Saturday, 27 September 2008

North Vietnamese MiG Pilots

Something of a sleeper is the publication by Hikoki of author Roger Boniface's 'MiGs Over North Vietnam'. Previously published by Authors Online as a soft cover edition titled 'Fighter Pilots of North Vietnam'  in 2005, the book is a thorough and lavish account of the Vietnam Air War as seen through the eyes of the MiG pilots of the Vietnamese People's Air Force (VPAF) and draws heavily on personal accounts obtained by interviewing the men concerned. The newly published version benefits from better photographic reproduction, including many colour photographs, and contains colour profiles of various VPAF MiGs in interesting camouflage schemes. The latter is of particular interest to modellers as the schemes are described and will be a good basis for models. VPAF decals are available from Crosswind Hobbies and were reviewed here recently.

Osprey have also covered VPAF MiGs in their Combat Aircraft series with István Toperczer's 'MiG-17 and MiG-19 Units of the Vietnam War' (25) and 'MiG-21 Units of the Vietnam War' (29).

Further quality studies of the subject by István Toperczer with Dr Zoltán Buza may be found in 'MiG-17 Over Vietnam' in the British aviation journal Wings of Fame Volume 8 and 'MiG-19 in Vietnam' in Wings of Fame Volume 11. To anyone interested in this subject these articles are worth looking out for as the photographic content is different.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Manchoukuo 97 Sen

Spotted a superb build of the Hasegawa (ex-Mania) 1/48th kit of the Nakajima Type 97 Fighter (Allied Code Name "Nate") in Manchoukuo (Manchurian) Air Force markings by "Zeke" at Britmodeller using WEM Colourcoats paints (ACJ07 Navy Grey) for the blue-grey finish and adding convincing variegation with pastels and oils. Zeke has brought out the best in this venerable but excellent kit to achieve a very attractive and different looking model.   

A number of 97 Sen aircraft, believed to be about 60 in total, (although some sources report only 12), were purchased from Japan and sponsored by Manchurian industrial companies (who were identified by the characters along the fuselage sides). The aircraft were presented on Manchoukuo's Aviation Day, 20th September 1942. They were used in both the fighter and fighter-trainer role by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Air Units (Hikotai) at Hsinking, Mukden and Antung respectively and by the Air School at Manhungtun. The bottom image shows a group of Manchoukuo 97-Sen pilots - note the ethnic Russian in sunglasses.

The Manchoukuo Nates were described as "bright blue-grey" in appearance. The distinctive roundels were adopted from the Manchoukuo flag (top image), for which there are differing interpretations about the colours. Some report that these represent the five races of Manchuria whilst one explanation states the colours are representative of unification (yellow), bravery (red), justice (blue), purity (white) and determination (black).

Image credit: 'Zeke' @ © 2008

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Beyond Pearl Harbor

A most valuable and important English language document relating to Japanese Naval Aviation has recently been published. 'Beyond Pearl Harbor' by Ron Werneth explores the untold stories of Japan's naval airman through the medium of a series of in-depth interviews with surviving veterans. 

The author decided to move to Japan in order to complete his research and this 288-page book is the fine achievement of many years of determination and hard work. 

'Beyond Pearl Harbor' is an especially valuable record as the author provides interviews not just with fighter pilots but with carrier bomber, attack plane and maintenance crew too. Their fascinating first hand experiences and impressions have been captured for posterity and made available to enthusiasts and researchers in a permanent archive which penetrates beyond the Western stereotyping of Japanese airmen created by 60 years of populist writing. The interviews are accompanied by many rare and unpublished photographs from the personal albums of veterans.  There is also a colour section which, in addition to photographs of the surviving veterans,  their families and former opponents, provides profiles of the aircraft described. The Appendices include a most useful map of Japanese Navy air and seaplane bases in Japan during WWII, a glossary of Japanese terms, copious endnotes to the chapters and a comprehensive bibliography

This book is very highly recommended to everyone with an interest in Japanese naval aviation and/or the Japanese experience in the Second World War. Signed and dedicated copies of 'Beyond Pearl Harbor' may be obtained directly from Ron's website.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Judy Interior Colours

There is not much evidence for the interior colour of the Kugisho D4Y Suisei Navy Carrier Bomber (Allied Code Name 'Judy') but Robert C Mikesh has identified cockpit component parts as being comparable to Munsell 7.5 GY 3/4 (A/N 32 from his 'Aircraft Interiors' book) and Pantone 5747C. There are no close FS matches to these colours but hopefully the rendered chips will give you an idea of what they look like.

