Thursday 30 July 2009

Kagero Hayabusa Topdrawings

Something of a sleeper is Kagero's book of Hayabusa plans in their 'Topdrawings' series. This slim 23 page publication contains plans by Mariusz Lukasik for all the major variants of the Type 1 Fighter in 1/72nd, 1/48th and 1/32nd scales. The 1/32nd scale plans are on a separate folding sheet.

The centre section of the book contains well-rendered colour profiles and partial plans by Arkadiusz Wróbel for 4 different Hayabusa aircraft and the rear cover has a further two colour profiles.

The final section of the book details the various changes to the airframe as it was developed with schematic drawings in 1/72nd scale. This identifies the early Ki-43-II as the "pre-production series" and suggests that the reduced wingspan was introduced at the start of the II series. This is not correct as early Ki-43-II aircraft retained the long wingspan of the Ki-43-I.

A set of decals in the three scales and two sheets of stencils in 1/48th and 1/32nd scales rounds off this attractive package.

The accuracy of scale plans is always a contentious issue so I won't comment on these other than that they appear to depict the airframe correctly and the top line of the fuselage seems to conform better to photographs than some other plans of the aircraft.

Whilst this publication is not as comprehensive as the Aero Detail book it will probably be easier to obtain and therefore more accessible as a resource for those embarking on a Hayabusa build. The colour profiles are attractive but feature well known aircraft, including Kato's early Type 1. Unfortunately the 64th Sentai 'arrow' tail marking is once again depicted incorrectly as asymetrical and this mistake is repeated on the decal sheet too. It is difficult to understand why this error is continuously repeated as there are a multitude of photographs available which show the correct form and proportions. The cobalt blue-edged white stripes for Kato's machine are not included with the decals or stencils. Whilst they can be painted on the model the fine blue edging would have to be sourced from solid colour decal sheets and the colour then matched to the Kagero decal. It may have been better to have chosen a different option, especially as Kato's aircraft has already been featured in the Fujimi, Nichimo and Hasegawa kits.

The aircraft featured in colour and on the decal sheet are as follows:-

1. Ki-43-I s/n 318 of 64th Sentai, flown by Tateo Kato in Spring 1942, camouflaged green
2. Ki-43-II 'late series' of 71st Sentai, in natural metal with Homeland Defence bands
3. Ki-43-II 'early series' of 3rd Chutai, 54th Sentai in the Kuriles, September 1943, green mottle on natural metal
4. Ki-43-II 'late series' of 2nd Chutai, 50th Sentai, green mottle on natural metal
5. Ki-43-II 'late series' of Kumagaya Flying School, natural metal with Homeland Defence bands
6. Ki-43-I s/n 483 of 47th Dokuritsu Chutai, at Chofu, summer 1943, camouflaged green with Homeland Defence bands

The latter profile depicts the aircraft with its undercarriage lowered and standing on the ground but the pilot standing by the fuselage is far too small! The Hayabusa appears to be of P-47 proportions in comparison! The diminutive pilot's black boots and brown (?) parachute harness are not typical for the JAAF. Decals and/or stencils are provided for all these aircraft in the three scales with the exception of the 50th Sentai lightning bolt and tail characters which are not provided in 1/32nd scale. Stencils for Hinomaru are included in 1/48th and 1/32nd scale but there are no 1/72nd scale Hinomaru either as decals or stencils. I think that the selection and provision of the decals and stencils could have reflected a little more care.

Despite the nits I have picked this is an attractive and useful resource for modellers at a reasonable price and is recommended to those who do not already have the Aero Detail book or previous monographs on the type.

Image credit: © Kagero 2009

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Model Art Profile 5 - Shoki!

Hard on the heels of the Hasegawa 1/32nd scale Shoki or stepping through the door just ahead of it is Model Art's new profile on the type. This follows the pattern set by the Hien profile in having an English summary section at the back - a great idea!

The book consists of a colour build feature of the new kit, followed by a section of colour paintings of Shoki details from the Model Art monthly magazine series - useful (and matt brick red prop painters take note - the colour is DARK BROWN and it is GLOSSY!). Then there is a colour build feature of two of the Hasegawa 1/48th kits, showing 'typical' colour schemes. The main body of the book is a Development and Operational History all in Japanese, with b/w photos and plans (from the FAOW books), including a technical description and details section, with sketches and diagrams from the original aircraft manual (now available online at JACAR) and a "Best Photos" album. Most of the photos have already appeared in previous Bunrin-do publications and there were only a couple new to this reviewer. Unfortunately in some cases the photo reproduction is poorer than in previous publications.

Whilst each principle user of Shoki is covered there are some omissions, mainly due I suspect to the lack of available photographs. For example the 33rd Sentai use of the aircraft in small numbers is not mentioned. The operation of Shoki by the 50th and 64th Sentai in Burma is explained in more detail than before but there are still some unanswered questions to explore about this. The experimental use of air-to-air rockets and other weapons by the Shoki of the Yasen Hojû Hikôtai at Singapore is not mentioned at all.

