Monday 27 June 2011

Hisao Saitoh's 1/48th A6M2 & D3A1 + Italian Mistel Combo

It is a delight to once more have the opportunity to showcase the superb models of master craftsman Hisao Saitoh here.

The A6M2 is Hasegawa's 1/48th scale kit with dry decal markings made by Saitoh-san himself. It represents the 'Houkoku-490' aircraft from the Tainan Ku donated by Awa Paper Manufacturing Co (Awa-Seishi-Go ) in Saitoh-san's home town of Tokushima.

The Aichi D3A1 'Val' is built from another Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit but this time with all markings painted on using stencil masks made by Saitoh-san himself. It represents an aircraft from the carrier Junyu flown by NAP 1/c Yukio Ohishi who was killed in action over the Aleutian Islands in June 1942.  This pilot's birthplace is only 30 minutes from Saitoh-san's home by car.

The formal designation for this formidable dive-bombing aircraft was Type 99 Carrier Bomber - Kyu Kyu Shiki Kanjoh Bakugeki-ki (九九式艦上爆撃機) often abbreviated to the short form Kyu Kyu Kanbaku (九九艦爆).

The MC 202 and Rombaldo AR Mistel combines Planet and Hasegawa kits. OT for this blog but admirably demonstrating Saitoh-san's range of skill and interests.

Thank you to Saitoh-san for contributing these images and to Ken Glass for facilitating their display here.

Image Credits: All models © 2011 Hisao Saitoh via Ken Glass.

Friday 24 June 2011

Kit Trivia ~ Tsukuda 1/72nd K11W2 'Shiragiku'

Perhaps the strangest Japanese aircraft model in my personal collection is this Tsukuda Hobby 'Spanker Model 2' 1/72nd scale kit of the IJN crew trainer 'Shiragiku' (白菊 - white chrysanthemum). The first kit in this odd mixed-media series was a 1/48th scale Kyofu floatplane fighter (to be reviewed in due course) but after the Shiragiku there don't seem to have been any other kits. Both kits were released in Japan in 1985.

The Shiragiku kit consists of a sheet of strong white vacform plastic with two quite sharply molded fuselage halves, an injection molded frame of grey plastic containing wings, tailplanes, cowling, cockpit floor and internal bulkheads plus a set of finely molded white metal parts for the prop, engine, exhausts, intakes, main undercarriage, tail wheel, seats, stick, pitot tube and aerial. There is also a strongly molded and sharp vacform canopy with no frame delineation whatsoever that has ambered slightly with age but is still useable. The decal sheet has options for aircraft from the Tokushima, Kôchi, Shanghai and Chintao Wings. The plastic parts appear to be of limited run technology, similar to those from Aeroclub or Pegasus.

The attractive sepia box art is by Masao Satake, the same artist who does the black series FAOW monochrome covers. The instruction sheet is of good quality, glossy paper, in Japanese and English with the best 1/72nd scale plan drawing of the Shiragiku I have ever seen. There might be other vacform kits of Shiragiku but the only injection molded kit I'm aware of is the limited run by Pavla which was reviewed here. The Shiragiku was eventually used for kamikaze special attack missions such as the Tokushima and Kochi operations. Like Tokai it was a product of the Kyushu Aeroplane Company (Kyushu Hikoki K K) and the name chosen is said to be representative of truth and loyalty.

I bought this kit in 1985 from a pre-HLJ mail order shop in Japan -  'Hikosen' - in response to an advert in the Koku-Fan magazine and my only regret is that I didn't buy two of them. At the time I fully intended to build it - as you do. I'd still like to build it but I'm now reluctant to do so as I have never seen another one anywhere! What prompted this mixed-media approach by Tsukuda I have no idea. They are perhaps best known for releasing other manufacturers kits and for TV and sci-fi tie-in kits. For Japanese readers the advert reproduced here might offer some clue as to the thinking behind these kits.  Presumably "Spanker model" was an allusion to "kit-bashing"? We are probably unlikely to see a mainstream kit of this aircraft but I guess we would need to look to Fujimi or Fine Molds for the possibility of something special.

Image credits: All © 1985 Tsukuda Hobby Co. Ltd 

Thursday 23 June 2011

Fine Molds 1/72 IJN Kyushu Q1W1 Tokai 'Lorna' ASW Patrol Aircraft

From Japan, courtesy of Mr Sugar here are some images of his fine build of the Fine Molds 1/72nd scale kit of the Kyushu Q1W1 IJN patrol aircraft. The Fine Molds kit is excellent, still available and very reasonably priced by comparison with many others these days, representing a very good model of this unsung workhorse. The president of Fine Molds described this kit as the most accurate and detailed the company had ever produced.

