Thursday 28 October 2010

On Accuracy, Purple Rufes and The Real Colours of Zero B11-124 s/n 5349

A couple of threads on other forums have given me pause for thought on the subject of accuracy in modelling. Of course that concept is a stretchable piece of elastic which can look very different depending upon which particular angle you approach it from. I suppose that modelling in the main consists of both imitative and interpretative strands, the former being concerned with verifiable fact and the latter with speculation. Of course the line is blurred and interpretation itself covers not just informed conclusion but half-truths and also wilder, more adventurous forays. If you come at the "elastic" from one particular angle there is a tendency to frown at those who might approach it from others. But it is all a moving feast.

The subject of Japanese model aircraft accuracy is beset by a multitude of unknowns, but almost uniquely this air of genuine mystery appears to have obscured much of the verifiable fact too. I'm not sure why this is. I can't imagine seeing a thread pertaining to the Bf 109 develop in the way of that thread concerned with an aotake-primed Zero model. On the one hand a desire for knowledge was eventually professed but on the other hand, when it was given, the provider had been roundly condemned for spoiling the fun. Apparently it was all about the manner of delivery. When you criticise the accuracy of a model you must do so courteously and politely - or you'll be subject to a vehemently rude gang attack! And all that talk of "the usual suspects" had me smiling; "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." 

The model above depicts the mortal remains of Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero BII-124 s/n 5349 as it sat derelict on Melville Island in the 1970's. This Zero, from the carrier Hiryu and piloted by Hajimi Toyoshima, was shot down during a raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942, crash landing on Melville Island. The model was made by Owen Veal and the image kindly provided by Bob Alford in response to earlier "Purple Rufe" musings. Owen made the model in balsa then first primed it with a colour match to the red primer used on the real aircraft. A top coat was then applied, matched to the weathered grey of the aircraft finish at that time, then the whole was deliberately abraded to represent the aircraft exactly as it then appeared - weathered after some 30 years in the harsh environment of tropical sun and two seasons - wet and dry. Remind you of anything?

And above is the actual aircraft as it appeared on display in the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre in 2009.

Zero B11-124 on Melville Island in 1942

Contemporaneous intelligence reports describe this Zero as follows:-
  1. "Markings on rudder BI-124 (sic). Number on fuselage 5349. Aircraft finished grey, with red circles on mainplanes and fuselage. Two blue bands encircling fuselage at rear of red circle" (Sgt W A Beatty Fitter IIE 13 Sqn RAAF 7 March 1942)
  2. "From visual observation today, the opinion has been formed by the IO (Intelligence Officer) that the wreckage is not recent, it presented a somewhat bleached appearance, but in contradiction the red roundels . . . (do) not appear to have faded." (PO J A Evans IO 52 OBU Darwin - observation made from a B-25 of 18 NEI Sqn circra March 1943)
  3. "The remains of the Zeke were in remarkably good condition. Very little rust was observed. The anti-corrosive paint used is evidently very effective, wing tips showing red roundels were found. The red paint of the roundel was still very bright. A piece of the red roundel was brought back to show colour. . . the wings and body were silver grey in colour." (FO C D Pender IO 15 Fighter Sector 28 April 1943)

Zero B11-124 on Melville Island in 1942

Sample of paint surface from Zero B11-124 s/n 5349

Various samples of paint from s/n 5349 were examined and analysed. The paint surface which had oxidised and "chalked" was found to be similar in appearance to the Tamiya paint XF-76. However when buffed back to remove the oxidisation and chalking the paint surface was revealed to be glossy, darker and a different hue. The measured colour value of this surface was found to be almost exactly between Munsell 5 Y 5/2 and 5 Y 6/2 or very close to FS 595B value 16350 @ 1.51 (where a difference calculation of 2.0 or less = a close match) and to RAL 7034 Gelbgrau (Yellow Grey) @ 1.64. Further analysis suggested that as a result of thermal ageing this paint surface was probably slightly darker and yellower (browner) than the original had been. In other words the original paint was slightly lighter and greyer - with the emphasis on slightly. The "greenish" appearance of the paint is largely illusionary and the result of an interaction between two of the constituent pigments. The paint colour is also highly metamerismic, its appearance to the human eye significantly shifting under different forms of illumination.

Schematic of compared paint colour values

Rather surprisingly the remnants of Aotake extant on the reverse side of these pieces was found to be a brilliant, almost emerald, green rather than blue-green or blue, with an evident "metallic" appearance (see below).