Humbrol 149 Matt Dark Green and/or 76 Matt Uniform Green seem reasonably close to the Munsell, but there is nothing in the Humbrol range close to the Pantone. Revell's silk-matt 363 Dark Green is the closest but still not quite rich enough in green chroma.

The beautiful D4Y2-S Judy nightfighter model was built by Dan Salamone from the Fine Molds kit and nicely replicates the "buff" finish of the undersurfaces. Dan used Asahi Journal Volume 4, Number 3 as his main colour reference source. Tamiya XF-61 was used for the upper surface dark green, with XF-11 used for the overspray of the fuselage hinomaru outlines and other touch ups. The lower surfaces were XF-49 and XF-20 but mixed to a different ratio from  Dan's superlative Zero model. All colours were thinned with GSI Creos Mr Color lacquer thinner and also with Mr Retarder to slow the drying time.

Dan described building the Fine Molds kit as challenging but rewarding. He used vacform parts on the canopy so that he could position the sliding parts open to show off the wonderful interior detail. Dan used Tamiya masking tape cut into thin slices to replicate the bands holding the antenna wire to the mast for the unconventional rigging. Some details were missing, such as the canopy slide rails and main landing gear door actuation. Some were not molded in the correct positions, such as panel lines. The rear fairing behind the canopy is also too shallow and the solution was to build it up with epoxy putty then to sand back to the correct shape. The fit of parts was difficult; Dan decided to attach all the inserts, such as the lower fuselage, upper cowling, etc., to one of the fuselage halves to ensure a perfect fit, then sanded/filled the other side as needed. 

This aircraft was unusual in that the original clear rotating part of the rear canopy was retained whereas all other known D4Y2-S had a mostly solid metal rear fairing.

Image credits: Rendered colour chips © Straggler 2008; Fine Molds D4Y2-S model © Dan Salamone 2008

Type 2 Two-Seat Fighter Kai Bo

The Kawasaki Ki-45 Kai 'Toryu' "Ni Shiki Fuku-sen" (Allied Code Name 'Nick') 'Bo' ('e') version was a little known night fighter equipped with experimental air-to-air radar "dempa hyoteki" (literally "radio wave target") installed in a transparent nose. 

Non-standard armament consisted of a single forward firing 40mm Ho-301 cannon in the ventral tunnel. The aircraft may also have carried twin oblique dorsal armament but this is not confirmed.

It is believed that at least 12 aircraft were converted to this configuration at the Army Air Arsenal using a variation of the Taki 2 radar set. The exact configuration and appearance of the radar equipment is not known.

AFAIK no photographs of the Kai Bo have appeared. This rare and unusual Toryu was featured as a 1/72nd conversion from the Hasegawa kit by modeller Katoh Hiroyuki in the June 2001 issue of Model Art magazine (top picture). The type also featured in the graphic novel 'Who Fighter' by Seiho Takizawa, flown by the hero of the novel Lieutenant Kitayama (second from bottom picture).

Bottom image shows the exhaust flame pattern for the Ki-45 viewed from the rear at night. This is for the earlier single exhausts rather than the multiple thrust type of the late production Kai Tei.

Image credits: Model photograph: Model Art & Katoh Hiroyuki © 2001; Profile plan: Model Art © 2001; Comic: Dark Horse Manga & Seiho Takizawa © 2004

Monday, 15 September 2008

15th September 1940

It is a sad fact that today in Britain more people will not remember the Battle of Britain than those who will. The people who don't remember, don't even know or don't care will go about their daily lives in a country which owes its very existence to a small  group of very young pilots who accomplished the almost impossible. They asked for nothing but they were asked to give everything. We shall remember them.

In the high summer of 1940 the whole country was inextricably involved in the fate being woven by the contrails over South-East England.  Today British servicemen and women are still asking for nothing but being asked to give everything. They are doing so far away from these shores, at the same time as we are free to go about our daily lives.