The Q1W1 was designated 'Navy Patrol Aircraft Model 11 'Tokai' (海) meaning East or Eastern Sea and was developed from a prescient 1942 specification for a low-speed, long range aircraft with three crew members, the ability to make steep diving attacks and to operate safely over the ocean. The first prototype was completed in September 1943 and quantity production was ordered in early 1944. Only 153 aircraft of this type were built and operated mainly over Japanese home waters, around Formosa and along the China coasts. Mr Sugar's model depicts one of the kit options - a radar-equipped aircraft identified as belonging to the Shanghai detachment of the 901st Ku (Kokutai - Air Group) based at Shanghai, China during the summer of 1945. However this unit is identified as the Chushi (中支 - Central China) Kokutai, an Otsu Kaigun Kokutai, at The character on the tail is naka (中) meaning middle or centre, and alludes to the Chinese characters for old China - 中國 (Zhōngguó or in Cantonese Zung Gwok) meaning Middle Kingdom.

The second of two options provided in the kit is for an aircraft identified as from the Saiki Kokutai based at Saiki in Japan during the summer of 1944 and equipped with magnetic anomaly detection gear rather than radar to detect submarines. The Japanese called this equipment 'Jikitanchiki' (磁気探知機 - literally magnetic atmosphere look and find mechanism) meaning magnetic detector and the equipment installed in Lorna was the Type 3 Model 1 KMX (monitoring equipment shown below) based on the Fluxgate Magnometer with a frequency multiplier devised by the Sony Corporation co-founder Masaru Ibuka.

Looking somewhat like a mutated and rather sedate Junkers Ju-88 Lorna's armament was limited to a flexible 7.7mm rear gun handled by the radio operator and the capability to carry two 250 kg depth charges. Some sources report the addition of one or two 20mm cannon in the nose which might make an interesting model. Detection equipment consisted of the Type 3 search radar or the magnetic anomaly detection gear described above. The Type 3, or Type 3 Ku Mk.6 Wireless Telegraph Model 4 to give it its full deceptive title, was an ASV (Air-to-Surface Vessel) radar with the capability to detect a 10,000 ton ship at 51 km from 10,000 ft altitude. The set usually consisted of a Yagi-type forward antenna (mounted on the nose or in this case the starboard wing leading edge) and two fuselage mounted antennae with the transmitter, receiver and indicator units inside the cockpit. This equipment is quite faithfully reproduced in the Fine Molds kit which boasts rather fine interior detail (and superb box art!). The interior detail can especially be appreciated because the kit comes with the option to display the clear canopy with its top hatches open and the rear gun position open for the flexible gun to be shown deployed. However the flexible gun is not included in the kit and must be sourced separately. The kit  does include drop tanks and depth charges (not shown on Mr Sugar's model).

Other than the specific Japanese aircraft interest any collection of ASW/ASV aircraft could include Lorna as representative of the pioneering aircraft and equipment used in this role. For a more in-depth discussion of the search techniques employed by radar and MAD equipped aircraft please refer to this thread at which includes photographs of the actual Tokai modelled here - showing both radar equipment and the fuselage 'C' marking on 中-901.

Image credits: Model pics © 2011 Mr Sugar; KMX photo © 2007-2010 Enoki Flying Board; Box © 1998 Fine Molds 

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Kayaba Ka-1 & Ka-2 Autogyro

Keith Walker has posted a link at Hyperscale to almost 8 minutes of interesting and rare film footage of Japanese Army testing of the Kayaba  Ka-1 and Ka-2 autogyro including what appear to be carrier trials.

The Ka-1 was based on an imported Kellet KD-1a and was intended for development as an artillery-spotting and anti-submarine aircraft. The Ka-1 of which about 20 were manufactured by Kayaba had a 240 hp Argus type engine but the Ka-2 had the same Jacobs L-4MA-7 as the original Kellett machine.

Fine Molds offer a 1/72nd scale kit of the Ka-1 which has been released in early monochrome and standard colour boxes, whilst more recently AZ Models have released 1/48th scale kits of both Ka-1 and Ka-2 versions.

Image credits: Box art © Fine Molds & AZ Models

Saturday 18 June 2011

Rising Decals Latest

Continuing their very welcome tradition of designing decal sets of Japanese subjects in series grouped by topic Rising Decals have issued a new trio of 1/72nd scale sheets covering a diverse and very colourful selection of JAAF subjects.

