Mitsubishi A5M 'Claude'

Mitsubishi A5M 'Claude'

Mitsubishi A5M 'Claude'

Introduction and Developments
Service Record

Introduction and Developments

The Mitsubishi A5M 'Claude' was the first monoplane fighter to enter service with the Imperial Japanese Navy, and helped Japan to win air superiority over China in 1937-39, but had largely been replaced in front line units by the start of the Pacific War.

The A5M1 was developed in a second attempt to replace the existing Nakajima biplane fighters used by the Japanese Navy. The first attempt, which began in 1932, had seen the development of a Nakajima parasol monoplane and a Mitsubishi low-wing monoplane, but neither was accepted, and the Nakajima A2N1 was instead replaced by a similar biplane, the Nakajima A4N1.

This was only ever seen as an interim measure, and in 1934 a 9-Shi specification was issued for a new naval fighter. The new fighter was to have a top speed of 217mph at 9,845ft (350km/h at 3,000m), to be able to climb to 16,405ft (5,000m) in 6 min 30 secs, be no wider than 11m (36ft 1in) and no longer than 8m (26ft 3in). It was to be armed with two 7.7mm machine guns. Rather oddly the specification didn't include a requirement that the new fighter should be able to operate from aircraft carriers.

Mitsubishi responded with a monoplane, with a low-mounted inverted gull-wing (as seen later on the Corsair). The Mitsubishi Ka-14 had a fixed undercarriage, but great efforts were made to reduce drag in other areas, and the aircraft had a small cross-section and was of aluminium stressed-skin construction, with flush rivets. The prototype was powered by a 550hp Nakajima Kotobuki 5 radial engine.

Flight tests with the first prototype began on 4 February 1935. The new aircraft reached a top speed of 280mph, well above the requirements, but it was sometimes unstable in flight and tended to balloon when landing, a most undesirable attribute in a potential carrier fighter.

As a result of these problems the second prototype was given a new wing, this time with a level centre section and dihedral on the outer sections. A 640hp Nakajima Kotobuki 3 engine was used and trailing-edge flaps were added. Four more prototypes, most with different engines, were built, and the aircraft was accepted for production as the Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter Model 1 (A5M1)


A5M1 (Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter Model 1)

The first production of the A5M, the A5M1 was powered by the 580hp Nakajima Kotobuki 2 KAI I engine.

A5M2a (Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter Model 2-1)

The A5M2a was powered by the Nakajima Kotobuki 2 KAI 3A

A5M2b (Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter Model 2-2)

The A5M2b had an enclosed cockpit, 640hp Kotobuki 3 engine powering a three-bladed propeller and a NACA cowling with cooling flaps. The enclosed cockpit was unpopular with the pilots, and was removed on later aircraft.


The A5M3a was a version powered by a 610hp Hispano-Suiza twelve-cylinder liquid cooled engine, with a 20mm cannon firing through the propeller hub. Two prototypes were built, and this was the fastest version of the aircraft but the Japanese navy didn't want to become dependent on imported engines, so it didn't enter production.

A5M4 (Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter Model 4, later Model 24)

The A5M4 was similar to the A5M2b, but with a Kotobuki 41 engine and an open cockpit. It could carry a 35 gallon ventral drop tank, increasing its range. At first it was designated as the Model 4, but later became the Model 24, indicating the second airframe version and fourth engine. This was the most numerous version of the aircraft. Mitsubishi built it until 1940, and then 200 were built by K.K. Watanabe Tekkoshoa and Dai-Nikuichi Kaigun Kokusho (21st Naval Air Arsenal) at Omura.

A5M4 (Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter Model 34)

The A5M4 Model 34 introduced some minor airframe changes and a Kotobuki 41 KAI engine.


The A5M4-K was a two-seat trainer, produced at the 21st Naval Air Arsenal where work began on the design in 1940. The A5M4-K used the Kokobuki 41 engine, and had two open cockpits with large headrests and a roll-bar between them. It also had a small horizontal fin on the fuselage, introduced to improve stability.

Service Record

The first A5Ms entered service early in 1937, replacing the Nakajima A2N and Nakajima A4N. The aircraft arrived just in time to take part in the Second China-Japanese War, and made its large scale debut on 19 September 1937, when eighteen A5Ms clashed with a larger Chinese force over Nakajima. The Japanese pilots claimed 26 victories for no losses, and although the claims were exaggerated there was no doubt that the A5M was superior to the Hawk IIIs and Boeing 281s in Chinese service.

The A5M units were used to support the attacks on Nanking, Shanghai and Nanchang. During this period they began to clash with Soviet Polikarpov I-152 biplanes and I-16 monoplanes, with both sides claiming then and since to have had the better fighters. In general the two sides were fairly equally matched in early clashes, but the Japanese had the better of the fighting during 1938, and Soviet losses in China began to mount.

As the Chinese withdrew into the interior of their vast country, the Japanese reacted in two ways. Shorter range A5M2s used landing fields at Shanghai and Nanking, while the longer range A5M4, with a fuel drop tank, was introduced. Even with these changes there were very few clashes between Japanese and Chinese fighters during 1939.

