Saturday 28 July 2012

John Coverley's 1/32nd Hasegawa Ki-44 Hei

From correspondent John Coverley come photos of his excellent 1/32nd Hasegawa model of the Nakajima Ki-44 Hei 'Tojo'.

The model was painted with a combination of Alclad laquers, Mr. Color laquers and W.E.M. Colourcoat enamels. John opened up the starboard cockpit door and used fibre glass tape for the over the shoulder straps. The exhausts were resin replacements and the kit main undercarriage parts were replaced with white metal castings.

This colourful model represents an aircraft of the 47th Sentai engaged in air defence operations over Japan in the last year of the war.

Image credits: All © 2012 John Coverley

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Target Rabaul ~ Newsreel Footage of Zero Combat

A6M5 returns from a sortie

A link to some excellent contemporary newsreel footage of Zeros defending Rabaul was posted at Hyperscale and Britmodeller. I'm re-posting it here because it is so interesting with many details for the sharp-eyed to appreciate.

Young Zero pilots enjoy some friendly banter

Check out the RNZAF P-40 filmed at low-level by a Japanese cameraman on the ground. The wing bomb racks on the A6M2. And those fast moving specks around the B-24 bombers (?) in the overhead shots are intercepting Zeros, at one point setting a stream of white fuel vapour or smoke from a bomber wing during the attack.

A Zero successfully attacks a B-24

B-25s scud over the surrounding ridges and hills at incredibly low-level pursued by Zeros in shots that bring home the intensity of air combat in a way that still photos or paintings never can. A scene of groundcrew examining combat damage to the wing of a Zero somewhat belies that old chestnut that Zeros disintegrated when hit.

With appreciation to Graeme at Britmodeller for re-posting the link.

Image credits: © 2012 Shogen Archives, Japan

Friday 20 July 2012

Taisho Airfield, the 101st Sentai and the Air Defence of Japan

An interesting thread at about the Ki-84 (Hayate) aircraft of the 101st Sentai included a photograph said to be taken at Taisho airfield at the end of the war. This shows a Ki-84 of the 101st, another of the 73rd, an unidentified Ki-45 Toryu, a Ki-61 Hien, a Ki-46 and a Ki-102 with an apparently unusual and unidentified tail marking.

Taisho, now Yao airport near Osaka, was the HQ of the 11th Air Division and remained so until the end of the war. It incorporated an air defence command and control centre. Although moves were put in place to move this to Osaka castle they were resisted and eventually cancelled, the centre remaining at Taisho until the end of the war. Taisho also deployed "rocket-type grenade launchers" for air defence but what these actually were is obscure - possibly a version of the 70mm barrage mortar that fired a shell with a barometric fuse that dispersed multiple parachute bombs with time fuses. The 11th also deployed an airborne Special Intelligence Squadron that monitored enemy air radio traffic in order to plot B-29 raids and it pioneered the use of the Ki-46 recce aircraft to detect and track incoming B-29 raids in conjunction with a combination of coastal radar stations and observer posts, both on land and on sea. The Ki-46s patrolled defined air defence sectors in formations of three aircraft and once a B-29 formation was sighted it would be shadowed and reported in real time by one of the aircraft, the others remaining within their sector to continue their patrol.

Radar alone was found insufficient to determine the direction of a raid unless it was accompanied by other information. Sometimes it was possible for the approximate course of the raid to be plotted by collating information from radar stations at Omaezaki, Nakiri, Shio no Misaki and Ashizuri Mizaki but because of locations and distances involved it was seldom simultaneous. As a result advance warning information networks were established with units on the Bonin Islands and Iwo Jima via GDC agencies in Tokyo transmitted to Eastern Army Command and direct from the Izu Islands, as well as improving plotting instrumentation in the radar stations at Omaezaki, Shirahama, Yawatahama and Osaka. The Special Intelligence Squadron specialised in the airborne monitoring of radio transmissions originating in Saipan and Tinian and also intercepted radio communications between enemy aircraft, with excellent results, this data being fed into the command and control centre. The centre was equipped with a one kw air-ground radio station operated by the 13th Air-Ground Radio Unit which was capable of broadcasting simultaneously to all airborne air defence aircraft. An element of the 13th was also assigned to each Sentai under command to further co-ordinate air-ground radio. In addition Central Army Command deployed two specialist air-ground radio aircraft in the Osake-Kobe area to assist in the direction of local air defence response.