Comparison of extant paint surface to Tamiya XF-76 (showing Aotake)

So, there are two verifiable facts here. The current appearance of the oxidised/chalked paint surface and the current appearance of the buffed back paint surface. To take this further involves making presumptions and/or conclusions drawn from experimental analysis. In order to believe that the buffed back paint surface accurately reveals the original paint colour we have to presume that:-

a) The concealed/protected surface colour has not shifted in colour; and

b) That the buffing back process has revealed the original surface appearance and not something else.

If we are to believe instead that the oxidised and chalked paint surface reveals the colour of the original paint then we must presume that the paint surface has not oxidised or chalked! In reality both positions are tenuous and almost impossible to insist on without further analysis, especially remotely where the dependency is on imagery rather than physical handling. Even after further analysis any conclusions that are drawn must depend on the perceived validity of that analysis. Those who have a strongly pre-determined opinion will not be swayed by any evidence, always finding reasons to question, challenge or disbelieve it. This response is also related to the approach where evidence is selected or presented in order to support a pre-determined, wished-for outcome. Unfortunately both are prevalent, especially in the world of modelling.

In fact the paint is on a journey the moment it leaves the tin and changes will depend not just on external factors, active and passive, but also on the inherent characteristics of the paint composition itself. Seeking to identify the precise original paint colour just from its current appearance is akin to asking someone where they were last Wednesday and receiving the answer that today they are in Basingstoke. That fact may or may not be relevant.

In pure modelling terms this probably doesn't matter too much, because an individual modeller might legitimately determine to paint his Zero to represent paint at any point on this journey. In that sense the two "camps" (there may be more than two!) are not that far apart, each championing a paint colour based on a specific point in the journey. However, for those interested in the likely identity of the original paint colour as specified and mixed for the tin, further work is necessary. 

Much more important than appearance in the consideration of real paint is composition. This is surprisingly overlooked even by those passionate about the subject, who tend to focus on paint standards and visual appearance matching. The interaction of known pigments, additives and solvents is quantifiable both by established principle and by experimentation. When pigments are brought together in a certain combination there is very little variability in the inherent character of the resultant hue. In this case the original pigments in the paint sample were identified. Identical pigments were then procured and used to create paint in a sample range of ratio formulae, with appropriate solvents, additives and binders. These paint samples were then applied to a set of plates and each plate compared to the extant samples. None of them matched, either visually or by measurement. An identical set of plates was then subjected to artificially induced thermal ageing. After this process the thermally aged plates were compared to the extant samples and this time two of the plates were found to match to within an 80/20 tolerance, both visually and by measurement. The conclusion drawn was that the ratio formulae for the two plates and their pre-aged condition probably matched the ratio formulae of the paint originally applied to the airframe and possessed an exactly similar colour appearance. The most significant difference factor which emerged in this analysis was brightness  rather than hue or chroma. The difference in visual appearance was more significant than the difference in measured, colour science values.

Of course, this won't stop the arguments . . . 

With grateful thanks to Bob Alford for kindly making these artifacts available for detailed laboratory examination and analysis. (To be continued).

Image credits: Heading picture Punch magazine Feb 1860; Photographs of 5349 model and museum exhibit Owen Veal via Bob Alford; Intelligence reports courtesy Bob Alford; Artifact photos and rendered chips ©2010 "Straggler"

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Andrew Hall's Hasegawa 1/48th scale A6M5a

I wish there were more photos to show of this lovely Zero model built by Andrew Hall. At this time only these tantalising two to share I'm afraid. Andrew's enthusiasm and sincere quest for accuracy is amply reflected by the result and he comments on the build as follows:-

"This is the first model I've built of a Japanese aircraft for some time. The last one was, I think, the old 1/50th Tamiya Ki-84 and well over twenty years ago just before I stopped making model aircraft.  As a relative neophyte to Japanese aircraft, I have had just as much enjoyment from reading about the subject as I have building the kit. 

The Hasegawa A6M5a itself was quite straightforward though the model seemed doomed to failure, the decals are quite thin and unfortunately the two fuselage stripes folded back on themselves and irrevocably stuck together which meant masking and spraying new ones. As the model was nearing completion I realised I'd lost the pilots seat (later found in another box) and I believe I am on the third rendition of the pitot tube!  The additional detail I added was an ignition loom for the engine and brake lines from lead fly-tying wire. 

