Sunday, 21 December 2008

Aviaeology Update

Aviaeology have informed me that 1/72nd and 1/32nd scale versions of their IJN Tail Codes sheets (available in yellow, white, red & black) are in the works and should be available from their eBay shop soon.

Image credit: Author's Collection

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A Surprise Squall From Sword, Lifelike Decals & Aviaeology

The new 1/72nd scale kit of Hayate (Squall) from Czech manufacturer Sword was a surprise, not least because the Hasegawa kit is already such a good one. Or is it?  It was released at the same time as their Hayabusa. To "The Old Men of the Plastic" that still seems quite recent but to younger modellers it is already considered ancient, with that modern apotheosis of everything evil about old kits - raised panel lines!

I do not know whether there is any connection between Sword and AML, but the new kit is molded in the slightly soapy grey plastic favoured by the latter manufacturer. The surface detail seems to be more finely engraved however, except for the fuselage access hatch which is raised and looks rather crude. The kit does include resin parts but not as many as in AML's hybrid Hayabusa kits or as crucial to the overall construction. In resin there are a two part engine which incorporates the mounting firewall, the wing machine gun barrels, a wheel well detail insert (as for the AML Hayabusa kits) and a mesh insert for the large oil cooler under the cowling.  The rest of the kit, including the cockpit, is all molded in plastic and there is no photo-etch, thank goodness. 

The cockpit consists of a floor, seat, engraved console, stick, front and aft bulkheads, engraved instrument panel, cowling machine gun breeches and a gun sight in transparent plastic. There is also sidewall detail molded to the fuselage halves. The seat is plain, without ribs or lightening holes, but the latter are easy enough to drill and will improve the appearance sufficiently without having to purchase expensive aftermarket parts. Ribbing and other details may be added with hsp. The seat in the Hasegawa kit is also plain, but there was no sidewall detail and only the seat, floor, stick and a flat instrument panel with decal were included. The interior detail in the Sword kit should be enough for most tastes but a seat belt will need to be added. Sword cite dark green or translucent blue-green ("aotake") for the whole interior including the seat. Hmm.

The front and top of the cowling are separate parts but the cowling sides are molded as part of the fuselage halves. This is similar to the approach taken by Hasegawa, except that the cowling front and top were molded as one piece rather than two. It remains to be seen whether Sword have captured the shape correctly by this method although built up examples look OK in images. According to reports on the net the kit is a straightforward build without any particular difficulties.

Two canopy options are provided, a single piece and a three piece to allow the canopy to be posed open. They are injected rather than vacform and appear to be commendably thin and clear. There are also two separate rudders, narrow and broad chord, although the instructions are less than helpful in matching these to the markings options provided in the kit. Cowling flaps are separate parts, although molded integrally with the exhaust outlets. The spinner is one piece and harks back to the Hasegawa design without provision for a  back plate to cover the blade indentations  which is a feature of most modern kits.

The tail wheel doors are molded separately, unlike the Hasegawa kit which were molded to the fuselage halves in the open position, and have inner face detail. The underwing fuel cooler is also a separate part and captures the actual shape very well. This was not included in the Hasegawa kit. There are also parts for the two underwing drop tanks with separate mounting brackets. Sword suggest painting these either grey-green or light blue.

As already hinted colour and markings information is basic and slightly suspect. The box art has a stab at the dreaded "late war brown" whilst the three options in the kit are all given as "Nakajima green" over grey-green. Hmm again. Fortunately the decals provide for two out of three as unique options. The 50th Sentai Hayate of WO Yojiro Ofusa is especially welcome as it includes the two character aircraft name so difficult to otherwise replicate, but the suggestion of alternative white Home Defence wing bandages for this same machine is very odd. An aircraft of the 8th Rensei Hikotai (shown on the box art) with its distinctive yellow tail marking continues the unorthodox trend but the third option is an old favourite from the 57th Shimbutai. Hayate models often come in clichéd markings so Sword's more unusual choices are very welcome.

The choice of alternative markings for this kit (or the old Hasegawa one) is happily extended by the recent release of the Lifelike Hayate Part 1 set to 1/72nd scale. This includes China ace Moritsu Kanai's black 25th Sentai machine (possibly painted a very dark grey), the well know shooting star adorned 1st OFTU Ki-84 often attributed to "Corporal Naito" but actually flown by Lt Kurai, a 104th Sentai leader aircraft with an unusual fuselage chevron and white wingtips, the unusual blue 102nd Sentai aircraft the colour for which is based on the extant rudder and the rather plain but quite well-known  2nd Hikodan Commander's aircraft. Detailed colour instructions are provided with explained references and it is good to see the use of ohryoku 7 go shoku gaining prominence in Japanese resources on the subject. Lifelike have drawn on Gakken 46 and cite it as the best source on Hayate.

Whilst on the subject of decals Aviaeology have released some very useful sets of IJN tail codes to 1/48th scale. The sets are available from their eBay shop in yellow, red, black or white and include unit characters, numbers and letters. Hopefully they will also release them to 1/72nd scale. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Zeke, Hamp & Hemp ~ Postscript

Further to my previous comments about RAF Camouflage Beige - 'Hemp', Moscow Modeller Dmitry Korolkov has very kindly sent me this photograph of a Hasegawa Zero that he test painted last year with Vallejo's 71023 'Hemp'. Thank you Dmitry, and warm greetings to the Moscow modellers interested in Japanese aircraft. 

Image credit: © Dmitry Korolkov 2008

Sunday, 7 December 2008

D3A1 Kits - 1/72nd Scale

There have not been many 1/72nd scale kits of Aichi's D3A, which is perhaps surprising given its effectiveness as a maritime dive bomber in the early years of the Pacific War and its charismatic appearance.

