Monday, 17 December 2018

Jim Anderson's Hasegawa G8N1 Renzan 'Rita' in 1/72

The Hasegawa Rita (Nakajima N-10 Experimental 18-Shi Attack Bomber 'Renzan' - 試作十八試陸上攻撃機 '連峰') was an unusual and innovative kit when first released in the late 1960s. A Japanese Navy four-engined bomber prototype of which only four were ever built and which was never deployed operationally, only one surviving to be taken to the USA and test flown there post-war  The other Japanese 'heavies' in the Hasegawa 'King Size Series' were the more mainstream H8K2 Emily, H6K5 Mavis and G4M1 Betty.  'Emily' was replaced by a completely new tool in 2017 and a new tool G4M2 version of Betty was released in 1997, although the old tool G4M1 was still being re-released with new box art and decals as recently as 2015. All four Hasegawa 'heavies' have been re-released continuously over the decades with new box art and new decals, Rita most recently in 2009 as a what-if combination kit carrying an I-go type guided bomb with a jet-powered Shindenkai as escort!

Rita's potential stand-off capability was described by Richard M Bueschel with Shorzoe Abe in his ground breaking multi-part series on Japanese Navy Aircraft 1940-1945 in Air Pictorial magazine (Part IV, Vol 21 No 3, March 1959), describing it as the planned parent aircraft for the Ohka 43. However the most comprehensive English language coverage of the development of the bomber and what it was like to fly came with the second part of Robert C Mikesh's excellent two part article on The Japanese Giants in the July 1981 issue of Airpower magazine (Vol 11 No 4). 

Rita at Newark Airport prior to first US flight (Howard Levy photo)
The specification for the bomber was issued on 14 September 1943 and the first prototype was completed by September the following year, designed by a team led by Ken-ichi Matsumura of Nakajima. The first flight was made on 23 October 1944 with Nakajima test pilot Haruo Suematsu at the controls. This was completely successful until after landing the brakes failed and the aircraft ran into a fence-enclosed fire sump, sustaining damage to its nose and landing gear. The accident delayed flight testing for a month as repairs were made but by January 1945 the IJN had accepted the bomber, designating it G8N as Renzan. However, time was running out for the IJN and the planned 16 prototype and service test aircraft were never completed, let alone the 32 production models originally planned for September 1945. After completion of the fourth Renzan in June 1945 the project was cancelled due to a changing strategic situation and increasing shortage of aluminium.      

All four 'King Size' kits were first released in Hasegawa's characteristic (at that time) chunky and rather brittle dark green plastic with copious raised rivet detail (somewhat ironic as the original Rita had only 2,000 more rivets than the smaller P1Y Frances). The Hasegawa 'Rita' kit travelled far, being released in the UK under the Frog label from 1968 to 1972 as F274 with a total of 25,000 kits being produced. That was a relatively short run for Frog but the Hasegawa kits were not moulded in the UK, being sent there from Japan plastic bagged, as part of a reciprocal deal; Frog then provided the boxes, decals and instructions for retail in the UK. There was a similar arrangement with AMT in the USA. Frog also planned to release the Hasegawa Betty in 1969 as kit F284 but never did.   

Jim Anderson has very kindly submitted these images and description of his own enhanced model of Hasegawa's Rita which he first bought and began working on in 1971. In his own words then:-

"I acquired my Renzan back in 1971 as a second hand kit from a neighborhood friend who wanted to sell it.  I immediately started working on the model then suddenly stopped and put it away for many years.  Since this build is quite old, I really didn’t document much in those days, so forgive me as the details will be light.   

"The kit is nicely molded in heavy, brittle, dark green plastic.  The clear parts were equally thick but well done with the canopy framing lightly scribed.  There were lots of tiny rivets too.  The control surfaces were positionable and looked good enough for use as is.  I originally only put together the fuselage with the turrets, canopy and internal details gluing everything in sight with lots of cement.  

