Monday, 1 April 2019

New Nakajima A2N3 Kit in 1/48

Hat tip to Vedran for alerting AoJ to this forthcoming injection moulded release of the IJN Type 90 Nakajima A2N3 carrier fighter in 1/48 scale by A.B.&K of Ukraine - sprue shots and other details may be found at Britmodeller.  A good scale for this type and a fitting IJN rival to Fine Molds excellent Ki-10. From the box art decal options will be for aircraft from the carriers Kaga and Ryujo.

In 2001 Fine Molds released a neat little kit of the A2N1-2 in 1/72 scale (above) with a separate photo-etch set AA-16 which includes rigging.  Both are currently in stock at HLJ.

Image credit: Box art © 2019 A.B.&K Models and Replica via Britmodeller; A2N1-2 Box art © 2001 Fine Molds Corp. 

Friday, 22 March 2019

Narrow Escape for Mavis

IJN 'Mavis' (Kawanishi Type 97 Flying Boat - 97 Shiki Hikoutei 九七式飛行挺 or '97 Taitei' 九七大挺) pilot Ensign Daita Kitaide's account of his flight from Surabaya, Java to Japan in May 1945 and narrow escape from marauding P-38s at Hong Kong, as told to Shorzoe Abe, was published in the August 1960 issue of the Royal Air Force Flying Review magazine. It is reproduced here in full for its historical interest (click on and then download the pages for a readable size).  

The 'Kiuling' seaplane base mentioned in the account is Kowloon. There were Allied fighter-bomber sorties across East and South China on the 28 May 1945 but the P-38 crash described by Kitaide cannot be confirmed (perhaps a bomb explosion instead?).  RAF Flying Review frequently published features on wartime Japanese aviation experiences such as this one, as well as articles on specific Japanese aircraft types, notable for their generosity towards Japanese aircraft design accomplishments, objectivity and lack of chauvinism, often within a decade of the war.

The venerable Hasegawa Kawanishi Type 97 Flying Boat H6K5 'Mavis' in 1/72 scale has been regularly re-released since 1969 in various guises, most recently (below) as a torpedo armed aircraft of the Yokohama Ku in overall grey with tail code Y-99 and the option of a Toko Ku aircraft with tailcode O-21. Whether it will eventually be re-moulded like their Emily kit remains to be seen. In 2003 the type was also kitted by Monochrome in 1/144 scale in both naval and civil variants and subsequently re-issued by Trumpeter. Pit Road issued a double kit of Emily and Mavis in 1/700 scale in 2016 whilst Combrig (Russia) released a 1/350 resin kit of Mavis. There was also a 1/700 plastic kit of Mavis released by Y.M.C. in 1961 which can be seen here.

Image Credits: Heading photo still from wartime film; Article pages © 1960 Royal Air Force Review Ltd; Box art © 2018 Hasegawa Corp. via HobbySearch 

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Jan Hajicek's Hitachi Hien in 1/72

Jan Hajicek has very kindly shared these images and report of his excellent build of the Tamiya 1/72 Ki-61-I Tei kit, to represent an aircraft of the Hitachi Kyodo Hikoshidan at Mito airfield, Ibaragi Prefecture, Japan, in the autumn of 1944. A plain natural metal finish always seems to accentuate the Kawasaki fighter's fine lines and Jan's model is no exception.  In his own words then :-

"This is a kit which I built to demonstrate my Inspection Covers Mask (Dead Design Models Set HC72001). Since I was pressed for time to complete it ready for a big model convention in May 2018 I managed to build it within 14 days. So far it is my lifetime record and I hope to continue in that manner since my 'Shelf of Doom' is full of kits I want to build.

