List of Mitsubishi A6M Zero operators

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was the most well known Japanese warplane of World War II. A6M Zeros were predominantly used by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) on aircraft carriers, and also by its land-based fighter units. At the start of the Pacific War in 1941, the A6M constituted about 60% of the IJN fighter force. It took part in carrier operations throughout much of the Pacific Ocean, as well as over the northeast Indian Ocean.

Republic of China (Taiwan)

The Republic of China Air Force operated a small number of captured A6M's (A6M2, A6M3, A6M5s, etc.) after the war. The planes had originally been flown as part of Japan's 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th Naval Units as well as Shanghai Kōkūtai on the mainland. They were also flown as part of Japan's Formosan Navy units, Hao Toko, Takao, Tetshu, Kagi, Toki and Tainan Kōkūtai (Taiwan had been a Japanese territory for several decades by the beginning of World War II). A6M's were used by both sides, Nationalist and Communist, during the Chinese Civil War. The People's Liberation Army Air Force possibly provided the Soviet Union with A6M5's captured from 252 and Genzan Kōkūtai in Korea and Shumushu Detachment of 203 Kōkūtai in Kuriles.


In 1945, Indonesian pro-independence guerrillas captured a small number of A6M aircraft at numerous Japanese air bases, including Bugis Air Base in Malang (repatriated 18 September 1945). Most aircraft were destroyed in military conflicts between the newly proclaimed-Republic of Indonesia and the Netherlands, during the Indonesian National Revolution of 1945-1949. Small numbers of surviving aircraft were saved in Kalijati Air Base, near Subang, West Java and Museum Dirgantara Udara, Yogyakarta (near Adi Sucipto Airport).


There are some reports of use of various versions of Mitsubishi A6M2, model 21 and A6M5s for Royal Thai Air Force among others that were supposed to be used as interceptors after the conflict during 1946-47 period according with John & Elke Weal in "Combat Aircraft of World War Two" Book.[1]

There are some reports of use of various versions of Mitsubishi A6M2, model 11 for Royal Thai Navy.

Empire of Japan

Aircraft carriers

  • Akagi - Flagship of Admiral Nagumo in Pearl Harbor Attack, equipped with A6M2. This carrier operated from Rabaul, Indian Ocean, and Midway where it was sunk by US Navy bombers.
  • Hiryu - Participant in the Pearl Harbor Attack, Wake Island, Port Darwin, Indian Ocean and Battle of Midway, armed with A6M2 Reisen fighters.
  • Hiyo - Operated in Solomon Islands, Rabaul, Admiralty Islands (New Guinea), and Truk armed with A6M2 and A6M3 Reisen fighters.
  • Junyo - Participant in diverse operations in the Aleutians, at the Battle of Santa Cruz and in the Solomon Islands, armed with A6M2 and A6M3 Reisen fighters.
  • Kaga - The A6M1 Reisen was first evaluated aboard this carrier. It took part in the Pearl Harbor Attack, Rabaul, Indian Ocean, and Midway, where it was sunk. It was equipped with A6M2 Reisen fighters.
  • Ryūhō - Light aircraft carrier equipped with A6M Reisen fighters. Participant of the First Battle of the Philippine Sea.
  • Ryujo - Flagship of Admiral Hosoyaga, in Aleutian operation, Solomon Islands, where she was sunk. Her main fighter was the A6M2 Reisen.
  • Shoho - Transported some 30 A6M Reisen fighters to Rabaul, took part in battles at Tulagi, New Britain (Admiralty Islands), Solomon Islands and Battle of Coral Sea, with the A6M2 Reisen as her main fighter.
  • Shokaku - One of the most active of Japanese carriers, she participated in the Pearl Harbor Attack, at Rabaul, the invasion of Port Moresby, the Port Darwin strike, Admiralty Islands, New Guinea, the Battle of Coral Sea, Santa Cruz and The Philippines. She was equipped with a variety of planes including the A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5 Reisen fighters.
  • Soryu - Another old combatant in battles at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Indian Ocean, and Midway where she was sunk along with her wing of A6M2 Reisen fighters.
  • Zuiho - Escort Flattop, participated in the Battle of Midway, Battle of Santa Cruz and Rabaul Base. Later sunk, she was equipped with A6M2 and A6M3 Reisen fighters.
  • Zuikaku - A veteran of the Pearl Harbor Attack, she took part in Rabaul, Indian Ocean, the invasion of Port Moresby, New Guinea, Battle of Coral Sea, Santa Cruz Islands. She was armed with A6M2 and A6M3 Reisen fighters.
  • Chuyo - Escort Carrier armed with A6M2 and A6M3 Reisen fighters.
  • Hosho - Escort Flattop armed with A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5 Reisen fighters
  • Unyo - Escort Carrier armed with A6M2 and A6M5 Reisen fighters.
  • Chitose - Escort Flattop armed with A6M2 and A6M5 Reisen fighters.
  • Amagi - Large carrier projected for use with A6M5c and A6M6c Reisen fighters.
  • Katsuragi - Large carrier projected for use of A6M5c and A6M6c Reisen fighters.
  • Taiyo - Escort Flattop equipped first with the A5M4, later replaced with A6M2 and A6M3. She operated in New Guinea, South Pacific Mandate, Singapore, Indian Ocean, and The Philippines.
  • Shinyo - Escort Flattop equipped with A6M3 and A6M5 Reisen fighters with actions in Philippines and Singapore.
  • Chiyoda - Medium class carrier, equipped with A6M3 and A6M5 Reisen fighters. Participated in South Pacific Mandate, Guam, Dutch Indies and Philippines actions.
  • Taiho - Large Carrier, participated in defense of Mariana Islands, equipped with A6M3 and A6M5 Reisen fighters.
  • Shinano - Giant Carrier armed with A6M5c, A6M6c and A6M7c Reisen fighters.
  • Unryu - Fleet Carrier equipped with A6M5 Reisen fighters. Was sent to Philippines with load of 30 "Ohka" Suicide Rockets of the Thunder-Gods Corps for transport to Manila.
  • Kasagi -
  • Aso - Aso was an Unryu-class aircraft carrier. She had to be built with destroyer engines. She was incomplete at the end of the war.
  • Ikoma -

