Thursday, 29 March 2012

Petr Prause's Amazing Mitsubishi Zero

There are two amazing negatives about Petr Prause's A6M2b Zero model. The first is that it is not to 1/48th scale and the second is that it is not built from the product of a Japanese kit manufacturer. This amazing model, believe it or not, was built from the new Airfix 1/72nd scale kit. The full build report can be found at Britmodeller here. Petr's choice of colour was criticised by one commentator as being a tad too dark and whilst from a personal viewpoint I might agree by comparison to the original paint, the point is that the model was painted to match Shigeru Nohara's fold-out colour profile in FAOW 55 - and does so admirably. I tried Petr's paint mix and found it just a little dark and brown but the considerable adjustment he made with various oversprays and washes have significantly enhanced it. Also, bearing in mind the degree of realistic weathering the finish should perhaps exhibit a little more of the surface chalking that led to the appearance of a dull grey. But that is a pedantic quibble for a model that is magnificent in its realisation and which in terms of hue is certainly a much better representation than Humbrol 90!

Decals come not from the kit but from the Rising Decals sheet 72-040 reviewed here and are for a Houkokou marked aircraft from the carrier Shokaku engaged during the Guadalcanal campaign in August 1942. It is a delight to see these in situ on the model and the choice is arguably more representative for the A6M2 than Airfix's subject. Overall the result is a very impressive Zero model that reflects great credit to Petr's modelling skill, Rising Decals and Airfix. Thanks to Petr for his kind permission to show the images of his model here.
Image credits: © 2012 Petr Prause

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Whatever Happened to Sally (and the other Revell Twins)?

First issue "green" box from 1975

The remarkable Revell 1/72nd scale kit of the Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally", prolific JAAF bomber of the Second World War, first appeared in 1975* and was perhaps the jewel in a collection of five ground-breaking kits of Japanese twin-engined aircraft. The other subjects have all since been covered by more modern kits from Japanese manufacturers; Hasegawa issuing a whole series of new kit variants of the Ki-45 Toryu "Nick", P1Y Ginga "Frances" and Ki-49 "Helen", whilst Fujimi released a series of J1N "Irving" variants. About the time that Hasegawa were embarking on this series of new, updated kits of Japanese twins, MPM in the Czech Republic released a new kit of the Ki-21, offered in two versions and subsequently in a "revised" version. Whether this had the effect of cancelling any Japanese plans for a new Ki-21 is hard to say, but the MPM kit is now almost as hard to find as the classic Revell!  The world still waits for an up to date, state of the art, mainstream kit to cover what is perhaps the last significant gap in JAAF modelling.   

Second issue "red" box from 1976

Revell's Sally appears to have originated from a licence deal in Japan with Gunze Sangyo Inc., then as now primarily a hobby paint manufacturer and Revell's Japanese licensee. It is doubtful that Gunze Sangyo actually designed or molded the kit but the actual manufacturer remains obscure. It might have been Takara because in 1980 the Ki-21 was re-released briefly under a Revell Japan brand label but with Takara's logo prominent on the side of the box - and this kit is often referred to as Revell-Takara.  Whoever made it employed engineering well ahead of the game at the time with very fine recessed detail and a very attractive presentation. Received wisdom is that the mold was lost at sea with others when it was transported for manufacturing in one of Revell's other overseas plants but I have never seen the details of this confirmed. If as part of the licensing arrangement the molds belonged to Revell and the arrangements with Gunze and/or Takara came to an end I guess it is quite possible that the molds for the Japanese twins were shipped off to be returned to Revell or some other manufacturing plant.

Revell-Takara box from 1980

But if they are really gone forever the reticence of any of the big Japanese manufacturers to fill this very obvious gap in the 1/72nd scale JAAF line-up is curious. Do they know something we don't?  Is their apparent reluctance rooted in the risk that a cheaper re-pop of the very respectable Revell kit could appear on the market in the blink of an eye? If Hasegawa were to release a Ki-21 we might expect the optional variants in Revell's original to be offered as separate kits, as well as the various markings options released one by one (or two if you are lucky) with different box art, and there probably wouldn't be much change from £60. The original Revell kit, selling for anything from £50-60 in recent years now seems to have stabilised around the £35 mark, but I guess it depends how badly you want one. On the face of it a re-pop of the Revell kit looks a viable proposition for an enterprising detective. But where is the mold?  Gathering dust in a storage facility in Japan, perhaps the subject of a Jarndyce v Jarndyce type legal tussle over ownership rights, or corroding away beneath the sea?

