Wednesday 21 October 2009

Another Gem ~ Mitsubishi A5M2a

This Fujimi 1/72nd scale Mitsubishi A5M2a in Sino-Japanese War camouflage is another superbly made and painted model by Zbyszek Malicki.

The aircraft modelled by Zbyszek was flown by PO 1st Class Mitsugo Mori of the 13th Kokutai during the attack on Hankow on 18th February 1938 and is the aircraft depicted on the box art of Fujimi kit # C-19/72040 first issued in 1996. The paints used were Tamiya red-brown and Extracolor IJA Green.

Seeing this aircraft brings back fond memories of watching the Taiwanese film "Heroes of the Eastern Skies" in a cinema in Hong Kong in 1977. The A5Ms in that film were wooden models on wires, pitted against Chinese biplane Curtiss Hawk IIIs flown by the heroes of the title. That was in the days before cgi and the aerial sequences would be considered primitive now. In fact the models were quite carefully crafted and filmed above a miniature landscape of considerable charm.

Image credit: © 2009 Zbyszek Malicki

Sunday 18 October 2009

JASIG Corner Bulletin # 1

Welcome to the new Japanese Aviation Special Interest Group (JASIG) Corner hosted at the Aviation of Japan Web Log. For some years now we produced a printed newsletter, JASIG Jottings, then Japanese Aviation News, and now, the JASIG Corner, having finally embraced Internet technology and accepting the generous offer of "Straggler" to participate in his blog.

Formerly, membership required a subscription fee, used to off-set the cost of printing the newsletter, but now, it's free, not bad considering the current world economic situation. I would, however, like to emphasize the need for interested parties to please complete a membership form and send it in so that we may continue as a bonafide special interest group under the bi-laws of the International Plastic Modellers' Society (UK). Feel free to participate by sending me photos of your models and any article you'd like to share with the group. Queries are welcome and give us food for thought. Email me here.

I'll post things I feel would be of interest and will let you know in advance about model shows you may wish to attend. If you can, bring your Japanese aircraft models along to display, and if you don't wish to display, please stop by and say hello.

Peter Starkings kindly reminded me that my comments about the Ki-61-II, part of the Tamiya 1/50 scale nostalia article in the October 2009 Japanese Aviation News, were in error. Right Staff did produce a 1/48 scale kit of the Tony, but it was not the mark II, as I thought, but simply a longer nose (8.94m) version of the mark I. Sorry about that. He also mentioned that JN Models produced a 1/48 resin kit of the mark II, but neither he nor I have seen one. He went on to share that there are two Ki-61 kits in 1/50 available, Tamiya issued a Ki-61-I and a Ki-61-II, and Marusan/UPC issued a mark II as well. - Thanks Peter!

A recent revelation has come to light. On page 72 of volume 6 of the Japanese language Encyclopedia of Japanese Aircraft 1900 - 1945, there is a photo of a Fokker D.VIII. This photo appears in other publications and was thought to bear Dutch markings. In a black and white photo, Hinomaru and the Dutch orange roundel appear quite similar. I posted a query on and it was answered by Ryusuke Ishiguro: "This photo was taken with Hinomaru in Holland before exported to Japan, maybe around 1920." I read that Japan received many aircraft as war prizes after the Great War and this D.VIII is quite a good specimen sporting fuselage lozenge. It makes one wonder if the Dutch markings provided in the Roden kit were based upon this photo. If so, they should have been Hinomaru.

The IPMS Scale Model World show is at Telford in Shropshire, England, on Saturday and Sunday, 7th and 8th November. Anyone who makes scale models would enjoy this celebration of our hobby. If you've not been, you are in for a treat. The JASIG will be displaying both days and of course, we have two trophies to award, one for a competition entry and one to award to the best model of a Japanese subject in the halls. Remember, our SIG theme this year is Experimental/Prototype, Flight Test and What If subjects.

See you there!