The veteran Airfix 'Val' first appeared in 1964 and was typical of the Airfix kits of that era: simple, unpretentious and honest. Markings for a single Akagi dive bomber "A1-201" were included but the tail code was depicted in black, as was the paint-it-yourself trim on the wheel spats. The distinctive sweepback of the blue-black anti-glare was not observed, the artwork and instructions depicting only a black engine cowling. It was re-issued several times with the same markings, but most recently in 1997 with improved markings options. These provided an additional option for Egusa's colourful green camouflaged and red-tailed "B1-231" from the Indian Ocean operation (although captioned as being from the Pearl Harbor attack on the instruction sheet) and now offered the black wheel trim for "A1-201" as decals.  There are some concessions to accuracy, most noticeably in the 'sit' of the spatted undercarriage, and simplified details, but it has a lot of charisma, looks the part and can form the basis for an excellent model. Canadian modeller John Wong has shown just what can be achieved with the Airfix kit. It is still a favourite of mine and I like its straightforward build and robust, pugnacious look. A more detailed look at this kit and its box art will follow in due course.

In 1985 Fujimi issued a new D3A "family" consisting of D3A1 and D3A2 kits sharing common parts. This required some compromise in construction and a five part fuselage including a separate upper fuselage deck. Most criticism of this kit has focused on the construction problems caused by this parts breakdown but it is undoubtedly a finer and more accurate kit than the Airfix one. Molded in Fujimi's hard glossy plastic it provided markings options for two aircraft: "Yo-206" a pre-war red-tailed, silver aircraft and "A1-203" a Pearl Harbor attacker from Akagi. The pre-war silver aircraft are sometimes modelled as being highly polished natural metal, but apart from the prototype, photographs strongly suggest they were in fact painted aluminium.

Polish manufacturer Plastyk issued a D3A1 kit in 2005. It appears to be a copy of the Fujimi kit but is molded in a rather rubbery dark grey plastic with spark-eroded detail. The fit problems of the Fujimi kit have also been copied and are exacerbated by shrinkage with the upper fuselage decking being particularly problematic. The join and difference in cross section are hard to conceal without building up the lower fuselage sides. A single set of poor quality decals for the Fujimi kit's Akagi stablemate "A1-202" are included.

Recommendations. For a serious model choose the Fujimi kit, but for an enjoyable weekend build the Airfix kit will not disappoint. The curious might seek out the Plastyk clone to complete a kit collection or, if feeling brave, have a go at building it.

Image credits: Airfix (Hornby Hobbies Ltd.), 1964; Fujimi Mokei Co. Ltd., 1985; Plastyk, 2005.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

D3A1 Colours at Pearl Harbor

Japanese aviation researcher Jim Lansdale has published an exacting and revealing examination of Aichi D3A1 dive bomber casualties at Pearl Harbor at including measured Munsell colour values from extant aircraft artifacts.

The Munsell values as listed in the article are rendered above with the closest FS595b comparison value shown beneath each chip together with its DE2000 difference calculation. A calculation of 2.0 or less equals a close match. In two examples where the closest FS equivalents are poor matches I have included a comparison to 16350 but it is not the closest match. 

The first two plates show the variegated Munsell values taken from a single artifact together with the calculated average (9th chip). The third plate shows the two Munsell values cited from a visual assessment of a metal fragment from the same aircraft by Robert C Mikesh - the original colour said to lie between the two. The last value is from another metal artifact. 

As far as modelling paints go, and without going into complex mixes but allowing for scale effects, here are a few starters:

Vallejo 71023 Camouflage Beige 'Hemp' is already in the ballpark, but may require a little lightening for "scale effect".
Polly Scale F414317 or F110082 'Concrete' are also in the ballpark, but a little lighter and greyer.
An approximate Gunze (GSI Creos) mix would be 50% H70 'RLM02 Grau' and 50% H336 'Hemp'
For their 1997 1/48th scale D3A1 kit, Hasegawa suggest the following Mr Color mix: 50% #55 'Khaki' + 30% #13 'Neutral Grey' + 10% #4 'Yellow' + 10% #1 'White'
For Humbrol try adding 62 Matt 'Leather' to 40 Gloss 'Pale Grey' in a 2:8 ratio.
White Ensign Models Colourcoats ACJ17 'Nakajima Amber Grey (Ame-iro)' is a little too strong and yellow, whilst ACJ16 'Mitsubishi Grey-Green' is closer but a tad too grey. Somewhere in between these two maybe?
Revell Silk-Matt 362 'Schilfgrün' (Reed Green/RAL 6013) is perhaps a little too green but comes very close to the appearance of the Lovell sample when dry. The green of this Revell colour is subtle and only becomes apparent in juxtaposition to the browner hues.

Greg Springer has also posted a precise Testors Model Master mix for Munsell 2.5 Y 5/3 at

Many thanks as always to Ken Glass for providing the fractional Munsell notations and to Jim Lansdale for sharing the data with us.

Image credit: Rendered colour chips © Straggler 2008

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Hasegawa's Hayabusa ~ Supplementary

As requested here is  a view of the Aeromaster decal sheet and instructions included with the 1994 issue kit of their Hayabusa. Of interest is the 20th Sentai example with dark blue uppersurfaces. The use of this colour, the subject of much debate, has now been confirmed by veterans from that unit. It was applied to a few aircraft engaged in long haul sea search and convoy escort duties in the Phillipine Islands. Aeromaster's instructions suggest a match of FS 35050 for the Dark Blue. I'm not sure about that but I have added it to the scan of the instruction sheet just for interest.

