Saturday, 10 August 2019

Francesco Borraccino's 1/48 Hasegawa Raiden

Francesco Borraccino has kindly shared these images of his masterful build of the Hasegawa 1/48 scale Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Type 21 kit which he completed painting recently after it had languished, almost built but unpainted, for nearly ten years.  Raiden was designated 海軍 局地 戦闘機 which is usually translated as 'Navy Interceptor Fighter (Aircraft)' but 局地 (kyokuchi) literally means limited or local area. Raiden 雷電 is 'Thunder and Lightning' usually translated as 'Thunderbolt'. Some aircraft seem to look better on the ground than in the air - and vice versa. The Spitfire is an example of the latter, with that knock kneed, narrow gauge undercarriage detracting from the aerodynamic excellence of its lines. But the Raiden is of the former with its powerful 'just about to leap' appearance captured perfectly in Francesco's presentation of an aircraft he describes as a 'true beast'. 

Francesco applied AK Real Colors D1 Deep Green Black to the upper surface and on the under surface a mix of Gunze H-61 and khaki to represent aircraft ケ(Ke)-1105 of the Genzan Ku in Spring, 1945, one of four Raiden subjects offered in the 2009 'Genzan Flying Group' edition of the kit.  The others being stable mate ケ-1103 of Genzan Ku, タイ(Tai)-101 of Tainan Ku in August 1944 and ヤ (Ya)-1195 of Yatabe Ku in December 1944.

With special thanks to Francesco for sharing these images of his fine looking Raiden model and also to Keishiro Nagao of Lifelike Decals for kindly explaining the aircraft designation in correspondence during 2015.

Image credit: All © 2019 Francesco Borracino

Friday, 9 August 2019

Higher and Further ~ Patsy's Ambitious Endeavours

The RAF Flying Review magazine series 'These Were The Enemy' included a number of well known and lesser known Japanese types. No.70 in the series, published in Vol.XV, No.10 in June 1960 featured the Ki-74. The Tachikawa Ki-74 Long-range Reconnaissance Attacker (立川 キ-74 遠距離偵察撃機) is quite well documented on the internet and elsewhere and despite the small number built was assigned the Allied code name 'Patsy'. Its genesis was in a design intended to keep tabs on the Soviets by long-range photo-reconnaissance incursions to the west of Lake Baikal in Siberia. The project was suspended when priority was assigned to the Ki-77 (of which more anon, also courtesy of RAF Flying Review), but resurrected by the Army in a design proposal completed in September 1942. Aspiration was for long range attacks against the United States mainland but the war situation eventually relegated that to an attack against Saipan, although ultimately no operational sorties were conducted as actual production fell far behind that planned.

As usual the Flying Review article eschews any chauvinism with the recognition that Japanese aircraft designers "had proven themselves ingenious, ambitious and progressive, frequently creating exceptionally fine warplanes under conditions that would have appalled their western contemporaries". Operationally the Ki-74 should have been finished in the late-war No.7 olive drab colour but a colour photograph (heading image) suggests perhaps a more blueish dark green, similar to # 27 Ao midori iro or the IJN D2 and also to that seen in a colour photograph of a Tachikawa-built Ki-43-III Ko. That might just be due to an overall blue cast and degradation in the slide film or to non-factory painting by the Army. Photographs also suggest only partial painting of the under surfaces.

By December 1944 only three pre-production examples had been built against a planned production of 26. By August 1945 a further 12 had been completed against a planned production of 109. Tooling up for two line series production of the Ki-74 was in progress at the Sunegawa section of the Tachikawa plant but a B-29 raid on 17 February 1945 destroyed 40% of the wing and fuselage assembly building causing 30-80% damage to the jigs. On 4 April 1945 a second raid destroyed 20% of the Ki-74 final assembly building. In May 1945 a decision was made to transfer production to a new plant near Kumagaya, but it was never completed. Production was also delayed by a shortage of skilled labour as the Army had prioritised Ki-43-III Ko manufacture for Tachikawa as well as problems in the supply of oleos, oil coolers and electrical parts.