During 1941 the Navy began to pull out of China in preparation for the wider Pacific War that was expected to erupt at any time. At the same time the A6M Zero began to enter service, and the A5M was rapidly phased out in front line units. The A5M was only involved in a few clashes with Allied aircraft. Aircraft from the carrier Ryujo took part in the attack on Davao on Mindanao, and the invasion of the Dutch East Indies, before receiving A6Ms after returning to Japan in April 1942. Land based aircraft in the Marshall Islands clashed with attacking American aircraft from the Enterprise and Yorktown, on 1 February. Finally, on 7 May 1942 two A5Ms from the carrier Shoho managed to get airborne before she was sunk by US torpedoes and bombs. Three victories were claimed by the two A5Ms and four A6Ms that launched, but with their carrier lost the aircraft had nowhere to go - one managed to land on a nearby island but the rest ditched.

Late in the war the remaining A5M4s and A5M4-K trainers were used in kamikaze attacks around the Japanese coast.

Specifications (A5M4)

Engine: Nakajima Kotobuki 41 nine-cylinder air-cooled radial engine
Power: 710hp at take-off, 785hp at 9,845ft
Crew: 1
Wing span: 36ft 1 3/16in
Length: 25ft 1 3/8in
Height: 10ft 4in
Empty Weight: 2,447lb
Loaded Weight: 3,135lb
Max Speed: 276mph at 10,000ft
Climb to 16,405ft: 6 min 26 secs
Armament: Two 7.7mm Type 89 machine guns
Pay-load: Two 66lb bombs or one 160 litre drop tank


Mitsubishi Ka-14

Developed to meet a 1934 requirement issued by the IJN, the Ka-14 made its first flight on 4 February 1935. During early trials, the aircraft demonstrated a top speed of 280 mph (450 km/h), comfortably exceeding the 217 mph (350 km/h) specified in the requirement. Unfortunately, the Ka-14 also demonstrated some aerodynamic shortcomings, resulting in the inverted gull wing being replaced on the second prototype by a conventional monoplane wing, with this configuration being selected for production as the A5M in the autumn of 1936. ΐ]

Powered by a Nakajima Kotobuki 2 KAI-ko engine rated at 630 hp at 4,920 ft (1,500 m), and armed with a pair of 7.7 mm machine guns, the A5M1 became the first shipboard cantilever monoplane fighter to enter service anywhere in the world. Seventy five examples were delivered before production switched to the A5M2. Α]

Micubiši A5M [Claude]

Allied code name: Claude
Japanese name: ?

Label the Design of the aeroplane - a description
Mitsubishi Ka-14 was the first prototype and a direct response to the specifications of the 9-Shi of 1934,
2. prototype already had wings pointed to the "W",
3. prototype was powered by a Nakajima Hikari 1 and
4. prototype had a bigger fuel tank.
A total of was built six prototypes.
Mitsubishi A5M1 the first mass-produced version, operationally deployed.
Mitsubishi A5M1a one aircraft was experimentally armed with a cannon caliber 20 mm
Mitsubishi A5M2a a more powerful engine, and due to the conservation of the center of gravity was truncated torso
Mitsubishi A5M2b closed cab, which was not piles taken
Mitsubishi A5M3a one prototype with inline engine, the navy had no interest.
Mitsubishi A5M4 the most important production version, brought many improvements, such as longer range
Mitsubishi A5M2-TO training plane, manufactured at a slow pace until 1944, at the conclusion of the war he was deployed for use in suicide attacks.
Mitsubishi Ki-18 one prototype of the Ka-14 was modified for the competition, which took place in 1935 - the aircraft was not accepted
the Mitsubishi Ki-33 a second attempt in 1936, it was the denavalizovanou A5M2a, even this attempt was not successful

Manufacturer production Period Manufactured units
三菱重工業株式会社 - Mitsubishi Jūkōgyō Kabushiki Kaisha, Nagoya 1935 - 1936 6 prototypes of the Ka-14
1936 - 1940 782 serial aircraft A5M1 - A5M4
1935 1 prototype army fighter Ki-18
1936 1 prototype army fighter Ki-33
渡辺鉄工所 - Watanabe Tekkoshō Kabushiki Kaisha, Zasshonokuma, prefecture Fukuoka 1939 - 1942 39 serial aircraft A5M4
大村の第二一海軍航空廠 - Omura Well Dai Ni Ichi Kaigun Kokusho, Sasebo 1939 - 1941 161 serial aircraft A5M4
1942 - 1944 103 trainer aircraft
total 1935 - 1944 1 094

Famous Airplanes of the World, Type96 Carrier Fighter, No. 27, March 1991, Bunrin-Do Co. Ltd., Nankano, Tokyo 164, Japan
author archive .