The 23rd Air Brigade came under the command of the 11th Air Division as did the 246th Sentai which at one stage was the parent unit for the 16th IFC and later 82nd IFC. This latter unit deployed the Ki-46 in both the air defence reconnaissance and high-altitude interceptor roles. The 246th also specialised in the nocturnal deployment of single seat fighter aircraft adopting a similar technique to the Luftwaffe 'wilde sau' method and the use of Ta-dan air-to-air bombing. By the end of the war the 101st and 103rd Sentai were brigaded together as part of the 'mobile' air defence forces in the 100th Air Brigade headquartered at Takamatsu on Shikoku Island. The 101st was also at Takamatsu with the Brigade HQ but the 103rd was reported to be at Miki, west of Kobe and at Yura on Awaji Island. The 100th Air Brigade had originally included the 102nd Sentai but that was disbanded on 10th July 1945 after operations around Okinawa and its personnel were transferred to the 101st and 103rd.

When Nakajima began factory painting the Ki-84 in late 1944 there was some discussion about painting the aircraft in the Navy colours of D1 over J3 in order to participate in mobile force operations in support of the special attack operations. Eventually it was decided to paint the aircraft in the standard colours of # 7 olive brown over # 1 grey-green. Prior to this the Ki-84 was being issued in natural metal finish and painted (or not) at the Army depots in a dark green, the under surfaces remaining in natural metal. The dark green applied in these circumstances probably varied but a surviving 102nd Sentai rudder reveals a dark blueish-green paint colour like # 27 (青緑色 - ao midori iro - blue green colour) which has often been depicted as blue. Perhaps more than coincidentally the 102nd was engaged in special attack (Tokubetsu kôgeki) operations  around Okinawa and photographs of the unit's aircraft show them equipped with a mixed bomb and drop tank load. Other Ki-84 artifacts recovered from the Philippines reveal a similar dark blueish-green paint which suggests that # 27 over natural metal is a viable choice for a model representing a Ki-84 prior to the commencement of factory painting. It is sometimes quite difficult to determine from photographs whether the under surfaces are in oxidised natural metal or painted but there are other clues including context, date and location, as well as minor painting details beyond the scope of this blog post. The popular depiction of Ki-84 models in dark "IJA" green with grey-green under surfaces is an unlikely combination. Most of the hobby paint generic "IJA" and "Nakajima" greens are closer to the slightly more olive # 21 (緑色 - midori iro) in appearance rather than the dark blueish-green # 27, but neither are really representative of the later # 7 which varied from a deep olive brown to a khaki colour. A rule of thumb for Ki-84 models therefore is either dark green over natural metal or olive brown over grey-green depending on unit, location and date.

Both Minoru AkimotoDr Yasuho Izawa and Japanese Army Wings suggest that the 101st tail marking did not incorporate any Chutai colour distinctions, those being restricted to painted spinners, but the Taisho photograph does seem to show differences in tone on the marking's components when compared to other images. The 101st is well known for its eleven aircraft 16th July 1945 dusk attack on US airfields at Yontan and Kadena on Okinawa as part of the Dai 3 Kikusui Sakusen preparations. Instructions were given to paint aircraft used in dawn and dusk special attack operations 鈍色 (Nibi iro - which means dull colour, but also sometimes dark grey) but it is not known whether the 101st Ki-84 were specially painted for this operation or not. In the past several Ki-84 special attack Shinbu tai ("stirring the martial spirit" units) have been depicted painted black, dark grey and even dark brown

Yao airport now has Two Japanese Ground Self Defense Force units in residence, the Chubu Herikoputatai with Fuji UH-1H/UH-1J and Kawasaki OH-6D and the III Hikotai (Squadron) with Fuji UH-1J and Kawasaki OH-6D. Several small carriers offer sightseeing and charter flights from Yao, including Asahi Airlines and Hankyu Airlines.

Image credits and refs: eBay via and via; web; author manuscript 'The Air Defence of Japan in WWII'

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Rising Decals Zero Pt II in 1/72nd Scale ~ 72-048

Following on from their first 1/72nd Zero set, Rising Decals have now released Pt.II - with a fine collection of 11 very interesting subjects. Builders of the new Airfix kit are provided with plenty of colour and markings alternatives with no less than six A6M2 subjects, all of them a little different from the usual fare.