The Ki-74 is an impressive and intriguing aircraft with its B-17 like tail but has not yet attracted the attention of mainstream plastic injection kit manufacturers. A 1/72 resin kit of the type was released by A & V Models in the 1980s and it is a privilege to be able to share images (above and below) of a splendid build of that kit by Gunther Arnold, whose modelling blog is well worth visiting and contains a host of other beautifully built Japanese aircraft models, including a number of experimental types. A complete walkaround of Walther's Ki-74 model may be found at his blog here.  More recently A & W Models has released a resin kit of the Ki-74 in 1/144 scale.  

A&V Models Ki-74 resin kit in 1/72 scale

A&W Models Ki-74 resin kit  in 1/144 scale 

With special thanks to Gunther Arnold for his kind permission to share his model photos here.

Image credit:- Article scan © 1959 Royal Air Force Review Ltd.; Ki-74 model images © 2017 Gunther Arnold &; Photographs via web

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Rising Decals Part 2 ~ Hayate in 1/72 & 1/48

The Rising Decals Hayate sheet - RD72085 - shown above, is a more modest offering than for Hien with only six subjects, but they are well chosen and interesting, as follows:-
  • Ki-84 Ko of 9 Sentai at Nanking, China in 1945 - olive drab over grey-green. A welcome subject, this unit operated a mixture of Ki-44 and Ki-84 at the end of the war
  • Ki-84 Ko of 22 Sentai in Korea, 1945 - depicted in a dense mottle of dark green over natural metal. A good photograph of the aircraft may be found in the Maru Special # 8 on Hayate 
  • Ki-84 s/n 84059 of 11 Sentai in 1944 - one of 59 first batch additional experimental airframes with single exhaust configuration constructed between August 1943 and March 1944. As depicted in Gakken # 46 in worn green over natural metal. The green probably the 'Nakajima Green' of # 21 and one thing to note is that the undercarriage covers were camouflaged green too
  • Ki-84 Ko s/n 2508 of 185-194 Shinbu Tai at Shomodate, Japan in 1945 - overall natural metal. Manufactured at Ohta in July 1945 and unpainted this aircraft was reportedly used for special attack training with water filled drop tanks, shown grey-green. This aircraft had a larger Toyota-made oil cooler and older style wheel hubs with cooling slots
  • Ki-84 of 1 Rensei Hikotai at Nakatsu, Japan in 1945 - described as one of the second batch of additional experimental airframes. The number '142' suggests one of 1,113 production aircraft manufactured between April and October 1944 but the cowling seems to reveal an original single exhaust type pattern re-configured to multiple exhausts. Aircraft is in a worn or densely mottled green over natural metal
  • Ki-84 of unknown unit in the Philippines, 1945 - possibly from a special attack unit or 200 Sentai,  in olive drab over grey-green

This is a good sheet for Hayate buffs with suggested kits from Sword or Hasegawa. A 1/48 sheet - RD48026 offers seven subjects but duplicates only four from the 1/72 sheet, with three new subjects as shown and described below. 

The three new subjects on this sheet are as follows:-

  • Ki-84 probably of Rikugun Koku Gijutsu Kenkyu sho (Army Air Technology Research Establishment) at Fussa (Yokota) in 1945 - one of 59 first batch additional experimental airframes with single exhaust constructed between August 1943 and March 1944. Green over natural metal with the camouflage worn away by exhaust heat and gas 
  • Ki-84 Ko of 1st Special Shinbu Tai, 101 Sentai at Miyokonojo, Japan in 1945 - aircraft flown by S/Sgt Nobuo Saito. Depicted as badly worn olive drab over grey-green (or possibly natural metal) with darker outer rings to the white borders on wing Hinomaru suggesting pre-painting (thus also the unusual combination of olive drab over natural metal, although other upper surface colours are possible
  •  Ki-84 Ko of 197th Shinbu Tai at Kita ise, Japan in 1945 - olive drab over grey-green

Another well chosen sheet with interesting subjects for the recommended Hasegawa kit.

