A6M2-N “Rufe”, Japanese Seaplane Fighter

Photograph of A6M2-N "Rufe" seaplane fighter

U.S. Navy photograph. From Francillon (1979)

3-view diagraom of A6M2-N "Rufe" seaplane fighter

U.S. Army. Via

Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe"


Crew 1


39’4” by 33’2” by 14’1”
12.00m by 10.10m by 4.30m


3968-5423 lbs
1912-2460 kg
Wing area 242 square feet
22.5 square meters

Maximum speed      

273 mph at 16,000 feet
435 km/h at 5000 meters

Cruising speed      

140 mph
225 km/h

Climb rate

41 feet per second
12.5 m/s

Service ceiling

32,800 feet
10,000 meters

Power plant

One 950hp (708 kW) Nakajima NK1C Sakae 12 fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial engine driving a three-blade metal propeller.


2 20mm Type 99 cannon (wings)
2 7.7mm Type 97 (cowling)

External stores

2 60kg (132 lb) bombs.


713 miles (1148 km) with normal tanks
1108 miles (1784 km) with float tank


327 produced by Nakajima Hikoki at Koizumu between 12/41 and 9/43

"Rufe" was the seaplane version of the famous Zero. Unhappily for its pilots, the large float and wing pontoons degraded performance about 20%, enough that the "Rufe" was not a match for even the first generation of Allied fighters, such as the P-40 and the Wildcat. This exploded the Japanese prewar theory that float fighters would be of great value for holding the many primitive small islands and atolls of the Pacific, where land bases were not yet available.

The design originated with a specification in the autumn of 1940 for a high-performance single-seat fighter seaplane for use in amphibious assaults and on islands too small for airfields. Nakajima began work on the N1K1 but it was clear this would not be ready soon. The Navy therefore instructed Nakajima to base its design on the Mitsubishi Zero as a stopgap. Work began in February 1941 and a prototype was ready by 7 December 1941. Production began shortly afterwards.

The new seaplane fighter was first deployed to Tulagi, where it suffered badly from B-17 raids. "Rufe" also saw service in the Aleutians, where it took a significant toll of American patrol aircraft, and in the desperate final air defense of Honshu.

"Rufe" was not as ludicrous a concept as it might seem. After all, the Spitfire was derived from a seaplane design that actually held the world air speed record for a time. However, the lighter construction of the Zero, which compensated for the relative inefficiency of the Nakajima Sakae engine compared to the Rolls-Royce Merlin, worked against the seaplane concept.

Photo Gallery

A6M2-N Rufe in flight


A6M2-N Rufes at anchor



Bergerud (2000)

Francillon (1979)

Gunston (1988)

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