Friday 23 January 2009

Swinging on The Bells

I always get suspicious when I read forum posts along the lines "I've been modelling for 50 years so my opinion about this kit counts for more than yours" or "Being a professional artist for 40 years I can determine colour from black & white photographs better than you plebs" (not really so brazen, but you get the idea).

Pre-qualifying an opinion with credentials is so infra dig. 

No wonder newer or younger modellers sometimes find it difficult to participate. Even I feel intimidated by some of these bozos and I've been studying colour and modelling for 250 years. ;-)

Image credit: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Warner Bros (1939)

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Japanese Aircraft Identification 1943

This guide to the identification of Japanese aeroplanes, published by 'The Aeroplane' and 'The Aeroplane Spotter' at the very beginning of 1943, is fascinating and I shall post some excerpts in due course. It's a revealing snapshot of British public knowledge about Japanese aircraft at the time and perhaps the surprising thing is not how little was known but how much. Of course there are some interesting flights of fancy too!

On camouflage and marking the book has this to say:-

"Japanese aircraft are mostly painted light grey or light green on all surfaces, or dark green on upper surfaces with light grey undersides. Some types are known to be camouflaged with grey and green on upper surfaces. The red disc (rising sun) appears on the wing tips of both upper and lower surfaces and in most cases on either side of the fuselage. Where the red disc appears on a dark background it has a thin white outline. Coloured identification bands run round the fuselage near the tail on some types. In some instances horizontal white stripes appear on the fin and rudder."

That is interesting because it provides confirmation, backed by other contemporaneous sources such as combat and intelligence reports, that the general appearance of Japanese aircraft in the early part of the war was that they were painted light grey or light green. There is no mention of khaki, brown or tan.

An officer of the British Air Mission to Japan in 1922 is quoted regarding the calibre of Japanese pilots:-

"The Japanese as pilots I consider very good. They are steady and reliable and I think the average is high. They produce very few star turns but also have very few failures. Their great failing is that they are not quick enough in an emergency. They have little thought for their engines and seem to have no 'ear' whatsoever. Although slow thinking they take about the same number of hours dual as we normally give to new pilots. They are remarkable shots, and I should think that in a scrap their one idea would be to down the enemy regardless of the cost to themselves. They are not consistent, and even their star turn pilots do strange things at times - perhaps through over confidence."

Image credit: Author's collection

Saturday 10 January 2009

Army Trainers

An interesting piece of contemporary watercolour art depicting a novice pilot with two Army trainers in the background. This type of art is sometimes useful in giving a good impression of colours as seen by an artist's eye.

Note the dull shade of deep yellow on the biplane (it is not a reddish orange) and the slight bronzing effect where the black engine panels behind the cowling have been affected by heat. A convincing detail.

The Ki-55 'Ida' in the background is depicted as grey and the grey does appear similar in appearance to the greys seen in a colour photograph of an 'Ida' airfield line-up. It is a neutral, slightly dove grey. Ki-36 aircraft taken over by Indonesian forces were described in notes made by a British eyewitness at the time as being painted light blue-grey with a dark green mottled camouflage.

For comparison purposes the colour swatches show, from left to right, JAAF paint standard # 14 Ki iro (yellow colour), February 1945 Joint Army-Navy paint standard 4-1 and Thorpe Army colour A17 'Deep Yellow'. Beneath each chip is shown the closest FS 595b match with the DE2000 difference calculation (2.0 or less = a close match).

Thanks to Ken Glass for sharing this image.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Hasegawa's Hayabusa ~ Part Three

The next Hasegawa special edition Hayabusa kit was 00192 "59th Flight Regiment" released in 2001. This featured box art and markings for the mid-production Ki-43-II of Captain Shigeo Nango, executive office and acting commander of the 59th Sentai operating from East But, New Guinea in December 1943, with an alternative for Captain Kitakoga Yûkichi, 2nd Chutai leader in the 54th Sentai based at Horomushiro Island in June 1944. The main kit instructions were unchanged but a sheet with colour and markings details for the featured options were included.

Nango's colourful bird has sometimes been depicted with red fuselage stripes and sometimes without the stripes on the horizontal stabilisors which were part of the unit insignia. An article in FAOW # 65 of July 1997 "Nango Tai-i to Hayabusa 2-gata; Niu Guinia Kokusen no Ichi Danmen" (Captain Nango and his Hayabusa Model 2; One Phase of the New Guinea Air War) written by respected Japanese historian Yoji Watanabe finally clarified and confirmed the actual colours.