Image credits:- All © 2019 Rising Decals 

Rising Swallows & Strong Winds Part 1 ~ New Decals in 1/72 & 1/48

The prolific Rising Decals have recently released sets of markings for Japanese Army fighters Hien and Hayate in both 1/72 and 1/48 scales.

Set RD72-083 provides markings for no less than 15 colourful Ki-61 and Ki-100 aircraft as shown above. Subjects are as follows:-
  • Ki-61-1 Tei of 56 Sentai at Itami, Japan in 1944 - aircraft # 751 flown by the Sentai CO Maj Haruyoshi Furukawa, olive drab over natural metal with white Homeland Defence bands
  • Ki-61-1 Ko of 68 Sentai, New Guinea theatre, 1944 - aircraft flown by Sgt Susumu Kajinami, dark green 'snake weave' over natural metal 
  • Ki-61-1 Otsu of 59 Sentai at Ashiya, Japan in 1944 - overall natural metal with dragon design on wheel covers. Unfortunately the spanwise Chutai-coloured stripes on the tailplanes, always part of the Sentai insignia, are not included on the sheet
  • Ki-61-1 Otsu of 39 Rensei Hikotai, Yokoshiba, Japan, 1945 - aircraft flown by Sgt Shuichi Kaiho, dark green mottle over natural metal. The unit insignia is printed with a white border whereas it should be natural metal, the result of masking the insignia before the camouflage was applied. This aircraft should also have the number '22' in white at the top of the rudder and in black on the wheel covers
  • Ki-61-1 Tei of 18 Rensei Hikotai, Maran, Java in 1944 - aircraft flown by 1Lt Naoto Fukunaga, olive drab over natural metal
  • Ki-61-1 Hei of 6 Shinten Seikutai, 18 Sentai at Kashiwa, Japan in 1945 - aircraft flown by Lt Mitsuo Oyake, overall natural metal with red and white tail feathers (red to be painted) and red victory silhouettes on fuselage
  • Ki-61-1 Otsu of 18 Rensei Hikotai at Maran, Java in 1944 - aircraft depicted in an unusual scheme of solid dark green on the upper surfaces with blotches of a darker green and natural metal under surfaces
  • Ki-61-1 Otsu of 8 Rensei Hikotai at Heito, Taiwan in 1944 - aircraft flown by WO Takeo Tagata, depicted in dark green mottle over natural metal. This aircraft was incorrectly depicted as a Tei in Osprey 137 prior to a photograph examined after publication. 
  • Ki-61-1 Tei of of 105 Sentai at Giran, Taiwan in 1945 - olive drab over natural metal. Giran and Giran South were landing grounds used by special attack units
  • Ki-61-1 Tei of 55 Sentai at Komaki, Japan in 1944 - aircraft flown by 1st Chutai leader Capt Takefumi Yano, olive drab over natural metal
  • Ki-61-1 Tei of 55 Sentai at Komaki, Japan in 1944 - aircraft flown by 2Lt Takeo Adachi, overall natural metal. A good case has been made by Lifelike Decals for the tail insignia being red as on an earlier Hayabusa flown by Adachi and it has also been pointed out that white seems unlikely on a natural metal aircraft although it was the 1st Chutai colour. However Adachi was a member of the Homeland Defence cadre which remained in Japan when the rest of the Sentai departed for the Philippines and the colour of the insignia, not seen in the only photograph, is unconfirmed
  • Ki-100-1 Ko of 18 Sentai at Matsudo, Japan in 1944 - aircraft flown by 3rd Chutai leader Capt Haruo Kawamura, depicted dark green over natural metal. Kawamura flew this aircraft on night sorties so there is a possibility that it was finished in the darker black(ish)-brown colour associated with night fighters and the Ki-100
  • Ki-61-1 Tei of an unknown unit in the Philippines in 1944 - depicted in dark green over natural metal. Aircraft has an unusual combination of mottled cowling but solid colour from the cockpit rearwards
  • Ki-100-1 Otsu of 5 Sentai at Kiyosi, Japan in 1945 - aircraft flown by Capt Totaro Ito - depicted in dark green over natural metal
  • Ki-61-1 Tei of 11 Rensei Hikotai at Chofu, Japan in 1945 - olive drab over natural metal

