Friday, 6 July 2018

Photo-Etchery ~ Ki-48 Sokei/Lily

I'm not a great fan of photo-etch. That's not due to any inherent faults with any of the vast amount of after market photo-etched detail enhancements now available. Rather it is indicative of my own inability. I have never been able to get on with using super glue. It always seems to end up where it shouldn't and not where it should, with precariously tilted panels and sidewalls which become an immoveable monument to inaccuracy and my clumsiness. The arrival of pre-painted photo-etch just increased the anxiety over the bending, fitting and glueing, with so much more exquisiteness to risk being ruined with clumsy fingers and old man eyesight. 

Recently Fred Boucher of Aeroscale kindly made me aware of the Platz photo-etch set M72X-07 designed for the Hasegawa 1/72 scale Ki-48 Sokei/Lily (above) which he has comprehensively reviewed here. The Hasegawa ex-Mania kit is due to re-appear in September as a 'Special Equipment Version' with the extended fuse rods in the nose of a rather plain-looking special attack aircraft (below). 

Fred's kindness and generosity then went further in providing me with a set. I won't reiterate the information in his review beyond confirming that the set is indeed exquisite. I like the fact that it is designed for an older but much esteemed kit which already has a pretty good interior to work on. Platz have a number of Japanese subject sets available in 1/72 scale, including the J1N Gekko (M72X-09),  G3M Nell (M72X-06), Ginga/Frances (M72X-05), G4M Betty (M72X-02), Ki-67 Peggy (M72X-03 - Aeroscale review here), A6M2 (M72X-01). The sets also cover a number of JASDF aircraft types and are 'projected' by NBM21 and made by Eduard. They can be ordered direct from Platz.

The panels in the Ki-48 set are a mid-toned olive green in the range FS 34130-34151. The modelling convention is for all Kawasaki cockpits to be painted in the yellow-brown colour attributed to the Ki-61 Hien or one of the convenience hobby paints derived from that belief, like RLM 79 (wrong!). Mr. Sunao Katabuchi posited in 2007 that Ki-61 cockpits were painted grey-green and that paint turned more brownish due to photo-chemical discoloration. The paint was sensitive to UV exposure as each component (oligomer or high polymer) was not consistently or effectively purified and contained many aromatic rings. Some extant artifacts in Japan as well as colour photographs appear to bear that out. Contemporaneous photographs taken inside the Ki-48 in service show a mixture of dark and light paints, perhaps the earlier dark-blue grey and later grey-green - or maybe yellow-brown. 

Interior paint colours examined on a Ki-48 wing section were shown at this blog in April 2013 here and were a light olive brown similar to FS 34201, with primers of dark green and dark yellow green. Without pigment analysis whether those colours represent colour shifts is open to speculation.    

When LAC I C Morton of the RAF examined Japanese aircraft at Meiktila in 1945 he reported: "In common with most Japanese aeroplanes seen, the three Oscar 2s had a yellowish-green finish all over the interior."* Morton tended to record any unusual or unexpected colours, so the fact that he examined Ki-48 aircraft in Burma and later Thailand without mentioning their interior colours might lead to a conclusion that they were also finished in a yellowish-green. The Platz paintwork is a little too dark and olive to perfectly fit that description but I doubt that the panels would look out of place with the rest of the interior finished in the yellow-green of the Japanese Army standard # 29 Ki midori iro or even the popular buff green hobby paints attributed to everything Nakajima.

The Ki-48 was popularly referred to by IJAAF personnel as 'Kyu-kyu sôkei' (九九双軽) - not 'Ninety-nine twin light' but 'Nine-nine twin light'. The Japanese abbreviation was - 'so' for sôhatsu (twin motored) and 'kei' for light(ly),  whereas in the West it might have been referred to as a 'light twin'. Morton reported on a Ki-48 examined at Don Muang, Siam in January 1946 (more details here) that the pilot had a 'first class forward view', that the landing speed was very high, with a tendency to instability at low speeds. In the air he thought it travelled fast, with 'a deep-throated roar from the two Kawasaki Type 2 radials'. He observed that all Japanese aircraft he had seen to date had made three-point landings and that Japanese pilots appeared to know their job thoroughly and had plenty of 'air sense'.    

* The Aeroplane Spotter, Vol.VII., No.156, 21 Feb 1946 pages 46-47.    

Image credits: Heading photo vintage postcard; Photo-etch © 2018 Platz Co. Ltd.; Box art © 2018 Hasegawa Corp; Colour chip © 2018 Aviation of Japan

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Moson Model Show ~ Japanese Subjects

Correspondent and contributor Marion Holly from USA has very kindly shared this report and his photographs of Japanese aircraft models displayed at the Moson Model Show held in April at Mosonmagyarovar in Hungary. In his own words then. . .

"The Moson Model Show (MMS) began 20 years ago as a scale model contest organized by the local club in the small Hungarian town of Mosonmagyarovar. Over time it has developed into one of the largest European scale modeling events. This year it was held during the weekend of April 20th through 22nd. 