Mitsubishi A5M
- / - / Claude
九六式艦上戦闘機 / shiki kanjo sentoki / marine carrier-based fighter type 96

History & development:
In 1932, he started in the city of Omura to work (大村の第二一海軍航空廠 - Omura Well Dai Ni Ichi Kaigun Kokusho) Naval aviation institute, which was charged with research tasks in the field of aviation. This period was for the japanese naval air force period of turbulent development. This development was supported by influential figures such as, for example, was an admiral Matsuyama and admiral Yamamoto. At that time, many japanese naval officers back to Japan from their overseas studies and internships, and with them they brought new experiences and knowledge, which they could now apply. For the japanese armed forces started the development stage, at the end of which was to build a truly modern army and especially the navy.

In this year the command of the japanese naval air force (海軍航空本部 - Kaigun Kōkū Hombu), the ministry issued a technical specification 7-Shi , and through them has formalized the requirements for construction and performance of new, modern naval aircraft of different designation.
The highest demands were placed on the development of a new on-board fighter aircraft, which should be at least a match for all ground fighters. Fighter should have been at a height of three thousand meters speed of 335 to 370 km per hour and to this height should rise a maximum of four minutes. Dimension of cabin lifts, which was transported aircraft between the hangar and flight deck and so put limits on wingspan to a maximum of 10.25 meters.

These specifications answered by two large airlines 中島飛行機株式会社 - Nakajima Hikōki Kabushiki Kaisha (hereinafter referred to as Nakajima) and 三菱重工業株式会社 - Mitsubishi Jūkōgyō Kabushiki Kaisha (hereinafter referred to as Mitsubishi). Unfortunately, the design team of the company Nakajima still lingered in dvouplošné concept and the new specifications tried to adapt to an improved type of A1N. The navy, however, has already been decided to go on the way which should guarantee a truly modern aircraft and so the project was rejected.

Spolčnost Mitsubishi in Nagoya used the knowledge of the young engineer Jiro Hirokoshiho, who could now build on their knowledge gained on their placements in Europe and in the USA. Task design for the naval air force on-board fighter new generation Hirokoshi beneath him and not stoop to copy foreign aircraft. He designed his very own all-metal low-wing with an elliptical wing, pointed to the W, the Fuselage was designed as a poloskořepina. Prototype marked 1MF10, however, did not have good flight characteristics, suffered from the instability that resulted from non-compliance with a ratio between the size of the fuselage and wings. Two prototypes of this aircraft crashed and naval fighter air force lost a plane 7-Shi interested. This failure, however, Hirokoshimu brought insights that could soon take advantage of.

Kaigun Kōkū Hombu, thus failing to adopt solutions company Nakajima and eventually withdrew the project from Mitsubishi, but still not a modern fighter aircraft. In 1934, therefore, issued by command of the naval air slightly altered the specifications for 9-Shi, which was the required speed of at least 350 km per hour at an altitude of 3 000 m, rise to a height of 5 000 m had for six and a half minutes, the armament should be the usual - two machine guns, the margin was limited to a maximum value of eleven metres in length and not exceed eight feet. An interesting requirement was a condition that should ensure the installation of the radios in the aircraft. Jiro Horikoshi for the construction of the first prototype used a fundamentally modified type of 1MF10, and kept also a wing that is angled into a "W" for the second prototype already used the wing straight. The prototypes bore the factory designation of the Mitsubishi Ka-14 , and the first had its first flight in February 1935. Powered by was star devítiválcovým engine Nakajima Kotobuki 5, the performances were great and far exceeded the requirements of the 9-Shi. Certain problems brought the engine, the further the design team tried to improve the handling and maneuverability of the aircraft. Modifications were made to the other four tested prototypes, were related to the installation of split flap on the wing, it managed to remove even the instability of the aircraft. There was also an agreement between the representatives of the maritime air force and the factory of Mitsubishi in the final version of the engine, the choice fell finally on the engine Nakajima Kotobuki 2 KAI-1.

Then was the Mitsubishi Ka-14 accepted into the equipment as a "maritime on-board fighter type 96 model 1", or the abbreviated designation of the A5M1. Designation type 96, it meant that the aircraft was adopted into armament in 1936. Mass production delivered in the summer of 1937 a total of 75 aircraft of this version. A distinctive feature of these aircraft was a two-bladed wooden propeller. Aircraft were operationally tested in China, when in August 1937 intervened in the battles of Shanghai and Nanking, their job was to escort bombers G3M from Kanoja Kokutai and Kisarazu Kokutai in the bombing of chinese cities. These fights have found that the japanese naval air force received in the form of these airplanes really good plane, unfortunately, just not enough range for the accompanying action. I still have to mention the interesting ordnance department option. On one A5M1 was experimentally installed there armament in the form of two dvacetimilimetrových Oerlikon in the wing. The navy wasn't about this ordnance department variant of interest and in addition, supposedly the wings were damaged with surges of both cannons.