How the kit appeared in the 1976 Revell Japan catalogue - looking good!

* The John W Burns guide says the original mold was issued by "Revell/Japan (Gunze Sangyo)" in the early 1980's but this seems to refer to the Revell-Takara issue. I have a Revell Japan catalogue for 1976 (with Gunze Sangyo Inc., clearly marked as the Revell Japan licensee) which has all the Japanese twins advertised in it, including the Ki-21 (see above). The first issue box, with green lettering, is copyright dated 1975; the second, with red lettering, is copyright dated 1975 and 1976 so presumably came later and the Revell-Takara box is copyright dated 1980. I'm not aware of any others? Both the Revell Japan kits are molded in dark green plastic (AFAIK) and have the Revell catalogue number 'H-169' whilst the Revell-Takara is molded in grey and has 'S39' above 'H-169'. Incidentally the Revell Japan catalogue entry gives the Ki-21 the name 'Rairyu' (雷龍) which seems to mean 'Thunder Dragon' (or 'Dinosaur') - not a name I have seen used in the same way as Donryu, Hiryu, etc.

Image credits: © 1975, 1976, 1980 Revell Japan

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Rising Decals ~ Emperor's Eagles Pt. IV

The most recent Japanese subject sheet from Rising Decals focusses on Army fighters engaged in  Homeland Defence. Emperor's Eagles Pt.IV contains markings for 11 aircraft, five Ki-61 Hien (Tony), 4 Ki-84 Hayate (Frank), a single Ki-46 and a single Ki-44 Shoki (Tojo). First on the sheet is a Ki-61-I Tei of the 55th Sentai filmed in colour at Yomitan airfield on Okinawa. The aircraft's tail emblem is applied over that of the former operators - the 56th Sentai. Again, as a purely personal observation, I think that the blue of the command chevron is printed a little too dark but the blue paint is called out as Mr Color 65 Bright Blue. Next a Ki-61-I Tei of the 56th Sentai with white Home Defence "bandages" on the fuselage but not the wings, an interesting combination with the olive green camouflage on the Ki-61 that is not often modelled. The third camouflaged Hien is another 55th Sentai bird, this time with the tail emblem applied over the diagonal stripe of the 59th Sentai. It is good to see the 59th's unique stabiliser stripes also included and with the yellow spinner and fuselage numbers this one would make a very colourful model. Two natural metal Ki-61 continue the theme of overpainted tail markings, both with the 55th Sentai emblem applied over a former emblem. Aircraft 03 also has a partially camouflaged tail and rudder.

Whereas painting suggestions for the camouflaged Ki-61 provide the modeller with the choice of olive drab or dark green, the first three Ki-84 are all given as olive drab. A single 101st Sentai example with badly worn paintwork and two 47th Sentai aircraft, both said to be the mounts of Capt Tei-ichi Hatano. On the subject of the 47th Sentai a brief digression. Ki-44 Aces was criticised in Japan for describing Heikichi Yoshizawa's B-29 ramming attack as being made in a Ki-44 rather than in a Ki-84 as more generally attributed. Although Lt Yoshizawa was photographed standing in front of a Ki-84 and many accounts describe his ramming attack on 10 February 1945 as being made in a Ki-84 this type of aircraft was not used for Shinten Seikutai attacks by the 47th Sentai. The attack was made in a Ki-44. At this time the 47th were re-equipping with the Ki-84 in preparation for a completely new role as direct escort to Special Attack Units (特別攻撃隊 tokubetsu kōgeki tai or 特攻隊 tokkōtai) within the newly formed 30th Fighter Group. The Ki-84 was not intended for anti-B-29 air defence operations and after working-up preparations on the new type the unit were to be detached from the 10th Air Division in March 1945. From January to March 1945 the unit conducted operations with both types of aircraft.

