Sunday, 10 May 2015

VE Day - 1945-2015

“Yours is such a special generation – stoical, loyal, indefatigable and dutiful. You have been the bedrock of this country for all these years and it will not be the same without you. We salute you with all our hearts.” 
                            (HRH The Prince of Wales)

Above, the 51st Highland Division of XXX Corps march through Bremerhaven on 17 May 1945. They are not ceremonial soldiers but the frontline troops who fought their way from Normandy to Germany and had been in battle less than two weeks before the parade.

Liberation, 15 April 1945

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Lifelike Decals Trio for 1/72 Ki-27

Lifelike Decals have released a welcome trio of 1/72 sets for the Ki-27, scaled down from their popular 1/48th sets for this aircraft.

Set 72-034 Type 97 Fighters Part 1 (above) features decals for seven subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of Maj Takeo Miyamoto, 246th Sentai, Kakogawa, Japan, Dec 1942 - this colourful Homeland defender in factory finish flown by the unit CO features a large red eagle on the fuselage. 
  • Ki-27 of Lt Col Saburo Hayashi, 4th Sentai, Kikuchi, Japan, Sep 1940 - a Type 97 in spendid blue plumage flown by the unit CO, with markings quite well known in the West as a result of a now hard to find 1995 special edition of the venerable Hasegawa kit with Aeromaster decals.
  • Ki-27 of Cpl Susumu Kajinami of 246th Sentai, Kakogawa, Japan, Jan 1943 - another 246th Sentai aircraft flown by a pilot destined to become a Hien ace over New Guinea, this one featuring red cowling and fuselage flash.
  • Ki-27 of 1Lt Iwori Sakai of 64th Sentai, Ertaokou, China, Nov 1938 - the aircraft of the 2nd Chutai leader, well known from the original issue box art of the Mania 1/48th kit also featuring a red cowling and fuselage flash.
  • Ki-27 of M/Sgt Katsutaro Takahashi of 59th Sentai, Hankow, China, 1939 - the aircraft of the leading ace of the Sentai. Lifelike have chosen green for the Sentai lightning bolt, but the Chutai colours for this unit have been variously depicted and are not agreed.
  • Ki-27 of 77th Sentai, Lampang, Thailand, 1942 - this Pacific War era fighter had the wings and tailplanes expediently camouflaged in two colours during the invasion of Burma, making for an interesting and unusual scheme. 
  • Ki-27 of the Manchukuoan Air Force 1942 - this was the third aircraft purchased through subscription by the citizens of Antung, Manchuria and carries the sponsorship dedication on the fuselage side in large black characters.

These are well chosen subjects and the inclusion of two early Homeland Defence aircraft is especially welcome. In addition to the subject specific markings the sheet contains sufficient stencilling and Hinomaru for two aircraft, the latter printed in the correct bright red colour. Two of the subjects will require the cowling painted red to match the fuselage flashes which could be a challenge. The recommended kit is the Hasegawa Type 97 but the decals would probably fit the ICM and RS Models kits too.