The final part of the book is the Painting and Markings section and this is the most disappointing. The profile views are from the FAOW on the type, whilst the new schematics showing camouflage schemes as three-quarter front colour images are quite crude and arguably not very accurate. For example the rendition of the 47th Independent Chutai (Kawasemi Butai) aircraft bears no resemblance to the real appearance of the paintwork. It was not a solid covering of brown paint but an overspray of different densities almost like a heavy mottle. In other images there is no differentiation between natural metal and grey/grey-green paint - and no explanation in the translated text - which may confuse those seeking to model the examples. The well-known mottled 246th Sentai example '338' is shown but unfortunately the colours are not explained.

There is a chart of printed (unfortunately) colour chips with explanations in English. It is reassuring that Nohara-san has finally accepted the existence and importance of JAAF #7 but then he spoils it by insisting that this colour should be described as "khaki brown" and offering a suggested FS 595b equivalent (30118 - which is sometimes cited as an equivalent for RAF Dark Earth) which is misleading to a true understanding of the olive drab nature of this colour! Ah well, softly, softly. The ubiquitous #21 'midori iro' (green colour) also emerges at last, although I fear Nohara-san has confused it with #27 'ao midori iro' (blue green colour) in selecting the chip colour and the closest FS 595b values, but it looks as though we might finally be able to put to rest those notions of "deep green", "brown green" and "late war brown", etc., and accept the fact that Don Thorpe was pretty much on the money all along.

The Army "aotake" chip is very poor, appearing as a bright mint green and the explanation of its use in respect of Shoki is somewhat confusing.

The text mentions the unique 85th Sentai China camouflage, supported by very poor reproductions of photographs, but does not identify the colours or attempt to show them. The lovely 29th Sentai wave marking is shown, its existence challenged for years until photographs emerged, as well as the lesser known skull marking.

The final part of the book is the English summary and full marks to Model Art for including this.

Shoki has received scant coverage in the past and the absence of any extant examples has precluded the Aero Detail treatment so any coverage is welcome. This profile, however, is by no means the last word on the type and it is disappointing that so much of the imagery has been published before. The book is still worth obtaining as a guide if you are embarking on building Shoki models, especially if you have none of the earlier references, but it cannot be considered as definitive and the opportunity to include some really spectacular graphics of a very charismatic aircraft has been missed.

Image credit: Shoki Unknown; Profile 5 Cover Model Art Co. Ltd. © 2009

Saturday 18 July 2009

Hasegawa's Big Shoki Arrives!

Hasegawa's big scale kit of Shoki, perhaps the most underestimated and misunderstood JAAF interceptor-fighter, has arrived and details of what is inside the box may be found here. The book of the kit (or is it vice versa?) arrived at the same time so a double post is probably warranted today to begin something of a Shoki-Fest here at Aviation of Japan, the only independent English language website devoted to Japanese aircraft.

I have mixed feelings about the kit. Whilst I am delighted to see one of my favourite Japanese aircraft getting the large scale treatment I am also feeling trepidation knowing that all the forum big scale bozos are going to jump on the bandwagon in endless pontificating threads about the aircraft and its colour schemes, especially the internals (watch this space)! Maybe Hasegawa should only sell it to those who can complete and pass a lengthy and detailed test on Japanese Army aircraft. The bozos should definitely be kept from getting their hands on this one - it just does not deserve a matt brick red propeller or an aotake interior.

Ok, Ok, I know. This smacks horribly of snobbery and elitism so I'll move on. It's tongue in cheek anyway so "Calm down, dear!".

It is clear from the kit breakdown of parts and the parts layout with the pieces "not for use" that other earlier versions of Shoki are intended. In fact these could be built from the one kit as it stands, although there are no decals for them. I wish that instead of re-releasing the same basic kit endlessly with different box art and decals Hasegawa would offer it as a straightforward multi-version kit with a decal sheet with options for all the versions. Ho hum.

Another surprising thing about this kit is that the distinctive side access panels on the cockpit are not separate parts. It would be a relatively easy job to cut them out (and a good opportunity for the photo-etch boys) but I would have expected this characteristic feature to be included in a kit of this scale (frankly in preference to separate flaps) to better show off the detail in that narrowly apertured 'pit'.

No doubt the usual bozos will wax lyrical about the flaps not being seen deployed on the ground. Wrong! There are photographs showing them deployed open in ground running and servicing - so wind your necks in and get back to those 109's. This is a Japanese aeroplane and we don't want your Luftwaffe pedantry here, thank you!

Hasegawa suggest "Khaki Green" (GSI Creos 54 or H80) for the majority of the interior but I haven't checked that paint colour out in comparison to the Army 39 standards (more about Shoki colours later). "Metallic Blue Green" (GSI Creos 57 or H63) or "silver" are suggested for the wheel wells - the Army "aotake" was often a "slimy olive green" rather than blue green but in fact the wells may have been the same colour as the interior (again, more about that later when we will really get into the nitty gritty of Shoki colour schemes).