Let's remember the Battle of Britain but let's not forget those young men and women who are still serving our Queen and our Country, asking for nothing but sometimes being asked to give everything.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Hasegawa Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero Fighter Type 52 'Super Ace'

Beyond the limelight and chorus of approval for Tamiya's superlative new 1/48th scale Zero 52, the latest markings incarnation of Hasegawa's respectable 1/72nd scale 52 provides for two machines flown by legendary IJN ace Tetsuzo Iwamoto. '53-104' of the 253rd Ku flown from Rabaul in 1944 with two variations of splendid cherry blossom victory markings emblazoned along the rear fuselage and the plainer '252-114' of the 252nd Ku flown from Mobara in 1945.

Whatever one thinks of Hasegawa's marketing policy of re-releasing the same kits with different box art and decal options a useful aspect of this kit is that you get spare spinners, back plate and prop blades which can be used to improve older models. An odd thing is that the painting instructions depict the wooden drop-tank with fins, more representative of the 52 (?), but the kit only provides the earlier metal version. Pity.

Hasegawa can't decide whether the Rabaul tail markings were white or yellow, so provide both options. They are not alone. My choice would be yellow.

When the Academy 1/72nd scale Mitsubishi A6M5c was released in 1998, it was scorned by some reviewers. However, there is a superb build of this kit here that is well worth a look and certainly redeems this underestimated kit. The colours are well chosen - especially the prop. I always felt the detail on this kit was actually superior to Hasegawa's version. The same forum features a very nice build of the lovely ICM 97-Sen by Canadian decal guru Mike Grant, which vindicates the Ukrainian company's innovative approach to the engineering of the kit. 

The September issue of Scale Aviation (Vol. 63) is chock-full of interest for Japanese aviation enthusiasts. For non-Japanese readers the text is of limited use but there are English captions here and there and the images are beautiful. The main theme is the Defence of The Empire 1945.

Check out Rogan Umemoto's model of a fatally wounded Hayate pilot being carried above the cloud base to Valhalla by a Valkyrie! Imaginative aircraft and figure modelling in 1/48th scale, making use of Model Kasten's super little set of Japanese aircrew. Let's have more sets like these from manufacturers please, especially in 1/72nd scale!

Fujie F Satake's Revell 1/32nd scale Raiden (Jack) demonstrates just how good these Revell (Japan) kits were in their day. This issue also contains some interesting sketches of Raiden details, including that oblique-firing 20mm cannon.

Tamiya's new 1/48th scale Zero 52 is expertly put together by Shinichiro Wada. His rendering of 'aotake' is impressive and the colour choice for the cockpit raises the bar in realism.

Ko-zaburou Nagao reprises an old favourite with ace Yoshio Yoshida's gleaming Shoki of the 70th Sentai using the Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit.

RS Models huge 1/72nd scale Ki-94 in spurious 244th Sentai markings by Koichiro Kanome goes up against B-32 'Hobo Queen'.

In another colour photo-feature the "Wiriam Brothers" (!) 1/32nd scale Seversky P-35 becomes the Asahi two-seater J-BAAN, long overdue in 1/72nd scale.

There are some interesting 'then and now' aerial photographs of some of Japan's famous air bases and to round it off a charming cartoon of Toryu (Ki-45 'Nick') by the talented Noburo Shimoda. 

Non-Japanese subjects include a super racing P-40Q from the Pegasus kit by Juichi Hashimoto, Tamiya's Storch, Italeri's A-26 Invader, a wonderful Monogram B-29 and SMER's 1/48th Macchi Castoldi MC.72 racing floatplane - the red one with all the brass radiators!  (I won't mention the long-legged lovely who is the "Nose Art Queen" in this issue!)

Friday, 5 September 2008

New SE Asia Decals from Crosswind Hobbies!

There are not many aftermarket decals available for South-East Asian countries so these new sheets from Crosswind Hobbies in Australia are very welcome.

In addition to North Vietnamese Air Force national insignia and aircraft numbers, there are sheets for Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam, mainly to 1/72nd scale. These decals are "proper" transfers with individual varnish on each marking and not over the whole sheet. 

Having purchased these decal sheets myself I can vouch for the quality of the product and am looking forward to more. Highly recommended.