Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Oscars of John Haas

John Haas, inspired by Stefan Sjöberg's Otaki Oscar model, kindly sent these images of his own Otaki Oscars built several years ago together with images of a Nichimo Oscar - all in 1/48 scale.

Above, the well-known Ki-43-II s/n 5640 of Major Toshio Sakagawa, 25 Hiko Sentai commander in China, here in its original presentation of markings. In recent years the tail stripes have been re-interpreted as white, yellow and red from the leading edge of the fin, supposedly to represent each Chutai, but the white and blue markings are as illustrated by Rikyu Watanabe for an article on the 25 Hiko Sentai and its predecessor the 10 Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai by Dr Yasuho Izawa which appeared in Aireview magazine circa 1973. That article acknowledges the co-operation of a number of ex-25th Sentai veterans as well as Major Sakagawa's widow, Mrs Kozen Sakagawa, and included profiles of individual aircraft. In 2001 Dr Izawa very kindly sent me a full translation of the article together with its original profiles, a treasured possession. For this reason I have always had a preference for the markings as presented on John's model. 

Major Sakagawa commanded the 47 Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai which trialled the Ki-44 in operational conditions at the outbreak of the Pacific War. Later as commander of the 25 Hiko Sentai in China he frequently led combat sorties, claiming a B-24 on 21 August 1943 and two P-51 Mustangs on 6 May 1944. In July 1944 he was transferred to Akeno where he became the Executive Officer of 200 Hiko Sentai, the Hayate-equipped reinforcement unit deployed to the Philippines and drawn from Akeno instructors and students. On 1 December 1944 he was appointed to command 22 Hiko Sentai but was killed in a transport plane crash on 19 December. 

John also converted the Otaki kit to represent a Ki-43-III Ko from 48 Hiko Sentai, another China-based Oscar unit (above). The 48th was formed in July 1943 from a cadre of 77 Hiko Sentai and 204 Kyodo Hiko Sentai personnel at Jindao, Manchuria, with just two chutai (squadrons) as a component of the newly formed 15th Air Brigade of the 2nd Air Army and activated at Anshan in November 1943. The 15th Air Brigade also contained the somewhat mysterious 30 Hiko Sentai formed as an Assault (ground attack) unit with the Ki-43 at the same time*. The 48th adopted hikotai organisation in February 1944 with a separate seibitai (整備隊) or maintenance unit, but retained its original two chutai strength. 

In April 1944 the 48th moved into China to Wuchang near Hankow and from May began staging to an advanced landing ground at Bailuqi (Pailochi, also known as Sheumatow) just north of Tung Ting (Dongting) Lake from where it flew combat operations. Three successive hikotai leaders and three chutai leaders were killed in action during operations in China as well as at least 10 pilots. The 48th ended the war at Taihsien, near Nanking with approximately 20 Oscars as the planned escort unit for no less than seven newly formed special attack units.  

John's third Otaki Oscar represents an instructor's Homeland Defence aircraft from the Kumagaya Army Flying School. In mid-1944 the school was re-organised as a Flying Training Division with instructors and test pilots also assigned as secondary provisional units - Tônigo Butai (東二号部隊 - literally "Eastern No.2 force" as the units were first conceived in Eastern Army Command) - to be sortied in emergencies to augment the strength of the 10th and 11th Air Divisions in their air defence operations against B-29 raids. 


The subsequent performance of these units was disappointing due to issues with air ground communications as the units could not operate effectively within the air defence structure of the regular divisions and the training regime also suffered as a result of the dual roles. In December 1944 the force was increased when the 22 Hiko Sentai at Sagami and the 16th Air Brigade at Shimodate consisting of 51 and 52 Hiko Sentai, all newly withdrawn from the Philippines, were also designated as Tô units. However, those additional units, still in the process of reforming and under strength, were unable to achieve any quantitative or qualitative improvements so the secondary provisional system was officially abandoned in April 1945.

John's final model (above) is the fine Nichimo Ki-43-I, completed to represent the aircraft of the famous 64 Hiko Sentai commander Major Tateo Kato at the time of his death in May 1942. 

With special thanks to John for sharing these images of his Oscar models.

* 30 Hiko Sentai was subsequently transferred to the Philippines in mid-1944 as part of the 13th Air Brigade with 29 and 31 Hiko Sentai by which time it had been re-designated as a fighter unit. The Brigade move began in May 1944 and was completed by July. 29 Hiko Sentai, at that time equipped with the Ki-44, was diverted to Formosa (Taiwan).