Set 72-035 Type 97 Fighters Part 2 (above) features decals for six subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of an unknown training unit in Manchuria - the caption tentatively identifies the unit as the 28th Kyoiku Hikotai at Shimen (now Shijiazhuang?), north China during the summer of 1944, taken from an online Japanese source. That unit does not appear to be part of the 2nd Air Army in Manchuria. Whatever the pedigree of the unit this camouflaged example has a splendid tail insignia of a winged horse set against a yellow or orange rising sun.
  • Ki-27 of Sgt Totaro Ito, 5th Sentai, Kashiwa, Japan 1940 - the pilot of this multi-striped fighter flew against the Doolittle raid in April 1942 and went on to become a Ki-45 Toryu ace over the East Indies, New Guinea and Japan, claiming 13 bombers including 9 B-29s.
  • Ki-27 of Maj Tateo Kato, 64th Sentai, Kwangtung, China, May 1941 - this less well known aircraft of a famous commander was revealed in a partial photo published in the March 2007 Koku Fan magazine. The markings were also featured in a special edition of the Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit. The colour of the arrow marking on the tail is speculative.
  • Ki-27 of 10th Independent Chutai, Taiyuan, China, 1929-30 - the caption dates for this distinctively black tailed Type 97 appear to be in error as the unit was first formed in 1937 and that aircraft only entered service in 1938. The 10th were stationed at Taiyuan from December 1938 to March 1941. The sheet provides decals for the tricky white border to the black tail and a template for painting the black.
  • Ki-27 of 50th Sentai, Clark Field, Philippines, Jan 1942 - a red star was added to the 50th's lightning bolt on 3rd Chutai aircraft, said to represent the sub-unit being detached to the 10th Independent Air Group under the command of Col Komataro Hoshi ('Hoshi' means star) on 7 Jan 1942 when the 1st and 2nd Chutai were transferred to Thailand with the 5th Air Division.
  • Ki-27 of Cap Toshio Sakagawa, 24th Sentai, Hailar, Jan 1940 - the mount of another distinguished commander who after service as 3rd Chutai leader over Nomonhan would go on to command the 47th Independent Air Squadron which introduced the Ki-44 Shoki to action, then the 25th Sentai in China flying the Ki-43 Hayabusa and finally to serve as Executive Officer of the 200th Sentai*, claiming 15 victories in total before being killed in the crash of a transport aircraft. 
* The 200th Sentai was formed at Akeno in October 1944 with six provisional Chutai to participate in the planned reinforcement of the Philippines campaign with Type 4 Ki-84 Hayate fighters. Originally intended to be designated the 1st (1st-3rd Chutai) and 2nd (4th-6th Chutai) Air Regiments of the Akeno Air Training Division its full strength deployment was never realised and as the consolidated 200th Sentai it was incorporated into the 30th Fighter Group, a large ad hoc grouping of all Ki-84 units within the 2nd Air Division in the Philippines. Its aircraft were distinguished by a small red and white Akeno insignia at the top of the fin and large two-digit numbers painted across the fin and rudder in Chutai colours.

This is another excellent set with some colourful and well-chosen subjects, the first and second subjects being especially welcome. Again there is sufficient Hinomaru and stencilling for two aircraft with one set being white bordered for the first subject.

Set 72-036 Type 97 Fighters Part 3 (above) features decals for seven subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of Sgt Moritsugu Kanai, 11th Sentai, Nanking, China, 1940 - Sgt Kanai became an ace during the Nomonhan fighting and went on to a distinguished career in the 25th Sentai over China, claiming 26 victories in total. His Ki-27 was marked with an unusual red saltire and as wingman to WO Shinohara, the 11th's leading ace over Nomonhan, might have carried victory markings which are unknown. It was a presentation aircraft bearing the 'patriotism' No. 437 on the rear fuselage. 
  • Ki-27 of 2Lt Iichi Yamaguchi, CO of 68th Shinbu-tai, Tenryu, Japan, March 1945 - the gaudy aircraft of the leader of one of several special attack units formed on the Ki-27. The term 'Shinbu' approximately means 'stirring the martial spirit'. The 68th with 12 Ki-27's on strength commenced anti-shipping suicide operations on 8 April 1945 as part of the Dai Ni Kikusui Sakusen (2nd Floating Chrysanthemum Operation) and aircraft from this unit armed with 250kg bombs were responsible for severely damaging LCS(L) 57 and the destroyer escort USS Rall (DE-304) in suicide attacks on 12 April 1945. 
  • Ki-27 of 13th Sentai, Taisho, Japan, 1942 - This unit's 3rd Chutai was originally the 102nd Independent Air Squadron formed as a secret interception unit at Akeno in July 1941. The three stripes on the tail represent the 3rd Chutai and the central symbol is a stylised cherry blossom representing the 13th's origin at Kakogawa (noted for its blossom) together with the first character 'Dai' (大) of Taisho which was its parent base from September 1941 to April 1943. A photograph of this aircraft appears on page 80 of Osprey's Ki-27 Aces although the date is incorrectly captioned as 1941 instead of 1942.  
  • Ki-27 of 47th Sentai, Chofu, Japan, 1944 - At this time the 47th was equipped with the Ki-44 and based at Narimasu but this somewhat mysterious aircraft is said to have been used by the unit as a liaison and communications aircraft.
  • Ki-27 of Cap Kenji Shimada, 11th Sentai, Manchuria, May-Jun 1939 - the aircraft of one of the first Army aces to become well known in the West. The 11th was the top scoring Ki-27 unit over Nomonhan and Shimada claimed 27 victories. The eight stars were painted on his aircraft during the June 1939 lull in the fighting and represent claims made in only two days of combat against Soviet aircraft in May. 
  • Ki-27 of 2Lt Kawabata, 1st Sentai, Harbin, China, Jan 1941 - This unusually marked aircraft carries the diagonal stripes associated with the 5th Sentai as well as the 1st's rudder and elevators painted in Chutai colour. 
  • Ki-27 of Cap Shigetoshi Inoue, 1st Sentai, Nomonhan, Sep 1939 - This well known and very colourful aircraft was one of the subjects in the first Hasegawa release of the original Mania 1/72nd Ki-27 kit from 1977 so these decals will be especially welcome to those who might wish to model that aircraft and replace the old kit decals. Although not mentioned in the instructions the elevators need to be painted yellow like the rudder   and close examination of original photographs of this aircraft suggest that the fuselage chevron might also have been yellow denoting Inoue's leadership of the 1st Chutai. 