The Special Attack Units within 30th Fighter Group were the 18th, 19th, 25th, 45th and 47th Shimbu Tai. The other direct escort unit was to be the famous 244th Sentai. Reconnaisance was to be provided by the Shimoshizu Air Unit and the 17th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai. Navigation guidance was to be provided by three bombers from the Utsonomiya Air Instruction Division and two special navigation air squads. As part of this preparation (to repel an invasion fleet off the shores of Japan) fighter units in the Homeland were re-classified into two categories as either permanently stationed air defence forces or mobile air defence forces. There were no Ki-84 units in the permanently stationed air defence forces. This type of aircraft was allocated to mobile air defence forces only with a specific role to escort special attack units in strikes against invasion shipping and to provide counter-air to enemy fighter attacks.

Back to the Rising Decals and the final Hayate is an interesting 22nd Sentai example from the second additional batch of prototypes. This aircraft is in natural metal with a dark green mottle and the distinctive 'kikusui' emblem on the tail. Although this is invariably shown as white based on a well-known post-war colour photograph I continue to believe it to have originally been applied in yellow and red with a pale blue 'river'.

The penultimate subject on this sheet is a Ki-46-III Kai interceptor version of the Ki-46 'Dinah' (百式 三型司令部偵察機改造防空戦闘機 - Hyaku shiki san gata shireibu teisatsu-ki kaizô bôkû sentô-ki or Type 100 Model 3 Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft remodelled Air Defence Fighter) in markings attributed to the 38th Sentai. A most unusual and interesting choice this and a little different from the usual markings chosen for this type. 

Finally a Ki-44 Shoki from the 70th Sentai, said to be the aircraft of the Sentai Commander Maj Atsuyuki Sakato in plain natural metal finish with full complement of white Home Defence 'bandages' and red and white fuselage command sash. It is possible that the sash was outlined in yellow and that this Shoki is the aircraft flown by the unit adjutant or executive officer. A small errata sheet is also included for a Shoki subject on a previously released sheet RD 72030

This is another excellent JAAF sheet from Rising Decals with well chosen, interesting subjects, and high quality colour printing with well saturated colours, especially the Hinomaru. Thanks to Mirek for the review copy.

Image credits: © 2012 Rising Decals 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Mark Smith's Otaki Ki-44 and Anthrazitgrau

Here are a couple more images of the 1/48th scale Otaki Ki-44 built by Mark Smith and mentioned in the review of Lifelike Decals Shoki sets here. The amazing thing about this lovely model is that all the markings are painted on as at the time it was built there were no aftermarket decals available. Mark still really likes the Otaki Ki-44 for capturing the lines of the Ki-44.  He remembers comparing it with the Hasegawa kit when that one came out and concluding that whilst the Hasegawa kit is better overall, certain shape aspects are still better captured in the older kit - the fin and rudder for example. The model has a vacform canopy and scratch-built cockpit, new cowl flaps and some extra detail added to the landing gear and engine.  The natural metal finish is SNJ which Mark recalls as being a lot of trouble and smelling really dangerous!  The 246th's 'umeboshi' (梅干 dried plum) tail emblem was made with a stencil and airbrush, whilst the landing gear doors were painted with a brush. The model was built before anyone offered resin parts for it, and as Mark recalls the only etched metal that was available at that time and pertinent to WWII planes were Waldron seatbelts (applied to the model) and placards.  

Some puzzlement over my description of the greyish-black paint on Lt Inayama's Shoki as 'anthracite'. I meant it in the sense of the German anthrazitgrau which was a military primer paint that came into use around 1935 and was also used by the Luftwaffe as 4/840/R Fliegerblaugrau (RAL 7016). Blue-grey? Yes, a very dark blue-grey where the blue can be fugitive as it is introduced to the reflectivity from the blue shade carbon black pigment in the paint. Counter-intuitively the paint also contains chrome yellow which provides a degree of anti-corrosive protection and the combination results in a subtle colour shift of the greyish-black, dependent upon illuminant, from slightly blueish to slightly greenish, exactly similar to the JAAF # 3 paint colour Hairanshoku or Hai-Ai-iro (灰藍色 literally ash indigo colour), which was introduced as a primer paint and cockpit interior paint colour in 1936. The Munsell value for RAL 7016 is 7.7 B 3.0/0.8 but there is a usefully close FS 595B value - 35042 @ 0.82 (where < 2.0 = a close match) which also provides a reasonable impression of the colour. If you examine 35042 and find it hard to imagine that such a very dark blue grey contains chrome yellow bear in mind that the FS 35042 paint colour also contains that pigment, as well as phthalocyanine blue (green shade). As a general primer paint # 3 was widely used and might well have provided the greyish-black paint that was applied to Lt Inayama's Shoki.     