"Hien is one of my favourite IJA aircraft and this time I wanted to build one of the lesser known machines in a natural metal finish. At first I toyed with the idea of building an Akeno Kyodo Hikoshidan aircraft as at least two Tei variants served at Akeno as well as other versions. Eventually, I chose a Hitachi Koyodo Hikoshidan aircraft, this unit being a rival to Akeno and, for me, sporting a more attractive unit marking. As I had selected a machine from a training unit, possibly used for maintenance training, perhaps it had lasted long enough to show a faded aluminium appearance and that was exactly what I wanted - natural metal finish, interesting unit marking and faded appearance. 

"The kit was built out of the box with just the addition of a photo etched seat harness. The antenna wire is Uschi VDR and the wing racks and external fuel tanks from my own production. I usually do not take work-in-progress photos but this time my cell phone to do so:-

"The only problem I experienced during an easy and pleasant construction exercise was the mating of the dorsal spine to the fuselage. As with their 1/48 scale kit Tamiya used a similar construction but that was easier to install but in 1/72 scale construction is much trickier, with precision cleaning up and subsequent mating needed. Though I understand why they used this method – to preserve the longitudinal dorsal panel that is usually sanded off on other Hien kits – I’m not a fan of it for 1/72 scale.

To distinguish the natural metal finish panels I used my own Inspection Covers Mask set and also masked off individual panels.

"All six Hinomaru insignia, the anti glare panel, wing walkways, ID bands, propeller warning stripes and  manufacturer plates were sprayed on using either masks included in the Inspection Covers set or masked off individually.

"Stencils and unit marking were applied using wet transfers.

"Paints used were several shades of Alclad Aluminium colours, Gunze for the cockpit and Vallejo for the rest. Weathering was added with MiG, Windsor & Newton acrylics and Artist chalks. So this is my idea of a faded natural metal appearance (I already realized that on subsequent natural metal finish machines I will use different methods). Hope that you like it."

With very special thanks to Jan for sharing these images of his splendid model and his report of the build. 

Image credit: All © 2019 Jan Hajicek

Monday, 25 February 2019

Ah, Fine Molds Limited Edition 1/72 Ki-43-I Hayabusa!

Slipping in under the radar for many is this magazine limited edition 1/72 injection moulded plastic kit of the Nakajima Ki-43-I Hayabusa by Fine Molds which comes, at a price, with the March 2019 issue of the Japanese Model Graphix magazine (# 412 03/2019). The kit is presented as a girl-flown 'Kotobuki' squadron Hayabusa tie-in to an 'anime'  (animēshon アニメーション- animation film) TV series so the decal sheet has the markings for an aircraft flown by one 'Kilie' (as seen in the heading image) and does not include any historic IJAAF unit markings or even Hinomaru, of which more anon.

 The Model Graphix magazine with the Limited Edition kit

The kit itself is an intriguing mixture of simplification and sophistication. The break down of parts is very unusual and innovative with the whole fuselage centre section (complete with rollover pylon/headrest) and rear fuselage (complete with tail wheel) as single pieces joining together very neatly on a panel line. The centre section might need a sprue spacer as shown in the magazine to broaden its lower edges to fit the wing snugly and prevent the thin plastic from pinching in. The fairings over the guns have an odd 'tail' at the rear which does not appear in photographs of the real thing and they are not as prominent or as angular as in the Fujimi kit. So far neither of the 1/72 kits seem to have captured the form of the fairings quite correctly. The tailplanes are also moulded as a single piece which neatly slots into the rear fuselage whilst the separate fin and rudder are in two halves which lock in above and behind the tailplane assembly. The windscreen and canopy frames are moulded separately from the clear parts resulting in a slightly over scale and heavy appearance. The canopy can be displayed open but this will have to be decided on before assembly as a choice of two marked holes must be drilled out from inside the centre section.

 An unusual breakdown of parts - note the separate canopy frames

Simplification comes with the engine and annular oil cooler moulded in relief as a single part and the under cowling intake moulded integrally with the cowling. That has near parallel sides rather than the slightly bulged cowling of the Fujimi kit in the same scale, with the gun tubes finely and delicately moulded with recessed muzzles.  Separate cheek pieces behind the cowling suggest perhaps some potential for different variants and the separate exhausts are undoubtedly the best representations in this scale. The optical gunsight is quite crude compared to other aspects of the kit, being effectively a length of fine sprue with one supporting leg.

