Tuesday 28 December 2010

A Model's Kawasaki Ki-32 "Mary"

It is a great pleasure to present here images of Jose Luis Fauste's splendid Kawasaki Ki-32 "Mary" (Army Type 98 Single-engine Light Bomber - Kyuhachi-shiki keibakugekiki) in 1/72nd scale built from the A Model kit.  Jose kindly provided comments about this build as follows:-

"I assembled this model two and a half years ago and I still remember the battle with this kit!

"The quality is typical of A-model short run kits with a lot of work necessary to finish the model properly. All the pieces are very thick with undefined edges in several areas, so carefully sanding and shaping all the edges is important. The interior of the cockpit is almost empty and the addition of several parts is needed. The canopy transparency is very thick and I recommend applying Future to improve it. The rear gun was useless, so I used one from another kit. The small windows in the fuselage sides were made using Micro’s Cristal Clear, as the parts from the kit are very poor; the fuselage locations for these windows must be opened up to the proper size (more or less….).

"The general fit of the model is poor mainly in the wing to the fuselage area with a lot of putty and sanding all around the joint; the worst area is the rear part of the upper wing and lower area. An unusual feature feature is the tires separated for the wheel. The panel lines are fine and fairly defined in several zones. The exhaust stacks also need a sanding of the surface to define the shape and the nose air intakes must be opened up.

Finally the decals are very thick and matt, with a lot of support paper around it. In the end I used decals from the scratch bag for a 45th Sentai airplane in China, perhaps in Hong Kong at the end of 1941?
The model is painted with Gunze IJA gray, IJA green, Mahogany and RAF middle stone as I don't have reliable information about the colors used on this aircraft in China; any new information about these colors is welcome."

A Model produced two variants of this kit which differ only in the colour schemes and decals offered. Prior to this release the charismatic Ki-32 had been tackled a few times in 1/72nd scale by short-run, vacform and resin manufacturers but it is surprising that there have been no mainstream injection kits of this type, together with its sister light bomber type the Mitsubishi Ki-30 "Ann". 

Merlin Models short-run, limited issue kit was produced in 1985. It is said that you have to be a magician to build Merlin's kits and by current standards they are crude indeed. Nevertheless, Merlin seem to have captured the "chunky" appearance of the real aircraft better than any other. Some of the more modern kits appear too long and slender in the fuselage dimensions. The Merlin kit has an injection molded canopy but it is a poor fit, being narrower than the fuselage and resulting in a lip unless drastic modifications are made. Mine, begun in 1985, is still not finished, mainly because of the canopy issue, but I like it enough to persevere to complete it "one day"! The plastic is robust and easy to work, reacting well to cement and facilitating a very strong construction. The exhausts are terrible and I pinched mine from an Airfix Me110, suitably modified. Time spent on the cowling panels of any Ki-32 kit is well worth it as the finished model derives much of its character from the engine.

The Aviation Usk kit dates from 1993 and may still be available as an Xotic-72 kit (?). It was nicely presented and quite cleanly molded, with a vacform canopy and decals for no less than four different machines, three camouflaged and one in overall grey-green.

The FE Resin kit was issued in 1998 and is a very cleanly molded resin kit with vacform canopy. A single set of markings is included. This kit was unusual in providing a full engine assembly.  The shape and dimensions of the fuselage are suspect, however, giving a slender, elongated appearance not typical of the real aircraft.

There is another resin kit available from Choroszy Modelbud and vacform kits were produced in 1979/80 by Eagles Talon and Wings-72. There was also a 1/48th scale resin kit from Try Angle of Japan.

Notes on Colour Schemes

The tri-colour so-called "China scheme" has featured in art and profiles of the Ki-32 for many years and has been represented in various ways. In addition to the most common variant, as depicted by the A Model box art with two shades of brown and a dark green, there are depictions showing brown with two greens, lighter and darker. There are also versions showing the blue dividing lines or "rivers" between the main camouflage segments and these are shown in both a darker and lighter blue. After settling on the combination of colours modellers are then faced with determining what the actual colours looked like and there are many possibilities to be drawn from kit instructions, profiles, art and models.

The basic tri-colour scheme imitated that used on Army tanks and armoured vehicles during the Sino-Japanese War and consisted of a khaki base colour (カーキ色) with camouflage segments referred to simply as green (緑色 midori iro) and brown (茶色 cha iro). Ichiro Hasegawa described the colours as "tan, dull brown and dark green" which seems fair enough. The khaki base colour imitated the colour of Japanese Army uniforms and was a surprisingly dark and yellowish "mustard" but could often show a slightly more greenish or light olive appearance. It faded very rapidly towards a washed out sandy colour. The green was a somewhat bright colour but had a tendency to degrade with UV exposure towards a more olive or brown appearance which some veterans described as "reddish green". The brown was a medium, slightly reddish brown but tended to fade with UV exposure to a lighter, more orange colour. The colours presented here may be viewed as "typical" and are rendered from measured values of the standard swatches together with adjusted versions to show the typical degradation where known. Surprisingly there are no usefully close equivalents to these colours in the Munsell, FS595B or RAL standards.