Image credit: © Hasegawa Seisakusho Co Ltd & Aeromaster Decals 1994

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Hasegawa's Hayabusa ~ Part One

First announced in their 1978 kit catalogue with a well known photograph of a Ki-43-II Kai, Hasegawa's 1/72nd scale Hayabusa kit was not issued until 1982. Kit # B17 in the "blue flash" box was molded in dark green plastic with optional decals for a 50th Sentai aircraft flown by controversial JAAF ace Sgt Satoshi Anabuki in 1943 and an anonymous 64th Sentai machine flown by the 1st Chutai leader in 1944. Surprisingly the kit featured raised panel detail, whereas earlier Hasegawa kits such as the Ki-44 and Ki-61 had engraved detail. The kit offered alternative parts for what were then known as Ki-43-IIa early and late versions and a Ki-43-IIb. Attractive box art by a nascent Shigeo Koike featured Anabuki's Hayabusa climbing steeply over a B-25 gunship. 

In 1987 the kit was re-issued in a larger, deeper box as # 501. The original Koike box art was re-formatted and cropped to display a larger image of the Ki-43. The kit was still molded in dark green plastic but the decal options were changed and a new style instruction sheet included. The 64th Sentai option had been deleted and instead, in addition to Anabuki's machine, the markings for the Hayabusa of 59th Sentai ace Sgt Major Hirohata were provided. These included his distinct black 'bird of prey' fuselage marking.

In 1992 the second re-issue of the kit retained the Koike artwork in cropped format but was now numbered as AT1 (02501). The design and colours of the box labeling were revised and included a colour photograph of the made up model on the side of the box. The kit was now molded in light grey plastic with the same markings options as for # 501.

In 1994 a special edition of the kit with Aeromaster decals was issued as SP130 (51630). The box design was the same as AT1 but had a black "flash" added in the top right corner on the front of the box advertising the inclusion of the Aeromaster decals. The additional Aeromaster decal sheet was contained inside a ziplock bag with its own instruction sheet and provided optional markings for 4 aircraft:-

'White 15' of the 25th Sentai Hombu (HQ Shotai)
'Red 725' of 2nd Rensei-Hikotai
11th Sentai Commander
20th Sentai, 1st Chutai

The first option was incorrect in depicting a blue tail stripe for the 25th's Sentai Hombu. Aircraft # 15 was actually flown by Sgt Major Koshiro Otake of the 2nd Chutai and the tail stripe should have been red, a mistake that would be corrected in a subsequent special edition of the kit (q.v.). 

This kit included the standard Hasegawa instruction sheet and decal sheet from the previous issue.

In 1999 the kit enjoyed its fifth re-issue in a new white box, still with the original Koike box art, although this had again been re-formatted, and now numbered as A1 (00131). Markings options were unchanged from AT1. This version of the kit appears to be still in production and generally available.

In addition to these "standard" issues, Hasegawa have also released the kit in limited editions with different box art. We'll look at those special issues in Part Two.

If anyone knows of any other issues featuring this box art (not the limited editions with different box art) please let me know by sending an email or making a comment, thanks.

Images credit: Hasegawa Seisakusho Co Ltd., © 1982, 1987, 1992, 1994 & 1999.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Zeke, Hamp & Hemp ~ Part 2

Here are the colour swatches for BS 481 # 389 Camouflage Beige aka "RAF Hemp" together with the closest standard Munsell and RAL values.

With grateful appreciation to Ken Glass for assisting with the Munsell fractional values.

Image credits: Rendered colour chips © Straggler 2008; RAF Nimrod images web

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Zeke, Hamp and Hemp

It may seem odd to examine the colour of modern RAF aircraft on a blogsite about Japanese aviation but please bear with me!

The RAF camouflage popularly known as 'Hemp', now officially 'Camouflage Beige' BSI 381c # 389, was developed from a compromise for a suitable camouflage to protect aircraft on the ground in dispersals and in the air. The original choice for a low reflectivity scheme was a brown, like Dark Earth, but eventually the colour chosen as most suitable was matched to the Munsell value 5 Y 6/2 from the BS 4800 'Specification for Paint Colours for Building Purposes'. The approximate Munsell value from this colour standard is 4.8 Y 6.0/1.8.  This should be of some interest to us as 5 Y 6/2 is the same Munsell value which has been cited for the extant paint colour on some Mitsubishi Zero artifacts.

Many enthusiasts will be familiar with the actual appearance of 'Hemp' on the RAF's Nimrod and Canberra, and the way the colour can appear differently depending on the lighting conditions. Sometimes more yellow, sometimes more grey, sometimes more green. In fact these aircraft provided a useful "living" demonstration of the Japanese Zero colours and many photographic images showing their subtle changes in reflected appearance may be found on the net. Usefully a number of hobby paint ranges offer 'RAF Hemp' and modellers may like to experiment with them on a Zero model.

As the colour was originally chosen from a commercial paint standard the various proprietory names for the paints are illuminating:-

'French Grey'
'Fawn Grey'
'Trout Grey'
'Cotswold Tile'

The closest RAL colour match to Munsell 5 Y 6/2 is 7034 Gelbgrau (Yellow Grey) at 3.09. The closest FS 595b match is 33303 at 3.26, but it is too brown. (less than 2.0 = a close match).

Image credits: Internet pics

Sunday, 9 November 2008

On His Hobby

One of the curiously disconcerting things about the communication of information via the internet is the astonishing diversity of the approach to "accuracy". To some it is a driving imperative they agonise over and to others a slightly disagreeable nuisance, to be avoided if at all possible. In between are many shades of grey.