From the summer of 1937 were manufactured by the more modern A5M2a model 2-1 with a more powerful engine Kotobuki 2 KAI-3 on the power 610/690 horses and already with a metal trojlistou propeller. Also this aircraft was deployed on the chinese battlefield, his performances have been better than the A5M1, but the range was still small, even if it was under centroplán possible, hang a small extra tank. A total of were produced 36 aircraft in this embodiment. Two aircraft of this version were converted to the demonstration prototypes for the army air force and were marked in the system Kitai as a Mitsubishi Ki-33, these machines subsequently took part in the competition for military fighter aircraft. His rivals in the army competition were Kawasaki Ki-28 and Nakajima Ki-27. the Latter aircraft became the winner. No sooner was the army brought in one prototype Mitsubishi Ki-18, which was "denavalizovaný" a prototype Ka-14.

Somewhat visually different was the version of A5M2b model 2-2, which was driven by a motor Nakajima Kotobuki 3 on the take-off power of 640 horsepower, the engine cover has been changed, was now formed by the ring type of the NACA, due to the conservation of the center of gravity was the torso slightly truncated. The biggest change, however, was the closed cab with the back odsuvným cover, the pilot to better protect against external weather influences. Pilots but a closed cabin still did not accept and float with the cover locking in the moved position. Machines later the series came back to the cabin open with a higher "hump" behind the cab, this protrusion to better protect the pilot from overturning the aircraft. Aircraft of this version were produced 124 and thanks to this version of the japanese pilots over China fought for dominance. So far, however, remained navyřešený the problem of insufficient range and over the vast chinese territory, the problem was fairly major, it often happened that stíhacímu accompanied by not enough fuel.

A partial solution to this problem designed by well-known strategist Minoru Genda, one designed to be built forward of the airport, which would then have served accompanying the fighters to stopover and refuel. The idea was implemented in the form of airport Kuang-te, stocks to the airport were transported by air. Kaigun Kōkū Hombu, tried to these problems with a small-range aircraft A5M2 solve even the importation of foreign aircraft, so it was imported, and shortly i deployed the German Heinkel He 112 B-0 under the designation A7He1 and also the american fighter, the Seversky 2PA-B3 as A8V1. Neither of these types of failed, the japanese pilots didn't like and gave it neokrytě it clear, the aircraft was soon withdrawn from the prvoliniových units. The problem of lack of range was partially solved with the advent of the new version of the A5M4 and the final solution transferred to a new type of A6M2 Reisen

The company Mitsubishi tried the japanese naval air force offer a very powerful aircraft A5M3, which was driven by the French ordinary dvanáctiválcem Hispano-Suiza 12Xcrs and the propeller Ratier, where a hollow vrtulovou shaft shot gun Hispano 404 the caliber of 20 mm, the cannon was stored between the rows of cylinders. The engine was performance 610/690 horses. According to me this is the nicest version of the A5M and her performances were also the highest. The navy, first, not to the ordinary engines trust and also logically didn't want to be dependent on the supply of engines from abroad, therefore, was a version of A5M3 model 3-3 made only as a single prototype. After the war, was discovered in the factory archive only its sketch.

The most produced version was A5M4 Type 96 model 2-4 and model 3-4, both models differ the engine, when the first was powered by Nakajima Kotobuki 41 and the second powered Kotobuki 41 KAI both on the power 710 hp at the start and 785 horses at a height of 3 000 meters. The design of this version no longer reflected the combat experience of the japanese pilots from the chinese battlefield and so he was, even despite the higher consumption of a more powerful engine, finally, at least slightly raised and range. Under the fuselage it was possible to hang a fuel tank on the content of 160 litres or even more to 210 gallons of fuel, range then amounted to 1 240 km. Also, this version was used extensively in the fighting over China, accompanied by bombers, were also carried out by small-scale attacks on ground targets for this task were podvěšeny under the wing of two bombs weighing 30 kg. Hlavňová armament was, except for the above, the same, i.e. the two machine guns Type 89 caliber 7.7 mm above the engine, the guns were focuses telescopic sight.

In 1942, at a time when the A5M4 already wasn't getting into fights, held their adjustment for two-digit practice, the stability was increased two plůtky on the sides of the fuselage behind the cockpit, because at the school of aircraft was a greater danger that they find themselves on the ground in an inverted position, were in the pilot seat added kapotované pylons. Such modified machines have been marked as A5M4-K and were made 103 pieces, their production slowly took place in the years 1942 - 1944 in Dai-Nijuichi Kaigun Kokusho in Omuře.

Aircraft A5M4 is in addition to the fighting in China got into fights over the Philippines, ever engage in battles for the city of Davao, it was in December 1941, a year later, already in combat units almost effect. The beginning of the war is caught on the decks of aircraft carriers Hosho, Ryujo, Shoho and Ziuho, but here they were přiřknuta no longer just the role of the escort fighters. His combat career ended when at the conclusion of the war in the Pacific, when they were deployed in suicide attacks.

The aircraft got the two allied code names in the field of far east it was Sandy and in the Pacific a little later Claude, under this name it was then known.