This is another excellent selection of varied subjects including three very unusual aircraft as well as a pair of famous aces. As with all Lifelike decal sheets full descriptions are provided for each subject providing interesting details and citing reference sources. All the sheets are well printed with glossy finish, excellent colour saturation and definition. One additional feature of these sets is the good quality ziplock bags slightly larger than the decal and instruction sheets. This facilitates easy removal and return of the sheets when examining them whereas the bags of some other manufacturers are so tightly sized that it can be difficult to remove and return the instruction sheets and decals without damaging them - and then there are those self-adhesive envelopes!

With special thanks to Keishiro of Lifelike Decals for kindly sending the decal sets for review.

Image credits: All © 2015 Lifelike Decals

Sunday, 3 May 2015

In Memoriam ~ Mike Goodwin 1960-2015

It was a shock followed by great sadness to learn of the recent and untimely death of Mike Goodwin.

Mike and I never met face to face but we had corresponded on and off since he was at the University of Manchester studying Physics. We exchanged letters in long hand in those days and Mike was always the better correspondent. He shared an enthusiasm for the Japanese aircraft kits available at that time and his burgeoning interest in the specifics of Japanese aero engine technology and experimental prototypes was already apparent. Many of the model conversion projects he discussed back then were based on kits quite crude by today's standards and neither of us could ever have guessed how the hobby would develop and the superb kits of obscure Japanese aircraft that would later become a reality.

After university Mike entered the world of IT through an industry training programme, later working as a developer and systems analyst throughout Europe before settling for a quieter life in the UK. After a couple of years he moved to New Zealand, becoming an IT lecturer at Otago Polytechnic.

Mike renewed our friendship via the IPMS (UK) Japanese Aviation Special Interest Group (JASIG) led at that time by Peter Starkings. He wrote an exhaustive and meticulous series on 'Japanese Aero Engines 1910-1945' for the SIG newsletter 'JAS Jottings', carefully charting civil and military aero engine development in Japan, excellent articles which still provide a seminal and definitive English language reference on the subject. That pioneering work deserved to be published more widely in concentrated form and thankfully plans are now in hand to make that happen.

Last year Mike kindly reviewed parts of the draft manuscript for 'Ki-61/Ki-100 Aces' for Osprey publishing. He had agreed to scrutinise those sections dealing with the engine development of both types and as expected provided a most courteous, positive and useful input with carefully explained suggestions and corrections. Mike was never aggressively competitive as some in this field of interest but was always friendly, patient and willing to share his enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise. It was a privilege to have his input for a book that will now sadly be dedicated to his memory.

Mike leaves behind his wife Fabienne and son William. For those who knew him or appreciated his work donations to his memory may be made to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Image credit: via Fabienne Lecomte.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

1/48 Thrick Resin A5M4 by Don Alberts

Aviation of Japan's Texas Correspondent Mark Smith kindly steps into the breach with a timely reminder of something good from the past as well as a reminder of how swift is the passing of the good, a sadly increasing theme for old duffers like me. Over to Mark:

"These (images) show a remarkable 1/48 A5M4 “Claude” model by the late Don E. Alberts that won First Place in a very tough category at an IPMS-USA Nationals many moons ago.  I wish the pictures were a little better, but thought this blog’s readers would appreciate it.  This was built shortly after a Japanese company called Thrick, doubtless a much more sonorous name on a Japanese tongue, had come out with a 1/48 solid resin model that was exceptional for its accuracy of shape and contour as well as for the potency of its resin!  (No wonder it was so expensive, it came with its own contact high). The cockpit, being hollowed out of the solid piece, was a bit simplistic – shall we say ‘indicated.’  But not after Don had finished with it, using several burrs and woodcarving tools, then duplicating the Maru Mechanic cockpit painting in three dimensions.  It was an exotic kit, but it was not an easy build by any means.    

