Thursday, 25 August 2016

Airfix 1/72 Nakajima B5N1 'Kate'

The new Airfix B5N1 is now out and very nice it is too. Essentially the same as the previous B5N2 kit but with a new sprue for the forward fuselage, engine and cowling. Decals are included for the very colourful 'CI-301' of 3 Ku operating off the carrier Zuiho in 1941 or '9 over 348', a green and brown field-camouflaged example from 14 Ku operating from Sanzao Dao in South China during 1938-39. The decal sheet is sharply printed in good colour by Cartograf and includes stenciling, wing walkways and instrument panels for pilot and navigator (not strictly accurate for the latter). The painting and decal instructions are in full colour with closest Humbrol paints called out to avoid mixing. 

Moulded crisply in light grey plastic with engraved details, features of the kit include the option to display the finished model with the wings folded. Sensibly the wing parts are provided as single upper and lower halves which need to be cut for folding with rib frame inserts for the open ends. In addition the flaps can be fitted in the lowered position and the ailerons, rudder and elevators are all separate pieces to permit animation. The panel lines are finely engraved and the representation of the fabric covered components with light dishing between ribs is superior to that in many Japanese kits where the ribs are moulded as hard raised lines above the aerofoil surface. A fairly detailed interior benefits from another option to show the canopies open - no cutting this time as alternative parts are included. A nice touch is a third alternative for a closed canopy for pilot and navigator but with the rear canopy fairing open and the radio operator's gun deployed for action. In the kit examined for this brief in-box review the clear parts are perfect with none of the unfortunate moulding flaws found in some other Airfix kits recently. A full crew of three is also included so with imagination the canopy and flying control options will permit the creation of dramatic in-flight displays. The detailed instructions include the need to cut off the indicator pins on the top surface of the wings if a retracted undercarriage is selected.

The kit contains the same selection of ordinance as for the B5N2 but with options in the instructions only for the torpedo armed aircraft or an aircraft loaded with six Type 97 No.6 60kg bombs for attacking land targets - a suitable load for the 14 Ku option. This provides a spare Type 98 No.25 250 kg bomb (parts 03 and 04 on Frame D) to make up the deficit for a staggered twin bomb option in the B5N2 kit. These and the larger bombs can also be put to use in other kits. 

The glitch in the otherwise superb box art is my fault. Here the fatal eror of presuming rather than checking occurred and I suggested that the red fuselage stripe on CI-301 was a command marking rather than common to reserve fleet aircraft as is now apparent. The artist Adam Tooby had it correct from the start with the aircraft in the background also bearing the stripes and subsequently modified it only at my suggestion. So please blame me rather than Adam or Airfix research.  Mea culpa!

This is an impressive kit of a historically important aircraft showing great attention to detail by Airfix and offering the opportunity for creative and imaginative displays. It really does render the veteran Mania/Hasegawa kit obsolete. With the fine Airfix A6M2 the Pearl Harbor trio is almost complete but sadly a re-tooled D3A1 seems unlikely. I should love to see a new Airfix kit of that type to the same quality as this fine production.

Image credit: Box art © 2016 Hornby Hobbies Ltd

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

New Tool Hasegawa Emily in 1/72

Hat tip to zegeye for kindly alerting me to the recent announcement of a Hasegawa new tool 1/72 Kawanishi H8K2 "Emily" flying boat kit to be released at the end of this year.

The kit is based on the latest historical research and will include a full crew sculpted by Mr Takeichiro (responsible for the Modelkasten sets of masterpiece figures).  Lots of interior detail by the look of it too for a £50+ price tag.

The last reiteration of their old but still nice rivet encrusted 'Emily' from 1967, produced first in dark green plastic and lately in grey, was in May this year with a limited edition in Leiji Matsumoto 'The Cockpit' Manga guise (below - approx £24).


And before that, in more legitimate mode, 2014. Hasegawa's Emily has appeared fairly regularly, a perennial favourite for building and improving, with export re-issues by Frog in the UK and UPC in the USA. There was at least one more nineties or noughties Hasegawa issue of the "big old bird" with fairly garish box art that I've not been able to rrack down to include here. Interestingly the box art almost follows a chronological pattern of beached with landing gear, in the water taking off and in the air.