Image credit: All © 2017 John Haas

Friday, 17 March 2017

1/48 MYK Design Decals for Kawasaki Ki-61

Dan Salamone kindly alerted me to the impending release of no less than six sets of decals for the Ki-61 in 1/48 scale from MYK Design Decals in their ASU-DECA series. The decals are an interesting hybrid sort of waterslide and dry transfer - as explained here - where after applying them in the usual way and letting them dry the clear varnish layer can be peeled away to leave just the printed colour. And very nicely saturated colour too. The sheets are produced in limited quantity, sell out fast and don't seem to get re-printed - so if you want them you need to be quick!

There has been a lot of online whinging about the recent Tamiya kit being a long-nosed Tei because allegedly that variant offers less colour scheme and marking options than the short-nosed variants. Not so IMHO.  The production of the Tei spanned the period from aircraft being delivered unpainted and factory painted so the potential subjects include plain natural metal finish, various green mottles over natural metal finish and the factory-applied solid olive brown. The Tei variant was also produced in greater numbers than any other and was used by many units both overseas and in Japan, including a number of operational training units and special attack units, the latter with some distinctive camouflage patterns offering a real painting challenge. The issue is not one of limited choice, far from it, but rather whether decals for a particular subject are available. 

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien `Long Nose (Model Tei)` (shown above) demonstrates that by providing tail markings for Tei variants based on the Tamiya kit with eight different units including 19, 55, 56 and 105 Hiko Sentai, 5, 17 and 18 Rensei Hikotai and the Hitachi Kyodo Hiko Shidan.

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien `Short Nose (Model Ko/Otsu/Hei)` (shown above) provides tail markings for six different units including the controversial first marking for 78 Sentai, 18, 19 & 68 Hiko Sentai, 39 Kyoiku Hikotai and Akeno Rikugun Hiko Gakko.

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien 244th Fighter Group `The Imperial Guards`(shown above) provides markings for four different aircraft of the 244th Hiko Sentai excluding national markings and stencils.

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien 244th Fighter Group `Commander Teruhiko Kobayashi` (shown above) provides markings for three different aircraft flown by the famous 244 Hiko Sentai commander, again excluding national markings and stencils. 

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien `National Insignia & Caution Data -Short Nose-`for Hasegawa provides hinomaru and stencils designed to fit the Hasegawa series of Hien Ko/Otsu/Hei kits.

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien `National Insignia & Caution Data -Model Tei-` for Tamiya provides hinomaru and stencils designed to fit the Tamiya Hien Tei kit.

The decal sets are available direct from HobbyLink Japan and Hobby Search

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Stefan Sjöberg's 1/48 Otaki Ki-43-II

Stefan Sjöberg of Sweden had kindly shared these images of his Otaki Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa in 1/48 scale. The model was built straight from the box with just the addition of new markings from  Rising Decals RD48018 Emperor's Eagles Pt.1 to complete it as an aircraft from the 2nd Chutai 13th Hiko Sentai at Kamari airfield, Noemfoor Island, in early 1944.

The 13th Sentai had been formed at Tachiarai as the 13th Hiko Rentai (聯隊 - regiment) in 1937, becoming a Sentai* the following year. It went through a number of organisational changes throughout its service, absorbing and detaching Chutai from and to other units. From August 1942 it operated both Ki-43 and Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu aircraft as a specialised air defence interception unit based at Kashiwa in Japan with detachments in Korea and at Sapporo. It was sent to Rabaul in April 1943 and later absorbed the 5th Sentai's detached 'tokushou kougekitai' (特称攻撃隊 - specially designated attack unit) which had been operating Ki-45 and armed Ki-46 aircraft in the air defence role there since February. After suffering heavy losses in New Guinea during August 1943 the unit began operating increasing supplementary numbers of Ki-43 aircraft until formally re-designated as a Hayabusa unit on 17 January 1944. Withdrawing from the New Guinea theatre in April 1944 it consolidated in the Halmaheras.

This venerable but straightforward and enjoyable kit is still available under the Microace/Arii logo for less than £7 direct from HLJ Japan.   It was first issued in Otaki's popular 1960s series of Japanese fighter types and a brief kitography illustrating the box art is here

*Common western usage of the organisational term Sentai (戰隊) for the IJAAF often drops the qualifying Hiko (飛行) - for aviation, air or flying - and there is disagreement about the most appropriate English translation with Regiment or Group both being used and Corps often appearing in Japanese English translations. Kenkyusha's 1942 dictionary gives "battle corps" for Sentai whilst Sqn Ldr A  R Boyce's Japanese Air Terms (Far Eastern Bureau, Ministry of Information, Calcutta, 1944)  gives Air Regiment for both Hiko Rentai and Hiko Sentai.  One modern Japanese source gives Squadron which seems inappropriate in view of the size of the unit and the constituent Chutai (中隊) which corresponds historically to the cavalry squadron but is also translated as company, battery or troop. 