"There were 2315 models entered in 66 contest categories (1749 models in 2017) by 881 modelers from 35 countries. I’ve always wanted to attend this show. Mosonmagyarovar is only 16 km from the border of my native Slovakia, but in 1996 I had settled in the USA so attending the show became slightly more “challenging”. 

"This year, about 3 weeks before the show I asked myself why wait any longer? It seemed a bit crazy to fly over the pond just for a weekend and the availability of flights was also of concern. But it all worked out and on the Friday morning of April 20th I landed in Vienna.

"Fast forward. It was all just amazing - beautiful summer weather, friendly, English-speaking town folks, peaceful spa town environment, great food, beer. And models of course. I’ve attended several big shows in the US, including Nationals, and abroad (UK, Mexico, Czech Republic) but the quality of the entries seen here was the best so far. As just one example of this, admiring some stunning detail work I accidentally discovered that I was in the junior section! 

"Having been interested in Japanese aviation all my modeling “career” I naturally focused on Japanese subjects and wanted to share pictures of them. There were not too many (relative to the total number of models on display), type selection was not too wide, whilst quality and presentation varied. 

"Artur Domanski’s 1/32 A6M3 Zero (posted at this blog on April 20th) was really nice. I just don’t think that a Zero with cowling removed looks that good. Also I’d debate the camouflage representation - field applied green flaking off as opposed to hasty overspray (in my opinion). 

"The weathering fad is alive and well with Japanese aircraft on top of the list with totally off colour shades and paint chipping to death, for example the 1/48 Seiran and Kyofu dioramas. 

"In two days of intense viewing I was only able to find one JASDF model, the F-104J (but lovely -ed.)! Lack of interest in this “theme” surprises me and I’m planning to return to it soon on this blog (Good! - ed). 

"Do visit the MMS website to see pictures of all the other models. My personal favourites are the 1/72 SM-79 Sparviero from the Italeri kit and a P2V-7 Neptune from the Hasegawa kit - just amazing detail work and finish."  

There appear to be approximately double the number of IJN subjects to IJA subjects. Most subjects being of well-known types except for the Army Type Otsu 1. With special thanks to Mario for sharing these photographs and his report from the show.

Image credits: All photos © 2018 Marion Holly


Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Colour Considerations ~ 9-shi Single-Seat Fighter (Mitsubishi Ka-14)

Some considerations pursuant to several queries about the colour of the Mitsubishi Ka-14 - 9-shi experimental single seat fighter (九試作単座戦闘機). Hitherto commonly depicted as natural metal (as in the first Fine Molds 'magazine issue' kit released with Model Graphix Issue # 350 in January 2014) but recently revised to become grey-green. Jiro Horikoshi described the Ka-14 prototype as being painted 'ash green' (grey-green):-

" . . . the skin had a quilted appearance caused by the unskillful application of the flush rivets. These dimples were especially noticeable in contrast to the rest of the shiny alumin surface. We solved the problem by filling the depressions with putty and painting the airframe with a thick coat of Navy specification ash green paint. Then the airframe was polished." *

Photographs of the aircraft do suggest a smooth finish but are somewhat ambiguous as to its very light looking colour. Japanese aviation researcher Mr Fumio Komine suggests from Mitsubishi records that the first and second machines were treated with polishing powder (磨き粉) to smooth the surface and then probably finished with grey-green paint, perhaps to J3 standard or similar (see discussion below). The original prototype had a black or blue-black painted cowling whereas the improved type had the new cowling painted in the airframe colour. Both had red painted tails. The tailfin fillet in the revised Fine Molds kit appears larger than in some representations depicting a much shallower and more subtle addition.

 Note dark painted wingtips

These details give rise to a number of questions. If at that time (1935) there existed an IJN specification ash green paint then why were subsequent production A5M delivered in natural metal finish? Up to about that time IJN biplane fighters (A2N) were reportedly finished in aluminium dope or camouflaged and most photographic images bear that out. However, a photograph** of a Saeki Ku A3N1 サヘ-191 (SaHe-191), manufactured by Nakajima in May 1936 is ambiguous. The wing, strut mounting and aileron connection rod of the aircraft in the foreground do not appear to be painted aluminium but rather in a pale, glossy paint and dope. With that in mind the two aircraft flying alongside could easily be envisaged to be finished in the same colour, a light non-metallic paint or dope rather than aluminium dope.

The first iteration of the IJN Provisional Standard (仮規格 - Kari Kikaku - abbr. Kariki) 117 for aircraft paint colours was dated 26 November 1938, three years after the Ka-14 was painted, which makes Horikoshi's reference to an 'IJN specification' paint puzzling. The most well known and publicised version of this document is the Air HQ (航空本部 Kôkû Honbu - abbr. KuHon) # 2943 Revision of 10 April 1942. It is possible that the IJN was already experimenting with or trialling grey paints before 1938 but the Army had standardised its own # 1 Hairyokushoku colour in 1922 with a revision in its application method from 1936 for aircraft such as the Ki-15. That is just after the testing of the Ka-14, but Mitsubishi were already applying paint to Army aircraft such as the Type 92 Reconnaissance aircraft (Mitsubishi 2MR8), presumably to the Army's # 1 specification, but again appearing very pale and 'bright' in photographs.  