 Sprue A Wings - not upper wing moulded in one piece with integral cockpit floor

The prop and spinner are finely moulded in three parts with the prop neatly trapped between the front and rear halves of the spinner which is an improvement on the Fujimi representation. The prop assembly fits without glueing into a polythene cap trapped inside the engine moulding. Interior detail consists of a floor moulded integrally with the upper wings - also a single part - an instrument panel for which a decal is provided, a two part seat and a control stick. The floor has some simplified moulded detail to represent side consoles and rudder pedals, but due to the way the fuselage centre section is moulded there is no sidewall detail. Frankly very little could be seen through the very small cockpit aperture so a few strips of plastic would probably suffice to represent ribs and stringers.

 Sprue B - Smaller parts

The engraved surface detail is remarkable with a complete network of recessed rivets and panel lines reminiscent of the 1/48 scale Otaki kits, but rendered much more finely (Airfix take note!). However the ailerons and elevators follow the Hasegawa practice (on some kits) of prominent raised lines to represent ribs. The rudder is more subtly moulded with the characteristic swell of the lower metal part accentuated slightly more than the Fujimi kit. 

 Pictorial instructions are clear and easy to follow

Provision is made for the model to be assembled with lowered or retracted undercarriage, facilitated by optional parts. For the lowered position the undercarriage covers are correctly moulded, with the hinged lower section flared out, whereas the Fujimi kit has a flat, plain cover. The 'butterfly' flaps are moulded integrally with the upper wing with no provision for open display and appear slightly anaemic, although dimensions have not yet been checked. In terms of shape the line of the upper fuselage breaks at the cockpit but does not seem as pronounced as with the Fujimi kit. Photos of the assembled model in the magazine look ok.

 The magazine also includes a step-by-step build in colour with advice and tips

The magazine contains clear assembly instructions as shown plus a complete by stages build with colour photos, but all text is in Japanese. As a magazine issue limited edition the kit is expensive to acquire  (¥3,500 about £25 or US$33 from HLJ)* and it remains to be seen whether it eventually appears as a standard Fine Molds kit, although the breakdown and engineering of parts does suggest the possibility of a future Hayabusa family. At this stage it is probably one for the determined Hayabusa enthusiast who prefers to work in this scale and is prepared to spend the money as the advantages over the cheaper Fujimi kit** seem marginal (completed models will be compared in future).     

From Modelkasten comes a sheet of decals for the Ki-43-I in 1/72 scale (above) which compliments the Fine Molds kit nicely, but presumably could also be used with the Fujimi kit. Set DC-13 includes tail insignia for all 64th Sentai Chutai and Chutaicho in their various forms together with markings for Sentai leader Kato's aircraft.  Also included are 50th Sentai rudder characters for named aircraft for M/Sgt Mitsuo Honma -'Kokorozashi' (志 - intention/resolution), Sgt Isamu Sasaki -'Tobi' (鳶 - black kite), Capt Misao Miyamaru -  'Shou' (翔 - to soar/to fly), 'Ao' or 'So' (蒼 - blue) & 'Miyou' (妙 - This is difficult to translate as it has various meanings, sometimes with a religious connotation or as a part of a female first name - literally exquisite/graceful) and Sgt Satoru Anabuki - 'Fubuki' (吹雪 - snowstorm/blizzard). See also here.  In addition there are insignia for a Chutaicho of 1st Chutai, 11th Sentai, 18th Sentai with Home Defence 'bandages', and 2nd Chutai, 24th Sentai. Finally that striking fuselage lightning bolt in red for a 1st Chutai, 59th Sentai Hayabusa. Enough Hinomaru are included for two aircraft with both plain and white bordered fuselage discs. Instructions - at least in the set examined - consist of a two sided monochrome sheet with Japanese text and not all options shown. Other references will need to be consulted to use some of the decals provided. Price is ¥1,800 about £12.45 or US$16.  

