Sunday, 24 September 2017

Alexander Sibirev's 1/144 G10N Fugaku

Alexander Sibirev's splendid and impressive build of the Fujimi 1/144 Nakajima G10N Fugaku (Mount Fuji) kit, photographed by Pavel Bruk, has been kindly shared with Aviation of Japan via Dmitry Korolkov. Thanks to all of them for this visual feast but those with an aversion to "what if" splendour should look away now or hide behind the sofa.  

The model is painted and finished to represent an aircraft of 752 Kokutai at Kanoya airfield in 1945, using acrylic paints from the Vallejo Model Air standard range:-

Top surfaces - 71.022 Camouflage Green
Bottom surfaces - 71.050 Light Grey             
Propellers - 71.080 Rust                      
Undercarriage - 71.063 Silver                       

The clear parts were improved with a coating of Future. The size of the model - and projected aircraft - is indicated by the 1/144 I-16 model in the image above. The kit is larger than some 1/72 bombers.

Fujimi's model appears to be based on a Shorzoe Abe illustration (above) reproduced in Richard  M Bueschel's seminal 1959 series of articles on Japanese Navy Aircraft 1940-45, which credited an impressive list of Japanese contributors, including those from the wartime aviation industries and services. The aircraft was described as being based on a Nakajima private venture for a joint Army-Navy "Project Z" long range bomber. According to the article the design was extensively tested in wind tunnels and accepted for production, with scale model testing completed and production jigs under construction when the war ended.

With special thanks to Alexander, Pavel and Dmitry for these images of the model. 

Image credits: Model photos © 2017 Alexander Sibirev and Pavel Bruk; Monochrome illustration © 1959 Shorzoe Abe via Richard M Bueschel and Rolls House Publishing Co.Ltd.: Box art © 2014 Fujimi Mokei Co., Ltd.; 

Saturday, 2 September 2017

David Walker's 1/48 Hayate

David Walker has very kindly shared these images of his splendid 1/48 Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate 'Frank' model, made from the Hasegawa kit with some additional details and modifications.  David wanted to find an unconventional scheme and after searching online chose a subject featured on SuperScale Decal Sheet 48-526 for an aircraft attributed to the HQ Flight of 47 Hiko Sentai at Narimasu airfield, north-east of Tokyo, Japan during early 1945. SuperScale presented an unusual mottled scheme with explicit colour call-outs of dark green blotches over grey-green which David followed directly, changing only the under surface colour to a medium grey.  

David used the basic Hasegawa kit JT 67 (09067) but added 2 colour photo-etch and flap details from Eduard sets and a Fukuya brass pitot tube. He found the Eduard pilot seat a great improvement on the kit part K5 and found that it folded easily into place. He also followed his usual practice of replacing the kit engine - part B1 - with a Vector resin replacement, in this case the Homare Ha 45. This was not a perfect fit and required some minor alterations to the cowling but David felt it well worth it in improving the appearance of the model.  

David also wanted to replace the cannon parts N8 with brass items but was unable to find anything suitable so settled for drilling out the barrels of the kit parts. He also drilled out the kit's stub exhausts and both air scoops in the upper cowling part B6. The upper surface base colour was painted with a mix of FS 34432 and 34082 with an over spray of dark green blotches according to the SuperScale instructions, then some light wear and tear was represented with a silver pencil. After completing the model David displayed it on a landscaped base.  

David highly recommends the Hasegawa model to anyone but advises reinforcing the landing gear during the build as the poly caps are a "menace"! With special thanks to David for sharing the images and description of his model with Aviation of Japan.

Hiko No.47 Sentai

In February 1945 47 Hiko Sentai were in the process of re-equipping with Hayate from Shoki as part of the 10th Air Division at Narimasu  which was staffed by the 43rd Airfield Battalion. Their use of Hayate in the air defence role against the B-29 was brief. After the US carrier attack on the 16th of that month they were immediately exempted from further air defence duties together with 244 Hiko Sentai and re-assigned under direct 6th Air Army command to escort a planned bomber attack against the enemy task force the next day. The bomber attack was cancelled but the urgent re-assignment had the effect of removing two fighter regiments from the 10th Air Division defence capability when USN fighter sweeps came in again on the 17th. In April 1945 the 47th were transferred to become part of the 30th Fighter Group together with 244 Hiko Sentai and 17 Independent Air Squadron. The 30th Fighter Group came directly under the General Defence Command as part of the Mobile Air Defence Forces with responsibility for escorting Special Attack units (18, 19, 25, 45 and 47 Shimbu Tai) tasked with annihilating enemy carrier task forces threatening the Kanto area. The unit was then moved to Sano airfield, south-west of Osaka. At the end of May it was moved further south to Miyakonojo west airfield on Kyushu to participate in the escort role for the Okinawa campaign, suffering such attrition that by mid-July when it was incorporated into the newly formed 12th Air Division it was officially described as "newly organised" and under strength. The unit ended the war at Ozuki under 12th Air Division command with about 23 Hayate on strength. 