Those who scorn accuracy often astonish further by participating in online discussions about colour with a vehemence that borders on fanaticism. There is the odd article, both online and in magazines, where the model builder who has decided to "plough his own furrow", instead of doing just that, rails against those who prefer accuracy and those who provide information to that end, usually using that time-honoured phrase "No-one really knows". The bit they usually omit to add to this is "but I'm going to give you the benefit of my opinion and it must be worth something (even though no-one really knows) " 

Having spent many hours researching a particular subject from primary source records in the National Archives it astonishes me that, when sharing the fruits of that research, there are those who would rather scorn it and rely instead upon their earnestly held opinion, preference or prejudice. Nothing wrong with that of course, each to his own. But when they enter into public debate from that viewpoint and, perhaps more worryingly, attempt to pass of their opinion, preferences or prejudices as something based on more than a wet finger held aloft, some real confusion can result. 

"Ah, but . . . " they write, "specifications were only for guidance. We all know that in practice they were ignored and anything went." Do we?  But even if we did should we embrace a kind of modelling anarchy of anything goes? Unfortunately the same proponents of this "crew-chief with a tin of any old paint" philosophy,  are often the same ones who jump in with both feet when the debate has very little to go on, and weave the most miraculous arguments based on everything from the radiated luminance of thousands of digital pixels on a much scanned "colour" photograph to the "educated guess" based on a pre-conceived determination, usually where the few facts that are known are assembled together to fit the conclusion in a dubious concoction, rather than t'other way around. Is it really that bad to write "I don't know" and actually, if you don't know, to refrain from posting what amounts to an opinion at all? Apparently it is.

Sometimes the online fire-fight abates and is replaced by the rapid but silent drumming of the email jungle telegraph as allies are sought and "facts" checked. There is one particular character type who never responds to an online statement about aircraft colours, but immediately alerts the members of his clique to its appearance and checks in with his tame guru so that the opinion, preference and prejudice in that tiny, mean pea-brain may be re-assured and reinforced, usually resulting in an oblique post by one of his messengers on another forum. 

I think the problem is that for all the ignorance about certain things, the colour of Grooster Gnu interiors for example, there are those who like to think they "own" certain aircraft types. They are enthusiasts for the Gnu, have every book about it, examine closely every black & white photograph of the type, pontificate long and loudly at the modelling club about their latest miniature creation of the Gnu Mark 18, that field-modified one with the non-standard gun turret and the dampened exhausts. So, when a question about the Gnu comes along for which there is no known answer, they feel that they ought to know and that, being Gnu experts their opinion is worth something more than that wet finger held aloft. It is at these darkest before dawn moments that the much-maligned specifications may be dusted off and trailed out, no longer a matter of scorn, but used to prop up a questionably relevant hypothesis that really boils down to a distillation of personal opinion, preference or prejudice.

But the greatest consternation is reserved for those occasions when someone has the audacity to cite evidence that flies in the face of said opinion, preference or prejudice. It seems that the most vigorous challenge has to be raised against that evidence rather than against the more tenuous opinion, preference or prejudice. Then out comes the old "specifications are for guidance only" bollocks and the shaky appearance of that tiny colour "photograph".  Much hot keystrokes and much ado about nothing usually, but you can guarantee that the mere mention of a particular hot topic, Grooster Gnu interior colours for example, will attract a lengthy thread from the "usual suspects", often including myself - even though I know I shouldn't! 

After its long dormancy I hope to add something meaningful to my SEAC blog to get it going. The subject of SEAC colours and markings is obscure and there are lots of interesting things to explore. The colour of Grooster Gnu interiors will not be one of them.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Airfix Dinah Reprise

As requested, here are images of the decal sheets included in the second and third re-issues of the Airfix 1965 veteran. If anyone does know the exact year the second re-issue appeared please let me know, thanks. One thing to watch out for with the third re-issue is that the Hinomaru borders are more often than not out of register! Note the inclusion of trestle markings, prop blade markings and instrument panel with this sheet. The tiger is also a better likeness to the originals.

One of the things I like about this kit, in addition to the fine shape and simplicity, is the fact that the fuselage halves are molded in one piece. Both the LS and Hasegawa kits have separate nose halves and a separate upper fuselage, clear in the case of the latter, that require careful assembly and filling, risking the destruction of some of that very fine detail.

To round off, a trio of images of a veteran Airfix Ki-46, completed in 1975 by Ken Glass, demonstrating just what an attractive model she makes. Ken used the 19th Hiko-Dan tail markings from the LS kit to complete this model.

Images Credit: Decal sheets © Airfix (Hornby Hobbies Ltd); Ki-46 Model Photos © Ken Glass 2008

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tales of Tigers & Tri-Colour Camouflage ~ Part 2

Here is the photograph of an 18th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai (DHC - Independent Flying or Flight Squadron) Ki-46 believed to be the basis for the LS box art (and numerous profiles). On the original print the dark patch of camouflage on the tail appears to have thin borders of a lighter colour. Note also the size of the tiger on this aircraft and compare it with the size of the tiger as painted on the uncamouflaged Ki-46.

The original "Chinese-style" tiger painted on the fuselage of a Ki-15 just forward of the senchi-hiyoshiki or so-called "combat stripe" is also shown, together with the tiger "running in the skies" design subsequently painted on the tail of a camouflaged Ki-15.

The final image shows the Airfix "Esso" tiger; splendid but not very much like the originals! Compare and contrast it with the photographic images of the tigers.