Rising Decals 72036 Emperor's Eagles Pt. III provides markings for 11 Burma and Indo-China based Ki-43 and Ki-44 fighters. Three 50th Sentai examples have been selected, two early Ki-43-I models flown by the 2nd Chutai's Sgt Chikashi Kotanigawa and the Sentai commander Maj Tadashi Ishikawa and a Ki-43-II flown by 2nd Chutai leader Capt Masao Miyamaru in a brown and green 'kumogata' scheme. The Hayabusa contingent on this set is completed by three 64th Sentai examples, a Ki-43-I flown by 2nd Chutai leader and well-known ace Lt Saburo Nakamura, an early model Ki-43-II flown by 3rd Chutai leader Capt Yasuhiko Kuroe, another famous ace, and a Burmese presentation Ki-43-II Kai of the 3rd Chutai. The latter has the best rendering of the distinctive peacock tail emblem that I have seen in this scale. These decals are evocatively representative of two famous and long serving Burma-based Hayabusa units but still manage to offer unique and/or never before depicted schemes. For an out of the box Ki-43-II Kai only the AML kit is suitable but modification of the Special Hobby Ki-43-III Ko is probably feasible too. For the early Ki-43-II although the classic Hasegawa kit includes parts for an early production model the wingspan is correct only for later production models and cross-kitting is not as straightforward as it might seem. Finally the sheet includes three Ki-44 examples, an early 47th Independent Air Squadron aircraft flown by Capt Kuroe and painted earth brown, one of the initial production Ki-44 reinforcement aircraft for this unit painted dark olive green and a 40mm armed Ki-44-II Otsu of the 87th Sentai in Burma during May 1944. These are all good choices for the Burma and Indo-China theme and allow two different arcraft flown by the same ace to be modelled. There are sufficient Hinomaru for two Ki-43 and two Ki-44 to be modelled but to use all the markings options Hinomaru from the kits or other aftermarket sheets will need to be obtained.

Rising Decals 72038 Donated Birds II presents a selection of JAAF 'Aikoku' (patriotism) aircraft bought by public and private subscription. First up are two Korean donated Ki-9 biplane trainers for which the excellent RS models kit will be suitable. Then the classic Akeno Flying School Ki-43-I 'Aikoku 1028', a simple but very attractive scheme which was featured on early LS boxart (without the decals though!). I'm especially pleased to see this option and plan to "waste" it on the LS kit with a replacement Rob Taurus canopy. The 10th Independent Air Squadron's Ki-27 'Aikoku 396' is representative of the attack on Hong Kong and the details were provided by yours truly. The aircraft's appearance is based on a photograph, sketch and description by the pilot.  The 'Aikoku' legend was masked when the aircraft was painted deep green and remained visible on the original grey-green paint. This will have to be replicated on the model requiring a careful dimensional measurement of the decal and a thin strip of masking tape to the correct size. Probably a better option than trying to print the grey-green on the decal. The fourth option in this set is a Ki-49 with very large 'Aikoku 1423 presentation in white. Finally a Ki-51 'Aikoku 727' of the Hokota Army Flying School in 'wiggly streak' camouflage with a white rectangle behind the fuselage Hinomaru. Another excellent and interesting selection of markings for Japanese aircraft models. Hinomaru are provided for all the aircraft except the Ki-49 and there is only one set for the Ki-9.

The last set is another selection of colourful Japanese civil aircraft in Rising Decals RD72039 J-Birds Part II. Star of this sheet is a Japan Air Transport Co Ltd Fokker F.VIIb/3m J-BBZO in two shades of blue and yellow. Some tricky masking and painting required but the final result would be worth the effort. Although the Valom kit is recommended the Frog/Novo classic is still obtainable  and was also recently re-issued by Zvezda. Second choice is a Mitsubishi Karigane II (civil Ki-15-II Babs) J-BACL of the Domei News Agency. A simple scheme but an attractive alternative to the better known 'Kamikaze' record breaker and with the later more streamlined engine. Something simple for the weekend if you have the LS kit or Arii re-issue. Finally a very colourful Nakajima-built Ko-3 (Nieuport 24) J-BAFC of the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun. This will make a splendid little model in blue, yellow and aluminium dope with white outlined registration and star logo wing and tail markings. 