Land Air Corps

By airbase name

  • Chitose - Unit that operated from Chitose, in the metropolitan areas of Wake Island, Kwajalein (South Pacific Mandate), and Solomon Islands, with A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5 Reisen fighters. Later merged with 653rd Air Corps.
  • Genzan (Genzan Air Group) - Famous unit known as "the Protector of Chosen", for its principal airbase; they operated from Genzan, Saigon (French Indochina), Malacca, Rabaul base and Admiralty Islands, using A6M2 and A6M3 along G4M Bombers; on return to main base they acted as operational trainers with A6M5b, A6M5-K and served as interceptors with J2M3, N1K2 and A6M5c against the Soviets and Americans
  • Kanoya - Mixed group which operated with Reisen and G4M "Betty", from Kanoya, Kagoshima, Andaman, Kyūshū, Malaysia and returned to metropolitan area equipped with A6M5c
  • Konoike - Operative Trainer Unit, equipped with A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5a, later enter in Kamikaze operations with A6M2 and A6M5
  • Ōita - Operative Trainer Unit as previous section, form part of Second striking line in front, with Base in Ōita and Kyūshū, with A6M5
  • Ominato - Mixed unit with A6M3 and A6M5, along B5N2 "Kate and E13A1 "Jake", with bases in Ominato, Aomori and Honshū
  • Ohmura - At first was a Combat unit, later converted to an Operative Trainer Unit, including instructor Saburō Sakai. Its bases were Ohmura (Sasebo), Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Kyūshū. Later converted to an interceptor unit with A6M5c
  • Saeki - Unit began with E13A1 "Jake", later equipped with A6M5 and A6M5c
  • Tainan - The most famous air corps of the Japanese Navy Air Force, with many principal Air aces. Operated from Tainan, Rabaul (where they acquired their fame and triumphs), over the Philippines, Taihoku, Dutch Indies, Lae, New Guinea, Admiralty Islands and finally as interceptors over mainland Japan against USAAF. Equipped with A6M2, A6M3, A6M5 and A6M5c
  • Takao - Mixed unit equipped C5M2 "Babs", G3M bomber and A6M2, later returned to base in Takao with A6M3 and A6M5, to convert to interceptors with A6M5c
  • Toko - Mixed unit with H6K4 "Mavis", E13A1 "Jake" and A6M2 later converted to interceptor with A6M5c
  • Tokushima - Operative Trainer Unit, with bases in Tokushima, Shikoku and Okinawa, equipped with A6M2, A6M2-K and A6M5
  • Tsukuba - Operative Trainer Unit, with bases in Tsukuba, Ibaraki and Honshū with A6M2 and A6M2-K. In 1945 was equipped with A6M5c as part of Metropolitan defense
  • Yabate - Operative Trainer Unit, with bases in Yabate, Honshū and Metropolitan area; latterly in process of converting to interceptors with A6M6c
  • Yokosuka - Additionally of Naval Air Technical Institute, Flight Test Department and Naval administrative service, this unit was known for its principal base. They operated also from Kanagawa and Honshū; Hiroyoshi Nishizawa acted as an instructor in the detachment from December 1942 to January 1943. The unit was converted to interceptors equipped with A6M5c, A6M6c, J2M5 and N1K2-Ja in 1944-45
  • Mihoro - Mixed unit equipped with G3M and G4M bombers along with A6M2. They operated from Mihoro, Okinawa, Hainan, and French Indochina, and participated in seeking and sinking of British vessels HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse
  • Iwakuni - Combat unit, which participated in metropolitan defense equipped with A6M5c
  • Naruo - Combat unit which acted in defense of Japan with A6M5c
  • Kokubu - Interceptor unit equipped with A6M5c
  • Kagoshima - Combat unit with A6M5c
  • Atsugi - One of the most important bases, its unit participated in actions in overseas, returning as interceptors with A6M5c and A6M6c
