From: Konin, Poland, European Union
I agree. The A6M line peaks with the A6M3a in terms of performance, but even it is obsolete by early '43. You get armor with the M5, but suffer for it. You really need the A7M series. I'd get focus on that.
While the range of the A6M3a is great, it's durability is poor, so I've phased out most of these for A6M5. Much more durable. I still keep a group of 3a in each Netty base, but that's it.
I would put all of those A^M research factories into high performance late game models now. Ki-83, Shinden and A7M. By the time the A7M are ready you won't be using CVs much anyway, so might be using Georges, Jack and later Shindens for bought back CV groups.
Already done that
All A6M factories are now focusing on late war planes. I am already producing M5 so it will be my last CV plane of war. And like you say M3a will be used for escort if any of them will left in poll. Today i lost 40 of M3a
"Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War"