Watanabe-san had interviewed veteran Hitoshi Kawamura, a lieutenant in the 59th Sentai's maintenance section. Kawamura-san had joined the unit as maintenance leader in the 1st Chutai at Bandoeng, Java in February 1942. In March 1943 he was promoted to armament officer assigned to the Sentai Hombu (HQ) and remained in this capacity throughout the 59th's operations in New Guinea, coming into contact with Nango's aircraft constantly. When the Sentai withdrew to Manila for R&R in October 1943 it acquired 34 aircraft, enough to assign a personal aircraft to each pilot. Nango's assigned aircraft was S/N 6010.

The blue stripes painted on the fuselage represented the position of "senior officer assigned to the Sentai Hombu" (i.e. Executive Officer). The red tail stripes of the 2nd Chutai were retained however, because Nango had previously been the 2nd Chutai leader and his aircraft continued to be maintained by the 2nd Chutai maintenance personnel. A photograph of the aircraft around this time shows it about to sortie with a single drop tank carried under the port wing. Nango was killed in action on 25 January 1944 and is believed to have been downed in air combat by 1st Lt Robert M DeHaven of the 7th FS, 49th FG. 

When the Hasegawa kit was first released it provided alternative parts to build, in theory, all II versions except the II Kai. These included early and late headrests, early and late exhausts and parts for the first production annular oil cooler and small triangular oil cooler. The engineering of the kit suggests that Hasegawa may even have contemplated offering the different cowling configurations. Unfortunately building the earliest production variant was not possible because it had the longer wings of the Ki-43-I. The drop tank pattern and configuration, inboard of the undercarriage and the absence of a landing light on the leading edge of the port wing also precluded building a late production version without modification. No provision was made for the subtle changes in cowling pattern.

In describing Ki-43-II variants the terms "ko" and "otsu" (approximately corresponding to 'a' and 'b') have been used but this may not be appropriate. These designations within the JAAF were usually used to identify armament variations and recent Japanese references have used instead the terms "early", "mid" and "late" production when describing the Ki-43-II variants. These variants will be discussed in more detail in a future post on the subject. For now it is sufficient to record that the Hasegawa kit can only be used, out of the box, to build a mid-production Ki-43-II and that for other variants additional modifications will be required.

With grateful thanks to Osamu Tagaya.
Image credits: Box Art © Hasegawa Corporation, 2001; Illustration © Straggler, 2009

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Hayabusa Lines

Previous posts and comments have touched on the fidelity of shape of the Hasegawa 1/48th Hayabusa. Not the most scientific approach but sufficient to demonstrate how the angles of the line changes on the kit are too great. The apparent tapering of the lower cowl exacerbates the problem. The result is that the model does not capture the true appearance of the original. The elegant beauty of the aircraft is lost. It won't worry everyone but it is certainly enough to put off the Hayabusa buffs!

Image credits (from top): 1 Author's Collection; 2 FAOW 1/72 Bunrin-do; 3 James F Lansdale via; 4 & 5 via eBay model builder unknown

Monday 5 January 2009

1/72nd Scale Hayabusa Breaking News!

Following on from my post yesterday about the longevity of Hasegawa's Hayabusa a correspondent has very kindly alerted me to the fact that CMK/MPM have announced the release of a new injection molded Ki-43-II in 1/72nd scale!

Expected January/February! A II Kai and III Ko may also be released later.

Maybe I'll hold off on that feature about improving the Hasegawa kit! Fingers crossed, eh?

Image credit: © CMK/MPM 2009

Sunday 4 January 2009

Hasegawa's Hayabusa ~ Part Two

It really is quite sobering to think that the Hasegawa 1/72nd scale Hayabusa is 27 years old and yet still the best Oscar II available in the scale. The overall shape is superior to the much more recent Hasegawa 1/48th versions and to the Fujimi Ki-43-I.  AML have produced III Ko and II Kai versions but they are injection/resin hybrids with vacform canopies - not the easiest of builds. 

I do hope that if Hasegawa should ever decide to issue a new 1/72nd Hayabusa it will not be based on their 1/48th kit! I think the most likely contender now is probably Fine Molds but let's hope the "ultimate" Hayabusa is not issued with a magazine! In 1/48th scale there is already the excellent Fine Molds kit to fall back on, available in several versions and much more easily obtainable these days.  It has a good overall shape but is tricky to assemble. In the same scale the venerable Nichimo Ki-43-I is still the best early Oscar so far.