Japanese Aviation SIG

Monday 5 October 2009

A Little Veteran Shoki

Hasegawa's veteran 1/72nd scale Ki-44 Shoki is the only kit of this type in this scale still in production and re-issued from time to time in various guises. It first appeared in 1972 as kit # A1 with its similarly long-serving stablemate the Ki-61 Hien. These two kits were so distinct in fidelity of detail and engineering approach to the contemporary Hasegawa Zero series (and other kits) that I have long suspected them to have been made from former Mania molds, perhaps kits which were in preparation but never issued under that logo before Hasegawa took over? Interestingly, whilst the Hien has a rudimentary interior, Shoki has the crude one-piece "bathtub" as used in the Zero kits - another detail that makes me think these may have been Mania kits in preparation and at different stages of completion when Hasegawa took them over.

John W Burns 'In Plastic WW2 Aircraft Kits' reports that the first issue was available from 1972 to 1980 and then re-issued from 1982-87 with the same number. The first issue box has the orange flash but for those interested in packaging trivia there are several versions. In one variant the 'A1' on the end and sides of the box has the '1' outlined in white rather than plain. In the UK the kit was imported by Hales and there are at least three versions of box with the orange flash. First there was a box identical to the 'Japanese' box but with a 'Hales' sticker attached to the box over the Japanese text on the front. Then a box with the 'Hales' logo printed on the front of the box beneath the blurb, which is in English rather than Japanese. This box is printed on matt cardboard rather than the glossy card of the original. Finally there is a flimsy, end-opening box with the box art shown on both side but otherwise identical to the second version.

The second 1982 re-issued box was identical to the first but had the flash in blue and extending like a stripe "under" the box art to appear at the right hand edge of the boxtop. There are at least two variants of this box, one with and one without the "Japan Safety Toy' panel on the side. The kits themselves were also identical except that the first issue was injected in silver plastic and the second in pale grey. The decal sheets in all these versions varied in quality and printing but offered the same options:-

1. A Ki-44-1 Later Production Model of the Akeno Air Training Division
2. A Ki-44-IIb of the 70th Sentai, black "11", flown by Yoshio Yoshida
3. A Ki-44-IIb of the 23rd Sentai
4. A Ki-44-IIa of the 246th Sentai, white "338"

Markings for the 246th Sentai aircraft shown on the box art, with red fin leading edge and white-edged red fuselage stripe, were not included in the kit. The art itself is curious, with a trio of Shoki being bounced by a P-47 whilst IJN "Betty" bombers fly in formation in the background.

The designations for the sub-types are those given by Hasegawa. The kit provided alternative oil coolers for the various versions, a copper pipe annular type and under cowling type, as well as alternative reflector (molded to the fuselage halves) and optical (telescope) type gunsights with canopies to suit. No provision was made in the kit for different armament or ammunition magazine panels. The kit contains a seated pilot with separate right arm and a standing pilot figure in the act of saluting. There is also a self-standing nameplate for the model.

The 'True Details' range of accessories provides a resin cockpit interior, resin wheels and a vacform canopy set designed for this kit, and I believe there is also an Eduard photo-etch set available for the interior.

I have seen this kit described as a "POS" on a well-known modelling forum but personally I think it is a good kit that has stood the test of time rather well. Perhaps a measure of that is that no other companies have seen fit to release a new kit of Shoki in this scale and even Hasegawa have not updated it. If the canopy and side doors are not going to be modelled open, very little of the interior can be seen, especially if the pilot is used. The overall shape captures the look and sit of the aircraft well and the surface detail is very fine, with engraved panel lines and rivets. Although shallow, the wheel wells have engraved detail and there is a full engine rather than a relief molding. The sliding part of the canopy is said to be too short and the wrong shape but to me it does not seem to detract from the overall appearance.

In a future article we'll look at the details of Shoki sub-types and also review the various subsequent re-issues of the kit. If you have built this kit in any of its forms I should be very pleased to show your pictures here.

Image credit: © 1972 & 1982 Hasegawa Seisakusho Co. Ltd., Japan

Friday 2 October 2009

18th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai Ki-15

This absolutely beautiful model of a Ki-15 in the markings of the 18th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai (Independent Flying Squadron) and the tri-colour camouflage of the China theatre was built by Polish modeller Zbyszek Malicki and it is a delight to feature it here at Aviation of Japan.

The model is to 1/72nd scale and was built from the LS kit, subsequently issued by Arii, and still available here. My thanks to Mr Maliki for kindly sharing it with us. It is an appropriate precursor to the penultimate exploration of Army interior colours and the investigation of Army browns which will both feature shortly.

Image credit: © 2009 Zbyszek Malicki