Image credit: Shoki Statue Unknown; Box Art Hasegawa & Shigeo Koike © 2009

Friday 17 July 2009

Japanese Special Attackers & Flying Bombs

Authoritative English-language reference books on Japanese aviation subjects are rare and precious things but Japanese Special Attack Aircraft & Flying Bombs is an absolute gem. Authors Ryusuke Ishiguro and Tadeusz Januszewski have achieved a comprehensive exploration of a subject little known and hitherto poorly documented in English. Enhanced with unique and well chosen photographs the book provides a thorough and useful overview of special attack operations, from the culture behind the Kamikaze concept to a list of special attack units and the ships damaged or sunk by them.

The main body of the hefty 264 page book is logically divided into separate analyses of special attack aircraft and remote controlled flying bombs, covered subject by subject and organised by Army and Navy respectively. Of particular value to modellers are the scale drawings included for many of these. There are in addition diagramatic illustrations and performance tables. Finally a colour profile section by Zygmunt Szeremeta provides no less than 59 inspiring and colourful subjects, including depictions of the various flying bombs. It is as well to bear in mind that these are interpretations and however much one might disagree with some of the specific colours chosen and/or reproduced there is a paucity of available evidence to confirm them one way or the other. They are therefore perfectly valid to use as direct references for individual modelling projects - and very useful to.

Many of the photographs in this book are new to me. For example I had no idea that the Kawasaki Ki-102 heavy fighter "Randy" was used as the carrier aircraft for trials of the I-Go-1-Otsu (Ki-148) guided missile. If only there was a better (and more easily assembled) kit of this good looking twin than the Pavla example and that the Fine Molds missile kits were more readily available!

The book includes better known and popular modelling subjects like the Nakajima Kikka, Japan's surrogate Me 262, which is covered in 15 pages of text, with 14 photographs, 1/72nd scale plans, two colour profiles and a performance table. This depth of coverage sets the standard for this book which must be considered definitive and essential for anyone interested in the subject or the history of Japanese aviation generally. The Ohka rocket-propelled bomb receives similar coverage and benefits from recent revelations regarding appearance and colour. But in addition to these more mainstream subjects there is a host of lesser-known but equally fascinating types.

If I have any criticism of this excellent and wonderful book it is just a very slight concern that the softcover binding method might not prove resilient enough for its size, weight and likely usage. Personally I would have been prepared to pay a little more to have had such a useful reference book available in hardcover.

The authors can be justifiably proud of this superlative achievement. It is very highly recommended.

Image credit: Mushroom Model Publications © 2009

Sweet Little Hamp Over The Solomons

The most recent issue of the Sweet Hamp diminutive duo (14124-1200) eschews the realistic and evocative box art of the original for their trademark cartoon girl with saucer eyes and her feline groundcrew. This special 'Air Battle of Solomon' (sic) issue offers a very interesting option: a Zuikaku carrier-based Hamp in the early overall grey scheme with yellow wing IFF strips and twin white fuselage bands. The opportunity to put a Zero model of this type in this combination of colour and markings on a carrier deck is very tempting and makes the options in the Fine Molds kit appear rather unadventurous by comparison.

The other options offered in the kit are two Aikoku marked Hamps of the 3rd Ku flying against Darwin, the well-known T2-197 of the 204th Ku with field-applied green camouflage and a fuselage stripe Sweet suggest is yellow (it has been depicted as being various colours) and finally the famous U1-163 of the 251st Ku in both its pre- and post-camouflaged guises. Sweet settle for the U1 code being painted out rather than the red (or black) of some depictions. All most interesting possibilities.

Also included in the kit are optional 330 l metal and 280 l wooden drop tanks, as well as wing racks and bombs.

Sweet remain consistent in their suggestion of the overall factory colour being a 'Light Greenish Grey' which they match to Pantone 5783 and which is available as a ready mixed paint from Gaianotes, for which a flyer is included in the box. Perhaps the best way to describe this colour is as being similar to a pale version of RAF Sky. The closest Munsell and FS 595b equivalents are 5 GY 7/2 @ 3.29 (too light and too grey) and 14533 @ 3.18 (too bright and too green). A DE2000 value of 2.0 or less indicates a close match.

Image credit: Box art Sweet © 2009; Colour swatch Straggler © 2009

Thursday 2 July 2009

The Nimble Pete, Biplane Pearl of the South Pacific

An evocative image of a Mitsubishi F1M "Pete" drawn up on a tropical beach "somewhere" in the South Pacific (?). No doubt the unit code "P1-5" will have the cogniscenti pondering as it does not appear to conform to those commonly listed.

Plus a contemporary painting of another "Pete" getting airborne (or is it landing?). These may be of interest or incentive to those who have resisted the urge to build their new Hasegawa 1/48th kits!

Image credits: Painting 零戦落穂ひろい (