Regarding the paints used; I used a mix of Humbrol for the green, the 'N1' mix suggested in the old Humbrol Colour System binder which is 77 x 70% and 10% of 80, 33 and 34. In keeping with a fairly fresh aircraft, I then went over the middle of each panel with the mix above but slightly more green. The underside is Humbrol 128 just lightened a touch. The Q1 blue-black for the cowling and under the rear decking is Humbrol 33 mixed with Precision Caledonian Blue, a railway modellers paint probably unknown outside of the UK.  It's a gloss paint so gave a nice sheen to the colour. The propeller and hub were painted in a mix of Tamiya XF-64 and XF-1.

I did want to have the Zero shown in a used but not overly weathered state.  The weathering is lightly dusted Tamiya Smoke, satin varnish for fuel stains and some ground W&N Gold Ochre pastel for a few muddy prints here and there."

Beautiful. And the first of many I hope!

Image credits: Model photos ©2010 Andrew Hall

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Navy Type 10 Carrier Torpedo Aircraft 1MT1N

Although this blog does not usually venture into the world of aeromodelling, Reg Heath of Modelflight has kindly given permission to show these pictures of Mike Hawkins' stunning 1/7th scale (yes, you read that correctly - one-seventh scale) Mitsubishi Type 10 Carrier Torpedo Bomber. This beautiful  flying scale model is 76 inches in span and weighs 16 lbs with a Laser 150 engine. 

Although it flies smoothly, Mike reports that it needs constant attention, because although stable in pitch, it is midly unstable in roll and will drop its nose in a steep turn. He suspects this may be true scale behaviour! It is also a one-speed aeroplane, apparently, and does not appear to go any faster when the throttle is opened up, although it then climbs better. Mike is planning to fit the torpedo for flight and maybe try a drop.

Struts, turnbuckles and wires . . .

The colour scheme is a convincing PC10 (Khaki Drab) derivative over clear doped linen with varnished wooden struts and natural metal (or grey painted) engine panels.  This aircraft flew almost two decades before Kariki 117 was issued and although it is often depicted in standard "IJN Dark Green" over "IJN Grey" it is perhaps more probable that it was finished in commercial aircraft dopes derived from the then current British connection.

All the photographs of Mike Hawkins model were taken by Kuhn Sukasom on a "grey and damp" day.

The Type 10 model in flight
Watch that turn! Gently does it!

If this 1/7th scale project seems a little too big for your dining room table, the only mainstream plastic model of this beast was the Marusan 1/50th scale hen's tooth, re-issued by UPC almost 50 years ago and now also something of a rarity (where are the original molds I wonder?).

Original Marusan Box Art

Classic UPC Box Art by Scott Eidson

Here are some images of the classic UPC/Marusan model built by JASIG Leader Gary Wenko.

Choroszy Modelbud Catalogue Picture

For the dedicated modelling masochist there is also the Choroszy Modelbud resin kit in 1/72nd scale. Hmm, a Braille scale resin twin-bay triplane eh? I suspect that for some modellers this challenge might also result in a few brief moments of flight as an incomplete model heads for the circular tin hangar . . .
Mitsubishi test pilot William Jordan about to fly one of the prototypes

The Type 10 was designed by the former Sopwith designer Herbert Smith and powered by a 450 hp Napier Lion engine. The first example was test flown at the Mitsubishi Nagoya factory on 9th August 1922 by test pilot and member of the design team William Jordan (who made the first Japanese carrier deck landing on Hôshô in February 1923). The Imperial Japanese Navy ordered twenty examples of the design in October 1922. A second example was completed with a 370 hp Lorraine engine and both, designated 1MT1N and 1MT1L respectively, were tested by the Navy at Kasumigaura during November 1922. Following these tests it was decided to complete the production aircraft with the Lion engine.

Type 10 at Kasumigaura with a Japanese Naval Aviator

One of the Type 10 production aircraft was later converted to a seaplane configuration by the Ando Aeroplane Research Studio at Shin-Maiko beak, Chita Penisular, Aichi Prefecture.

The aircraft dimensions were a span of 13.259 m (43 ft 6 in); a length of 9.779 m (32 ft 1 in); a height of 4.457 m (14 ft 7 1/2 in); and a wing area of 43 sq m (462.863 sq ft). The aircraft  weighed 1,370 kg (3,020 lbs) in empty configuration and 22,500 kg (5,511 lbs) loaded. The wing loading was 36.1 kg/sq m (7.3 lb/sq ft) and the  power loading 5.56 kg/hp (12.2 lb/hp).  In performance it achieved a maximum speed of 113 kt (130 mph), a cruising speed of 70 kt (81 mph) and could climb to 3,050 m (10,000 ft) in 13 min 30 sec with a service ceiling of 6,000 m (19,685 ft). 