1981 (sowing colour confusions!)
Can't help wishing it had been a new tool Ki-21 "Sally" though! Who will be first I wonder?

Image credits: New kit imges © 2016 Hasegawa Corporation via Hobby Search; Box art © various Hasegawa Corporation.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Fine Molds 1/48th A5M4 Claude In-Box Review

Dan Salamone has very kindly provided this preliminary  in-box review for the new Fine Molds IJN Type 96 Carrier-based Fighter IV/ Mitsubishi A5M4 'Claude' kit in 1/48th scale, one of two variants released (the other being the enclosed cockpit 2-2) as presented here in April.

"The brand new 1/48 A5M4 Claude from Fine Molds arrived today from HLJ and initial impressions are very positive. Although the parts count is relatively low (69) the quality of the moldings is superb and the engineering seems to be well thought out. From examining the parts, as well as images of a built version of this kit, the outline and details seem to be accurate compared to the actual aircraft. I tried to catch some of the details explained below in the images of the parts.

The cockpit floor is molded into the upper wing half, with the sidewalls, rear bulkhead and instrument panel attaching to the upper wing half. The assembled fuselage halves seat down over this assembly, and the separate upper fuselage decking forward of the windscreen follows actual panel lines.

The fabric effect on the cloth flying surfaces consists of raised ribs, but no "sagging" effect. I like this look, but may sand down slightly when I build the kit.

Two very minor "negatives": the flap parts (you have the option of raised or lowered flaps) have very nice detail but there are ejector pin marks that will be very difficult to remove. Also, the very highly detailed engine and exhaust assembly needs to be trapped between the cowl halves. These halves do not fall on actual panel lines, so extra care will be needed during assemby and painting.

Three different aircraft are included in the markings options, all overall silver. The subject of the box art '9-139' is from the 14th Kokutai in China during 1940. The second option is 'K-101' from the carrier Kaga in Japan during 1939 and the third option is for a rather colorful aircraft 'CI-106' flying off the carrier Hosho during 1942. I am hoping that aftermarket decal vendors will serve this kit well, as there are some other very colorful possibilities.

Overall, I can't wait to build this kit. The two previous kits of the later Claude in 1/48 were the far less impressive Classic Airframes kit, as well as the very hard to find, yet gorgeous TC Berg multi-media kit. This Claude is superb in the box, and is yet another gem among Fine Mold's most recent 1/48 aircraft kits, the Ki-10 and Ohka. Highly recommended."

With special thanks to Dan for his in-box review. I note with pleasure that the kit includes a pilot figure! The two released kits are already on back order at HLJ!

PS Please see additional information in Dan's comment below!

Image credits: All © 2016 Dan Salamone

Friday, 5 August 2016

MAP/RAF Colours 1939-45

Just to clarify regarding the new PDF because some might be unfamiliar with it. 

MAP = the British Ministry of Aircraft Production. Although the paint colours were applied to RAF aircraft and promulgated within RAF orders the official paint colour standard swatches were "owned" and issued by MAP because they went to all the aircraft factories too.

There would always be slight variance between the RAF stores paint colours and the aircraft factory colours due to different sources of procurement although both were promulgated from the same standards. However the colour standards themselves were constant and formed the requirement to which all paint and aircraft manufacturers were expected to match their paints.

Monday, 1 August 2016

1/72 Hokota Combo from Hasegawa

In September this year Hasegawa are releasing a combo kit of their venerable but still nice ex-Mania Ki-51 Sonia and Ki-48 Lily kits in 1/72nd scale with markings for the Hokota Army Flying School. The pre-release information suggests that decals will be included for the two aircraft shown above and also a camouflaged version of each. The combo kit is expected to sell for approximately £20 ($26) direct from Japan.