Rising Decals are to be congratulated on these sheets and for continuing to provide modellers with excellent, high quality alternative markings to the kit decals - which are often an unknown quantity. All of the instructions are in colour and follow the usual Rising practice of highlighting unknowns for the modeller to make his or her own choices. Thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for very kindly providing the review samples.

Image credits: All images © 2011 and with permission Rising Decals

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Darwin's Air War by Bob Alford

I've long held a deep interest in and admiration for the Antipodean war against Japan, and especially for the operations of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), but internationally this subject tends to be somewhat over-shadowed by America's war. Many of the more personal accounts of Australian and New Zealand involvement are privately published or published by small printing houses and are often unlikely to be found in British bookshops. It takes a little determination to search out and find such gems as 'It Had To B.U.', 'The Whole Nine Yards' or 'Kittyhawks And Coconuts' but by perseverance and patience one such slim and fascinating volume found its way into my hands over ten years ago. It was 'Darwin's Air War 1942-195. An Illustrated History' published by the Aviation Historical Society of the Northern Territory in 1991 and authored by Bob Alford. Packed within its 80 pages was a veritable cornucopia of revelations, data and photographs as well as a perfect demonstration of how to combine the historical, the visual and the interesting to relate a story that is both illuminating and readable.

Now Bob has reprised the 1991 book and expanded it into a magnificent 260 page 2nd Edition documenting the aerial warfare over and around Darwin from 1942 to 1945 ('Darwin's Air War 1942-1945 An Illustrated History Commemorating The Darwin Air Raids', published by the Aviation Historical Society of the Northern Territory Inc., 2011 - ISBN 978-0-9807713-05). The inclusion of 'Illustrated History' in the title often suggests a book with lots of pictures but little meat. Nothing could be further from that here. The book is packed with meticulously researched information and data.

The excellence begins with the cover and that evocative colour photograph of a 49th FG P-40E standing at readiness and it continues to the very last page. And this account does not just focus on Australian exploits but generously describes the Allied and Enemy action too, gently lifting the mask from the demonised attackers to reveal individual, human stories. One of the highlights of the book is a central colour section displaying the colour photographs of Clyde H Barnett Jr of the 8th FS, 49th FG, USAAF. These crystal clear images are almost enough to convey the reality of the air war but every other part of the book does exactly that too. The main narrative is organised by chapter as follows: -

1. The Defence Build-Up - a military town, a RAAF presence and a war close to home
2. Desperate Times - the RAAF in the NEI, ABDACOM and the withdrawal
3. 19 February 1942 - the first raids, Australia under attack
4. Aftermath - initial defences, airfields and Australia reinforced
5. Into Combat - the enemy exposed, radar and a learning curve

Map of the North-Western Area of Operations 1941-1945

6. Changes in the Air - Reorganisation, Americans depart and the RAAF takes over
7. Striking Back - Hudsons take the lead and pay the price

Colour Plates - The Clyde Barnett Collection

8. Changing Fortunes - the Spitfires arrive and he enemy under pressure
9. A Show of Force - the Japanese a fading threat?
10. The Heavy Bombers - Striking afar and a circus arrives
11. Liberators - the RAAF gets seven league boots
12. The Offensive Rolls On - moving north and boredom the enemy
13. Game Over - the unsung strength, victory at last and Darwin today

Pilot Profiles

Clyde H Barnett Jr
Jack "Squizzy" Taylor
Robert Dalkin
David M Wheeler
Gus Winckel
Muramitsu Sasaki
Forrest E "tommy" Thompson

1. Japanese Air Operations over the NT  1942-1944
2. Major Operational Units, NWA 1941-1945
3. Major Operational Aircraft , NWA 1942-1945
4. Composition of Japanese Air Forces
5 Japanese Aircraft Designations and Allied Code Names

That should give a flavour of how comprehensively and interestingly the subject has been tackled but it does not advertise the fact that almost every page displays carefully chosen and relevant photographs, many of them rare and from Japanese private sources. Although this book is concerned mainly with Australia's response to the Japanese air attacks anyone interested in Japanese aviation history will find it of compelling interest and use. As a testament to the care and attention taken in this publication a four-page booklet of additions and corrections that expand even further on the comprehensively written text is also included

Darwin's Air War is very highly recommended. To order a copy please email Owen Veal the manager of the AHSNT's Aviation Museum.

Image credits: Book covers © AHSNT 1991 & 2011

Monday 13 June 2011

Update - Aoshima Kits

Added Farpro and UPC Shiun 'Norm' box art to the Aoshima Pt 2 blog. If anyone has more Aoshima (or Aosima) box art - or any of the re-boxed art for Aoshima kits from other companies please send it in, thanks.