Whilst its pilots liked the flight characteristics and general performance of the Type 10 they failed to satisfy the Navy's decision makers. The aircraft proved difficult to handle on the ground because of its height and the single seater configuration did not fit Navy planning considerations. As a result no further production order was forthcoming and the type was replaced in service by the two-seater Type 13 Carrier Attack Aircraft in 1924.
With (dummy?) torpedo fitted - note the light colouring.

Image credits: Model Photographs Mike Hawkins via Reg Heath © 2010 Modelflight and Gary Wenko; Marusan and UPC box art courtesy of Gary Wenko; Catalogue picture © 2010 Choroszy Modelblud; Other photographs author's collection and 零戦落穂ひろい ( via Gary Wenko.

Monday 25 October 2010

More on Mottle - 'Kato Hayabusa Sentotai' 1944

One of the best resources for a close look at the various mottle patterns as applied to Japanese Army aircraft is the 1944 Toho film 'Kato Hayabusa Sentotai' ("The Kato Peregrine Falcon Fighter Unit') directed by Kijiro Yamamoto, which tells the story of the charismatic 64th Sentai leader Tateo Kato using real aircraft from the Akeno Flying School. Whilst the use of some Ki-43-II aircraft - and their camouflage - is anachronistic for the time period depicted by the film it nevertheless provides an exceptionally useful reference for "typical" mid-war camouflage patterns, not least because the aircraft are seen "in the round" rather than in the single "flat" image of a photograph. The film quality is also of a very high standard, allowing details to be clearly seen and studied.

In these views of the aircraft painted to represent Kato's aircraft the mottle application on the fuselage is distinct and different from the more densely applied coverage on the wing upper surfaces. The yellow wing IFF stripes on the aircraft are also anachronistic, not being introduced until September 1942 (Kato was killed in May 1942), but still appear surprisingly often on art and models depicting Kato's Ki-43-I Hayabusa.

Notice the way that the mottle thins out to nothing on the fuselage spine and its appearance at the wing roots where it terminates abruptly at panel lines. Also apparent is the near pristine condition of the anti-glare panel and the "silver" band where the fuselage recesses behind the cowling. This particular aircraft is also carrying a wing-mounted gun camera. When was the last time you saw that on a Hayabusa model?

Here is the opposite side view of the same aircraft for comparison. Note the way that the mottle does not extend onto the cowling ring.

As the aircraft banks towards the camera the pattern on the wings can be seen. The "silver" band behind the cowling is again very apparent as is the glossy lustre of the spinner (probably not matt brick red).

Here the close-up image of an earlier Ki-43-I reveals evidence of an overall colour applied beneath the mottle. Its colour is speculative but could be grey or brown as there is hard evidence for both. Is the canopy frame painted to match the mottle or the anti-glare panel? An intriguing question. On the Ki-43-II the canopy frame appears to be natural metal finish so there is no standard being applied here (delivery photos also show the Ki-43-I with a natural metal finish canopy frame). The light coloured rubber eyepiece of the telescopic gunsight shows up well.

In this sequence of a 12th Sentai Ki-21 trundling out we get a good view of the mottle application to the tail and the very worn condition of the tail stripe markings. The "tail stinger" gun is also apparent. The camouflage pattern on the starboard elevator becomes solid to the centre rear and also appears to be a different colour, suggesting perhaps a repair.

On top of the Ki-21 fuselage thin, sprayed "smoke rings" provide a sharp contrast to the heavily applied blotches on the sides. Added later perhaps? On a model this might look odd and tempt the modeller to apply a more consistent pattern overall. Note the formation stripes which the Hinomaru has been partially applied over.

As an interesting aside the film includes air-to-air footage of genuine captured Curtiss P-40 and Brewster Buffalo aircraft but in the lengthy scene showing air combat over Rangoon Akeno Ki-44 aircraft marked with roundels stand in for the Buffalos in distant dogfight shots, their distinctive planform being one of the curiosities to look out for. I can only speculate that the film was made this way to serve a logistical convenience for the dogfighting sequences around the bombers.

'Kato Hayabusa Sentotai' is still available to buy in Region 2 DVD format from YesAsia (who can be recommended as an efficient and reliable source for other vintage Japanese films too) slightly reduced from the listed price of ¥4,500. There is much of interest for Japanese aviation enthusiasts in the film, including a memorable scene where Kato lands in and climbs from a Ki-27, extensive air-to-air footage of Hayabusa and Ki-21 aircraft, a paratroop sequence with embarkation, dropping and consolidation (meant to be Palembang but probably an exercise) and even a captured Hudson. 