"The A5M4 “W-102” first came to light upon Aireview’s superb gatefold painting by Rikyu Watanabe in the late 1960s.  On its reverse side were sixteen extremely colorful side-views.   It was flown from Soryu in 1939, usually by Matsuo Hagiri, who graduated flight school in 1935.  After combat in China, he served as an instructor before being posted to the 204th Kokutai in the Solomons, where he scored well but was severely wounded in a fight with F4Us.  After recovery he served as a test pilot, returning to combat duty in time to down two B-29s, but seriously wounded again during another B-29 attack.  He had a distinctive moustache, and Don’s figure of him was the spitting image (I believe it was all his own creation).  Hagiri is usually credited with 13 victories.  He died in 1997.  

"Don Alberts was a professional historian, passionate modeler, and U.S. Air Force veteran who lived in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.  He published several books and many magazine articles and monographs on military and Civil War history. He was a professor to many over the years, and following his active service was the Chief Historian of Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was also an exceptional craftsman, artist, and painter.  He’s missed."

Toycraft Berg of Japan also issued a fine resin kit of the A5M4 to 1/48th scale in 1992 but I do not know if there is any connection between the two, both as rare as hen's teeth. With special thanks to Mark for sharing these images and his kind thoughts.

Image credits: All via Mark Smith

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Key Data ~ Raiden Colour Notes

Further to the blog on 'A Gaggle of Old Jacks and Random Thoughts', a pdf on the subject of Raiden colours is now available for those who expressed an interest. Raiden Colour Notes consists of 10 pages with nine colour chips and explanatory notes, the first of Aviation of Japan's new 'Key Data' guides designed to assist modellers and artists with basic but essential information.

Available on request free but with donation appreciated, thank you.

Image credits: All © 2015 Aviation of Japan

Thursday, 2 April 2015

John Haas' 1/48th Ki-64 'Rob' Completed!

Expert craftsman John Haas has now finished his 1/48th scale Kawasaki Ki-64 'Rob' project and here it is. Previous in-progress instalments can be found here, here, here and here. John concluded that although the model had not been easy to build he was pleased with the result. He hopes that blog readers will enjoy these images of the model and find inspiration as to what is possible with old school woodcraft.

A most interesting concept, the Ki-64 explored performance with twin engines mounted in tandem driving two contra-rotating propellers and cooled by a vapour-phase steam condensing system. The rear engine drove the variable pitch front propeller via an extension shaft passing above the cockpit floor between the pilot's legs whilst the forward engine drove the rear fixed pitch propeller. Each engine could be operated separately and it was envisaged that for cruising the forward engine could be shut down with the aircraft flying satisfactorily on its rear engine and front propeller alone.

The cooling system, which was designed to reduce the drag and vulnerability associated with conventional externally mounted radiators, operated with a flash steam generator-centrifugal separator  with a pressurised liquid coolant. The generated steam was circulated through 130 sq ft of wing panels and the condensed water pumped under high pressure into two 18 gal wing leading edge supply tanks by ejector type venturi pumps using the engines as a source of power. 98% of the pumped water was re-circulated and only 2% flashed into steam. There was also an auxiliary top-up water tank in the rear fuselage. For these reasons the designers believed that the coolant system was actually less vulnerable to damage during combat (and not more vulnerable as some sources have suggested) since any loss of coolant through leakage should be adequately compensated by the amount of excess water available in the supply tanks and auxiliary tank. In a post-war report on the system the Kawasaki designers Takeo Doi and J Kitano stated that:-

"As the vaporised water is small compared to the circulating water  it will be apparent that it is not vital if the wing is punctured by gunfire or by missiles."  

Comparison of Ki-64 to Ki-61 Hien 'Tony' ~ same scale

The port wing condenser panels and supply tank served the front engine whilst the starboard panels and tank served the rear engine. Prior to installing the system on the Ki-64 it was tested and improved using a modified Ki-61 with the conventional under fuselage radiator removed (cue unique modelling subject) which made 35 flights from October 1942 until the end of 1943. Once installed in the Ki-64 only five test flights were made before an emergency landing following an in-flight engine fire wrecked the aircraft. Plans to test the system in extreme cold weather conditions using methanol instead of water were never achieved. A disadvantage of the system was the lack of space available for fuel tankage and consequently the Ki-64 would have had a relatively short range of 620 miles. Had it been developed into operational service external drop tanks would probably have been used to extend its flight time. The cooling system was considered to be of sufficient merit by the US Air Technical Intelligence Group which evaluated it post-war as to warrant further study at that time.  

With very special thanks to John Haas for sharing a unique and fascinating project with Aviation of Japan.

Image credit: All photos © 2015 John Haas