Image credits: © Bunrin-do FAOW # 64 1975; FAOW # 38 1983 & Airfix (Hornby Hobbies Ltd) 1965

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Tales of Tigers & Tri-Colour Camouflage ~ Part 1

When LS issued their Ki-46-II in the 1960's (if anyone knows the exact year please comment, thanks) the box art represented an interesting tri-coloured aircraft of the 18th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai (DHC - Independent Flying or Flight Squadron) in China. This was the same unit, but not the same colour scheme, chosen by Airfix for their own Dinah released in 1965.

The Ki-46-II was released as the first in a 'family' of four Ki-46 variants by LS followed by the Ki-46-III, Ki-46-III interceptor and Ki-46 trainer, all using a number of common sprues which meant inevitable compromise over details.  

This particular scheme, based on a single photograph, has been variously interpreted in profile art and even attributed to a post-war Red Army of China Air Force example. Of course it is impossible to determine exactly which colours were applied to the original aircraft from a monochrome photograph (although some profess to possess the dark art necessary to do this), but it is a curious and interesting fact that the LS box artist managed to accurately represent three of the colours subsequently identified in the JAAF paint colour standards in use until February 1945. These three colours have long been associated with the so-called "China Tri-colour" scheme, although their combinations and shades are diversely depicted. The yellowish brown colour was probably # 33 Kaki iro, confusingly not related to khaki but to the persimmon, a yellowish to orange brown colour. The strong reddish brown of # 4 Seki Kasshoku is sometimes misleadingly described as 'tea colour'. 

The painting and decal instructions in the original kit were poor and did not provide much in the way of details about the scheme. In addition to the 18th DHC tiger option, the tail markings for the 19th Hiko Dan (Flying Brigade) were also included. The tiger, although perhaps appearing odd, was closer to the original than the more stylised and dramatic Airfix rendering.

(Note: This article was updated on 11 March 2015 with more correctly rendered and described colour chips).

Images credit: Box art & decal sheet © LS circa 1960; Rendered colour chips © Straggler 2008

Monday, 3 November 2008

Japanese Aircraft of Army Training Units ~ Rising Decals RD72023

Another surprise issue from Rising is a set of 1/72nd scale decals for Japanese Army training aircraft. This includes markings for the Ki-27 'Nate' (Type 97 Fighter ~ 97 Shiki Sentoh-ki or 97-sen), the Ki-79 (Manshu built adaptation of the Ki-27 as a dedicated trainer) and the Ki-55 (Type 99 Advanced Trainer ~ 99 Shiki Kohtoh Renshuh-ki or 99 Koh-ren).

There is a selection of unit markings and one set of Hinomaru for each aircraft type. Particularly welcome are the complex markings for two different Ki-27 aircraft of the 101st Kyoiku Hiko Rentai, a Ki-27 of the 117th Kyoiku Hikotai based in Java and two Ki-79 Ko of the 17th Rensei Hikotai and 44th Kyoiku Hikotai based at Singapore, the latter with the unit tail marking superimposed on the marking of a previous unit. There is also an interesting all-yellow Ki-55 from the Niigata Army Flying School which does not have the black or dark brown cowling and undercarriage fairings usually associated with this type. This aircraft sports the civil registration 'J' on the tail. 

The Ki-27 is available as the veteran Hasegawa (ex-Mania kit), or more recently from RS Models (at first as a mixed media with vacform canopy - now available with injection molded canopy but quite an expensive option) and ICM, the latter kit being superb. Note: Rising have advised that the decals were designed for the Hasegawa kit as the wing and tail profiles of the RS Models kit are different - therefore decals may not fit the RS Models Ki-27. The Ki-79 is also available from RS Models. I have always been puzzled that Hasegawa never adapted their Ki-27 to provide for this version as a separate mainstream kit. It wouldn't take much and it is such a charismatic type. The Ki-55 is available from Fujimi and is another excellent kit.

Painting instructions are very clear with references cited and it good to see Rising depict the correct yellow rather than the hideous and incorrect red-orange beloved of some modellers.

All in all a most welcome opportunity to complete Japanese Army trainers in unusual schemes and highly recommended.

Image credit: © Rising Decals 2008

Sunday, 2 November 2008

"Dinah with the Finah Linah"

When the Airfix Ki-46 first appeared in 1965 it seemed an exotic choice for this most British of model makers. The Airfix Aichi D3A1 'Val' had been released the year before, in 1964, so perhaps the Nakajima B5N 'Kate' might have been a more expected stablemate. However, 'Dinah' had attracted the attention and admiration of the wartime RAF and a rare surviving example existed in England. A little surprising then that Airfix chose to represent the Ki-46-II rather than the even more streamlined Ki-46-III survivor.

The kit was cleanly molded in light grey plastic and captured the overall shape and lines of the original very well indeed. Markings for a single option, from the unidentified (by Airfix) 18th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai (DHC - Independent Flying or Flight Squadron), were included. The Hinomaru were in the usual bright and unsaturated Airfix printers vermilion and the "Tiger on the Tail" bore more than a passing resemblance to the leaping tiger depicted in the then current Esso Petrol advertising"Put a Tiger in Your Tank". Painting instructions called for overall Matt Light Grey with red spinners and the memorable box art depicted an almost off-white Dinah attempting to take off from  a smoke-palled tropical airfield under attack by Corsairs.

This box art was duplicated, albeit in a truncated version, by the Airfix 'Craft Master' version of the kit marketed in the USA by MPC. This version was molded in a rather brittle silver plastic.

