Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Ida and Tojo at Changi, Singapore

Following up on the blogs about the Gremlin Task Force here and here, Martin Page has very kindly shared this photo showing a Ki-36/55 and Ki-44 at Changi, Singapore in 1946. Martin's father John Page (on the left in the photo) served as an RAF LAC (Leading Aircraftman) MT (Motor Transport) Fitter/Driver attached to the mobile airfield contingent of 121 Wing, 2nd Tactical Air Force in Europe, from D+10 through to the German surrender.  He was then posted back to the UK in 1945 prior to being sent out to the Far East as part of the ground contingent to support ‘Tiger Force’ RAF SEAAF. In August 1945 he arrived in Singapore and was posted to 379MT MU (Maintenance Unit), Detach. 2 RAF SEAAF.  He finally returned home to the UK in April 1946.

The two aircraft are possibly from the 1st Yasen Hôju Hikôtai (Field Reserve Air Unit) which was stationed at Singapore under 3rd Air Army HQ and operated many different aircraft types, although the 17th Rensei Hikotai (Training Transformation Air Unit - sometimes termed Operational Flight Training Unit) also operated Ida, Sonia and Oscar at Singapore. 

With special thanks to Martin for sharing the image and details of his father's service.

Image credits: © 2016 John Page via Martin Page 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

1/72 IJAAF Re-issues & Ki-61-II

Forthcoming IJAAF re-issues and new kits in 1/72nd scale which may be of interest to blog readers. The Hasegawa Ki-46-II gets another outing, this time in 'Green Cross' surrender guise, and Special Hobby re-release their Ki-43-II as a late production variant (which they call 'Otsu') with lovely box art as one of the Burma presentation aircraft in reticulated camouflage. To my mind the Hasegawa Ki-46 suffers from a slightly humpbacked look to the upper fuselage between the canopies, spoiling the svelte lines of the type. The aged Airfix kit still has the better airframe shape but the Hasegawa kit has finer detail - and better props and spinners!

In April the resurgent Aoshima are also due to release new 1/72nd scale kits of the Kawasaki Ki-61-II in both 'bubbletop' and 'razorback'  versions, which will come complete with ground crew and accessories, including trestles and elevating jacks - a nice touch offering plenty of diorama potential.

Image credits: Box art © 2016 Hasegawa (via Hobby Search) & Special Hobby; Ki-61-II prototype model images © 2016 Aoshima (via Hobby Search)

Saturday, 23 January 2016

That Other Shoki ~ Update

Further to the February 2015 blog article on the Fujimi 1/70th scale Ki-44 kit, correspondent Ken Glass has kindly sent this image of another early issue of the kit in the 'Metallic Series' with the same No.5 catalogue number, presumably pre-dating the 'One Hundred Series' issue? Box art is intriguing, perhaps just a poor attempt at representing natural metal but nevertheless reminiscent of the blue-grey dappled 'cloud camouflage' associated with early operations over China, of which more in due course. No unit tail marking in view and no yellow wing leading edge IFF strips shown!

Image credit: Yahoo Japan via Ken Glass

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Jack Geratic's 1/72nd scale resin Type 95 Trainer

By a happy coincidence Canadian modeller Jack Geratic has also given permission to share here his excellent 1/72nd scale model of the Choroszy Modelbud resin Type 95 (Ki-9)  Trainer kit.

In contrast to Zbyszek's special attacker, Jack's model is finished in the standard orange-yellow trainer scheme and represents an aircraft of the Kumagaya (Bear Valley) Army Flying School (Rikugun Hikô Gakkô) in Saitama Prefecture. 

The Kumagaya Flying School began flying training courses in 1936 for potential NCO pilots and cadet officers from the reserve but once war began in 1937 it gradually expanded, eventually establishing 12 additional branches with multiple satellite fields in Japan. Kumagaya fell within the Kanto Air Defence Sector and later in the war its flying instructors would be organised into Tô Ni Go Butai - secondary provisional units - to fly Ki-43 fighter air defence sorties under the operational control of the 10th Air Division during emergency situations.

The Kumagaya tail marking has usually been depicted as black and white but more recent references have begun showing it as red and white. However it appears to be an adaptation of the mon (crest) of the Minamoto Ashikaga clan which was black and white, Kumagaya city being named after the famous Minamoto samurai Kumagai Naozane. The convincing orange yellow finish was made with a 50/50 mix of Gunze H24 Orange Yellow and Akan BS356 Golden Yellow. 

With special thanks to Jack for sharing these images of his superb model.

Image credits: All © 2015 Jack Geratic

Monday, 4 January 2016

Zbyszek Malicki's Special Attack Type 95 Trainer in 1/72nd scale

Zbyszek Malicki from Poland very kindly shares these images of his special attacker Tachikawa Type 95 Chûren (an abbreviation for intermediate trainer) built from the RS Models kit in 1/72nd scale. 

The model was built straight from the box with two exceptions. The windscreens were scratch built to replace the incorrectly rounded kit parts and the barrel in the rear cockpit was taken from the Hasegawa Isuzu Fuel Truck kit as this item is not provided in the RS Models kit.  The decals are from the kit and represent aircraft # 9 of the 96th Shinbu-tai photographed at a civil flying school - the Kumamoto Local Pilot Training Centre - in 1945. This flying school was established in 1941 at a specially built airfield in the Kikukuchi district of Kumamoto Prefecture about 12 miles from Kumamoto City. It was also close to the Tachiarai Flying School branch airfield at Kuroishibaru on Kyushu. The Japanese characters beneath the five petal cherry blossom insignia on the tail appear to  mean balmy (or summer) breeze (風薫 - kun fu - literally 'fragrant wind').