This is a colourful sheet offering a wonderful variety of schemes and markings for Hien buffs, with plenty of opportunity for personal intepretation and expression. Recommended kits are Tamiya, Aoshima, Fine Molds and RS Models.  A 1/48 scale sheet RD48027 duplicates eight of the schemes as shown below. Recommended kits are Tamiya and Hasegawa.  

Image credits: All © 2019 Rising Decals

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

AVI Models Lepidopteran in 1/72

AVI Models (Avi Print, spol.s.r.o) have recently released two 1/72 kits of the De Havilland DH.83 Fox Moth (Macrothylacia rubi), but the release relevant to this blog is AVI72010 'Fox Moth in Foreign Service' which includes two fine Japanese examples. The kit is designed by Rising Models who have also provided the decals. The Fox Moth was basically an early form of 'private jet' or air taxi, based on the Tiger Moth, with a cabin between the engine and cockpit to accommodate 3-4 passengers. 

The first Japanese option is a Fox Moth c/n 4013 'Shirataka' (White Hawk) with modified enclosed cockpit of the Kwantung Provincial Police used in Manchuria during the 1930s and registered as J-APBE. This aircraft is depicted as doped silver overall with black registration letters and the yellow (or gold?) Asahikage (Morning Sunlight - ()()影) emblem of the Japanese Police. This aircraft had been imported to Japan by Mosawa & Co with certificate of airworthiness (CoA) # 3539 issued on 22 July 1932. On 19 February 1937 it was transferred to the Finance Section of the Administration Department (for disposal?) and the registration was cancelled in May 1939.  

The second Japanese option, possibly c/n 4079 or 4080, is an open cockpit example used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the mid-1930s as an ambulance aircraft on the Yoyogi training ground near Tokyo, also doped silver overall with Aikoku 106 presentation inscription, Hinomaru on wings and fuselage together with a red cross marking on either side of the cowling.  Two Army examples, both used as ambulance aircraft, were imported by Mitsui & Co and issued with CoA's in October 1933.  

The three Fox Moths imported to Japan inspired the domestic manufacture during 1933-34 of the  Gasuden (Tokyo Gasu Denki Kogyo KK - Tokyo Gas & Electrical Company) KR (Kogata Ryokaku-ki - Small Passenger Aircraft) 1, with twin floats named Chidori-go  (Plover),  powered  by  a  Gasuden  Jimpû 3 160-180hp  seven-cylinder radial engine (Jimpû = sudden wind or gust). Converting the kit with a suitable radial engine would be fairly straightforward but for the provision of markings I hope AVI Models or Rising might already have that in mind!  The KR 1 as a wheeled aircraft could carry three passengers but only two in its floatplane configuration. Seven were built by Gasuden, including the prototype c/n 1 registered as J-BBJI on 23 December 1933.  J-BBKI c/n 2  and J-BFOG were registered to G Matsukata (?) of Koku Jigyo-sha (Aircraft Enterprise Company?) in June 1934 and December 1935 respectively.  J-BBMI & J-BBNI were both operated with floats by NKYKK (Nippon Koku Yuso Kenkyusho) together with the prototype J-BBJI  as an air taxi service from Osaka to Shikoku and Shirahama in 1933-34.  Japanese Aero Engines* states that 12 were built. Two aircraft were later donated to the Taiwan National Defence Volunteer Association (Taiwan Kokubo Gaikai) and two to the Manchurian Coast Guard at Eikou (now Yingkou in China). J-BACO and J-BACP were operated by the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun (読売新聞) from October 1939, the former going to the IJN in 1944 and the latter burnt at Tamagawa in November 1945.   

