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

Saturday 11 October 2008

Dragon's Tony Tribulations Part 2

In 2002 the innovative Japanese model company Fine Molds began issuing a new series of early variant Ki-61-1 kits, beginning with the Otsu (b) and Hei (c) versions. Prior to this, in 1989, Fine Molds had issued some limited edition examples of rarer variants of the Hien, such as the Ki-61-II in both razorback and bubble top versions under the Hasegawa label. These limited edition kits combined new limited run parts with parts from the Hasegawa Ki-61-1 Tei and also contained some white metal parts. The 2002 kits, issued under Fine Molds own logo, were all new, and all plastic, with much improved detail and fit. They have been hailed as the best 1/72nd scale examples of the earlier "short-nosed" Hien variants.

Personally, I prefer the surface detail of the Dragon kit to the Fine Molds (shock, horror); there are many excellent features in these kits, including the representation of fabric covered flying surfaces, the decking detail beneath the rear canopy and the well defined cockpit sidewall detail. However, length considerations, the cowling panel detail and the lack of wing dihedral make this a problematic kit to use for an absolutely dimensionally accurate model of any Hien version.

Offering the kit fuselages up to various plans reveals that all the plans are different! Quelle surprise (I'll take a closer look at that subject later, when I review Ki-61 references)! Measurements reveal that the length of Dragon's Hien is 123mm, scaling out at 8.856m, which is too long for the Ko, Otsu and Hei, but also slightly too short for the Tei, by about 1.16mm in 1/72nd scale. Because this measurement is the overall length, when offered up to certain plans the Dragon nose does appear to be slightly too short in appearance for a Tei, accentuated by the slightly "beefier" cross-section of the Dragon fuselage, but it is certainly too long for the earlier variants. Taking into account the Tei cowling details, it is more a Tei than anything else, perhaps best viewed as an updated alternative to the Hasegawa kit.

The original Hasegawa Tei is 124mm, scaling out to 8.928m, close to the original measurement of 8.94m but still ever so slightly under length, equating to a mere 0.16mm in 1/72nd scale. Not worth bothering about.

The Fine Molds Hei is 120mm, scaling out at 8.64m or, surprisingly, 0.10m under length, which equates to approximately 1.4mm in 1/72nd scale, probably too small to worry about and certainly not a "fatal flaw" when one considers the margin of error in measuring. 

Interestingly, only the old Revell kit has provision for the retractable tailwheel and tailwheel doors of the early Ko, although it somewhat spoils this by having the long wing cannon barrels and enlarged wing blisters of the Hei! 

Image credit: © Straggler 2008

Dragon's Tony Tribulations Part 1

As a prequel to the forthcoming examination of all things Ki-61 and Ki-100 here is a brief look at the saga of Dragon's 1/72nd scale Ki-61 kit. Of all the perennial confusions surrounding Japanese aircraft the question of Tony variants is almost a constant.

Dragon's Tony was first released in 1994, quite eagerly awaited as the only previous kit in this scale was Hasegawa's 1972 Ki-61-1 Tei. Before that the very basic if not crude Revell 1962 Hien was the only game in town, discounting some odd scale Japanese examples and the Nichimo Ki-61-II which we will be examining in more detail in due course.

Dragon appear to have been confused between the Hei and Tei variants when they marketed their kit; because although it was boxed as a Hei, the nose panel detail resembles more closely the Tei and lacks any provision for the long-barreled Mauser 20mm wing cannon of the Hei.

In 2006 Dragon re-issued the kit as a "3 in 1" version, purporting to provide optional details for the Ko, Otsu or Hei variants. This kit also included a small photo-etch sheet. The optional details were an alternative cowling panel with Type 89 Kai 7.7mm weapons for the Ko, and the wing cannon barrels and enlarged wing cannon blisters for the Hei. In fact the Ko had the Type 89 weapons in the wings (with distinctive panels) and all three variants had the Ho-103 12.7mm weapons in the cowling. The nose panel details still resembled the Tei rather than the earlier versions. The box art depicted a well known Ko, for which the decals were provided, but there was no provision for the retracting tailwheel and tailwheel doors of this version.

The main difference between the Tei and earlier versions was the increase in the length of the nose, just forward of the wing leading edge, to accomodate the Ho-5 20mm cowling weapons and to achieve a new centre of gravity. As a result of these changes the overall length of the Hien was increased from 8.75m to 8.94m (approximately 7.5 inches - or approximately 2.65mm in 1/72nd scale). The requisite alteration to the cowling panel lines, details and relative position of the exhausts were the most visible aspects of the change. The four slots each side of the cowling just ahead of the windscreen were specific to the Ho-5, not present on the Ko, Otsu or Hei and another Tei feature included by Dragon. The venturi fitted below the windscreen on the port side of the fuselage and rather crudely moulded integrally to the kit part was present on only a few Tei, supposedly required for a new type of gyro gunsight.  


For IJAAF aircraft the Ko, Otsu Hei, etc., sequential suffixes usually applied to armament changes only but as a convention have often been applied anachronistically to other airframe changes not officially recognised. The kanji characters are as follows:-

Ko 甲
Otsu 乙
Hei  丙
Tei 丁
Bo 戊
Ki 己
Ko 庚
Shin 辛
Jin 壬
Ki 癸

Identification of those characters can be useful in the study of aircraft plans and variant profiles in Japanese books. They originated from a calendar system in use during the Chinese Shang Dynasty and are known as the Ten (Celestial or Heavenly) Stems. Their common rendering in English as a, b, c etc., is not a direct translation of their meaning but just a convenient equivalence.

Image credit: Box Art © Dragon 1994 & 2006