22nd Ku A6M2 - RAF Buffalo & Hurricane Dogfight Double Contender

First up an A6M2 from the 256th Ku "Thunder corps" based at Lunghwa airfield near Shanghai, China, the air defence and advanced training unit featured in Spielberg's 'Empire of the Sun' and in the 'Mustangs Over Shanghai' article in Henry Sakaida's seminal 'Pacific Air Combat WWII' from 1993 (Phalanx Publishing Ltd  ISBN 0-9625860-7-2). Personally I am delighted to see 'Rai-120' included, representative of a late-war  China-based A6M2 in a very clean and tidy condition with an interesting tail code. No salt technique needed on this one and the paint was still glossy! The second A6M2 is a camouflaged example from the Junyo carrier group engaged in Operation I-go at Rabaul in early 1943. This aircraft had large, fairly hard-edged blotches of dark green applied over the original factory paint and makes for a very different looking A6M2. Then an A6M2 of the 331st Ku with special Balikpapan air defence tactical markings - the dark green finish broken up by light grey or white tail and wing tips.

The fourth A6M2 is another I-go Zero from the Hiyo fighter group at Buin during early 1943 and has a mottled green camouflage over the factory paint with red tail code. Fifth up is a 201st Ku A6M2 at Bougainville in 1943, a Nakajima-built Houkoku presentation aircraft depicted in factory paint with white-bordered fuselage Hinomaru and yellow IFF wing leading edge strips. This is the unit the Airfix Zero purports to represent. And the final example, my favourite, is an A6M2 from the 22nd Ku operational over Indo-China and Malaya during the Japanese invasion and a genuine Zero dogfight double contender for those RAF Buffalo and Hurricane models. This one has unusual fuselage victory markings in the form of stylised birds too.

A 201st Ku A6M2

The A6M3 is represented by a Model 32 (square wing tip) of the 3rd Ku - another Houkoku adorned aircraft in factory colours operating from Timor in raids over Australia and therefore of interest to RAAF Spitfire fans - and a dark green Model 22 of the 331st with tactical markings which participated in the joint Army-Navy raid on Calcutta in December 1943 - so another one of particular interest to British modellers.

Ace Sadaaki Akamatsu's 302nd Ku A6M5

Finally there are three A6M5, one of the Peleliu based aircraft of the 263rd Ku with diagonal yellow fuselage stripe and two aircraft of the 302nd Ku in Japan, one the mount of ace Sadaaki Akamatsu with victory markings and the other an aircraft with red and white diagonal fuselage stripe that may have been armed with oblique cannon.

This is a superb set of well chosen markings that breathes new life into an old subject and is especially relevant to the recent Airfix and Tamiya releases. Highly recommended.

Stop Press:- Rising Decals much sought after 'Dying Sun' sheets 72-005 and 72-007 of captured Japanese aircraft are about to be re-released by Max Models. This is very good news for those who might have missed these excellent sheets first time around and stay tuned for further details.

Image credits: All © 2012 Rising Decals 

Sunday 1 July 2012

Nichimo 1/70th Ki-61-II Kai

In April I blogged in passing about the old Nichimo 1/70th scale Ki-61-II Kai kit from 1966, showing the box art for it. For those who might never have seen it as a built model regular correspondent Ken Glass kindly sent these images of his own built many years ago and now beginning to show "dry rot in the decals" as he put it! These reveal a pretty good replica for the time with the main issue being the representation of the perforated fairing beneath the rear canopy. The colour scheme is based on a profile in the 1971 Arco-Aircam Aviation Series No.27 monograph on the Ki-61/Ki-100.

Ken did an excellent job of replicating the profile, identified as an aircraft of the 59th Sentai, 1st Chutai at Okinawa in May 1945:-

The kit is sometimes confused with the Fujimi kit of the same era but there is really no comparison between the two in terms of appearance and accuracy. The Revell kit of the Ki-61-I (H-621) appeared in 1963.

Image credits: Model photographs © 2012 Ken Glass; Profile © 1971 Richard Ward/Osprey