  • Kanoya - Another mixed unit equipped with G3M, G4M bombers and A6M2 fighters. They participated in Kamikaze operations with G4M equipped with Ohka glider bomb, and were interceptors equipped with A6M5c
  • Usa - Fighter air unit equipped with A6M, based in Usa, Ōita, Japan. This unit provided some fighters that participated in the Pearl Harbor Attack.
  • Kasumigaura - Operative Trainer Unit, equipped with A6M3 and A6M5. Later converted to interceptor with A6M5c
  • Yokohama - Combat unit equipped with A6M2, along A6M2-N "Rufe" hydro fighters, later operated with A6M5c as interceptors in mainland Japan
  • Aomori - A combat unit, which returned to Japanese skies as interceptors with A6M5c and A6M6c
  • Hyakuri - Operative Trainer Unit, later converted as interceptor with A6M5c
  • Tsuikui - Operative Trainer Unit, later in process of conversion to interceptor with A6M6c
  • Otsu - Combat unit with A6M2, A6M2-N "Rufe" and N1K1 "Rex" Hydrofighters. Later returned as interceptor with their hydrofighters and A6M5c from the Biwa Lake area.
  • Kisarazu - Combat unit from Kisarazu, equipped with A6M and G4M
  • Misawa - Combat unit from Misawa, equipped with A6M and G4M
  • Chichijima - Air group based in Chichijima, equipped with twin engined bombers and Reisens
  • Sasebo - As Navy arsenal and other Air unit equipped with land-based torpedo bomber and fighters
  • Himeji - Air group organized in Himeji, equipped with bombers and A6Ms
  • Amakusa - Unit created from Amakusa, with trainer group and fighter operative units
  • Fukuyama - Combat group equipped with hydroplanes, bombers and fighters
  • Tateyama - Unit with base in Tateyama, equipped with twin engined bombers and fighters.
  • Takuma - Combat group with base in Takuma, equipped with twin engined bombers and fighters
  • Kisarazu - Unit with base in Kisarazu, equipped with land based torpedo-bombers and fighters
  • Matsushima - Group with base in Matsushima, equipped with twin engined bombers and fighters
  • Kashima - Operative Training group with base in Kashima, later converted to a Combat unit.
  • Shanghai - Air group based in Shanghai, occupied Chinese land, equipped with twin engined bombers and fighters, also possessed an operative training unit. The unit participated in Kamikaze actions
  • Suzuka - Operative training unit, later converted to a combat group
  • Shumushu - Special detachment based in Kataoka, Shumushu and Kashibawara, Paramushiro (Kuriles) as part of 203 Air Group and North Sea Fleet; equipped with A6M5s and J1N1-S Gekkos. Theirs fighting against Americans and Russians air incursions over islands.
  • Hokuto - Operative unit equipped with B5N Kate, B6N Jill and A6Ms based in Kataoka, Shumushu (Kurils), later merged into 553rd Air Corps.
  • Tsuchiura - Air Group, based in Tsuchiura, equipped with A6M and Hydroplanes, later served with interceptor squadron over Japan
  • Nan-Yo - Air Unit based in the Southern Mandate, equipped with Transports, Bombers, Hydroplanes and A6Ms. Same unit fighting against US Navy in same area and Philippines
  • Southern Philippines Air Group - Air Group based in Davao, Philippines and equipped with Nakajima L2D "Tabby" transports and fighters.
  • Okinawa - Air Group based in Yontan and Kadena airfields, Okinawa, conformed by Fighters and Torpedo bombers, acted during Okinawa Campaigning against US forces.
  • Oppama (Yokosuka) - Unit with base in Oppama, originally equipped with Torpedo bombers, later converted to defensive squadron with A6M's.
  • Tinian - Squadron based in Tinian, Marianas and Lae equipped with A6Ms
  • Other minor aircorps was provided from bases of Tetshu, Kagi and Toki in Formosa (now called Taiwan). The units also used A6M fighters and light and medium bombers

