotobuki 41KAI engine (which had roughly the same power), a design designated as model 34.
The A5M's armament consisted of two fuselage-mounted synchronous 7.7mm Nippon-Seikosho type 89 model 2 (Vickers "class E") machine gunes with 500 rounds of ammunition each. Two 30-kg type 97 bombs could be carried under the wings. Under the fuselage, an additional 160-liter fuel tank could be carried. Later, this fuel tank was increased in size to 210 liters.
The A5M fighter saw action over China from September 1937 to September 1941. It was also active early on in the war in the Pacific, used for some time to defend Japan and the Marshall Islands. Afterwards, it was used for training missions and flight school. In 1945, the remaining A5M fighters were used for kamikaze missions.
Overall, the A5M met the contemporary requirements for a fighter. It was stable and maneuverable and was easy to control. However, the fighter's construction did not easily allow for upgrades, and it quickly became obsolete. Its armament was poor, its armor non-existent, its fuel tanks not self-sealing, and its wings overly weak.
Production of the A5M ceased in 1941. A total of 1,095 A5M fighters (of all variants) were produced.