Hokota originated as a branch of the Hamamatsu flying school and specialised in training crews for attack and light bomber units with its own research department exploring tactics and types of ordinance. The distinctive insignia was a play on words with 'hoko' (meaning a long-handled Chinese spear or pike) represented by four spearhead shapes combined to resemble the character 'ta' (田 - meaning a rice field) set against a Hinomaru (sun's disc).

Image credit: © 2016 Hasegawa Corporation


Sunday, 17 July 2016

Avia Ba-33 in Japanese Army Service

For those looking for something unusual, in 2013 AZ Model released a rather neat little 1/72nd kit of the attractive Avia Ba-33 biplane fighter in Japanese Army markings. This aircraft was actually a BH-33L powered by a Skoda 450-500hp engine. In March 1930 one example of the 80 BH-33L aircraft built, s/n 1020, was sent to Manchuria as a demonstration aircraft sponsored by the Skoda Works, Shanghai, which represented the Czech Avia company in China.  Manchuria at that time was under the control of Chang Hsüeh-liang, the son of the warlord Chang Tso-lin and known as "the Young Marshal". In 1928 Chang had joined with the nationalist Kuomintang government of China and his nascent air force became the North-Eastern Air Force.

The BH-33L was assembled at Mukden (Fentien, re-named Shenyang in 1929) by Avia mechanic Vacek and then on 12 June test flown by Avia company pilot Cestmir Hanus. In October 1930 it was flown in trials for the benefit of the Headquarters of the North-Eastern Air Force with a Dewoitine D.27 and Letov S.131. Although the Avia aircraft proved superior in the trials it was disassembled and put into bonded storage in a Mukden hangar. 

On 18 September 1931 Japanese Army troops occupied Mukden and seized the airfield together with all the aircraft stored there. In October the Avia was re-assembled and re-painted with Japanese markings. It was reportedly used by the Japanese for air observation and ground attack sorties in the Qiqihar area of operations in China. Avia petitioned the Japanese government that the aircraft was Czech property and requested payment of US$30,000. Even though Marshal Chang confirmed the ownership of the aircraft the Japanese at first refused to return it or pay for it. Avia petitioned the Japanese Army command in Mukden, the Japanese Army General Staff in Tokyo, the Czech consulate in Harbin and the Czech Embassy in Japan and eventually on 17 March 1933 the Japanese Kwangtung Army accepted the claim and paid for the aircraft. Its ultimate fate is unknown.

The Ba-33/BH-33L demonstrator was reported to have been originally finished in the standard Czech air force colours of khaki on the upper surfaces and aluminium dope underneath. The AZ instructions show an unusual demarcation of colours around the nose which appears slightly different to that shown by the only known photograph of the aircraft at Mukden, published in the Czech magazine HPM of November 1994 (above). The Avia applied khaki appears to have been a little lighter than the usual Czech Air Force colour and is available from Agama in both enamel and acrylic paints. Whether the aircraft was really re-painted by the Japanese in the 'Japan Dark Green' suggested by AZ is uncertain but the application of the large Hinomaru to the tail surfaces was not a standard presentation and appears to be based on the Czech air force markings. In addition to the Japanese markings the kit provides two alternate schemes for a Czech and Slovak machine.

The kit is injection moulded in grey plastic with an alternative resin prop for use with this version and injection moulded clear parts for the windscreen and what appears to be some kind of gunsight in front of the windscreen (?). The moulding is sharp but the rib tapes on the wings and tail are rather prominent and would benefit from a light sanding. Armament consisted of two cowling mounted 7.7mm synchronised machine guns. Images of the sprue frame and a built-up example of the kit in its Japanese markings may be found here.

Update: Gary Lai has kindly sent a link to his blog here where he has published an old magazine image of another photograph of the assembled Avia in the hangar at Mukden. The dark tone of the image may have suggested the idea that the aircraft had been re-painted.

With special thanks to Mirek Kárník for his assistance with this article, to Gary Lai for sending the link to his blog and also acknowledging Lennart Andersson's 'A History of Chinese Aviation' (AHS of ROC 2008) as an invaluable reference source.

Image credits: Box art and profile © 2014 AZ Model; Photo © 1994 HPM magazine via Mirek Kárník; Postcard and plan images via net.