Mitsubishi A5M Claude

Codenamed "Claude" by the allies, the A5M saw extensive during the Sino-Japanese War from 1937 onwards and was still in frontline service when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and began the invasion of Southeast Asia. Towards the end of 1941, it began to be replaced by its more famous successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. However it is entirely plausible that Claudes continued in service in rear areas such as Borneo where Biggles encountered it in Biggles in Borneo.

Biggles met a Claude while out on his first patrol from Lucky Strike with a formation of two Beaufighter. Biggles described it accurately as a "Mitsubishi Navy B.96" single-seat fighter. Being a carrier-borne fighter, Biggles suspected that there must be an aircraft carrier nearby, which turned out to be true.

Later in the book, in Chapter IV, Angus Mackail said that, coming back from Darwin, his Liberator had been attacked by some Mitsubishi fighters (most likely Claudes again) and that Ferocity Ferris had shot one down.

Talk:Mitsubishi A5M

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Should this be Mitsubishi A5M rather than A5M Claude?Nigel Ish (talk) 17:21, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Here it says A5M was the best air-craft during Manchuria and Sino-Japanese war, but over at I-16 it says the Mitsubishi and the Polikarpov were evenly matched. Anyone got anything to add to that?KhProd1 (talk) 06:29, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

I recall Saburo Sakai accounts on the I-16. I recall his accounts on the I-16 as not that great. His first victory achievement was against that plane. He also flew the Claude, so I think his accounts would be more accurate. [1]

The text indicates that a battle during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 between A5M and Republic of China Air Force Boeing P-26C Model 281 fighters "was the world's first-ever aerial dogfighting and kills between monoplane fighters built of mostly metal." I am not sure about dates, but by 1937, there were also battles in the Spanish Civil War between Republican (Russian) Polikarpov I-16 and Nationalist (German Condor Legion) Messerschmitt BF 109A and B types, all of which were also metal monoplane fighters. Can somebody confirm actual dates? --Death Bredon (talk) 09:35, 26 August 2016 (UTC)

Mitsubishi A5M Claude

The mid-1930s saw the ever increasing numbers of fast monoplane fighters entering service with many of the world’s air forces.

This was not the case in naval aviation, where biplane designs still reigned supreme. One exception to the rule was the French Navy with its aircraft carrier Bearn and embarked Dewoitine D.371T1 fighters in parasol configuration, hardly a promising design for carrier-based aircraft. Prevalence of biplanes among naval fighters of the time was due to very strict limitations on landing speeds imposed by small flight decks of contemporary aircraft carriers. It was in the middle of that decade, in 1935, that the Mitsubishi A5M entered the stage – a low-wing, monoplane carrier-based fighter, which set new standards for aircraft of its class. Having said that, the Claude wasn’t the first fighter in this configuration designed for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

A5M was born
In the early 1930s the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service underwent radical overhaul which included the launch of a special aircraft design development program, championed by admirals Matsuyama and Yamamoto. The program’s goal was to build an indigenous and fully independent aviation industry to fulfil the Navy’s needs following lessons learned in the Sino – Japanese conflict of 1932.

The first and foremost goal of the program (designated 7 Shi) was to deliver new designs for the IJN based on the technical requirements provided by Kaigun Koku Hombu in several basic categories of carrier-based aircraft: fighter, dive bomber, torpedo bomber and reconnaissance floatplane. Official requirements set the bar very high for new aircraft designs, which were expected to be superior to the most advanced machines in each category in service with foreign navies. In order to ensure success of the program, Japanese aviation industry received the highest priority status and generous government funding.
Required specifications for the carrier-based fighter under the 7 Shi program were as follows: maximum speed at 3,000 m – from 335 to 370 km/h time to climb to 3,000 m – no more than four minutes wingspan – not exceeding 10.25 m. The latter was dictated by the dimensions of aircraft elevators used on IJN carriers. The future aircraft was to be a successor to the Nakajima A1N fighter – the mainstay of the Japanese carrier aviation at the time. Nakajima and Mitsubishi were approached to submit their bids in the design competition, with the winner to receive a contract for a full-scale production.
For Mitsubishi the competition was of vital importance as it offered the company a chance to regain its status of the lead contractor to the Imperial Japanese Air Service which it had lost when Nakajima A1N entered service. As soon as the formal invitation was received Mitsubishi management formed a design team led by Jiro Horikoshi, who had been working for the company since 1928. Horikoshi’s design was to vindicate Mitsubishi’s loss of prestige and bring the company good fortune. Horikoshi had spent years studying in Europe and in the USA, where he gained invaluable insight into the most advanced aircraft design technologies. Although still a relatively inexperienced designer, Horikoshi wasted no time and quickly produced several preliminary design concepts of biplanes and high-wing monoplanes, but in the end he settled for a modern cantilever low-wing monoplane, since only that configuration could possibly achieve the required speed performance.
The new aircraft was visually similar to the Boeing P-26 – a cantilever, low-wing monoplane with elliptical inverted gull wing. The low-drag airfoil was also relatively simple to manufacture. In order to minimize the wing’s bending moments in recovery from dives, the American M-6 airfoil was used, which later became a staple of many Japanese designs.