The approach taken towards camouflage during this period was flexible and the instructions often ambiguous. Specific colours and their prominence in the overall scheme were recommended for geographical areas such as the "Southern fronts" or to accommodate seasonal changes if there were time to do so. Inconsistency in the way the colours are described in the official instructions, recalled by personnel and/or designated in the official standards creates difficulties in attempting to be specific about them. The camouflage schemes were not factory applied and therefore differences in both colours and patterns as applied by different depots or units are to be expected. Broadly similar patterns as promulgated in official but crude sketch plans could also appear different in photographs as a result of individual applications, overpainting to change ownership or censorship to conceal unit markings.

The idea of two greens may have arisen from the use of another formally adopted Army scheme combining the khaki and green with indigo, a dark, slightly greenish blue. This scheme has been confirmed as being applied to the Ki-27 aircraft of the 24th Sentai and may also have been applied to Ki-32 aircraft of the 45th Sentai participating in the attack on Hong Kong.

The factory finish of the Ki-32 was the Army colour # 1 Hairyokushoku (ash green colour), the precise appearance of which is still argued about. This paint colour, lustrous when new, quickly oxidised and faded towards a dull, more neutral or blue-grey appearance. The 1927 standard archive sample is lighter and brighter than Tamiya's XF-14 JA Grey although both share the same hue. Another sample swatch shows a much stronger, sharper pale blue-green colour which reflects the appearance of the colour in some colour film and photographs. Later variations may have been more olive-grey in appearance, perhaps even approaching a dull mustard colour as described by some eyewitnesses. These multiple variations were probably due to the authorised range of variation in paint colour allowed for by the Japanese Army (which permitted an astonishing DE difference of between 4 and 5 in most cases), pigment procurement issues, manufacturing differences, batch differences and the inadequate mixing of the base ingredients, a common problem with paints of that era.  Advice here to modellers is to relish and explore these variations rather than to fret about them.

Red Tails of the 75th Sentai on "grey" Marys - an attractive option for a model. 
The leading edge "flash" was yellow - not as depicted here.

In Service

From a WWII perspective "Mary" is perhaps best known for its last operational use in the attack on Hong Kong by the 45th Sentai, an event which is the subject of famous film footage. This shows the type attacking shipping and harbour installations, then participating in a mass formation victory fly-past over Hong Kong's Victoria District. But even here a mystery persists, as many sources record the 45th transitioning to the Ki-48 Type 99 twin engined bomber well over a year before the attack. Eyewitnesses describe "Stukas" of Ki-32 type dive-bombing the airfield and ships in the harbour. The early Ki-48 was not capable of dive-bombing so perhaps the 45th retained a Chutai equipped with the Ki-32 essentially for this type of attack? On the other hand it is known that both the Ki-36 and Ki-51 spatted types participated in the attack, so was the well-known film just a propaganda effort intended to divert attention from the more modern Ki-48? Ichiro Hasegawa mentions the Ki-32 being used for dive-bombing with ordnance fitted to wing racks and the bomb bay unused. He further speculates that had the bomb bay been dispensed with for wing-mounted racks the Ki-32 would have had a slimmer profile but my feeling is that the designer probably exploited the engine and radiator depth requirements in configuring the bomb bay. See update!

Trouble with that "BMW" again!

The Ki-32's Kawasaki Ha-II liquid-cooled engine, known as "BMW" to the ground crew despite its indigenous manufacture, was notoriously unreliable. Ichiro Hasegawa observes that it was only the escalating Sino-Japanese conflict that persuaded production and records the underpowered aircraft struggling "hard for every take-off trailing a long after-burning flash that scared spectators". He also mentions "troubles such as cracked cranks or rods sticking out of case and engine cover".

Note dive angles marked below windscreen

Surface finish was reported to be very fine and smooth with "not trace of rivets" said to be typical of Kawasaki products. The distinctive engine panelling presents a contrast to the rest of the airframe. The paucity of plans and photographs makes determining the actual arrangement on top of the cowling ahead of the windscreen and the position of the single cowling located machine gun difficult.

