In order to correct the deficiencies of the Model 32, a new version with the Model 21's folding wings, new in-wing fuel tanks and attachments for a 330 L (90 US gal) drop tank under each wing were introduced. The internal fuel was increased to 570 L (137 US gal) in this model, regaining all of the range lost in the Model 32 variant.
As the airframe was reverted from the Model 32 and the engine remained the same, this version received the navy designation Model 22, while Mitsubishi called it the A6M3a. The new model started production in December 1942, and 560 were eventually produced. This company constructed some examples for evaluation, armed with 30 mm Type 5 Cannon, under denomination of A6M3b (model 22b).
A few late-production A6M3 Model 22s had a wing similar to the later shortened, rounded-tip wing fitted to the A6M5 Model 52. These were probably a transition model, at least one was photographed at Rabaul-East in Mid-1943.
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