* It is shown as Out of Stock at HLJ but a back order was fulfilled very quickly. It can also be purchased from Modelkasten and Amazon Japan. 
** Currently out of stock at HLJ but intermittently available at ¥960 - about £6.50 or US$8.67

Image credits: Heading picture, magazine cover & instruction pages © 2019 Model Graphix magazine; Fine Molds parts & sprue frames © 2019 Fine Molds Corp; Images of parts & sprue frames © 2019 Aviation of Japan; Modelkasten decal sheet DC-13 © 2019 Modelkasten (Artbox Co. Ltd.)


Friday, 15 February 2019

Chad Akins 1/48 Hayabusa II

Question: When is an Arii (ex-Otaki) Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa not an Arii (ex-Otaki) Ki-43-II Hayabusa? Answer: When Chad Akins got a hold of it and transformed it into a masterpiece. If I didn't know the origin of this model I should never have guessed it. Chad has very kindly shared photos of his inspiring build and model, describing the project in his own words:- 

"For this build I used the Otaki 1/48 Ki-43-II as reboxed by Arii. The kit interior is completely fictitious and a lot of the other detail is simplified or non existent. The overall shape is not too bad and I actually prefer it to the Hasegawa kit which due to its shape issues I have yet to bring myself to be able to build. The model represents a Ki-43-II Otsu* (see note below. Ed) from the 2nd Chutai, 63rd Sentai in Papua New Guinea 1944. The airfield this aircraft operated from is unknown but I personally suspect Wewak aerodrome.

"I scratch built the new interior of the model using various plastic card and strip, copper and lead wire and soda can aluminum. Some detail parts such as the rudder pedals, control stick, seat back and mount and hydraulic pumps on the floor were salvaged from a junked Nichimo Ki-43-I someone had given me years ago. I painted it with a custom mix to represent the IJAAF colour # 29 Ki Midori Iro. To represent it I used approximately 1:1 Model Master FS 34151 US Interior Green and Polly Scale US Interior Yellow. I also added a single drop of Polly Scale Italian Camo Brown to achieve a slight olive under tone. The landing gear wells were deepened and detailed with sheet styrene and faired in with Milliput.

"The landing gear legs were also borrowed from the Nichimo kit as they were more detailed than the Arii ones. I shortened them by about 1mm. This achieved a more realistic stance for the model to my eye. They were further detailed using bits of styrene, with lightening holes drilled in the oleo scissors to match references. Brake lines were added using lead and aluminum wire, line couplings made from tiny cylinders fabricated from stretched cotton swab tubing. The wheels were modified by chucking them in a rotary tool and carving radial tread with an X-acto blade. The hub covers were made from circles cut from styrene sheet with details scribed onto them. The leg covers were built from styrene sheet and strips using the Nichimo parts as a guide. Rivets were then added using a thumb tack.

"The kit supplied engine was detailed by adding a wiring harness from lead wire, push rods from aluminum wire and exhaust pipes made from styrene rod feeding into an exhaust collector ring sculpted from Milliput. The kit exhaust stubs were drilled out and glued to the new collector ring. The kit cowl flaps were removed and replacement ones made from soda can aluminum and detailed with styrene sheet. Actuator rods were made from aluminum wire.

"The Type 100 reflector sight was scratch built using bits of styrene, clear acetate, aluminum sheet and copper wire. If I counted correctly it is made from 23 separate pieces. The aerial wire was made from smoke colored invisible mending thread. The attachment point on the front post was made from aluminum sheet with a hole drilled through it. The attachment point on the tail is a tiny loop of aluminum wire.

