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