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The Zero vs the Buffalo
Simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor, deep in the Pacific, Japan launched a land invasion of Malaya and Hong Kong on 8 December 1941 that ended with the sinking of the Prince of Wales and Repulse on December 10 and the capture of Hong Kong by 25 December and Singapore on 15 Feb 1942.
Malaya and Hong Kong were defended by the British Empire, but while in December of 1941, the RAF deployed the Spitfires II and V, and Hurricanes I and II, in Europe, the British, who considered the Japanese less technologically advanced than the Germans arranged only four fighter squadrons equipped with 52 Brewster F2A-2 ‘Buffalo’ (see picture), four squadrons of Blenheim bombers, two squadrons of Vildebeest torpedo biplanes, two squadrons of Hudson, and one squadron of Catalina flying boats to defend Malaya.
It is true that the Fw 190A-2 used by the Germans in Europe was ahead of the Mitsubishi A6M2 m21 ‘Zeke’ (a.k.a ‘Zero’) and the Nakajima Ki-43 ‘Hayabusa’ fighters operated by the Japanese Navy and Army respectively, but these Japanese aircraft were more than a match for the F2A-2.
The Zero was slightly faster than the Buffalo (434 vs 410 km/h at sea level), and both could climb equally well. The A6M2 enjoyed a higher ceiling and a tighter turn radius. The Buffalo had more firepower, a better power/weight ratio, and could accelerate a bit faster. The result of the dogfight depended on the tactical situation and quality of the pilot. Since neither aircraft had an advantage on the vertical plane, the superiority of the Zero in turn radius could make a difference if flown well. When the Japanese improved the Zero with a more powerful engine the next year (model 32), all the advantages passed to the Zero.
Faced with numerical inferiority, and highly trained enemy pilots, the British lacked a qualitative superiority that could compensate for the other factors, so they lost the battle for air superiority.

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