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A5M “Claude”, Japanese Carrier Fighter


 Photograph of A5M "Claude" fighter

Francillon (1979)


Mitsubishi A5M4 "Claude"


Specifications:


Crew
1

Dimensions

36'1" by 24'11" by 10'9"
11m by 7.57m by 3.27m

Weight

2,681-3,684 lbs
1216-1671 kg
Wing area 192 square feet
17.8 square meters

Maximum speed      

236 mph (380 km/h) at sea level
248 mph (400 km/h) at 3280 feet (1000 meters)
270 mph (435 km/h) at 9845 feet (3000 meters)
265 mph (426 km/h) at 10,140 feet (3090 meters)
Cruise speed 250 mph at 9845 feet
402 km/h at 3000  meters

Climb rate

46 feet per second
14 m/s

Ceiling

32,150 feet
9800 meters
Power plant
One 785hp (585 kW) Nakajima Kotobuki 41 or 41 KAI nine-cylinder air-cooled radial engine driving a three-blade SS-22 two-pitch (ground adjustable) metal propeller

Range

500 miles (805 km) on internal fuel
746 miles (1200 km) with drop tank

Armament

2 7.7mm Type 89 machine guns (cowling) with 500 rounds per gun.

External stores     

2 30kg (66 lb) bombs or 1 160 liter (42 gallon) drop tank.

Fuel capacity

75 gallons (284 liter) internal

Production

A total of 1,094 A5Ms and derivatives were built as follows:

Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K., Nagoya:


6
782
1
2
Ka-14 prototypes (1935-36)
A5M1 to A5M4 (1936-40)
Ki-18 prototype (1935)
Ki-33 prototypes (1936)
K.K. Watanabe Tekkosho:

39 A5M4 (1939-42)
Dai-Nijuichi Kaigun Kokusho, Omura:

161
103
A5M4 (1939-41)
A5M4-K (1942-44) for Kamikaze service.
Variants: The A5M1 used a 585hp 2-Kai-1 engine and the A5M2 a 610hp 2-Kai-3.


"Claude", also known as the Type 96, was the first modern Japanese carrier fighter, though it retained such anachronisms as fixed landing gear. It was designed at a time when the Navy doctrine was beginning to emphasize the preemptive strike against enemy carriers. This led to a requirement for a fighter capable of escorting attack aircraft rather than merely providing local fleet defense. This new mission required unprecedented performance. The design team took great pains to reduce drag, introducing such innovations as flush rivets, and were so confident of their work that they felt free to retain the fixed landing gear to avoid the weight and complexity of retractable gear. The final aircraft exceeded the Navy speed requirement by 54 knots and it also had a better climb rate than required. However, the Navy insisted on the addition of split flaps to improve its maneuverability before adopting the aircraft in late 1936.

"Claude" was one of the best fighters in the world in its day. It proved that Japanese aircraft designers were as capable as any in the world and that Japan had entered a new era of self-sufficiency in aircraft design and construction. Its remarkable performance put an end to anti-fighter sentiment in the Japanese Navy. However, Bergerud believes that its successes in China masked its defects. The success of the "Claude" led the Japanese into the trap of believing that the turning fight was still the correct air tactical doctrine. As a result, maneuverability remained a prime performance characteristic in the minds of Japanese aircraft designers at a time when designers in other nations were coming to the opposite conclusion.

"Claude" remained the standard Japanese carrier fighter up until shortly before the outbreak of war, and it remained in use on second-line carriers and land bases until sufficient Zeros were available. Some were still assigned to Shoho's air group when she was sunk at Coral Sea in May 1942. However, by 1941, its performance and firepower were entirely inadequate.  Production resumed in 1944 for kamikaze use.

One can only speculate what might have been had this remained the first line Japanese carrier fighter into 1942.

Photo Gallery

A5M Claude front view

Wikimedia

Commons

A5M "Claude" in flight

Wikimedia

Commons

A5M4-K "Claude" trainer variant

Wikimedia

Commons


References

Bergerud (2000)

Francillon (1979)

Gunston (1988)

Lundstrom (2006)
Peattie (2001)


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