The 47th are one of the Army fighter units with 'moving' unit insignia colours with differing assertions of colour sequence and interpretation over the years. In his 1978 Koku Fan series Minoru Akimoto recorded the colour sequence in January 1944 when the unit was re-organised into Hikotai composition as blue for 1st (Asahi), red for 2nd (Fuji) and yellow for 3rd (Sakura), the same sequence recorded in the table in 'The Japanese Army Wings of the Second World War' (Bunrin-Do, 1972) and also as described in the more recent 2005 Gakken book on Hayate. However 'Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units and their Aces 1931-1945' (Grub Street, 2002) shows a more conventional sequence of white, red and yellow for the three Hayate Chutai. There is the possibility that the colour sequence was changed when the unit re-equipped from the natural metal finish Ki-44 to the camouflaged Ki-84 but with photographs identifying the aircraft of Chutai/Hikotai leaders showing tonally unexpected insignia colours mystery abounds!   

Image credits: All © 2017 David Walker

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Revell's Classic Toryu Part Two

Examples of the first release of the classic Revell Toryu kit H-104 are copyright dated in the instructions for 1972 and 1973. Burns* lists it as being first released by Revell Japan (marketed then by the paint manufacturer Gunze Sangyo) in 1972 and it was reviewed in the October 1972 issue of Scale Models magazine. In the UK it was marketed in a rather flimsy top-opening box with art by Kihachiro Ueda as shown above. The Revell kit stood the test of time as the only game in town for a 1/72 model of the Ki-45 for over 20 years until the release of the new mould Hasegawa family of Toryu kits in 1995 Although production and retail availability ceased at some point in the early 1980s, reportedly as a result of the mould being lost at sea, the kit has been fairly easy to obtain on the second hand market and is not considered to be particularly rare. The first release Revell kit, moulded in silver plastic, represents an early production Ki-45 Kai Tei with oblique armament, incorrectly identified in the instructions as a "Ki-45 KAIc" (Hei). The modest decal sheet provided markings for just one aircraft subject, ‘25’ of 3 Hikotai, 53 Hiko Sentai as depicted on the box art, and possibly represents the aircraft flown by the Hikotai Leader, Capt. Masayoshi Fujimori. This particular aircraft had featured as a fold-out colour profile by Kikuo Hashimoto in the December 1968 issue of the  Koku Fan magazine (and was reproduced again on the early blue cover FAOW No.26 of June 1972) which also included three photographs of the aircraft on the ground and in flight.

The kit contains alternative parts to build an approximation of the KAI Hei as produced by the First Army Air Arsenal, identified in the instructions as the "Army fighter version of the Toryu". The extra parts (shown above) consist of a representation of the Ho-203 machine cannon complete with solid ammunition drum, the two cannon mounting ‘Y’ frames, the bulkhead behind the weapon, a transparent fairing to replace the dorsal oblique fitting and a new nose cone. To make this version the existing nose had to be cut from the standard fuselage halves along moulded lines and the additional parts fitted to the new bulkhead. It was presumably intended that the nose cone could be left off to display the Ho-203, but the instructions are not very clear about that. To represent a late-production Hei the original nose can be left as is, the dorsal oblique armament omitted and the transparent fairing without apertures fitted. Two detail errors to catch the unwary were the painting schematic (shown below) suggesting silver as the main airframe colour (!) and the lack of a muzzle opening for the 37mm Ho-203 in the standard production nose.

 RAF Flying Review August 1962

The subject of the Revell kit featured in the colour artwork shown above and created by artist Peter Endsleigh Castle (1918-2008) for an article on the type in the August 1962  issue of RAF Flying Review - 'Dragon Killer - Japan's first twin-engined fighter scored many "kills"'.  This was the second time the Ki-45 had been featured in the magazine as it had earlier appeared in 'Kawasaki's Dragon Killer - Japan's Toryu long-range fighter held some surprises for the Allies' in the December 1959 issue as No.64 in the 'These Were The Enemy' series. Although the upper wing camouflage pattern in the illustration was somewhat fanciful and there was the usual contextual confusion over the designations and armament of the variants the narrative treatment of the type was typical for that magazine, being technically interested and enthused about the subject matter, objective and entirely without national bias. Aircraft '25' of 53 Hiko Sentai was a popular subject as it appeared again in a five-view colour illustration by artist James Goulding (1923-2010) in Profile Publications No.105 (shown below - sadly undated). From those illustrations it is easy to see how an impression of a natural metal finish could arise.