Fabric-skinned fuselage featured a welded tube frame. The wing’s structure was also made of metal and skinned with fabric, which was tauter than fuselage skin. This arrangement was “borrowed” from the French Dewoitine D1C1 fighter, which the Japanese acquired in 1924. The aircraft featured fixed landing gear with spats. The new fighter was to be powered by the 700 hp Mitsubishi A-4 engine and armed with two 7.7 mm Type 89 machine guns mounted on top of the engine. The machine received its official designation “Experimental Navy Fighter 7 Shi” and factory designation 1MF10.
Horikoshi and his team ran into serious difficulties designing the prototype. Although the machine was ready in February 1933, it quickly became apparent that it fell short of the expectations. In relation to the wingspan the fuselage was too long and the airframe was in need of aerodynamic refinement. Despite those obvious shortcomings, the prototype began its flight test program just a month later with Yoshitaka Kajima serving as the program’s test pilot.

Mitsubishi A5M 'Claude' - History

In February 1934 the Imperial Japanese Navy drew up its specification for a new single-seat fighter, the requirements including a challenging maximum speed of 217 mph and a rate of climb that would take it to 16,405 ft in only 6 minutes 30 seconds.

Mitsubishi took up this challenge with a design team headed by Jiro Horikoshi, later to gain his place in aviation history for the remarkable A6M Zero, working against difficult odds to gain what was seen by Mitsubishi to be a potentially important contract.

All single-seat fighters then in service with the navy were of biplane configuration so the team's monoplane layout was seen as something of a gamble, especially as an earlier monoplane design from Mitsubishi had failed to gain the navy's approval.

Horikoshi's design for the prototype united an inverted gull wing to a narrow section fuselage, the gull wing being chosen to combine a large-diameter propeller with main landing gear units that would be as short as possible.

The tail unit was conventional, the powerplant was a 550-hp Nakajima Kotobuki 5 radial engine, and the pilot was accommodated in an open cockpit directly over the wing.

Designated Mitsubishi Ka-14, it was flown for the first time on 4 February 1935 and demonstrated very quickly that it was more than capable of meeting the navy's requirements. In early tests a maximum speed of 280 mph was recorded, and the climb to 16,405 ft was achieved in only 5 minutes 54 seconds. There were, however, aerodynamic shortcomings and so the second prototype was given a conventional cantilever low-wing with split trailing-edge flaps at the same time a 560-hp Kotobuki 3 engine was installed.

Four other prototypes were completed with varying powerplant's, and it was with the low-wing configuration of the second prototype combined with a 585-hp Kotobuki 2 KAI-1 engine that the Mitsubishi A5M1 was ordered into production as the Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter Model 1.

The A5M1 of 1936 was the Japanese navy's first monoplane fighter, the basic model being armed with two forward-firing 7.7-mm (0.303-in) machine-guns, but the A5M1a variant carried two 20-mm Oerlikon FF cannon. The A5M2 of 1937 was regarded as the most important fighter aircraft in the navy's inventory during the Sino-Japanese War, the performance of the initial A5M2a being improved, by comparison with the A5M1, by installation of the 610-hp Kotobuki 2-KAI-3 engine the ensuing generally similar A5M2b differed primarily by the introduction of more power, with the 640-hp Kotobuki 3, and early production aircraft had an enclosed cockpit.

This did not prove popular with its pilots, and late-production A5M2b fighters reverted to open cockpit configuration. Under the designation A5M3 two experimental aircraft were built and these, similar to earlier open-cockpit production aircraft with a 20-mm cannon firing through the propeller hub.

Final production version was the A5M4 with the uprated Kotobuki 41 radial engine, and under the designation A5M4-K a total of 103 was completed as tandem two seat trainers. At the outbreak of war in the Pacific the A5M4 was then the navy's standard fighter, but this situation was of only short duration for, when confronted by Allied fighter aircraft, the A5M's performance was soon found to be inadequate by the summer of 1942 the type had been relegated to second-line duties.

The A5M had also come very close to being procured by the Japanese army, for the remarkable performance of the second prototype had resulted in a similar prototype being evaluated by the army under the designation Ki-18. Flown in competitive evaluation against the Kawasaki Ki-10-I biplane then entering service it was found to be considerably faster but inferior in maneuverability. Two modified and re-engine Ki-18s were submitted for further testing under the designation Ki-33, but still lacking in maneuverability failed to gain an army contract.

Production of all versions of the A5M, which was allocated the Allied codename 'Claude', reached a total of 1,094, built by Mitsubishi (791), the Omura Naval Air arsenal (264) and Watanabe (39). In the final stages of the Pacific war A5M4s and A5M4-Ks were used in kamikaze role against Allied shipping operating off Japan's coastal waters .Specification Mitsubishi A5M4 Type: single-seat ship-based fighter.

