Originally Posted by HeroEnVec
and second... are you trying to say that the Zero, in its time, did not fly well?
He's specifically addressing the A6M2-N's maneuverability in real life, which is good for a floatplane but pretty bad for a fighter, despite its root from the legendary dogfighter. Either way it doesn't have much weight in game balancing because NF is... well, NF.
The Rufe does seem neglected after all these major aircraft rebalancing. The N1K Kyofu would be a nice addition, but since the Rufe would be still broken, I personally don't think it's a good idea to add that in as a fix to the Rufe's lost role. I say we just fix the Rufe.
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But if you want to go historian mode, the Zero is not a particularly good fighter design. Its maneuverability is indeed incredible, but the cost of achieving it and other technical limitations made it a sub-par design.
The Zero was designed around maneuverability and maneuverability only. To achieve this, the airframe is lightened to its very extreme and armor is basically non-existant. This led to several problems.
First of all and most obviously, the lack of armor means the Zero cannot take hits well. It's notorious for catching fire once hit, and coupled with the complete lack of cockpit protection saw the loss of many ace pilots' lives -- a resource that Japan simply could not afford to lose. Saburo Sakai was famous for surviving in a damaged Zero, while the man was a truly skilled legendary pilot, it kind of makes sense to think that the incident became famous because you aren't meant to survive in a Zero that got hit.
Secondly, the airframe is, simply put, fragile. The accuracy of the wing-mounted 20mm cannons was bad because the wings couldn't take the recoil well, and that's really bad because the cannons have a very low amount of reserve ammunition (60 rounds per gun on the A6M2, on comparison the Fw190 has 250 rpg). The Zero also suffers from a slow dive speed limit because of it, a weakpoint that was discovered by the US and heavily exploited.
Thirdly, as a carrier-based fighter, compactness is a serious design aspect that should not be overlooked. The folding wing patent was filed in 1913, and by WW2 most naval combat aircraft has the design.
Fig: US Navy aircraft on deck, wings folded
The Zero is a notable exception, along with several other Japanese naval aircraft. It has folding wingtips, which are largely useless at reducing its size while in storage.
Fig: Zero with wingtips folded
Japan also had difficulties designing and producing a more powerful engine for the Zero. So for the entire war it was grossly underpowered, which explains its slow level flight speed. A supercharged version (A6M4), which would have improved the Zero's performance at high attitiude (so that it doesn't get pwned up there that badly late-war), was also abandoned because they couldn't get it working reliably.
With performance gained entirely from a superlight airframe and unable to get away from the underpowered engine (which, btw, is also what they were compensating for with that superlight airframe), upgrades to the Zero also proved to be a problem. The A6M5 had strengthened its airframe to allow a quicker dive, some minor engine tunings to increase speed by an almost neglibible factor, more spare ammunition for the 20mm cannons (125 rpg for the A6M5b), and improved pilot survivibility (A6M5b/c). These minor improvements, however, were gained with the loss of much of the Zero's signature maneuverability, so whether it is a true improvement remains a heated debate even to this day.
All in all, the Zero is a one-trick pony that specializes in turning battle (and giving credit where credit's due, it is very damn good at it) and is mediocre or just plain sucks at everything else. Once the Allied learned of its secrets, developed counter-Zero tactics (ie. DON'T get into a turning battle with a Zero) and deployed much more powerful warplanes (e.g. F6F Hellcat), the Zero's legendary status was quickly broken.