Friday 15 July 2011

Japanese Aircraft Engine Recordings & Films

Some haunting vintage recordings of Japanese Army aircraft engines here.

And some interesting film of IJN G4M operations here.

Ki-30 and Chokkyo operations here.

Image credit: Wiki & YouTube Japan

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Aotake Update

When I blogged about aotake in February 2010 here I quoted from Model Art 272 as follows:- 

"Ordinarily it's called aodake colour but actually it is a coating from a family of transparent zabon enamels. There are two branches to it, a blue one and a green one."

By way of further clarification "zabon" or buntan (pomello) is a type of Asian citrus fruit like a large grapefuit. I don't think the enamel was extracted from that or used an extraction from that in the coating (!). I believe the author was referring instead to Zapon lacquer which originated from a trade name applied to a cellulose nitrate varnish with a solvent which contained amyl acetate, butyl acetate and propyl acetate. This was patented in 1887 and marketed by the Celluloid Zapon Co of Springfield, NJ. Zapon lacquer dried to a very thin and transparent film and was originally sold as a varnish to protect polished metal parts. Zapon subsequently became a generic name (like Hoover for vacuum cleaner) and was marketed in various forms during the 1930's as a protective varnish.

The use of phenolic resin in the varnish results in a harder and more durable protection and in combination with tung oil produces the most water resistant varnish. The phenolic resin component tends to amber more significantly with age than alkyd resin based varnishes.
The addition of colour tinting to a metal protective transparent varnish (透漆 touru shitsu) aids in practical application and that chosen for aotake had its roots in traditional urushi based varnishes applied for the protection of armour. Aotake 青竹 in this application typically used 10-40% of dis azo, 0-50% of titanium oxide (white) and 10-20% phtalocyanin. Dis azo is from a family of water insoluble dyes (Azo pigments) of great chromatic strength and usually associated with yellow, orange and brown. Phtalocyanin is an intensely blue-green pigment. Sometimes orpiment (Sekioh 石黄) a yellow pigment, and indigo, a dark blue pigment, were used instead of the disazo dye and phtalocyanine in lower grade applications. There is a degree of yellow-blue-green variance inherent in the constituent proportions and in the way the coating ages.

The description 淡青色透明 (literally "thin blue colour transparent and bright") appears in some Japanese aircraft books to describe aotake, including those on JAAF subjects but it was more commonly used in an IJN context - as in the Zero-Sen technical manual for example. This is also sometimes written as 淡青色 (thin blue colour) but often translated, incorrectly, as light blue colour. The character 淡 tan means thin, faint or pale in the sense of low saturation or weak chroma rather than bright or light which is 明 mei. 

As to lacquer and enamel these have been subject to various definitions but the USAAF HQ ATSC Dictionary of Aircraft Maintenance Terms (T.O. No. 30-1-2-H) Section H Paint and Dope published in November 1944 defined them as follows:-

"Enamel - a special kind of paint in which the vehicle is a drying oil or a combination of drying oil and resin. It dies to an even, hard, permanent finish. Usually it yields a glossy surface, but addition of a flatting agent can cause it to dry flat. The term is often used to mean a pigmented varnish. In aircraft work a synthetic enamel which dries quickly with a high gloss is often used."

"Lacquer - A solution of film-forming materials in a volatile solvent, used chiefly for decorative purposes. There are several types of lacquer. The most important in aircraft work are the "cellulose lacquers" which have a nitrocellulose or pyroxylin base, to which pigments, resins, plasticizers, solvents and diluents may be added. Other kinds of lacquer have a resin (synthetic or natural) base, dissolved in some solvent such as alcohol. Lacquers dry relatively quickly, chiefly by evaporation, leaving a tough, flexible, lightweight film. They cannot be used over oil-base paints, for they contain solvents which cut such paints. They may be applied either by spraying or brushing."

Image credits: Web

Friday 8 July 2011

Interesting Ida

From Jacob Terlouw comes this fascinating photograph of a Tachikawa Ki-55 "Ida" Trainer with very striking tail insignia taken post-war at Kemajoran airbase in Java. The officer in the photograph is sq: off.obs.2nd class Mr Juta of the (Dutch)321 Squadron.

The unit emblem is not one I recognise and the aircraft in the background seems to have a different emblem. I won't draw coloured lines all over the photograph, enhance it, enlarge it, turn it into a negative or resort to any other technical manipulation in order to prove any point about interpreting the colour(s). I'll just let the photograph speak for itself. However I will point out that there appears to be something odd about the rear cockpit position and canopy. Studying the plans, drawings and photographs in the excellent Arawasi Eagle Eye Series No.1 on the Ki-36 and Ki-51 the rearmost section in view does not appear to match the actual rear section of the original canopy (which slid back over the top of the fuselage on the rails seen). The built-up section of rail under the canopy does not appear in most photos and plans. The rearmost canopy section in view does not appear to match the central section either (which usually slid forward). Has it been modified?