Profile Publications No. 105 (undated)

Revell model as reviewed in Scale Models Oct 1972, painted with Humbrol Authentics

The Scale Models (UK) magazine review in 1972 referred to a decal sheet with additional markings for 45 (sic) and 5 Hiko Sentai, subjects which are included in the 1974 dated kit and 1980 Revell-Takara kits described below. It also refers to the instructions being in Japanese language only. That suggests that the kit was perhaps available in Japan from 1972 in a different format - but any additional information about kit release dates and formats is welcome! 

The Scale Models review is reproduced above in its entirety in (hopefully) readable format for its historic and contextual interest - but don't accept the colour, variant or unit data as gospel! In the UK 'Battledec' released a decal sheet No.54 for the Revell kit (the incomplete example shown below was found in a second hand kit) with optional unit markings referencing Donald W Thorpe's 'Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage & Markings WWII' which had been published in 1968. 

1974 Box Art

An original (or second?) release of the kit, an example examined copyright dated 1974, is presented in a more robust and glossy box, typical of the Revell kits marketed in Japan, with different box art by Kihachiro Ueda depicting aircraft '62' of 2 Hikotai, 53 Hiko Sentai with striking red nose flash (shown above). All examples of this release seen have the instruction sheets printed exclusively in Japanese language throughout but if anyone has an example with a different copyright date and/or instructions in English please send in scans, thanks. The kit itself is identical, moulded in silver plastic, but includes a more comprehensive decal sheet offering markings for three mottled aircraft, one of them a late production Tei air-to-air rammer, aircraft '40' of 53 Hiko Sentai with a large representation of a Karimata arrow painted on the fuselage side. This has frequently been described as a Kaburaya or signal arrow but in fact represents the bifurcated or twin pointed arrow used for hunting big game as well as in war so the connotations for the twin-engined Toryu striking a B-29 are evident. Karimata arrows often had a whistling or shrieking bulb attached to them behind the tip as shown on the 53rd's marking but were not the 'turnip head' signal arrows per se. 

1974 Decal Subjects

The third decal option is for a First Army Air Arsenal Hei of 2 Chutai, 4 Hiko Sentai (misidentified as 45 Hiko Sentai), providing a subject for the kit's alternative parts for that variant. All three subjects are described as being overall light grey white colour with deep green colour blotches on the upper surfaces.The instructions show the modifications needed for the individual exhaust outlets and the faired in rear canopy of this aircraft with the drawings and markings profiles (shown above) created by Kikuo Hashimoto, well known for his plans and profile artwork in the Koku Fan magazine and early FAOW series of books by Bunrin-do.

1980 Box Art

The final release of the Toryu kit that I'm aware of was marketed by Revell-Takara and is copyright dated 1980. The box art (shown above) is a lovely painting of a pair of 5 Hiko Sentai Toryu against a dramatic cloudscape with an early production Hei in the foreground. The artist is unidentified but the work is suggestive of early Shigeo Koike, especially the unusual background colouring.  Examples of this kit are moulded in a very dark green plastic. The decal sheet offers no less than seven subjects, including two early production Hei incorrectly identified as Otsu (the box art subject and a mottled aircraft attributed to 25 Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai with the 'winged eight' insignia*), four early production Tei all with oblique armament and incorrectly identified as Hei (aircraft '59' of 53 Hiko Sentai in overall dark green, an aircraft of 1 Chutai, 27 Hiko Sentai in overall dark red-brown, the well-known partially paint-stripped harlequin Toryu of 5 Hiko Sentai and a mottled 5 Hiko Sentai example from New Guinea with the individual aircraft name Mount Haku on the rudder) and lastly a late production Tei air-to-air rammer of 53 Hiko Sentai, aircraft '99' with Karimata arrow marking. As the instruction sheet schematic below shows the colouring of the 5 Hiko Sentai partially stripped aircraft is ambiguous, with the upper surfaces described as シルバー shirubaa (silver) and the under surface as フラットブラック furattoburakku (flat black), although depicted with a partially natural metal belly. The rudder is described as レッド reddo (red) and the spinners as レッドブラウン  reddoburaun (red brown). Whilst that is a colourful interpretation it is probable that all the unstripped, painted parts of this aircraft simply remained in the factory applied olive drab. More on Toryu colours in due course. . .