Problems with the kit, disregarding the raised surface detail, are the poorly shaped spinners, crude "flanged" cowling flaps and stalky, simplistic undercarriage. There were no separate engines and the "engine" detail molded within the cowlings is crude. Unusually for the time a basic interior was  featured which included an instrument panel, control column, bulkheads and seats. Cameras were molded to the underside of the cockpit floor and could be viewed through transparencies. All very commendable for the time. The Airfix kit may be further improved by using the Aeroclub/Airwaves photo-etch detail set specifically designed for it and available from Hannants.

The LS (now Arii) series of Ki-46 kits (of which more anon) was also issued in the mid-1960's but I am not sure whether it was before or after the Airfix kit. I don't recall seeing them until much later and the earliest boxing I have displays the "Japan Safety Toy" mark which I think was introduced in the late sixties (?). In addition to the Ki-46-II and Ki-46-III early production, LS issued a kit of the Ki-46-III Otsu interceptor and the Ki-46-II Kai trainer. Some compromise in details resulted from the use of common parts to all the kits. The LS series are beautiful kits, with fine engraved detail. The representation of the fabric covered control surfaces is superb if exaggerated. Some have suggested that these kits are slightly under-scale, being to the 1/75th scale of earlier LS offerings, but in fact they match up well to 1/72nd scale plans.

The Airfix kit was re-issued with new box art and "new" flash in 1979 (the box is marked as © 1978) and this time two markings options were offered, for the 76th DHC based in the East Indies in 1943 and the 81st Sentai 2nd Chutai in Malaya during 1942. The box art depicted the 76th DHC Dinah, with a unique anti-glare panel, being pursued by a couple of Wildcats. Painting instructions gave this as overall Light Aircraft Grey (M13 in the original Airfix paints collection) with Brick Red (M1) spinners and Deep Cream (M15) wing leading edge ID strips. The box art showed a pretty decent dark reddish brown for the spinners. Interestingly the 81st Sentai option was given as being Duck Egg Blue (M8) overall, perhaps a fair out of the tin representation of the pale blue-green JAAF paint colour # 1 Hairyokushoku (ash green colour). 

The last re-issue of the Airfix kit, in 1994, displayed box art changed once more to depict a brown aircraft of the 81st Sentai 1st Chutai over Malaya in 1942. An alternative option returned to a tiger-adorned machine of the 18th DHC but this time the tiger was closer to the JAAF originals in appearance.  The unusual brown choice was called out as Humbrol Matt 160 German Camouflage Red Brown with Matt 28 Camouflage Grey undersurfaces, whilst the 18th DHC example was called out as Matt 28 overall. The decal sheet included for the first time an instrument panel decal depicted, also unusually, as red brown! Images of the decal sheets and additional comments are here. This Airfix classic was to be re-issued once more by Hornby in 2013 as covered here

The colours of Dinah have always been a subject of some conjecture and most recently the case has been made, based on the evidence of relics and at least one colour photograph, that they appear to have been factory painted in a similar "olive gray" to the Mitsubishi-built Zero. One of the issues in identifying this colour is that when exposed it often developed a blueish-grey "chalking" which means that contemporaneous descriptions of grey or blue-grey Dinahs may not have been what they seemed. 

Ki-46 # 2414, brought down by Spitfires of 457 Sqn RAAF north of Coomalie on 18th July 1943 was examined two days after its crash by F/O Claude Pender, the Intelligence Officer of No.5 Fighter Sector, and his examination report describes the aircraft as follows:-

"The general appearance of the aircraft was quite new, probably not having flown more than 30 hours. The Dinah was of grey painted metal, the tail assembly and ailerons were covered in grey fabric . . ."

Strike one for Airfix. This does not sound like the grey chalking of exposed "olive-gray" paint. Another Dinah had been brought down by the Spitfires of 54 Sqn near Darwin on the 6th February 1943 and the combat report described the aircraft as being "coloured a greyish blue". Combat reports from the Burma theatre also describe grey, blue-grey, pale green and even "beautiful pale blue" paintwork. A contemporaneous Japanese painting of a 18th DHC Ki-46-II in flight shows a strikingly bluish looking grey similar to FS 36320. As a strategic, high-flying recce twin a blue-grey paint scheme would seem appropriate.

Another issue is that JAAF # 7 paint colour Ohryoku Nana Go Shoku (Yellow Green No.7 Colour), an olive brown shade like British khaki drab, begins to approach the "olive gray" colour in appearance when severely faded and bleached by exposure. Also the JAAF # 30 paint colour Karekusa Iro (Parched or Dried Grass Colour), often applied in a camouflage pattern to the upper surfaces, is somewhat similar to the "olive gray". Therefore it is not absolutely conclusive that the "olive gray" represents an overall factory finish on these aircraft or that it is an identical "olive gray" as found on Zero relics. The effect of the tropical sun and climate on the cellulose based paints of the 1940's should not be underestimated.

For those who wish to retro-build the Airfix kit and follow the original painting instructions the Airfix paints may be matched to the Humbrol range as follows:-

M1 Brick Red to Matt 70 Brick Red
M8 Duck Egg Blue to Matt 90 Beige Green
M13 Light Grey to Matt 64 Light Grey
M15 Deep Cream to Matt 99 Lemon

Not having examined the original Airfix paints the closeness or otherwise of the matches cannot be verified. I will be posting additional information about mixes to represent the pale blue-green Army Hairyokushoku in due course.

Addendum: Since this blog post was written, further information about the Ki-46 "olive grey" factory colour scheme has been posted here.