"The overall finish is Alclad II Airframe Aluminum over a base of Model Master enamel gloss black. All markings were made using hand cut masks and sprayed. The red is Model Master Acryl FS 31136. The propeller and hub were painted Model Master Acryl Panzer Schokoladen Braun. This was the closest color I had to hand to represent the brown color. I was specifically trying to avoid the rust/brick red color that just doesn't look quite right to me but I see it all too often on many Japanese aircraft models. The anti glare paint on the nose was mixed from Model Master enamel Gunmetal (a very deep blue-black) and Testors enamel Gloss Dark Red 1104. It is difficult to discern but I was trying to achieve the eggplant color of the anti glare paint found on many IJA aircraft which has a subtle purple hue. The yellow on the propeller and IFF strips is Colourcoats ACJ19 ID Yellow.

"The camouflage mottles were airbrushed free hand using Colourcoats ACJ05 # 21 Midori Iro. The "crazy paving" pattern was painted over this with a fine brush using a custom mix of Colourcoats ACJ03 Nakajima Navy Green with Testors enamel Flat Sea Blue 1172 to represent # 27 Ao Midori Iro. I used a photograph found on the Aviation of Japan blog as well as the profile of this aircraft from Rising Decals as a reference. Rising shows the secondary color as a brown but also suggest it could have been dark green. It could even have been black or IJN dark green from left over stocks at the airfield when the Army took over air operations from the Navy in 1943. I only painted the fuselage with the secondary color as I had no view of the upper surfaces of this airframe to determine if the wings were treated in the same manner. This was very much a puzzle that may never be solved but I gave it my best shot!

"I tried to keep the weathering subtle. I wanted the aircraft to look like it was used in a harsh jungle climate but wanted to avoid the post war junk heap look. The whole model received washes of a mix of black/burnt umber oil paints. Paint chipping is a combination of the hair spray chipping technique and a fine sponge with Model Master enamel Chrome Silver. Exhaust stains were made with tan and grey oil paints with just a hint of black pastel chalk at the top of the stains to match reference pictures. The canopy is a replacement vacform from Rob Taurus.

"I made a simple base from a cheap $1 picture frame. The ground cover was made from Celluclay, Woodland Scenics static grass and plants from my yard preserved in a water/glycerin mixture."

And is well worth following to appeciate all the work involved in creating this superb replica. With special thanks to Chad for sharing these images and details with Aviation of Japan.

* (Although the Ko, Otsu, etc., suffix designations, sometimes rendered as a, b, c, etc., in English sources, are in popular use for the Ki-43-II series they are more a retrospective convenience. These suffix were usually used by the IJAAF to denote armament variations which do not apply to the Ki-43-II as it carried an identical armament of 2 x Ho-103 12.7mm machine-cannon throughout its service. The detail differences in the II series were production changes to the airframe and engine and in Japanese references these sub-types are often divided by features into early, mid and late production types with the II Kai as a final type, all using the word ki (期) which means period but is sometimes given as 'production' in English. Thus:- 

初期 - (hatsu ki) = first period (Ki-43-II with annular oil cooler and long Ki-43-I wingspan)
中期 - (naka ki) = middle period (Ki-43-II with enlarged under cowling cooler and shortened wingspan)
後期 - (nachi ki) = later period (Ki-43-II with rearwards thrust exhaust stacks and landing light in port wing leading edge)
末期 - (matsu ki) = end or final period (this is the Nakajima-built Ki-43-II Kai with individual exhaust stacks)

Only the main features of each sub-type are remarked on above but not all the additional detail changes. There are four distinctively identifiable versions of Ki-43-II prior to II Kai with one researcher recording designations of Ki-43-IIa early and late, Ki-43-IIb early and late. This divides the mid-production type into IIa late and IIb early. The official Koku Hombu table of aircraft designations and armament makes no such distinctions, just referring to Type I Fighter Model II and listing differences simply as production changes, but unfortunately does not date them all precisely or provide the serial numbers for first change. Ed). 

Image credit: All photographs © 2019 Chad Akins