Several years ago Eduard announced a 1/72nd Ki-43-II kit but at some point abandoned the idea. It should be possible for a Hayabusa II kit to incorporate optional parts for all versions and those needed for the III Ko. The type served the Japanese Army on all fronts from the beginning to the end of the war, a veritable war horse and work horse, so it deserves to be represented by a mainstream, state of the art kit in the divine scale!

The first special edition of the 1/72nd Hayabusa kit was the Ki-43-II 'Otu' (sic) 'Flight Training Regiment' issued as kit # AP123/51383 in 1995 with new box art (top picture). It was molded in light grey plastic and included decals for two instructor's aircraft used in Homeland Defence duties from the Hokota and Kumagaya Army Flying Schools. These aircraft featured overall natural metal finish and white Homeland Defence bandages on wings and fuselage.

The second option, from Kumagaya, was for a well known aircraft I had previously depicted in a profile painting.  That profile has been the subject of some criticism for my choice of yellow fuselage bands! It is shown here again with no particular claim for its accuracy. I used to have an Otaki model in this scheme (with white bandages and a plain rudder) built in the late 1970's but it has not survived the various moves. If I was going to build another model in this scheme it would be exactly like the profile painting!

The next installment will set out improvements to the Hasegawa kit and explore some of the aftermarket sets available for it.

Image credit: Box Art © Hasegawa Seisakusho Co. Ltd., 1995; Profile © Straggler, 2009

Friday 2 January 2009

Tachikawa Ki-9 in 1/72nd Scale

RS Models from the Czech Republic will be releasing a 1/72nd scale injection molded model of the Tachikawa Ki-9 biplane trainer 'Spruce' in both Special Attack and Trainer versions. 

Test shots shown. Release date unknown.

Image credit: RS Models, 2009

More Than Hample

The new Fine Molds 1/72nd scale A6M3 Model 32 Zero 'Hamp' kit has been released as a special edition with Volume # 65 of Scale Aviation Magazine. Unlike the previous Fine Molds A6M2 kit this one comes complete with a single issue of the magazine which is dedicated to a re-appraisal of the A6M3 type, contains instructions for building the kit, colour and markings details and two build reports by Japanese modellers. Further details of the contents of this issue and an image of the cover may be found at but please note the aircraft on the cover is not the new Fine Molds kit but the old Tamiya 1/48th example. All in all a superb package, if expensive for those living in the UK as Sterling continues its nosedive (approximately £23 not including shipping - yikes!)

The kit is an absolute gem. Molded in appropriate colours like the A6M2 it is tempting to build it without painting it. The main components are in an "olive grey" plastic, with olive green for the cockpit parts, black for the cowling, undercarriage legs and wheels, and silver for the engine and prop. Shades of Matchbox, although infinitely more precise in both the colour demarcation and molding!

The cockpit is stuffed full of petite detail, with sidewalls, boxes to stick on them, side console, cowling gun breeches, magazines, stick with actuating link, rudder pedals, seat frame assembly and decals for instrument faces. Alas no pilot figure! This is very much a kit made for modellers, as evidenced by the separate wing flaps, optional open or closed cowling flaps and optional one piece or three piece canopies. 

Markings for three examples are included with some options and one set of Hinomaru complete with separate white discs:-

1. Q-102, an overal grey Houkoku (presentation) aircraft # 872 of the 2nd Kokutai at Buna, New Guinea. Interestingly Fine Molds depict the tail code as red outlined white whereas in the Hasegawa release of the same aircraft (AP103/51363 in 1994) they depicted it as black outlined yellow.

2. T2-188, a field camouflaged aircraft of the 204th Kokutai at Rabaul, with alternative code for '190', another aircraft of the same group.

3. 'Ta I'-180, a green over grey aircraft of the Tainan Kokutai flown by ace Takeo Tanimizu, with the code provided as both white and yellow versions. This machine has an unusual undulating division between upper and lower surface colours and Japanese calligraphy on the rear fuselage. It is the same aircraft depicted in the 1993 Hasegawa kit AP16/51316. 

I'm partial to the A6M3 of all the Zero versions and if you plan to build one in this scale then the Fine Molds kit is the best place to start. There have been previous kits, including the Hasegawa 1990's version, which is still sound but does not have the same loving detail lavished on it as the Fine Molds kit.

Platz/PHU produce a nice sheet of A6M3 decals for four Houkoku aircraft, currently out of stock at HLJ but may be re-issued as other Platz/PHU decal sheets are. 

Thursday 1 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2009 to all Aviation of Japan visitors and friends. A special thank you to all those who have contributed to the blog, whether by comments, pics of models or other encouragement and support, and of course to all linked sites.

Image credit: Author's collection