The operation of the rear canopy was similar to the Ki-48. It consisted of three sections, a fixed forward section and two movable rear sections. The rearmost curved canopy pivoted upwards under the middle section which could then be slid back over the fixed forward section using two handles attached to the inner frame. The sliding section of the pilot's canopy slid back over the solid fairing between the two canopies.

Image credits: Model pics © 2010 Jose Luis Fauste ; Kit box art © manufacturers as mentioned; Rendered colour chips © 2010 Straggler; Photos and postcards author's collection


Anonymous said...


Hats off to you Jose & Nick for this very impressive piece of modelling Mary, the boxart, photo's and additional info. Inspiring!!Thanks for this!
A question:what is a good European equivalent for 'Future'(and how and when to use it?)

Jacob Terlouw

Ken Glass said...

Great work on the A-Model Ki.32 Jose.

Nick: Can you offer any near equivalent to the Sei-Ran-shoku color swatch you described as "indigo, a dark, slightly greenish blue"? On my monitor the swatch appears in the ball park of Pantone 328, 329 to 330.

Ken Glass

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hi Jacob

Future is also known as Klear. It is a water thin acrylic floor glaze. It can be applied brushed or sprayed as a clear gloss coat prior to decalling or to dip canopies to improve their appearance.

Hi Ken

The L*a*b* values are 23.7 -7.72 -4.61. Closest Munsell is 10 BG 2/1 @ 2.40 which is slightly darker. No usefully close FS595B or RAL but try to visualise a very much darker and slightly more blueish variant of 34058. The sRGB is 38 60 63 so the nearest Pantone is 560 @ 7.48 - much too green. 330 is @ 13.6 too light and too green.

In Methuen it is between 23/24 F 8 and described as dark blue or dark turquoise, "colours darker than greyish turquoise or deep turquoise" - "Strong colours in transition between green and blue". Much more blue-green in appearance than Methuen's 'Indigo' 18 F 3. The colour in the FAOW 24th Sentai Ki-27 profile is very close in appearance but many will perceive this at first glance to be a very dark green instead of blue.


Ruy Aballe said...

Thanks Nick, for such a comprehensive note on the Ki-32 (and José, whom I happened to meet ages ago in Madrid). Sadly, as you mention, this interesting type has failed to caught the attention of the mainstream bigger kit makers. The Amodel kit remains the most widely available 1/72 offering - I haven't seen the Polish resin made by C. Modelbud, but I suspect the price tag must be much higher. As for the Ki-30 "Ann", I still recall my long struggle with the Pavla kit many years ago. Being one of their first offerings, the parts are chunky, with horribly thick walls, but it still remains the sole injected 1/72 scale kit of the Ki-30. Amodel's Ki-32 is much finer by comparison...


Anonymous said...

Nick, since you mentioned that the tri-color scheme was imitated on Japanese armor, I wonder if the paints offered up by Gunze for Japanese armor models would be a good match???


Ken Glass said...

Hello Nick,

I can confirm the white plastic of the Merlin Ki.32 kit is a dream to work. I wish other manufacturers would use similar soft plastic for their moldings. Only a little time was required to work the trailing edges to a very sharp appearance. Only afterwards did I think to make a comparison of the Merlin kit's wings to those of the AModel kit. The Merlin kit's wings are 1/4" shorter in span and 3/16" narrower in chord, compared to those of the AModel kit. I didn't remove that much plastic for sure, being much too lazy a modeler for that. The Merlin tail planes are larger than those of the AModel kit. The AModel fuselage is about 1/8" longer than that the Merlin, all confined to the pointed tail cone, which the Merlin kit lacks, an easy fix. My Merlin kit has a beautiful vac- form canopy, one of the best appearing I have seen. I have yet to check its fit to the fuselage rails. The main gear spat covers are wrongly shaped needing additions to width and depth, when viewed in side elevation. The AModel kit items will be a useful guide for modifying the Merlin parts with sheet styrene and Mr. Surfacer into a more realistic shape. But which kit is more accurate regarding the wing and tail plane outlines in plan view? Are any drawings available that can be trusted?

Ken Glass

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain the tail decal on the A model and in the posted photo as i believe it belongs to 22 sentai which was a fighter squadron formed in 1944? (could the ki-32 have been used as a liason or spotter plane by 22 sentai?)

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

I don't usually publish anonymous comments but it's a good question. The kikusui emblem was in widespread use so might not be related to 22 Sentai which used a slightly different design. Liaison/spotter planes at that time were more likely to be Ki-36 or Ki-51 types rather than the obsolete Ki-32. It seems more probable to be a hitherto unidentified light bomber Sentai or Chutai emblem. The answer might lie in the forthcoming Arawasi monograph on the type but I'll elevate the question to a blog post to see if it elicits any response.