Friday 10 June 2011

Aoshima (or Aosima) Pt 2 - More Box Art

Courtesy of Ken Glass and Jacob Terlouw here are some more examples of Aoshima box art over the years. Cataloguing the various box styles and sorting them into a timeline would be quite a challenge!

The A7M2 Reppu was the only injection molded game in town until the relatively recent issue of the superlative Fine Molds kits, some releases of which include a photo-etch fret.

Aoshima box art was frequently innovative in composition and here on another Reppu box it has a decidely heroic style which must have been iconic and inspiring for its home audience. The surface lustre and colour of the aircraft reveal a knowledge perhaps rooted in actual observation.

The Aoshima Zuiun "Paul" floatplane was also unique until the arrival of the Fujimi kits. Although presented as 1/72nd scale the kit is closer to 1/79th scale. 

Another Zuiun box art variant with the horrible Riko sticker that degrades to an unsightly blemish but still manages to remain resolutely cemented to the box. The people who slapped these on the boxes must have been as devoid of any aesthetic sensitivities as the person who designed the over-sized monstrosity.

In another imaginative and evocative composition IJN mechanics are busy as the Zuiun rocks gently in the water off a palm-fringed South Pacific beach. The artist was 9 years old when the war ended.

The Entex re-packaging of the same kit gave us a look at the model and its possibilities. Not very inspiring but not helped by the standard of construction or the unattractive "pea soup" colour scheme. The kit included the option for an odd looking open canopy too.

This was the most recent packaging for the Zuiun, again presented as 1/72nd scale in a box too large for the contents. This time the decal sheet contained intriguing options including Akoku presentation legends and a civil registration! Nice instrument panels too but nowhere to put them without a bit of plastic card work.

Unfortunately the instruction sheet offers no explanation as to how any of these extra markings are supposed to be used.

Aoshima's Shiun "Norm" was always a favourite of this unusual floatplane and is still the only mainstream injection molded kit of the type. This box with it's excellent vintage-looking art by Tatsuji Kajita reveals the dreaded black and gold Riko sticker (see Part 1) whose adhesive is impervious to most known solvents. Attempts to remove it usually end in failure and a worse looking box. If in doubt leave well alone! Born in 1936, Tatsuji Kajita was well known in Japan for his box art for Imai and Otaki as well as his prolific robot toy and manga artwork in the 1960's and 1970's. For the adventurous who wish to explore his toy artwork further.

Earlier Tatsuji Kajita artwork on an 'Aosima' labelled box. Back in the day and pre-Donald W Thorpe such box art always caused confusion - was it meant to represent grey or natural metal?

Did anyone ever copy these garish markings on a model?  RS Models released a new short run kit of the Shiun which was shown here and looks very good. Aoshima's old "Norm" can still be a fun build though and offers some challenging problem-solving to the adventurous builder. For anyone wishing to explore "Norm" and his exploits in more detail there was an excellent article in the original Arawasi magazine Issue 1 of July 2005 which will hopefully be reprised by the magazine in future. 

Farpro's issue of the same kit presented it with a simple drawing on the box. The Farpro kits were produced by Aoshima for US distribution. The whole range was made available under this logo but not much more is known about them. 

UPC (Universal Powermaster Corporation) also re-boxed and re-issued many kits in the USA from foreign manufacturer imports, including Aoshima's Norm. UPC kits were also re-exported and I remember some UPC kits being available in the UK but I'm not sure if the whole range was available here.

The submarine-borne Seiran was also included in Aoshima's repertoire of floatplanes, shown here in the 'Aosima' boxing. Unfortunately it was closer to 1/78th scale and it's uniqueness was trumped by the release of a Tamiya kit to 1/72nd scale that is the silk purse to this sow's ear. The two kits built together make a fascinating comparison of how far plastic model technology has come in the intervening years.

This innovative Tatsuji Kajita box art depicts Seiran being readied for a mission from its submarine hangar. In 1964 it was a revelation to see a Japanese inline engined floatplane of almost fighter-like appearance carrying a huge bomb and being carried by a submarine!

Blue if you want it, with a red racing stripe in this later box art of Seiran. Wonder how many got built and painted like this? Aoshima kits invoke long summer holidays, sunlight streaming through the bedroom window and the box art dreams that carried us to the Pacific.

Image credits: All Aoshima box art and kit/decal images © Aoshima & Tatsuji Kajita via Ken Glass, Jacob Terlouw & Straggler