By unit number

  • 1 (equipped with A6M2, A6M5)
  • 2 (equipped with A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5)
  • 3 (with A6M2, and A6M3)
  • 4 (equipped with A6M2)
  • 5 (with A6M)
  • 6 (with A6M2, A6M3)
  • 11 (equipped with A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5)
  • 12 (mixed)(with A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5)
  • 33 (mixed)(with A6Ms of diverse type)
  • 201 (equipped with A6M2/5)
  • 202 (equipped with A6M3 and A6M5)
  • 203 (with A6M5c and A6M6c)
  • 204 (equipped with A6M3)
  • 251 (equipped with A6M2 and A6M3)
  • 252 (with A6M5c)
  • 253 (equipped with A6M2 and A6M3)
  • 261 (with A6M2 and A6M5)
  • 302 (equipped with A6M5c and A6M5d-S (night fighter version))
  • 303 (equipped with A6M5c)
  • 309 (with A6M5)
  • 316 (with A6M5c and A6M6c)
  • 332 (equipped with A6M5c)
  • 341 (with A6M5, A6M5c and A6M7)
  • 501 (with A6M2 and A6M3)
  • 552 (with A6M and G4M)
  • 582 (with A6M and D3A)
  • 653 (with A6M5c)
  • 702nd
  • 705th
  • 706
  • 707
  • 721
  • 722
  • 751
  • 752
  • 753
  • 755t
  • 761
  • 762
  • 763
  • 765
  • 931
  • 951
  • 1021

Seaplane fighter units

Units with standard use of the seaplane Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe"

  • 11th Air Flotilla (Seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru)
  • Yokosuka Air Fleet
  • 5th Air Fleet
  • 36th Air Fleet
  • 452nd Air Fleet (Seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru)
  • 934th Air Fleet
  • Toko Air Corps
  • Yokosuka Air Corps (technical evaluation)
  • Yokohama Air Corps
  • Ōtsu Air Corps

United States

  • One Mitsubishi A6M2 Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter, Model 11 s/n 3372 originally marked "V-172" and belonging to the Tainan Kōkūtai, part of "22nd Koku Sentai"; piloted by Tainan buntaicho Lt. Kikuichi Inano, departed from Tainan airfield (Taiwan) en route to Saigon (French Indochina) and crashed in Leichou Pantao (also known as Leizhou or Luichow Peninsula), near the town of Qian Shan (Teitsan), China. The pilot was captured by Chinese forces on November 26, 1941. The aircraft was later sent by AVG to United States was the very first intact Japanese A6M fighter captured as a prize of war, also known as the "Mystery Zero", "China Zero" or "Tiger Zeke"[3]
  • After the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, the Americans recovered some remains of downed IJN "Zeroes" from the battle area. One was an A6M2 Model 21, Serial 5289, marked "AI-154" (piloted by PO Takeshi Hirano) from CV Akagi. Another A6M2 Model 21 marked "B11-120" (flown by 1PO Shigenori Nishikaishi) from CV Hiryu was recovered, as was another A6M2 Model 21, Serial 3277, marked "B1-151" (flown by Lt. Fusata Iida) from CV Soryu.[4][5]
  • The 'Akutan Zero' - Piloted by Tadayoshi Koga, it crashed on Akutan Island, Alaska on June 3, 1942 and was later recovered intact by American Naval personnel.[6]


  • The Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) used the Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 "Zeke" and Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufes" against rebels in Indochina during 1945-46, according to Harvey Low in "Japanese Aircraft in foreign service (WWII and Post WWII)" research.[7] The Aéronautique Naval also pressed a single Nakajima A6M2-N into service, but the aircraft crashed shortly after being overhauled.[8]

Imperial Japanese Aircraft Carriers
Imperial Japanese Aircraft Carriers


  2. Mitsubishi Zero A6M5 cockpit, Imperial War Museum
  8. Dorr and Bishop 1996, p.249.


  • Dorr, Robert F. and Bishop, Chris. Vietnam Air War Debrief. London:Aerospace, 1996. ISBN 1-874023-78-6

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This webpage was updated 23rd January 2017