Image credits: Model photos © 2012 Mark Smith; Rendered colour chip © 2012 'Straggler'

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Chinese Photo Lightnings ~ A Wandering Tale

This blog post about Chinese Lightnings is going to stray off-topic so if you come here as a diehard Japanese aircraft enthusiast please indulge it! The mysterious photograph above shows a line-up of apparently new P-38J Lightnings in Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) markings evidently before delivery. And a delivery that might never have followed. According to the Angelucci/Bowers "bible" only 15 P-38 aircraft were provided to the Chinese nationalists during the Second World War. Wings of China records only the receipt of the photo-reconnaissance 'F-5G' by the RoCAF, re-designated RF-38 in 1948 and remaining in service until 1953. The image below shows a RoCAF 'F-5E-4' photographed at Barrackpore, India during the Burma campaign but the exact date is unknown. The finish appears to be standard olive drab over neutral grey with the blue and white RoCAF tail stripes but P-38 photo-recce finishes are tricky and for those who might wish to delve into them in more detail I recommend Paul Lucas' article on the subject in the September 2007 issue of Model Aircraft Monthly (Vol 6 Iss 9). 'Photo Joe', a well known USAAF F-4A photographed during the Burma campaign, was finished locally in a non-standard scheme of polished Medium Green 42 over a mixed Sky Blue, possibly the one eighth of a pint of Specification 3-1 Blue No 307 to one gallon of white mentioned by Mr Lucas.

The RoCAF assigned their operational P-38 photo Lightnings to the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron and used them successfully during the Chinese Civil War. There is a personal account of training and flying the Chinese photo Lightnings by Jude BK Pao here. According to Mr Pao the Chinese took over about 50 P-38's left over by the USAAF after the war, mainly at Nanking. The 12th operated 18 F-5E and F-5G but the remainder went into storage or were cannibalised for parts. The photo Lightnings were fairly immune from interception until during one sortie in the winter months of 1947/48 when a Chinese recce pilot reported being pursued by two "very fast" single radial-engined fighters. The P-38 was eventually able to outdistance the mysterious interceptors, one of which broke away fairly early whilst the other doggedly followed for many miles but unable to gain. The first La-9 Russian fighters were not received by the Red Army of China Air Force until late 1949.

Several decades ago it was a family tradition to make up Christmas stockings for all the members of the family and my mother always included in mine a slim paperback on an aviation subject - fact or fiction (they were more common then - with a whole shelf full at W.H.Smith) and an aircraft kit - usually one of the 1/72nd Revell small black-ended boxes with the "brass" name tag on the box art. In fact I received the Kawasaki Hien (then pronounced "Hine" in our ignorance) for two years running and it became something of a family joke. In 1970 I received Alfred Coppel's "Order of Battle" - "A Novel of World War II" and was soon immersed in (as I remembered it) a surprisingly compelling story about P-38 pilot Lt Mark Devereaux of the 903rd Fighter-Bomber Group based at Bourneham, England in 1944. It was inspiration enough to seek out and build a model of Devereaux's "Fork-tailed Devil".

Lightning kits were thin on the ground then. The Airfix P-38 was pretty poor, being the very old kit from 1958 and I don't remember it even being available at that time.  Hasegawa were marketing the Frog P-38 - their own P-38 was eight years away - but their kits were not easy to find in the UK. Revell's P-38 was still seven years away. So Frog's 1967 P-38 - still readily available in my local model shop (it was issued from 1967 to 1974) - was literally the only game in town. It was chunky but honest, easy to build and looked good (to me) when done. My hastily constructed model ended up as Devereaux's imaginary olive drab P-38J with its red nose and spinners. The  Frog kit offered a RoCAF variant on the decals - supposedly a P-38L - quite an innovation at that time, but such exotica was ruthlessly disregarded by an imagination already hooked on Devereaux's wing, stalking trains and skirting flak towers through the rain clouds over a grey Nazi-infested Europe. There was perhaps more to the choice of Frog kit than necessity though, because the cover of Mr Coppel's book featured models of the P-38 that looked suspiciously like the Frog kit too.