For the paint scheme  Zbyszek pre-shaded the model with black then applied an overall orange before the dark green camouflage. That was then skilfully 'weathered' to reveal glimpses of the underlying orange. Rigging was made using the fine nylon filament from pantyhose attached with superglue but Zbyszek  notes this unusual technique requires a tricky combination of being gentle and fast!  

The gasoline drum in the rear cockpit is presumed to be a makeshift explosive device and it is probable that the aircraft had been prepared for localised defence in anticipation of an invasion attempt on the mainland.

The Tachikawa Type 95-1 (九五式一 型練習機 - Kyu Go Shiki Ichi Gata Renshûki - literally 'nine-five type one form practice aircraft) was designed to a 1934 request from Army Air HQ after they had tested - and found too small - that company's private venture R-5 primary flying trainer. It existed in two versions - the Type 95-1 and Type 95-1 Kai, more commonly referred to as Ko and Otsu, the latter an improved version with a strengthened undercarriage, identifiable by the teardrop shared fairing at the intersection of the wheel struts. The Type 95 was operated throughout the war in the Renshū Hikōtai

With special thanks to Zbyszek for sharing these images of his excellent model with Aviation of Japan.

Image credits: Model photographs © 2015 Zbyszek Malicki; Box art © 2009 RS Models 

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Little Gems in Seasonal Colours ~ Jack Geratic's 1/72 A4N1 and A5M4

Canadian modeller Jack Geratic has very kindly given permission to showcase here his excellent 1/72nd scale models of the Fujimi A5M4 and Choroszy Modelbud resin A4N1.

The Nakajima-built A4N was introduced into IJN service as the Type 95 Carrier Fighter in 1936, succeeding the A2N Type 90 which had been introduced in 1932. The A2N, designed by Takao Yoshida, demonstrated the influence of the Boeing 69B export model of the USN F2B-1. The Type 95 was essentially a re-designed and improved Type 90 but went through a prolonged development stage, entering service at a time when Mitsubishi were already testing the experimental prototype of an all metal monoplane that would gestate into the Type 95's successor the A5M "Claude".   

The A4N was the last biplane fighter of the IJN and was finished in a standard scheme of aluminium dope, red painted empennage and blue-black cowling. The type saw brief service in China from August 1937 and Jack's superb model represents an aircraft from the light carrier Ryujo (龍驤 - 'Dragon Horse') flown by Lt(jg) Minoru Suzuki in which he claimed three aircraft shot down from a formation of 27 Chinese Curtiss Hawk and Boeing 281 (export P-26) fighters over Paoshan on the afternoon of 23 August.   

From September 1937 the 12th Kokutai also operated Type 95s from Kunda airfield near Shanghai, engaged in ground support and air defence duties due to their limited range. The 12 Ku Type 95s were camouflaged on the upper surfaces, reportedly at first in a reddish-brown earth colour and later in a dark green and brown kumogata type camouflage scheme as revealed in photographs. From October to November 1937 12 Ku began conversion to the Type 96 A5M. The unit used a numeric tail code '3' painted in white at the top of the fin, with the three digit aircraft identifier below. Hinomaru and a white Army-type band were painted on the fuselage.

The Katakana character ホ (Ho) on the tail code of Jack's model identified the Ryujo and was repeated on the fuselage sides and in large letters above and below the wings.

Fine Molds Type 90 A2N1-2

For modellers who might be inspired by Jack's build but daunted at the prospect of assembling a tiny resin biplane Fine Molds released a neat injection moulded kit of the Type 95's similar looking predecessor the A2N1-2 in 2001 which has been re-released several times. Another one that is not often seen built but which can also be finished in festive silver and red.  

Jack also built the Mitsubishi A5M4 'Claude' from the fine Fujimi kit and convincingly represented its legendary "gold" bento-box finish by mixing clear orange with aluminum and steel metalizers before spraying on. The result is superb. A final satin clear was applied overall. Masks for the Hinomaru were cut from masking tape using a circle compass cutter.

The model represents an aircraft on the carrier Soryu (蒼龍 - 'Blue Dragon') in December 1940, at a time when it was engaged in fleet training exercises between the occupation of northern Indo-China in September-October and the blockade of southern China in February 1941. Standard finish for the Claude at this time was natural metal with a red painted empennage and blue-black cowling.

The Mitsubishi A5M Type 96 was developed from the experimental 9-Shi Single Seat Fighter mentioned above in relation to the Type 95 and which features in the Studio Ghibli cartoon film  'The Wind Rises' directed by Hayao Miyazaki. This tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the A5M and A6M Zero fighters. Fine Molds have also released kits of the gull-winged 9-Shi in 1/72nd and 1/48th scales. 

The Type 96 was the world's first operational monoplane carrier fighter and was flown extensively during the Sino-Japanese War in combat with both Russian and Chinese flown fighters, as well as in limited numbers during the first months of the Pacific War, being used as a fighter trainer afterwards. Many of the IJN's most famous Zero aces cut their teeth flying the Type 96 over China and it is a perennially popular modelling subject with the older but charming Nichimo kit in the same scale available since the 1960s.

Fujimi released a series of exacting A5M kits from 1995 featuring all major versions from the A5M2 to A5M4 in various boxings. Hobbyboss have also released a less accurate 'easy-build' kit of the A5M2 which has also been marketed by Doyusha in Japan.

With special thanks to Jack for kindly permitting these two beautiful models to be shared here. This will be the last blog of 2015 and I take this opportunity to wish a Happy New Year to Jack and to all friendly Aviation of Japan readers with very best wishes for 2016.

Image credits: Model photographs © 2015 Jack Geratic; Box art © Fine Molds