I guess, although obsolete by that time. Being a 30's design, was used to fight the Russian I-16 Polikov successfully and led to the design of the A6m zero as it's successor (same designer I think). Saburo Sakai's story could offer lots of interesting tidbits. The pretty lines of Japan's designs, and history of powerplant development interesting as well the British radial engine design (Bristol Jupitor) had a major influence it seems on the development of Japan's radials, even though Japan took off from there. there are no existing Claudes, Glen (the designer)

Thank you very much for solving this problem, as always is a pleasure to shop from you. Keep on the good work .
P.S.Great job with the Mitsubishi . I hope I'll see more planes and tanks in the future!! Dan

Hello, I was looking at the A5M page and saw that there are two different front views of the A5M with a caption noting the difference. I think I can shed some light on that difference. The top view appears to be of an A6M "Zero" (the gear looks to be retractable). The lower view does look like the A5M, however. Thanks for your time. I have enjoyed building your models, too, and think you have a great site. Keep up the great work. Sincerely, Keoki Gray

Powerplant: one 710-hp Nakajima Kotobuki 41
9-cylinder radial piston engine
Max speed: 273 mph at 9,840 ft
Service ceiling: 32,150 ft
Max range: 746 miles
Weights: empty 2,681 lb
Maximum take-off: 3,759 lb
Dimensions: span 36 ft 1 in
Length: 24 ft 9.25 in
Height: 10 ft 6 in
Wing area: 191.60 sq ft
Armament: two fixed forward-firing
7.7-mm (0.303in) machine-guns, and
two 66-lb bombs
Operator: Japanese Navy

Mitsubishi A5M Front view (note the different wing dihedral arrangement compared to the frontal view below)

Mitsubishi A5M side view

Mitsubishi A5M Top view

Designer Glen sends THIS front view and note that there is a difference between the front view shown in color above.. This shows us that there really isn't a lot of good information about the Mitsubishi A5M.

Variants [ edit | edit source ]

The first variant was the A5M1 (96 were built), and was powered by a Nakajima Kotobuki 2 KAI 2 engine (license built variant of the British Bristol Jupiter engine) with a power of 585 hp (430 kW). The successor variant was the A5M2a, with a more powerful engine (610 hp). The A5M2b, powered by a Kotobuki 2 KAI 3 engine (640 hp), was the most important Japanese fighter during the War against China. The last variant was the A5M4, equipped with a Kotobuki-41 engine with a power of 523 kW (710 hp), was used during the Pacific War against American fighters, but was declared obsolete because of inferiority in aerial combat.

Mitsubishi A5M 'Claude' - History

Two 7.7 mm (0.303 in) type 89 machine guns with 500 rounds per gun provision to carry two 30 kg (66 lb) bombs


The Mitsubishi A5M Type 96 Carrier Fighter began its operational career in September 1937 when aircraft of the Imperial Navy engaged aircraft of the Chinese Nationalist Government over the capital, Nanking. The A5M stemmed from a requirement for a shipboard single-seat cantilever monoplane fighter, a team lead by Jiro Horikoshi as chief designer developing the new design. Power plant was the Nakajima Kotobuki 5 nine-cylinder radial engine and the prototype, known as the Ka.14, first flew in January 1935. During testing a speed of 444 km/h (276 mph) was achieved at 3,200 m (10,500 ft). Later the type was tested by the Imperial Army and became known as the Ki.18. Some design changes were made and it became known as the Ki.33. It was tested against the Nakajima Ki.27, losing out to that design.

The initial production model of the A5M1 Type 96 Fighter Model I was powered by a 433 kw (580 hp) Kotobuki 2 KAI 3ko radial engine and had an armament of two 7.7 mm (0.303 in) machine guns. Some changes were made and it continued in production as the A5m2-ko from 1937. During the conflict with China the A5Ms were flown from aircraft carriers of the Japanese fleet. The fighters were continuously in combat escorting bombers, and were involved in skirmishes with Russian I-152 and I-16 fighters with Russian crews which were sent to protect Nanking.

Later the Japanese carrier group, which included the Kaga and comprised six aircraft carriers, was operating in the South China Sea in April 1938 and the A5Ms were used to escort bombers in their attacks on Canton, China . On this occasion they met 20 Gloster Gladiators and Curtiss Hawk IIIs but the latter were no match for the Japanese aircraft. The war continued through 1938 and into 1939 and during what was called the China Incident Japanese Navy aircraft claimed 330 Chinese aircraft, of which the Chinese admitted one-third aircraft lost, for the loss of 30 fighters. However, by this time the A5M was becoming obsolescent and was basically used in base defence and training roles thereafter. A two-seat training variant was built as the A5M4-K, some 103 examples being delivered.