"15 years later I wanted to resume building it and had to deal with separating that fuselage.  It was a salvage job and the goal was to free up the clear parts for reuse.  By this time I could make better turret replacements with a ‘plug-molding’ technique using clear butyrate sheet plastic.  The kit supplied turret interiors were a just peg meant to hold the machine guns.  But now with the new thin and clear replacements, I had to build something inside, so I added some structure and bits of scrap plastic to make it look interesting.  This is somewhat funny as none of the prototypes ever carried any weapons!  

"The bomb bay doors were built up with strip styrene in an attempt to make them look somewhat “engineered” to the casual observer.  There were a few windows in the forward fuselage that were omitted from the kit.  These were located from some line drawings and drilled out and filed smooth.  I altered the main canopy by cutting out a rectangle shape over the pilots position to allow for a little hatch to be placed in the open position to give the model some character.  

"The kit was a big tail sitter and needed lead weights mounted in the forward fuselage.  It didn’t quite do the trick, so I flattened the tires pretty good and that solved the balance issue.

"Painting was as follows:  The interior crew spaces were a medium gray-green color which I mixed up from Pactra Green IE86 and Pactra Light Gray IU89.  The bomb bay doors and parts of the bay interior were Pactra IJ17 Silver with Humbrol NJ1 (a dark gray green) used on the upper section over the bomb bay itself.  The engine cowlings were painted with Steel Metalizer and buffed.  The anti-glare portion was flat black then touched up with some silver Rub n Buff.  

"The rest of the model was primed with Model Masters Light Sea Gray including the canopy framing.  There were two options for painting according to the kit instructions; one being  IJN green over white gray and the other being overall IJN prototype orange.  I went with the orange version since my limited reference material didn’t convince me that any aircraft were painted in the green pattern.  The color coat was Pactra Orange Oxide M9 straight from the bottle.  Markings were simple being just the six position Hinomaru.  

"This build lasted from April to August 1985.  I noticed when taking the photos for this article and giving the model a good cleaning, that the Orange Oxide had faded a little on the top over the years.   If you want a 1/72 Rita, this old kit is still the only game in town and can be made into a nice addition to your Japanese Navy/ Japanese Army prototypes collection."

With special thanks to Jim for sharing these images and details of his splendid model with Aviation  of Japan.

Image credits: All model photos © 2018 Jim Anderson; Box art © 196? Hasegawa Corp.; Airpower Cover image © 1981 Sentry Books Inc.


Sunday, 2 December 2018

Wingsy 1/48 Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia

With special thanks to Dan Salamone and Chad Akins for their kind heads up about the forthcoming Wingsy 1/48 scale Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia, announced for January 2019 release. Sample sprue shots are shown below and pre-production CAD renders can be viewed here.

Splendid box art by Sergey Zoshchenko depicts a 1st Chutai Ki-51 of  Hiko Dai 27 Sentai with a very small pilot and an unusually complex camouflage scheme coming under fire from an AVG P-40.  This light bomber unit gradually converted to the Ki-51 from the Ki-32 in March 1941 and was active in the assault on Malaya, the Dutch East Indies and Burma.  The unit insignia on the fin and rudder combined the Japanese 'ni'  (二) for '2' in black with '7', the diagonal bar being painted in the Chutai colour. In addition to the tail insignia the 1st Chutai applied the representation of a swallow to the fuselage side, whilst the 2nd Chutai applied a stylised representation of the 'matoi' (纏), a battle standard or fireman's standard from the Edo period (as shown below), consisting of variously shaped heads, often with characters painted on them, and hanging strips.

The price is not revealed but Hannants have the Wingsy A5M kits at £36.99 (about US$47) so start saving or be prepared to wait for your Christmas present. The new Wingsy kit should eclipse the veteran and long-cherished Nichimo kit of currently uncertain availability. Japanese birds with spats seem to be the currently favoured flavour so let's hope someone, somewhere, is planning a 1/48 Ki-36/55 (but please let it not be a well known purveyor of limited run vinyl).  