1980 Decal Subjects

The Revell Toryu is a classic 1/72 kit, excellent and cutting edge when first released and still, in my opinion, worth building and enjoying for its own sake, as Carlo Reita has so ably demonstrated.

* The 'winged eight' insignia was attributed to 25 DHC by Minoru Akimoto in his series of articles on Japanese Army Air Force Unit Insignia which appeared in Koku Fan magazine. More recently, for example in the latest FAOW on the type, a different insignia for this unit has been presented, consisting of a stylised '2' and '5' combined as a white 'flash' adorned with a yellow arrow. This unit was first recorded in September 1943 as a 'composite twin-seat Fighter Squadron' attached to the 15th Air Brigade Headquarters for the air defence of Anshan in Manchuria but was subsequently activated as the 25th Independent Air Squadron in August 1944. Assertions in various publications that it was first equipped with Ki-44 fighters appear to be in error and probably the result of confusion over the  'Type 2' fighter designation.  By the end of 1944 it was based at Liaoyang and at the end of the war was reported to have 25 combat serviceable Toryu on strength. It was active during the Soviet invasion of Manchuria being involved in attacks against enemy transport columns and troop concentrations at Linhsi on 12 and 14 August and at Taonan on 15 August when it sortied nine aircraft.  

Image credits:- All box art and instructions © 1973 Revell; © 1974 Revell Japan; © 1980 Revell Takara; P Endsleigh Castle profile art © 1962 Royal Air Force Review Ltd; James Goulding artwork © date unknown Profile Publications Ltd; Scale Models magazine cover illustration and review article © 1972 Model & Allied Publications Ltd.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Revell's Classic Toryu Part One - Carlo Reita's Build Report

As the first part of a Revell Toryu retrospective it is a delight to be able to share Carlo Reita's images and write-up of his build of this classic 1/72 kit.  Carlo wrote:-

"As you have an interest in vintage models, here is one built from the 1/72 Revell Ki-45 Kai kit dating back to the 1970s and finished in the livery of the 3rd Chutai, 53rd Sentai based in Matsudo in December 1944. This subject is well documented by pictures in various books, in particular the original FAOW 26. I took the box out of the stash to participate in a group build on an  Italian forum. The build was dedicated to an old friend who passed away earlier this year and is well known in the Italian community. I had the occasion of knowing him well when we were both kids during the early seventies, and at the time we could only look at boxes like this one as we couldn't easily afford them with our pocket money: for one of them we could buy three Airfix bagged kits! The group build was entitled "Non é roba per cocchi di mamma" which can be loosely translated from the Roman dialect as "Not something made for mommy's boys" - an expression he often used to describe kits requiring some work compared to current major releases. All considered I though this kit was a proper tribute to him in all senses.

"Before opening the box I was considering how best to re-scribe the kit but on seeing the contents I was pleasantly surprised - the surface detail was already with a mixture of very fine recessed lines and rivets with some raised detail, even in the brittle plastic of the time. The level of detail was well above how I had remembered, even with some cockpit raised details. The interior is more than sufficient given the fact that all is pretty much invisible at the end. The kit also contained parts to modify the nose and make the version with the projecting nose cannon, but I went for the oblique armament of number "25" that was well documented. A bit of internet research provided suggestions for the different colours for the interior and I went with the suggestion of an olive drab interior.

"All went well with construction of the fuselage so I moved on to the wings. On checking the design I realised that the landing gear was totally wrong. Fortunately the modification was not very difficult and consisted of cutting and repositioning the wheel strut, adding an additional diagonal strut as reinforcement (from plastic rod) and two long struts totally missing in the kit (from metal rod). Far from perfect but afterwards better resembling the original (and somehow more robust than at first).

"The only areas needing some putty were the cowlings and their attachments. The engines are detailed enough given what is visible and the option is provided to leave a cowling panel open as it os a separate piece. Once the fuselage, wings and tailplanes were assembled, I moved onto airbrushing the entire surface with Gunze Sangyo H62 (Ed: IJA Gray - this paint is now described in Japanese by Gunze as "light grey white colour" 明灰白色). Once dry I masked off the camouflage reticulations with watercolour masking fluid, easier to control than the modelling masking fluids, and airbrushed H60 (Ed: IJA Green, now described as both Deep and Dark Green Colour 濃緑色/暗緑色). Once the masking was removed, some people on the Italian forum in friendly fashion made me notice that the distribution and shape didn't look right. Looking carefully I realised that they were right and so I touched-up both colours by brush. Once satisfied I proceeded to mask for the white Homeland Defence "bandages" and the diagonal fuselage stripe. I airbrushed Gunze H1 (white) and once that had dried I applied yellow H4 and lastly the red H23 (in my experience yellow and red always need a white base coat to come out right).