In February 1942 thirteen A5Ms were based on airstrips at Rabaul on New Britain with the 3rd and Tairiang Kokutais and were being used for night operations with the aid of searchlights. Further examples were operated at the time from the aircraft carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku. On 31 January 1942 a number were flown from their carriers to Lakunai Field, Rabaul. The Japanese wanted to set up a new base closer to Port Moresby, NG and Gasmata in western New Britain became the new base for the A5Ms. On 10 February all the surviving A5Ms were absorbed into a new unit, the 4th Kokutai. The Japanese carriers, along with the Japanese landing force, which consisted of two transports and five destroyers, anchored off Gasmata.

At this time the RAAF Nos 6, 23 and 24 Squadrons equipped with Lockheed Hudsons were operating from Port Moresby. Five Hudsons were sent to bomb the Japanese forces. One failed to find the target but the other four dropped general purpose bombs. On 11 February three Hudsons returned to bomb the Japanese vessels anchored offshore and a number of hits were claimed on the ships. But as the Hudsons climbed to escape four land-based ‘Claudes’ attacked the Hudsons. One ‘Claude’ was claimed as shot down but Japanese records do not show any loss. In the event two of the Lockheed Hudsons were lost. These three aircraft were flown by Flt Lt Pedrina, Flg Off Graham Gibson and Wg Cmdr John Lerew. Gibson’s aircraft A16-126 was shot down in flames, crashed into a hillside and exploded, the wreck not being located until 2008. Lerew in A16-91 found his aircraft on fire and the crew abandoned the aircraft.

On 19 February 1942 Darwin was attacked by large numbers of Japanese Army and Naval aircraft. Part of this force was nine A5M ‘Claudes’ which were escorting 13 B5N Kate bombers from the aircraft carrier Ryujo. The A5Ms saw little opposition and dived to strafe two Catalina flying boats on the harbour, both being destroyed, whilst the bombers attacked the American seaplane tender USS William B Preston. The ship was damaged when a bomb hit the stern but the crew was able to save the vessel by getting it underway. The crew used a number of machine guns mounted on the handrails around the ship, many of which had been removed from aircraft.

Leading the Japanese flight was Ensign Satoshi Yoshino, who claimed the two Hudsons shot down. In April 1942 the 4th Kokutai only had six ‘Claudes’ operational at Rabaul and they remained active for some months. Yoshino later converted to the A6M2 ‘Zero’ and was promoted to Warrant Officer, his unit, the 4th Kokutai, converting to the type. He was involved in a number of raids in the Port Moresby, NG area but on 9 June 1942, whilst attacking Martin B-26 Marauders of the USAAF 22nd Bombardment Group, he was shot down by Bell P-39 Aircobras, posthumously being credited with the destruction of 15 aircraft.

The first Japanese fighters to take up station at Rabaul after it was taken over was the Mitsubishi Type 96 ‘Claude’, the aircraft having been shipped to New Britain on board an aircraft transporter and arriving on 31 January 1942. They were soon assembled at Lakuknai strip. These aircraft were part of a Composite Group, the 4 th Air Group previously formed at Truk Island, the unit comprising 27 land-based bombers and 27 Mitsubishi A5M4s. At Rabaul they formed Rear Admiral Goto’s 24 th Air Flotilla, the unit also receiving six Mitsubishi A6M2 ‘Zeros’ on 17 February.

On 23 February 1942 six Boeing B-17E Fortresses, which were the survivors of units which operated the type in the Philippines, Java and Hawaii, and which had been evacuated south in the face of advancing Japanese forces, left their new base at Townsville, QLD to attack Japanese forces. The operation commenced with nine aircraft, but two collided on the ground before dawn, and another went unserviceable. The B-17s were to attack Rabaul Harbour 3,540 km (2,200 miles) away, land at Port Moresby, refuel, and return. A couple located the target and dropped their bombs but were attacked by fighters of the 4th Kokutai, which by this time was equipped with A6M2 ‘Zeroes’ and a few A5M4 ‘Claudes’. This was the first time the fighters were engaged in the New Guinea theatre. Four of the B-17Es reached the target but due to weather and other factors the operation was considered to be a failure.

A Boeing B-17E (41-2446) (later known as Swamp Ghost) claimed an enemy aircraft shot down and one probable, this B-17 eventually crash landing in a swamp where it remained until 2006 when it was recovered for restoration by an American museum. It was conveyed in 2013 and spent sometime at Long Beach, California, later being transferred to the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island in Pearl Harbour. Three of the other B-17s were hit by enemy fighters or by flak. This must have been near the end of the career of the ‘Claude’ in this part of the Pacific as they were soon replaced by Mitsubishi A6M2s. Subsequently the A5M mainly saw service in the advanced training role, eventually being used for Kamikaze attacks against allied shipping in Japanese coastal waters.

Warbirds of the Sea

The Aichi design proved to be superior to the Nakajima and the Type 94 car -
Mitsubishi A5M Claude Monoplane Fighter rier - based dive bomber was placed
in production in late 1933 . It is well aware of the fact that Japanese airplane .

Author: Walter A. Musciano

Publisher: Schiffer Military History

Category: Political Science

Covers the history and combat career of aircraft carriers and shipboard aircraft from their conception into the future.

Watch the video: Flying the A5M4 Claude