Image credits: Box art and kit parts © 2018 Wingsy Kits; Matoi image via web


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Dead Design Resin for Tony and Claude

Dead Design Models have recently released high quality aftermarket resin sets for the Tamiya 1/72 Ki-61-I Tei and all versions of Fine Molds and Wingsy 1/48 A5M Claudes.  

Set RM72001 (shown above) provides a pair of Type II wooden drop tanks and wing racks to rectify the surprising ommission of those from Tamiya's Ki-61-I Tei kit. The pieces are very finely and delicately moulded in a grey-green resin, requiring care in separating them from their mould tabs, especially the racks.   

Set RM72002 (shown above) provides a set of separate replacement flight control surfaces for the same kit, consisting of a pair of ailerons, a pair of elevators and a rudder, all also neatly moulded in grey-green resin. Also included is a tiny sheet of aerodynamic hinge covers. 

Each 1/72 set retails for €5.76, about £5.13 or US$6.55.  

Set RM48001 (shown above) provides a set of replacement and correct flight control surfaces for all versions of the Fine Molds A5M2b (early and late) and A5M4 Claude kits, consisting of a pair of replacement ailerons, a pair of tailplanes with separate elevators and a rudder. Again these are exquisitely moulded in grey-green resin with beautifully rendered doped fabric and rib tape effect, especially on the rudder. 

Set RM48002 (shown above) is a similar set designed for all versions of the Wingsy A5M kits.  The dark staining on the parts seen in the image has been added to better illustrate their surface detail; the actual resin parts as sold are pure grey-green.  

Each 1/48 set retails for €7.68, about £6.84 or US$8.74. 

With special thanks to Jan of Dead Design Models for the review sets. 

Image credit: All © 2018 Dead Design Models

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Zegeye's AVI Models A5M1 in 1/72

This splendid looking Mitsubishi A5M1 was made by Zbyszek Malicki ('Zegeye') using the 1/72 AVI Models kit. He describes it as a short run kit with all the features of being short run but overall not bad. The plastic is rather soft, the internal details of the cockpit not very sharp and the kit needing some filler here and there.

Zbyszek added some details with Plastruct rod and fabricated the exhaust pipes from scratch as they are not included in the kit. He added a Yahu instrument panel which is almost invisible in the finished model. The model was painted with Gunze paints. All the markings were painted except for the tail code and small stencils which are the kit decals. The decals are very soft and thin, and must be applied gently. Zbyszek recommends not using any softener before the decals are in place and dry. He used SOL softener after the water on the model had evaporated, and from habit rather than a need. The decals seal very well without it.

It represents the aircraft of an unknown 12 Kokutai buntaicho in late 1937. 12 Ku's fighter hikotai re-equipped with the A5M during October and November 1937, operating from the newly captured airfield of Dajiaochang (which the Japanese called Daikojo) at Nanking (now Nanjing) from December of that year. Prior to re-equipment 12 Ku had operated the A4N from the airfield established by the Japanese on the golf course at the Kunda Textile Factory in Shanghai, on air defence and ground support sorties due to the limited range of that aircraft.   

This was the type of early A5M which featured - as models, no cgi then - in the 1977 Chinese movie 'Heroes of the Eastern Skies' (筧橋英烈傳). 

Image credits: All model pics © 2018 Zegeye; movie images web

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Tetsuya Inoue's Ki-61-II 'Bubbletop' Project in 1/48

At Tets Research Institute (reported here in June 2017 and March this year) Tetsuya Inoue has continued his awesome, painstaking and ultra-realistic 1/48 scale model engineering project with an update (and additional images) here. Tetsuya's work in recreating the propeller hub assembly (below) has to be seen to be believed.

Truly outstanding work.  With thanks to Tetsuya for sharing it with Aviation of Japan.