That book was long lost in my travels as youthful imagination collided with military reality but I often recalled it fondly and more recently in an act of determined nostalgia decided that I wanted to read it again. I couldn't even remember the title or author. Internet searches under "P-38 Novel" and various other permutations brought nothing. Forum queries went unanswered. Then during a sort out of old books at my mother's house I came across a paperback version of Alan Morris' 'First of the Many' - the story of Independent Force RAF during the First World War. The cover featured three Revell models of the Sopwith Camel and the style looked familiar. It was published by Arrow Books.  "I wonder . . . " I thought and began searching for Arrow book titles which soon zeroed me in on the long missing book. I bought a used copy and re-read it. Far from being disappointed at my youthful naivety I thoroughly enjoyed it and still rate it as an unsung classic of air war fiction.

Frog's Chinese P-38L was perhaps based on the photograph at the top of this blog post (?) but during the 1970's Aircam Aviation No.10 also featured another Chinese P-38L profile on its cover (above). Inside the book were two more profiles of RoCAF photo Lightnings and several photos of F-5E and F-5G in Chinese markings but no further explanation about them.

Image credits:- Peter M Bowers Collection via A Shennan; Osprey Publications Ltd; Arrow Books; Frog (Rovex Industries Ltd).

Friday, 23 March 2012

John Coverley's Japanese Aircraft Models

John Coverley very kindly sent me these images of some of his Japanese aircraft models. The USMC captured and flown Ki-61 above is from the 1/48th Hasegawa kit which John built after reading about it in 'Aeroplane' magazine. 

The 244th Sentai Ki-61 was built last year from the Hasegawa 1/32nd scale kit. An Eduard exterior etched set was used on the model and John tried using alclad laquers for the first time, also using a double-action airbrush for the first time. Mr Color laquer was used for the propeller and the Hinomaru were painted on as were the yellow IFF wing leading edge markings. 

The 64th Sentai Ki-43 Hayabusa is also a Hasegawa 1/32nd scale kit. John added a few Eduard etched details such as seat belts and undercarriage doors, but otherwise it was built OOB. The paint used was Tamiya acrylic with decals as provided in the kit.

This Ki-84 Hayate was built about a year after the Ki-43, also from a Hasegawa 1/32nd scale kit. Again John added some Eduard parts and painted the model with a mixture of Mr Color, Lifecolor and Tamiya acrylics. The yellow fuselage bands and white Homeland Defence "bandages" were painted. John was inspired to try his hand at these Japanese aircraft by seeing other peoples models and hopes that these images will encourage others to have a go at something different. 

Image credits: © 2012 John Coverley

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Greetings fellow inmates. If you are reading this you will have managed to find your way here despite the best efforts of technocrats and geeks to render this blog invisible. I, the eternal luddite and dinosaur, have managed to work round their labyrinthine "systems", faceless bureaucrats, uncontactable contact processes and Alice in Wonderland logic to bring back the blog.  In 2 or 3 days the domain name will become and you should then be re-directed to the site automatically when you use the blogspot link. Please update your bookmarks thanks.

One of the inevitable changes will be that links in the blog posts to previous posts on this site will be lost but the older posts will still remain accessible via the archive sidebar. I may or may not update the links depending upon the phases of the moon and whether there is more lurking than commenting.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Lifelike Decals ~ Ki-44 Shoki in 1/48th Scale Part 3

Lifelike Decals third set of markings for the Ki-44 Shoki 48-038 offers four very interesting aircraft. First up is a Hei from the 23rd Sentai's 1st Chutai which was also illustrated in Osprey's Ki-44 Aces. A photograph of T/Sgt Yoshiji Okazaki standing in front of another Shoki from this unit suggests that it should probably have the front half of the spinner painted white. As part of the unit's "tokko" ramming flight WO Kobayashi's aircraft was probably unarmed with the cowling apertures faired over and possibly painted red. The second option on the sheet is for an 85th Sentai Shoki with unusual camouflage which has been featured in a Hasegawa kit. Here the Kana character on the tail has been depicted correctly as "Ha" (は) rather than the incorrect character included on the kit decals. 