Image credit: © 2011 Jacob Terlouw

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Sword 1/72 Nakajima Ki-44-II Shoki ('Tojo')

Something of a surprise and slipping in under the radar is the new Sword 1/72nd scale kit of the Nakajima Ki-44-II Shoki ('Tojo'). Shoki modellers have been well-served in the larger 1/48th and 1/32nd scales but in 1/72nd scale until Sword's new release there was only the Hasegawa (possibly ex-Mania) example from 1972 which was considered briefly here in October 2009 (was it really that long ago?).

The Sword kit comes in a stout, good quality end-opening box with box art by Jerry Boucher depicting the Ki-44 of 70th Sentai ace Capt Yoshio Yoshida in action against B-29's over Japan. Inside is a single frame of plastic parts, two resin parts, a clear sprue, a decal sheet and a comprehensive set of instructions. There are no photo-etch parts included. All contents are inside a re-sealable plastic envelope and the clear parts are also protected in their own re-sealable envelope. The main parts are molded in a slightly shiny grey plastic with finely engraved detail. The 10 page instruction booklet is excellent with a potted history of the type reminiscent of early Airfix bag headers and clear assembly and painting instructions throughout.

The kit itself appears to allow all three variants of the Ki-44 to be built and the fuselage parts are therefore a compromise, requiring some detail correction in order to depict an Otsu or Hei which are the subjects for the markings options included with the kit. The cowling gun ammunition access panels appear to be more appropriate for a Ko and will need to be enlarged and re-shaped, whilst the gun vents in the upper cowling will also need enlarging. These differences are not addressed in the otherwise excellent instructions. The fuselage halves are molded with integral cowling sides, the shape of which from above looks good, and contain molded sidewall detail for the cockpit. The forward cowl opening and intake is a separate part as are the cowl flaps. The emergency exit doors either side of the cockpit are molded closed but could easily be cut open, a worthwhile exercise as we shall see. Cockpit detail consists of a detailed floor, separate rudder pedals and stick, a nicely molded resin seat, forward bulkhead, instrument panel and separate cowling machine gun breeches. There is also headrest detail to be added to the pylon under the canopy and the coaming above the instrument panel and under the windscreen is a separate part complete with the distinctive apertures. This all seems perfectly adequate for the scale and is certainly a major improvement over the Hasegawa kit's "bathtub" but, for me at least, there is also relief that it is all plastic apart from the seat!  

Before the fuselage halves are closed up, there is a fully detailed tailwheel assembly with fuselage rib frame to assemble - very nice this - and a beautifully molded resin two-row radial engine to fit. The wings are conventionally molded with a single lower wing assembly incorporating the forward lower cowling panel with an integral blanking plate for the separate oil cooler. Also included is optional 12.7mm (for the Hei) and 40mm (for the Otsu) wing armament and a clear plastic landing light cover. Although the Otsu is often described as having the 40mm armament as standard this was in fact always considered to be 'special equipment' and the standard Otsu only had the 12.7mm cowling guns and no wing armament. There is also evidence that some Otsu were retro-fitted with Hei-type 12.7mm wing armament. If possible it is better to study photos of the subject carefully before modelling and not to be fooled by the conventional wisdom that all later variants can be identified by the reflector gun sight.

Speaking of gun sights the kit comes with both the reflector and optical telescopic types, with separate windscreens for each allowing the cockpit canopy to be positioned open. This is an excellent feature, further enhanced by the reflector being molded in clear plastic - albeit somewhat chunkily for scale. The spinner and prop is molded in three parts with a backplate. The undercarriage is conventional, consisting of legs, separate wheels and fairings but includes actuating yokes for the inner doors and for the first time in this scale the auxiliary doors for the hydraulic actuating rams in the open position behind the main wheel wells - a welcome detail. The kit includes a pair of drop tanks molded in two halves split vertically each with four separate sway bar supports.

The decal sheet, printed by Techmod, includes markings for two well known 70th Sentai "B-29 Aces", WO Ogawa and Capt Yoshida, both sporting elaborate kill markings, an attractive 40mm armed 47th Sentai example (with addendum decal sheet) and an 85th Sentai example based in China. Recent research in Japan strongly suggests that the 70th Sentai emblems on the tails of both WO Ogawa's and Capt Yoshida's aircraft should be red rather than yellow - although almost all depictions so far have shown the latter. For those prepared to wait my forthcoming Osprey book on Ki-44 Aces, (Aircraft of the Aces 100) to be published in October, includes revised profiles for both these aircraft (and 30 others!). The 85th Sentai example was probably in heavily mottled green and brown rather than the worn green suggested and the figure '4' on the tail was more likely a character rather than a number. White Homeland Defence "bandages" and the white "stripe" on the tail of the 85th example (actually a half arrow) will need to be painted on by the modeller.