Images credit: © Airfix (Hornby Hobbies Ltd)

The Emperor's Eyes ~ Rising Decals RD72022

Japanese 1/72nd aircraft modellers have good reason to be grateful to Rising Decals for their continuing policy of producing themed decal sheets with unusual and much needed markings. 'Emperor's Eyes' (RD72022) includes unit markings and tail codes for a selection of both Army and Navy reconnaissance aircraft together with sufficient Hinomaru (Sun's Red Disk) for one of each of four aircraft types, the Army Ki-15 'Babs' (Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Aeroplane ~ '97 Shiki Shireibu Teisatsu-ki' or '97 Shi-tei') and the Ki-46 'Dinah' (Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Aeroplane ~ '100 Shiki Shireibu Teisatsu-ki', '100 Shiki Shi-tei' or 'Shin Shi-tei'), and the Navy's D4Y1-C 'Judy' and C6N 'Myrt'. As a bonus three pairs of tiger insignia for Ki-15 and Ki-46 aircraft of the 18th Independent Flying Company (Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai) have also been included. This is a lovely set.

The Ki-15 options are particularly attractive and useful for the Hasegawa (ex-Mania) and LS (now Arii) kits still widely available. These include striking early markings for Ki-15-I types of the 2nd and 101st Independent Flying Companies in the form of stylised "birds", together with the "Chinese-style" tiger painted on the fuselage of an 18th Independent Flying Company example in tri-colour camouflage. In addition there is an attractive 8th Sentai option for a camouflaged Ki-15-II (LS/Arii) as flown over Burma.

The options for the Ki-46 are especially appreciated with the availability of kits from LS (now Arii), Airfix and Hasegawa. The Hasegawa kits are becoming hard to find but I hope that Hasegawa and Airfix will re-release their respective Dinahs in due course. I actually prefer the Airfix example to the Hasegawa (shock, horror) as I believe it has more fidelity in overall shape and can be made into a very good looking model.  The worst aspects, if you don't get wound up by raised panel details, are the poorly shaped spinners and the stalky, simplistic undercarriage. Aeroclub/Airwaves have a photo-etched detail set to improve this kit, especially the interior, and with the addition of the new Rising decals a very attractive example may be made. Dinah colours? Watch this space! 

Rising have included a most unusual Ki-46 tail marking, recently documented from photographs and tentatively identified as representing the 6th Air Army, together with more familiar examples from the 8th and 10th Sentai. In addition to the 55th Independent Flying Company, the sheet also has markings for a Ki-46-III 'Bukosho' winner of the 19th Independent Flying Company flown by Captain Masao Ohashi and Lieutenant Jiro Egawa.

The bonus tigers are also very useful. These designs were originally painted on the 18th Independent Flying Company's Ki-46 aircraft by artist Takaki who lived in Hankow at the time and each one was different. The tiger marking was first adopted by Captain Yoshitsugu Aramaki in April 1939 and painted in the Chinese style on the fuselage of the Ki-15. In 1942 a member of the ground personnel Mamoru Tanaka painted an enlarged version of the tiger on the tail of the aircraft as a "tiger running in the skies" and alluding to a Chinese myth where the tiger could roam 1,000 miles in a day and return home. When the original Airfix kit included this marking back in 1965 they seem to have based its design on the then-current Esso petrol advert promoting the jingle "Put a Tiger in Your Tank"!

The Navy options include a Rising Sun flag for the antenna mast of the C6N and the tail code '762-13' is provided as white or yellow alternatives.

The painting instructions are clear, citing available hobby paints but avoiding the controversy or complicated mixes of some recent revisions with a disclaimer that these schemes are reconstructions of the possible appearance only and that for more accurate shades the modeller should check other related references . Photographic and profile references for each example are given. Rising have also included an addendum sheet that points to corrections to the colour schemes on their website. I particularly like the shade of red chosen for the Honomaru, which are deep and well saturated. The white borders are provided as separate backing pieces to aid in correct register.

This set is a top quality, very well printed sheet of decals representing good value and filling a gap for 1/72nd modellers. Highly recommended.

Image credit: © Rising Decals, 2008

Monday, 20 October 2008

Kit Trivia - Vintage Magazine Cover

Continuing the vintage Hien theme, S Calhoun 'Cal' Smith's splendid cover for the August 1959 issue of American Modeler magazine depicts a well-known 68th Sentai Tony in unusual camouflage about to bounce  a trio of B-25 medium bombers.

In the magazine's article on building a powered control-line model of the fighter, advice given regarding the colour scheme was as follows:-

"The Kawasaki can be colored all light gray with black anti-glare panel forward of the cockpit, or it can be colored all bright green or bright green with splotches of yellow and a hazy blue bottom. The red ball insignia is outlined with a white band only when the plane is camouflaged."

Cal Smith's painting depicts the curious yellow and bright green scheme and it is interesting to speculate where this idea for the camouflage may have originated, especially given recent revelations of the yellowish or brownish characteristics of some Japanese 'grays'.  In the painting the underwing hinomaru (sun's red disc) also have a white border.

There has been much controversy over the actual colours and markings sported by Lt Yoshimitsu Tarui's Ki-61 I Ko of the 68th Sentai's 2nd Chutai captured intact at Hollandia, New Guinea in April, 1944, especially concerning the victory markings that may or may not have been carried by this particular aircraft. Profile paintings, box art and decals have all depicted variations despite the fact that good quality black and white photographs provide multiple views of the aircraft. This particular aircraft has also been attributed to Captain Shogo Takeuchi.

Another 68th Sentai aircraft, depicted with blue fuselage and wing command stripes, is attributed to one Captain Akira Onazaki, who is not listed as a Sentai commander or Chutai leader in 'Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces 1931-1945' by Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa and Christopher Shores.  