The third aircraft is very well known from previous profiles and kit decals, the 85th Sentai commander Major Togo Saito's aircraft. Although not profiled there are three photographs of this aircraft  in Ki-44 Aces. It has been interpreted in various ways and Lifelike have chosen a plain, weathered dark green over natural metal whilst mentioning that it has also been depicted with green and brown camouflage on the upper surfaces. The distinctive Kanji characters painted on the drop tank represent "geki metsu"(撃滅) meaning to attack and destroy. The Sentai Hombu markings are cobalt blue and perhaps a little dark for my taste but they might look differently when applied. The colour shown on the profile in the sheet appears more typical.  The last option is a real corker, the rarely illustrated Shoki of the 70th Sentai commander Major Atsuyuki Sakado with three distinctive B-29 victory markings and blue Sentai tail insignia; the same comment regarding the shade of blue, appearing rather dark on the decal but of more typical hue in the profile illustration. This is an unusual choice but a very attractive one, and would make a model a little different from the "herd".

Another excellent Lifelike Decals set and again my wish is to see these available also in 1/72nd scale. 

Image credits: © 2011 Lifelike Decals

Monday, 19 March 2012

Lifelike Decals ~ Ki-44 Shoki in 1/48th Scale Part 2 & Mark Smith's Otaki Ki-44

Lifelike Decals second set of Ki-44 Shoki markings in 1/48th scale includes two well-known machines from the 70th Sentai which have been depicted and modelled incorrectly for years. The elaborate victory adorned aircraft of Capt Yoshio Yoshida and WO Makoto Ogawa are usually shown with yellow Sentai tail markings, but Lifelike's new sheet provides the correct red markings (but for one aircraft only). Thanks to Lifelike's owner these markings were also able to be depicted correctly in Osprey's Ki-44 Aces. Again the narrative captions are comprehensive about this and also tackle the thorny question of the position of Ogawa's sixth victory marking. The B-29 victory markings, often crudely represented in previous sheets and kits, are especially well done. The fin leading edge flash on Yoshida's aircraft is shown as black with good cause whereas in Ki-44 Aces we depicted it as red.

The third subject on the sheet is a less well-known 70th Sentai Shoki, as flown by Sgt Sadao Miyazawa with a victory tally commemorating his successful combat with a Hellcat on 17th February 1945. The colour of the tail marking is unknown but Lifelike provide a yellow option. The fourth and final option is for a heavily weathered 9th Sentai Shoki in China. The sheet includes white Homeland Defence "bandages" but again stencilling and yellow IFF strips are provided for only one aircraft. This is another excellent sheet for Ki-44 enthusiasts.

After mentioning both the Arii (ex-Otaki) Ki-44 and the colourful 246th Sentai machine included in Lifelike Decals first sheet in yesterday's blog, Mark Smith very fortuitously and kindly sent me some photos of his "old" Otaki Ki-44 model displaying the very same markings from the same convincing interpretation of colours. Not only do they make for a very striking model but the photos illustrate just how this "old" kit still shapes up well, no doubt due in no small part to Mark's skill and expertise. Thanks Mark! For those with the Arii or Otaki kit in the stash the Lifelike Decals offer the opportunity to dress her up very nicely.

Image credits: © 2011 Lifelike Decals & © 2012 Mark Smith

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Lifelike Decals ~ Ki-44 Shoki in 1/48th Scale Part 1

As a predominantly 1/72nd scale modeller I hope that Lifelike Decals of Japan will release their three sets of Ki-44 Shoki markings in that scale too - as they have done with other sets. Good quality aftermarket decal options for the Ki-44 in the popular quarter scale have been surprisingly thin on the ground following the series of modern Hasegawa kits of this type. Decal sheets from other manufacturers have proposed some rather curious colour combinations or stuck with old favourites. The Lifelike sets have a good mixture of better known examples updated with insightful information, together with some stunning examples not seen before. One of the qualities of the Lifelike Decals is that the narrative on the sheets is so comprehensive and provides almost a mini-reference by itself, with sources for each presentation clearly stated. There is no attempt to conceal interpretative conclusions but they are invariably soundly based and often consider viable alternatives. Japanese modellers appear much more comfortable with this, whereas many Western modellers agonise and argue endlessly over colour details that will probably never be confirmed, seeking that elusive old impostor "consensus" - a gathering of opinions, too often ill-founded. Another quality of these sheets is their printing by Cartograf - to an excellent high standard.  