Current price of the Sword Ki-44 kit is £14.99 (about US$24) at Hannants. Bearing in mind the improvements in this kit and its low run nature I think this compares very favourably to the Hasegawa veteran, still available at £9.99 (and without taking into account the cost of resin cockpit upgrades). There will be those who might bemoan the compromise in fuselage detail but it is easily rectified either by re-engraving or by the addition of a sanded down access panel to the correct shape and size. For me, mindful of the scale, this is more than compensated for by all the other details and options which have been incorporated into this kit and I look forward to building this new model of Shoki in a favourite scale. Thanks very much to Milan Lucký for the sample kit box reviewed here.

Image credits: All © 2011 Vision Sword s.r.o; box art also © Jerry Boucher. These images are NOT to be reproduced elsewhere without express permission. 

Saturday 2 July 2011

Alex Angelopoulos' Fine Molds 1/48th Kawasaki Type 95 Fighter

From Alex Angelopoulos comes this very fine and convincing model of the Type 95 Fighter, the Kawasaki Ki-10, the Japanese Army's last biplane fighter, to 1/48th scale from the Fine Molds kit. The model represents the aircraft flown by 1Lt Iori Sakai of the 2nd Chutai, 2nd Hiko Daitai (Air Battalion) serving in China during Spring, 1938 and was a funded by donation fighter Aikoku (愛国 - love of country, patriotism) - 138. In a fight against 18 Chinese I-15 fighters on 10th April 1938 that saw the debut of the JAAF's new monoplane Type 97 fighter (Ki-27), Lt Iori (in a Ki-10) claimed three I-15's shot down. The I-15's were part of a mixed force from the Chinese 3rd and 4th Pursuit Groups.  

Alex reports that the kit is excellent in terms of fit and detail. He puttied the main airframe panels smooth as was done on the original to improve aerodynamic performance. The blue eagle and shadow-shaded letters 2FM on the fuselage identified the 2nd Chutai.

Alex also used Fine Molds extra photo-etch set for the model's rigging and drooped the elevators but otherwise the build is straight from the box.

The kit Hinomaru decals were used but weathered over and Alex finished the model in Tamiya XF-14 IJA Grey which represents the JAAF paint colour standard # 1 hai ryokushoku (灰緑色 - greenish grey colour). Leading Japanese aviation researcher and author Dr Yasuho Izawa has described* this paint colour as "light greyish blue plus a drop of yellow". The overall finish and subtle weathering is superb.

The Ki-10 is an iconic and interesting subject for a model in this scale. The best single reference to the type is Tadeusz Januszewski and Zygmunt Szeremeta's 'Kawasaki Ki 10 Perry' published by Tenzan in 2007 and is well worth trying to obtain. Thanks very much to Alex for kindly contributing these beautiful and inspiring images of his very impressive model.

* In '64th Flying Sentai', Aero Album, Spring 1970.

Image credits: All model photographs © 2011 Alex Angelopoulos

Friday 1 July 2011

Jan "Janne" Sairanen's 1/48th Hasegawa A6M2 Zero

From Gothenburg, Sweden comes another splendid 1/48th scale Hasegawa A6M2 Zero built by Jan "Janne" Sairanen and sent via Stefan Sjöberg. Jan built this model out of the box from kit # 9793 with just the addition of ignition wiring. The model was primed with Alclad primer and the panel lines pre-shaded with flat black. The final coat was a mix of Tamiya XF-49 Khaki and XF-21 Sky in the approximate proportions 6 to 4. Cockpit interior was painted XF-71 Cockpit Green (IJN). The cowling was first painted in Alclad White Aluminium as a base, then given a "salt-chip" treatment before being painted Nato Black. The wheel wells are Lifecolor Aotake. Weathering was kept to a minimum with just some subtle chipping at the wing root and some oil paint streaking.

Thanks to Stefan Sjöberg and Jan for kindly contributing these images. Lots of excellent Japanese aircraft models appear on well-known forum pages and "disappear" after a few days and a few plaudits. I'd like to appeal to those who enjoy reading this blog to consider contributing images of their Japanese aircraft models here too and to encourage others to do the same, thanks. If you could include a few words about the kits and the builds, the paints chosen, etc., then that would be great. 

Image credits: Model images © 2011 by Jan Sairanen via Stefan Sjöberg.