Many Japanese reference sources and kits refer to the IJN paint colour as mei-kaishoku, mei-kai hakushoku or mei-hai-hakusho meaning light ash or light ash-white and one researcher*** has suggested that the colour was "IJA J1". It is unclear whether that was intended to mean the Army # 1 colour hairyokushoku (ash green colour) or the IJN Kariki 117 'J1' which was in a series simply called ash colour. The conflation of Army and Navy colours is long standing and even today some kit instructions suggest the Army # 1 colour for painting the A6M2. The colour J1 seems far too dark for the description light ash white, at least as it appears now, being similar to Munsell N4 (close to FS 26132) with a slight greenish undertone. The Kariki 117 J3 is close to FS 36307 in appearance.

 IJN J3 vs Army # 1

The Army colour seems much lighter and brighter on examples of the same vintage as the Ka-14, for example the experimental Ki-18 fighter (completed by Mitsubishi for the Army in August 1935), than on later Pacific War era aircraft. The Army Kôkaku 39 colour standard for # 1 is approximate to FS 26496 but a little darker, more greenish and saturated. It is also a little darker and more greenish than RAL 7032 Kieselgrau (Pebble grey). Confusion over this colour is also long standing as it has often been described on aircraft as blueish or blue-grey as well as greenish-grey. Those well-known colour photographic images of Toryu can easily be visualised as showing a blueish-grey but when the colour is closely analysed it proves to be close to the standard for # 1. Likewise the A6M has often been described and depicted as a distinctly light blue-grey colour.

FS 26496 

FS 26496 is a Munsell GY - Green Yellow and designated as Green Gray. Official pigments are Rutile Titanium Dioxide (white), Phthalocyanine Blue (Red Shade), Natural Raw Umber and Phthalocyanine Green (Yellow Shade). 

FS 36307

Interestingly the chip of this colour in a 1989 FS 565B fan deck now appears a slightly more blueish or neutral grey whereas the current appearance of the colour, now called Bulkhead Gray, is a definite Munsell GY - Green Yellow - a grey with a greenish-brown undertone. I have verified the colour values of FS 36307 across a number of sources, including the CIELAB D65/10 L*a*b* values reported in Aerospace Material Specification AMS-STD-595 of 02/17 and the spectrophotometer based colour measurements reported in Technical Report ARWSE-TR-17001 of the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Center of 10/17, all of which are consistent with the Munsell GY value. The official colour pigments for FS 36307 are Rutile Titanium Oxide (white), Phthalocyanine Green (Blue Shade), Natural Raw Umber and Carbon Black (Blue Shade). There is an odd optical effect at work here because when that old 1989 chip is visually compared to Methuen colours it still compares to the green rather than blue range of greys on the 1-2 scale. It has a very low and subtle colour saturation between blue and green.  

J3 and # 1 

The proximity of J3 and # 1 is borne out by the fact that when the Army and Navy colour standards were reconciled in the Aircraft Manufacturers 8609 document of February 1945 colour # 2-6 became the direct successor colour to J3 and was deemed similar to # 1. A swatch of 2-6 examined in 1975 was compared to Munsell 5 GY 6/1 and FS 36307. The closest FS value to 5 GY 6/1 is FS 16307 @ 2.07 (where < 2.0 = a close match). FS 16307 measures as Munsell 4 GY 6/0.8. 
* Eagles of Mitsubishi - The Story of the Zero Fighter' by Jiro Horikoshi (Orbis Publishing, 1982), p.21-22
** The Imperial Japanese Navy Fighter Group Photograph Collection (Kaiga Co. 2011), p.25
*** Out of Ameiro Cloud Into Hai-ryokushoku Sky by Yoshihito Kurosu (    

Image Credits: Ka-14 box art © 2018 Fine Molds Corp.; Ka-14 photos via web; Colour chips © 2018 Aviation of Japan

Monday, 25 June 2018

Dead Design's Ki-61-1 Tei Aftermarket Accessories

One of the odd aspects of the otherwise excellent Tamiya 1/72 Ki-61-1 Tei kit is that it lacks the wing racks and drop tanks commonly seen on the type and associated with many of the popular modelling subjects. That was a strange and regressive ommission but Jan Hajicek of Dead Design Models has come to the rescue with a set of resin drop tanks and racks, as well as a set of resin control surfaces and a vacform canopy with mask to pep up your Tamiya Tony model and save you raiding other kits. The drop tank set RM72001 contains 2 wing racks and 2 external drop tanks (Type II Wooden). The set retails for €5.81 (about £5.11).

The set of resin flight control surfaces RM 72002 consists of separate ailerons, horizontal and vertical stabilizers including aerodynamic hinge covers, and also retails for €5.81.

The canopy set RM72003 consists of a crystal clear and sharply molded vacform canopy in three sections together with masks for the canopy but also masks for  the landing light cover and wheel hubs. This set retails for €5.42 (about £4.76).

With thanks to Jan of Dead Design Models for alerting me to the availability of these aftermarket sets for the Tamiya 1/72 Ki-61-I Tei kit.