Part 1, 48-036 provides markings for four aircraft, beginning with Lt Inayama's distinctive black-painted Shoki of the 87th Sentai which featured as the cover art by Ronnie Olsthoorn for the Osprey Ki-44 Aces book. I had the opportunity to discuss this aircraft - and others - with the owner of Lifelike, who very kindly indulged my suggestions about it. The greyish-black (anthracite) paint was thinly sprayed over the whole upper surface and this should be replicated on a model, finished first in overall natural metal, rather than just painting it black. The rudder appears to be dark green but is meant to represent the thin black paint over the original grey-green dope. It is also possible that the rudder was not over-painted on this machine. 

The second aircraft is a Ki-44 flown by the great China-based 85th Sentai ace Yukiyoshi Wakamatsu, "the Red-Nosed Ace", and is believed to depict the tail marking accurately for the first time. The photograph of this aircraft reveals the natural metal finish to have been oxidised and dull at the time and it may have had the forward cowling rim painted red too.

Third choice is a well-known and oft-modelled 246th Sentai Shoki on Homeland Defence duty which has been depicted and discussed many times, often with some fanciful colour combinations based on that arcane art of interpreting monochrome photographs. Here we have a more realistic interpretation, no less colourful. The significance of the colour trim on the 246th machines is not fully understood in terms of Chutai and Shotai. This particular aircraft highlights the difficulties of Ki-44 variant identification conventions and the narrative touches on this. Whilst it has the cowling armament of the Hei, the optical gunsight is more usually associated with the Ko and Otsu. The profile on the sheet shows the narrow magazine access panel of the Ko whilst the photograph of the real aircraft reveals the Hei cowling armament. These unusual detail combinations need to be considered carefully if building this particular example from one of the available kits. 

Finally, another interesting 246th Sentai example, with two prominent white fuselage bands and carrying the revised unit marking seen on aircraft following the Phillipines campaign. This plain red tail stripe was said to represent "a loyal and sincere state of mind". As with all the aircraft offered, the markings include the various coloured bands and undercarriage trim, but note that stencils and yellow leading-edge IFF strips are included for one machine only. 

These sheets retail in Japan for ¥1,500 each (about £11) but their value is considerably enhanced by the detailed information provided in the narrative and they include full upper and lower surface plan views. The recommended kit is the Hasegawa Ki-44 but the decals could probably be adapted to fit the perennially popular and simpler Arii (ex-Otaki) Ki-44 too. Thanks to Lifelike Decals for providing the review sample.

Image credits: © 2011 Lifelike Decals

Friday, 16 March 2012

Eric Bergerud's 1/48th Hasegawa Aichi D3A1 "Val"

Eric Bergerud, the author of 'Fire in the Sky: Air War in the South Pacific', very kindly sent these images of his recent Hasegawa 1/48th Aichi D3A1 build. Eric wanted to depict a post-Pearl Harbor bird and mostly used Golden Fluid Acrylics for the paint job. The major components were painted ochre and neutral gray with a bit of Vallejo Model Color khaki, lightened for scale with a very light gray and tinted with about a drop of phthalo green. He found it "really tough to photograph: for every pic that reproduced the khaki-gray intended there were five that showed the fugitive green wanting to escape." This observation highlights a significant issue. The fugitive green that sometimes shows up in colour photos often contributes to stubbornly articulated perceptions of a cooler, minty grey-green or a colour approaching RAF Sky. It is important to get the constituent pigments right and they don't result in anything like Humbrol 90!

Eric's approach in mixing the colour rather than seeking something close out of the bottle or tin is to be commended as such trial and error experimentation often helps to better appreciate the characteristics and subtleties of colours. The result here is a very fine impression.

Oil stains were added around the cowl and beneath the exhaust ports on the basis that radials burned oil and Japanese radials burnt a lot of oil. Eric made all of his own markings except for the tail code. There was no attempt to duplicate a particular plane, he just wanted to depict "a grunt Val" wearing attire much simpler than found on flight or squadron leaders' planes. Eric wanted to weather the plane as it might have looked on the return from Ceylon. He did an oil paint dot filter on the entire surface but didn't use the usual washes, filters or pigments, only giving the panel lines a light pin wash with black/burnt umber oil.

Eric observed wryly that "teaching and writing military history for 30 years (specializing in America's Asian  wars) has done nothing to help me model."

The fugitive green escapes!

Image credits: © 2012 Eric Burgerad