"Time for the decals. Not trusting those from the kit I used spares for the Hinomaru, but I had no choice for the Sentai insignia and the white "25" so I applied a good coating of Microscale liquid decal film on them. Even so they broke into two and three pieces anyway, but finally they were more or less in place with just a bit of brushed on yellow in a couple of places. 

"At this point I remembered I had also a (Hasegawa) Isuzu fuel truck in the stash, practically from the same era as the Toryu kit. So I took it out and quickly built and weathered it. I then finished the aircraft with the propellers and the spinner stripes that were brushed on free hand (I gave up on using fine masking tape after a few tries). Lastly I attached the wheels. After taking some pictures, both models were placed in a diorama-like presentation using an all purpose grass base (maybe not very Japanese!).

"I was reasonably satisfied. Clearly not a contest winner (and not my style those, I am just an average modeller) but I very much like the overall look especially if I consider it as I would have done at the time of the kit's release - if only someone had offered it to me. I think Pino would have agreed."

With special thanks to Carlo for sharing this and the trip down memory lane. And a great job on those challenging spinner stripes too!

Image credits: All © 2017 Carlo Reita

Thursday, 24 August 2017

AVI Models 1/72 Mitsubishi A5M1 12th Kokutai Over China

Hat tip to Iskender Mailibayev for kindly alerting me to AVI Models planned release at the end of this month of a 1/72 kit of the Mitsubishi A5M1 to accompany their A5M3. This new kit AVI72001 features markings for three aircraft of the 12th Kokutai over China in natural metal with red tails, but a second release AVI72005 for 13th Kokutai over China will present three camouflaged machines.  

Also planned for release in the same scale are kits AVI72003, an A5M2b Claude with enclosed canopy with three interesting marking options including an aircraft with the canopy removed and a camouflaged machine, AVI72004 an A5M4-K two-seater trainer and AVI72006 an A5M1 of the Yokosuka Kokutai and 12th Kokutai.

The A5MK (Type 2 Trainer Fighter) was not designed by Mitsubishi but at the 21st Naval Air Arsenal (Dai Nijuni Kaigun Kokusho) located at Omura near Sasebo and known as "Sasebo" which conducted design work based on modifying existing designs. All kits with decals by Rising Decals. Looking forward to these!

Image credits: All © 2017 AVI Models

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Dan Salamone's 1/48 Hasegawa Hien

Dan Salamone has very kindly shared these images and write-up of his long term 1/48 Hasegawa Ki-61 Hei project. In Dan's own words:-

"This is my just finished 1/48 Hasegawa Ki-61 Hei. I originally started this kit when brand new in 2005, and it came off the "shelf of doom" in 2010 and again in 2016/17. The Hasegawa kits are still very nice, and in fact are the only game in town for the short nosed Ko/Otsu/Hei variants. Three areas of weakness are the lack of wing dihedral, the poor shape and detail of the supercharger intake, and the lack of a multi-piece canopy. I improved on all three areas of this kit.

"The natural metal finish is airbrushed Floquil old silver and platinum mist. After curing the paint was progressively wet sanded with automotive grade sandpaper to get a smooth and shiny surface. All other colors are Gunze Mr. Color lacquers, except the drop tanks and camouflage mottle which are custom mixed Vallejo acrylics. Weathering was applied with artist oils for panel washes, and Vallejo acrylics for the dust/dirt and paint chips. The final clear coat is Gunze Mr. Super Clear matt applied from a spray can.Eduard photoetched lap belts were added, as well as minor items like brake lines from copper wire and landing gear indicators from brass wire.

"Careful study of close up images show the subtle yet apparent scuffing and dirt/grime from ground crew on the wingroot areas. 

"Decals are from the Lifelike Decals 244th Sentai collection. When originally started, this model was planned to represent an aircraft of the 68th Sentai based in New Guinea, but finding a black and white image of this particular aircraft made me change my mind. The early build Hiens had a dark blue/grey color in the cockpit and landing gear bays, which is replicated on this model. If I had started this project knowing how it would finish, I would have opted for the sand brown color seen in later build aircraft!"

With special thanks to Dan for sharing these images of his superb and convincing model with Aviation of Japan and providing the write-up.

Image credits: All © 2017 Dan Salamone