The AVI Models kit offers two further markings options for a Nationalist Air Force Fox Moth, c/n 4073, used during the Spanish Civil War, and an RAF SEAC example MA 955, impressed in India in Ocrober 1942 and later operated by 3rd TAF Communications Sqn at Comilla, Burma in 1944. The Fox Moth kit is crisply moulded in mid-grey plastic on a single sprue frame with an additional frame of crystal-clear transparent parts. The simple instruction sheet is of schematic, exploded view type. Interior detail consists of passenger seats, passenger cabin floor, instrument panel bulkhead with raised details, cockpit floor, pilot seat and control stick. A separate rear fuselage spine is included to build the enclosed cockpit version but the windscreen and canopy for that is a single piece. The side doors are separate clear parts and could be displayed open to show the passenger cabin detail. The undercarriage parts include optional spats not required for the featured subjects. Care will be needed when removing the very fine struts from the sprue and in rigging - there are some unclear aspects to that. Actual photos of the Army ambulance version can be found on the Aikoku website here - scroll down to # 106 in the first column and then click on the yellow characters in the last column ro see the images.

This is an intriguing and neat little kit which should be of interest to Japanese civil enthusiasts as well as collectors of police operated aircraft.  It will also make an interesting line-up with the Amodel Tachikawa KKY-1 kits from 2013. With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for kindly providing the review sample. 

* Japanese Aero Engines 1910-1945, Mike Goodwin and Peter Starkings (STRATUS sp.j. as MMP Books, 2017)

Image credits: All kit images © 2019 AVI Models & Rising Models/Decals; Postcard author's collection.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Louis Gardner's 1/48 Tamiya Ki-61-I Tei

The Tamiya Hien Tei kits in 1/48 and 1/72 are deservedly popular, reflecting a general popularity amongst modellers for the Japanese Army's only inline engined fighter. There was a scattering of disappointment at the outset that the chosen Tei variant offered less choice of schemes than other variants but that seems to have abated. In fact production of the Tei straddled both the factory finish natural metal (with or without depot applied solid and mottled camouflage schemes) and yellow green No.7 eras. Louis Gardner has kindly shared his observations about Tamiya's 1/48 kit together with his report of building the fine 244th Sentai example shown above. In his own words then:   

"This is a model that I completed a couple of months or so ago. It also happens to be my favourite Japanese fighter from the war, it is so elegant and streamlined. The Tamiya new tool Ki-61 kit # 61115, fit together perfectly, the engineering being so clever and precise that I didn’t feel the need to glue several parts in place. However I still used glue throughout the build just to be safe.

"I wanted to build an example of the 'long nosed' Tei variant Tony - and something besides the usual ones you normally see with the red tail that is commonly associated with the 244th Sentai. I had a set of older Aero Master decals dating back to 1995 which included an option for a long nosed Tony with tail markings from the 244th Sentai. The plan was coming together and fortunately for me the old decals worked flawlessly. I discovered that Lifelike Decals also produced a more recent set of decals (48-003R) for this same aircraft and the markings appeared identical to Aero Master's, so I felt better knowing this, as Lifelike does considerable research on their subjects.

"Some time ago I had done an online in box review of the Tamiya kit shortly after it was released. Ever since then I had been wanting to build it as I was so very impressed with the contents of the box.  I finally said “to heck with it” and simply opened the box and got busy. Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest thing to do. I still have a set of decals for a 68th Sentai example and will eventually build one using the older (but still highly acceptable) 1/48 Hasegawa kit. In order to build that model I will have to use the “short nosed” variant, in combat earlier and more often encountered in the skies.