Image credit: © American Modeler, August 1959

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Kit Trivia - A Veteran Hien

Like the Frog Zero, the colour scheme and markings chosen for Revell's 1/72nd scale 1963 Kawasaki Hien, and so memorably illustrated on the box art by Brian Knight, appear to have had their origin in a split 4-view painting by Peter Endsleigh-Castle which appeared in the December 1961 issue of RAF Flying Review magazine in conjunction with a brief article on the type entitled "Potent Swallow". The Hien was assessed by RAF Flying Review to be the best JAAF all-round fighter, whose success was marred by poor materials and workmanship.

Supposed to represent an aircraft of the 244th Sentai, the tail insignia of the Revell kit was only a very approximate imitation of the original,  but the colourful scheme and dramatic box art depicting a Ki-61 I Ko climbing over Mount Fuji captured the imagination. Originally issued as Kit # H-621 in the small black-ended box and molded in silver plastic, the earliest examples are much crisper and more detailed than the many later issues and featured an odd side-opening canopy (like the Bf-109), tried only on the prototype Hien with disastrous results. Later issues of the kit had a single-piece canopy.

If I recall correctly Revell's 'Famous Plane Series' was sold at W H Smith for 2/11d, almost a shilling more expensive than Airfix's 2/- kits but infinitely more enticing were the unusual subjects, evocative box art and working features like sliding canopies. Revell's Potter Bar marketing must have been quite good because I was even able to buy an Albatros DIII in my tiny local village post office. Prior to the arrival of Revell's Hien, Hayabusa and Hayate many an English schoolboy had no idea that the Japanese flew any fighters other than the famous Zero.

I was so captivated at the time by the sleek looks and "Interesting Facts About" my in-line engined Kawasaki that it appeared not once but twice in Christmas stockings and the name, incorrectly pronounced "Hine", became something of a family joke. When asking me about Christmas presents my mother would smile ruefully and say "Oh no, not another dratted Kawasaki Hine?" My father remained impervious to the appeal of Revell's Japanese quartet, dismissive of any aircraft not wearing RAF roundels.  It was therefore a surprise, many years later, when he had more time for reading about the subject, to hear him wax lyrical about the extraordinary range and flying qualities of the Zero.

Image credits: Box Art © Revell 1963; 4-View © RAF Flying Review & P Endsleigh-Castle 1961

Thursday, 16 October 2008

NASM Shinden Colours

In the Asahi Journal, Vol.3 No.1, Robert C Mikesh reported a measured value of the surviving external paint as 2.2 GY 2.9/0.5. This was found on top of the nose "under an outer coating of similar green". Mr Mikesh compared this colour to the closest standard Munsell value of 5 GY 3/1 and Thorpe's Dark Green N2. The closest FS 595b value to the measured colour is 34031 @ 1.79, whilst the closest FS value to the standard Munsell is 34052 @ 1.50. These colours seem darker and greyer than N2, which is 10 G 3/2. Whilst it is possible that the green chroma of the paint has degraded over time I consider that the original paint colour may have been more a very dark black green similar to Thorpe's N1. The very blue appearance of N2 is difficult to reconcile with current green and the 'D' series greens in the Kariki 117 document which appear to be based on pure Chromium Oxide pigments rather than the hydrated Chromium Oxide of Viridian.

In the same report regarding the interior colours a measured value of 0.1 G 4.5/1.4 was found on the right side cockpit wall and a "patchy" application of a paint measured as 1.3 G 4.4/1.7 found elsewhere. The closest FS 595b values to these colours are 34159 @ 1.30 and 14159 @ 2.29 respectively. They may be described as a grey green similar to the RAF interior green colour. The back of the seat was measured in two readings as 1.1 BG 2.6/0.5 and 1.0 BG 2.6/0.5. The closest FS 595b values to both colours is 16081 @ 2.16. 

Mr Mikesh re-visited these values in his Japanese Aircraft Interiors book of 2000. He noted a thin and deteriorated wash of green paint (not 'aotake') which the underlying aluminium caused to appear more blue than when making comparisons with colour paint samples. Mr Mikesh likened the colour to the N33 identified in the book, which is 2.5 GY 4/2.  A colorimeter reading of 9.3 Y 5.9/5.6 was obtained from just below the throttle quadrant area, which was compared to the closest standard Munsell value of 10 Y 6/6. This seems very yellow when compared to his description but he comments that it is too light. What he considered to be a more representative reading of 9.3 GY 3.8/1.4 was taken from the armour plate behind the seat. Mr Mikesh considered this to be the same colour as is on the seat and general interior. He reported the closest Munsell standard value as 10 GY 4/2 which has a difference calculation of 3.65 to the fractional notation, whereas the closest value is in fact 10 GY 4/1 @ 2.71. FS 34082 and N33 were cited as "close". FS 34082 is actually quite a distance from the measured value at 6.63 and is a more yellowish, olive green than the grey green measured. The closest FS value is actually 34092 @ 4.08.

The closest FS value to 10 GY 4/1 is 26134 @ 4.52 but it is not a good match, moving into the grey colour space. The closest FS value to 10 GY 4/2 is 34128 @ 2.42.

Mr Mikesh commented that a blend between N33 and Pantone 5615C is perhaps the best representation of the colour of the seat. The closest FS 595b value to Pantone 5615C is 24172 @ 2.51. 

The various colour values cited in this summary are rendered in the chips above. Note in the photograph the multi-coloured panels on Shinden. The nose section appears to be painted in a light colour rather than being natural metal but it does not appear to be the same colour as the wing ID strips. The same light colour appears to be on upper surface/leading edge of the canard aerofoil and note also the light coloured windscreen.

Image credits: Photograph author's collection; rendered colour chips © Straggler 2008