Image credits: All © 2017  Stefan Sjöberg

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sword 1/72 Kawasaki Ki-102b

Hat tip to Bill Sanborn for kindly alerting me to this new Kawasaki Ki-102 Otsu kit "coming soon" from Sword models. Another one to look forward to! 

The colour profiles suggest markings for three aircraft but the colours as presented are not typical. 'Randy' would have been dressed in the late-war olive drab, probably with spinners to match, with a possibility that night fighters were painted overall in the very matt finish of  # 38 Noh An Kasshoku  (濃暗褐色 - deep dark brown colour). a dark brownish black or caput mortuum hue applied to some Toryu night fighters. That was similar to a special night finish developed in Germany by Dr Kurt Herberts & Co., consisting of a dead black pigment combining ferrous oxide with magnesium oxide, mixed with small amounts of zinc yellow and black oxide (in dark red form).

Imagre credits: All © 2017 VISION SWORD s.r.o.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Airfix Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero in 1/72

The rather neat Airfix 1/72 A6M2 Zero will make a welcome comeback in March with splendidly striking new box art (above) and a colour scheme perhaps more representative of this variant. The price for this gem is a very competitive £6.59. To be encouraged as I understand that Airfix is not averse to the idea of future Japanese aircraft subjects!


Image credits: All © 2017 Airfix and Hornby Hobbies Ltd

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Jan Hajicek's Type 96 Kansen (A5M4)

Jan Hajicek ("Dead Design") has very kindly shared these images of his Mitsubishi A5M4 'Claude' model which, believe it or not, was made from the Fujimi kit in 1/72 scale and represents a Type 96 fighter model 4, tail code VII-111 of Soryu Kokutai, Houkoku Go No.348 "Dai-2 Jo-kyo-in Go" (donated by Japanese teachers), Formosa.

Jan started the kit in 1998 but found that it needed extra detail and the old Eduard photo-etch parts did not meet his requirements. He put the kit back into the box until he was able to master his own photo-etch design. 

The kit was then brought out again in 2004 and completed with Jan's own photo-etch. The whole cockpit except the floor was constructed from photo-etch parts. 

Jan enhanced the kit engine by adding a scratch built exhaust ring and some rods to the cylinder heads. The power distribution lines and the cowling support tube bracket were from photo-etch. 

The external fuel tank  rack and suspension straps were completely scratch built. The suspension straps holding the tank in place were reproduced using duct tape sprayed with Model Master metallizer and cut into strips. Other photo-etch parts comprised new bomb racks, landing flaps and trim tab actuators. 

All the control surfaces were cut out and repositioned. Jan also added more depth to them by scraping away the area between the ribs. The Fujimi kit features too many panel lines and a careful study of design drawings revealed that some of the panels on the outer part of the wing leading edge were in fact rivet lines. Jan says that he wasn't skilled at using a rivet tool at that time ("and I'm still not and highly doubt I will ever be") he just filled in the superfluous lines. The tail wheel strut was scratch built using thick aluminium foil and a hypodermic needle.

The kit supplied windscreen was too thick so Jan decided to make his own, vacuum moulding a replacement. The technique he used did not reproduce the framework so he again used duct tape, sprayed with MM Metallizer, cut into strips and applied to the windshield. 

Jan deepened the panel lines on the model as he applies artist water colours. to simulate weathering The whole model was airbrushed with Mr. Color (GSI Creos) # 8 to simulate aluminum.

Jan had considered the myth of the Type 96 Kansen Model 4 being "golden" as reproduced in various colour profiles. In 1999 he posted a question at which revealed one possible explanation for the "golden" appearance. The natural metal construction was protected by the application of a phenol based clear varnish to withstand the corrosive effect of salt water. Therefore Jan added another layer to the model - a clear coat tinted with yellow-brown to represent the additional phenol based clear protective coat. Final weathering was applied with artistic chalks after close inspection of photos of the Model 4 variant. Chipping of the clear coating was evident in some photos so Jan decided to reproduce that too.

All the markings were airbrushed using Mr. Color paints and masks designed and plotted by Jan himself. The only decals used on this model are the manufacturer’s plate and the Houkoku presentation marking on the fuselage sides. That was also designed on a computer and laser printed by Jan. The overall result is magnificent, especially in 1/72 scale. 

With special thanks to Jan for sharing these images of his wonderful model.

Image credits: All © 2017 Jan Hajicek