"The Japanese were very proficient at using camouflage. It varied from using freshly cut vegetation from the nearby jungles to conceal the planes, to spraying on various squiggly lines and shapes over the natural bare metal finish that most Tonys were delivered in. This was often done using as little paint as possible, since it was in short supply. The ground crews often applied just enough to knock down the “shine” of the bare metal. Sometimes this camouflage paint was applied using a brush, while at other times it was sprayed on.  The application methods and styles varied considerably, even between aircraft of the same unit. I tried to replicate the look on my model by doing the same thing. If you look closely, you can see that the stencils are still readable. In the image below you can see just how effective this camouflage process actually was. On one side I left the plane in a highly polished finish that was created using Bare Metal Foil. On the other side I simply sprayed on a light coat of green squiggly lines of various intensity.

"I wished to make this plane look as if it was flown, but not “war weary”, so I added some exhaust stains using Tamiya weathering decks to create the exhaust patterns. You can see this darker streaking in the lower portion of the image immediately above.  You can also see how the area around the canopy was left in a natural metal finish. I also tried to recreate a few very small scratches into the green sprayed on paint. If you look closely you can see a few where the pilot would have made them as he entered the cockpit.

"Tamiya has captured the cockpit very nicely. This is exactly how it looks right from the box. No aftermarket parts were added. However, if I were to build this one again, I would add a different seat harness. 

"The other pictures here show the plane as it looks from directly overhead, and from various angles. From this vantage point you can see just how effective the green paint was at reducing the shine. No other coatings were used on the top side of the model other than a very light coat of green. The shine of the bare metal was highly reduced with a minimal effort. Initially I tried using a semi-gloss Testor's Dull Coat spray coating directly from the can to knock down the shine somewhat. This helped, and was a step in the right direction, but it needed more to achieve the appearance I wanted. So I went back a second time, and lightly applied another very light coat using Testor’s Dull Coat right from the spray can. This gave me the result I was after - the light was still reflected from the foil, but now it had a more oxidized appearance. If you look closely at the images you should be able to see what I’m talking about but for the best and most natural look it has to be seen in person and in natural sunlight. It really pops !

"The following photos show the kit during the construction phase and you can see how shiny the finish was by using the three different shades of Bare Metal Foil. I used Ultra Bright Chrome on some panels, Chrome on others and Matt Aluminum for the remaining areas that had to be covered.   I tried to mix things up and not have two panels located next to each other in the same color, to give the illusion that each panel was a separate sheet of aluminum as it was on the actual plane.

"You can see the decals as they were applied but believe me it was hard to start spraying on the green over this beautiful foil. A part of me wanted to leave it alone, since I really like this look, but I wanted it to look more authentic, so I decided to start covering this beauty with some green. Now I’m happy that I did…

"The kit comes supplied with a single clear side fuselage half. I didn’t use it for obvious reasons. The nice thing about this is that with a little effort, Tamiya should be able to release a new tool “short nosed” Hien or even possibly a Ki-100, since the rest of the airframe was almost identical.

"I hope that you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed the building and research process. Tamiya hit a home run with this baby and anyone who tells you different needs their head examined! It’s the best Ki-61 in this scale that I have built so far. Now don’t get me wrong, the older Hasegawa kit is still very acceptable and I’m not bashing it by any means. It still looks good when completed, but it is also a product of the early 1990’s and has been eclipsed by this newer offering from Tamiya. Go out and get yourself one of these - you’ll be happy that you did.  Now if they would release that earlier variant of the Hien with the shorter nose,  or even a Ki-100, using this kit as the basis, that would be perfect and I'd happily purchase several of each!"

With special thanks to Louis for sharing these images of his splendid Hien model and the write-up about the kit and build. 

Image credits: All © 2019 Louis Gardner