Image credits: All © 2018 Tetsuya Inoue and Tets Research Institute

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Pat Villareal's Hasegawa 1/48 Hayate

Courtesy of the good offices of AoJ Texas correspondent Mark Smith as go-between, Pat Villareal has kindly shared these images of his excellent Hasegawa 1/48 scale Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate 'Frank' model in natural metal plumage. The kit was won as a raffle prize in 2007 and tackled in a recent stash reduction exercise. Pat couldn't believe he had waited so long as he found it very detailed and a nice surprise to build. In his own words then.

"After market items used were from an Eduard photo-etch set.  Most of the photo-etch got installed but the instrument panel is box stock since I thought the details were better.  Scratch-built items are the antenna mast and pitot probe.  The antenna mast is made from a flattened paper clip (pounded on a hobby anvil) and shaped with a file.   The pitot probe is made from a straight pin filed down at the tip.  The gunsight was improved by cutting off the molded reflector plate and a plastic holographic sequin cut to shape and installed in its place.  I also added a reflective circular green optical lens on the upper surface of the sight using a hole punch to give it a little more interest.

"Hasegawa decided to engineer this kit using a lot of polycaps to install the fuel tanks, landing gear struts, wheels, fuel cooler and prop.  For the landing gear this resulted in a wobbly stance and was hard to align correctly.  So instead I decided to glue sprue into the polycap casing and then drilled out installation holes to match the struts.  That achieved a more conventional kit installation and a firmer stance. 

"The kit landing lights were extremely tiny and I considered them impractical for installation.  So I mixed 2-part clear epoxy and dabbed it into the light frame using a needle.  Once cured I painted them with Tamiya Clear Green and Red.  The results were much better than expected.

"Paints used were Model Master, Testors and Alclad with acrylics from Tamiya and Vallejo.  The plane was sprayed with Alclad Aluminum without primer, just straight onto the plastic.  However, I had to be very careful when filling seams since metallic finishes reveal every tiny flaw.   I brush shaded some panels with a cocktail of Future (Pledge - Revive It), water and different Vallejo paints (black, sienna, blue & sand) for color variation.

"Decals were from AeroMaster set 48-616 'Imperial Hayates Pt.II' and the color scheme represents an aircraft of the 2nd Chutai, Hiko Dai 73 Sentai  in the Philippines during 1944.  Micro Set and Sol were used in placing them and they reacted very well.  I did have to cut some relief holes for the upper markings to allow the aileron rods to protrude properly. Once the decals were cured I applied a coat of Future to protect them.  Then a few coats or Model Master clear flat lacquer in preparation for charcoal weathering.

"Hard to believe I started this hobby with just a basic cheap kit, tube glue with no paint.  And now building models has become an adventure in using a plethora of materials, tools and paints.  Reminds of the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime” . . . . with a little play on words:

You may find yourself sitting at a hobby table 
You may find yourself building a Tamiya Tomcat 
And you may find yourself installing photo etch parts 
You may find yourself painting with an Iwata airbrush 
With a lighted painting booth 
And you may ask yourself, well 
. . . . . . Letting the days go by . . . . . 

"Hmm, How did I get here???? Enjoy the pictures and “BUILD ON!” "

The 73rd was formed on the Hayate at Kita-Ise airfield south-west of Nagoya in May 1944 in preparation for the 3rd Phase reinforcement plan for the defence of the Philippines as part of the Hayate-heavy 21st Air Brigade with 72nd Sentai, the two Air Regiments of Hayate (1st and 2nd) to be be formed from the Akeno Army Aviation School and a heavy bomber regiment (3rd) from Hamamatsu Army Aviation School. There is a useful and illuminating history of this unit in Arawasi magazine Issue 10 of August 2008 although the 30th Fighter Group (第30戦闘飛行集団) to which it was eventually subordinated in the Philippines is incorrectly translated as 30th 'Combat Air Division' - 集 shû not shi 師!     
With special thanks to Pat Villareal for the images and build report and to Mark Smith for facilitating.

Image credits: All model photos © 2018 Pat Villareal; Aeromaster 48-616 image via web.