Image credits: All © 1944 Toho Co. Ltd.  

Thursday 21 October 2010

JASIG Extra ~ Special Hobby's Big Nate (Updated)

Gary Wenko, the IPMS (UK) Japanese Aviation Special Interest Group (JASIG) Leader has kindly provided sprue-shots of the new Special Hobby 1/32nd scale Nakajima Ki-27 Ko "Nomonhan Aces" kit which is now available.

The rear canopy section appears to have the correctly curved top cross-section profile which has been missed on previous kits. The aircraft was often flown with the sliding portion of the canopy removed on both variants - the Ki-27 Ko and Otsu. The kit includes a set of resin detail parts which includes the pilot's seat and a small photo-etch sheet mainly for the interior and seat-belt. Suggested colour call-outs are interesting. Gunze (GSI/Creos) C14/H57 (Aircraft Grey) for the interior referred to as "Cockpit Colour" and a mix of 90% C128 (IJA Grey-green) with 10% C1/H1 (White) for the exterior*.

One detail that appears to be missing from the kit fuselage parts (and the box art) are the small rectangular windows above the gun breeches on the cockpit floor, just above the wing roots and to the rear of the engine flaps. These should really be included on a model in this scale but I guess would be easy enough to drill out and create. The only separate flying surface is the rudder, the ailerons and elevators being molded integrally to wings and tailplanes.

The engine detail looks a little soft but anyone planning a model with cowling removed will want to replace or upgrade it anyway (and will have to cut the fuselage parts as the cowling is not separate).

The kit looks pretty good on the sprues but we can probably now kiss the chances of a Ki-27 in this scale from Hasegawa or Tamiya goodbye! External fuel tanks are included and seem to be complete with their tops for the potential of separate display.

The undercarriage fairings are molded in sections like the original but although recessed circles are shown on the upper surface of the wings I'm not sure the oleos can be depicted projecting above the wings (as they did when the aircraft stood on the ground) without modification 

*Colour call-outs corrected from original post - see Mario's comment below.

Images credit: © Special Hobby 2010 courtesy of and via Gary Wenko

Saturday 9 October 2010

JAAF Mitsubishi Ki-15-II "Babs" in Mottled Camouflage

Further to the photograph of the JAAF Ki-15 in unusual mottled camouflage shown here in March 2008, correspondent Jacob Terlouw has kindly provided another photograph of what appears to be the same aircraft. Rather than Malaya, the original owner believes that the location may in fact be Indonesia. This photograph reveals that the aircraft is a Ki-15-II type. Colours are conjectural but note the differences to the previous image which may be due to the type of film used.

Another "Babs", this time a Ki-15-1, photographed on Ambon (Amboina) in 1946 in a single overall colour perhaps badly sun bleached. There appears to be two "ghosted" horizontal stripes just visible on the tail fin, either painted over or bleached out. Note also the bordered fuselage band.

For anyone who wants to try their hand at replicating the challenging mottled camouflage scheme in 1/72nd scale, the respectable LS kit of the Ki-15-11 dating from the mid 1960's, shown above, may still be found and is also available from time to time in the guise of the Arii re-issue shown below (for less than £5 if ordered direct from Japan).

Image credit: Photographs courtesy of Gerben Tornij via Jacob Terlouw; Box art © Arii

Thursday 7 October 2010

Medal Winning Ohka from Russia

One of the best things about managing this blog is receiving emails from Japanese aircraft enthusiasts and modellers from all over the world, not just across the Anglosphere, with news of their own interesting projects.

From regular correspondent Dmitri Korolkov come these photos  of his 11-years old son's first kit, a 1/72nd scale Hasegawa Ohka. This beautiful and accomplished model was submitted to DiSHow-2009 (a Moscow online model contest) and was awarded the 2nd Place Silver medal in the Junior grade by the judging panel and also the 1st Place Gold Medal in internet voting. A short feature on building the model (in Russian) is here and some more pictures from the model contest are here. The attention to detail, presentation and observation of colour of this tiny model would put many an experienced and older modeller to shame. Very well done!

Recently I also received a lovely email and photos of some Japanese aircraft models from a model show in Guatamala and news of a small but dedicated group of Japanese aircraft enthusiasts in Guatamala and El Salvador (I'm waiting for permission to show those photos too).

Sometimes when we are bemoaning the lack of English language references on this subject we might spare a thought for those enthusiasts in countries across the globe where neither Japanese nor English is the first language and it is sometimes much more difficult to obtain relevant kits and books with which to pursue this interest. 

Image credits: All via and courtesy of Dmitri Korolkov © 2010