Sunday 26 August 2012

Max Models 'Dying Sun' Decals Parts 1 and 2

Back in July I mentioned that Rising Decals much sought after 'Dying Sun' sheets 72-005 and 72-007, featuring captured Japanese aircraft, were about to be re-released by Max Models. Well, the sheets are now available and Max Models kindly sent me samples to review here. Essentially sheet MM72-0100 features captured IJAAF aircraft whilst MM71-0101 features captured IJN aircraft. The sheets are not absolutely identical to the original as there are a a few minor detail differences and improvements. For example the Hinomaru and yellow lower rudder paint are no longer included for the Ki-44 subject, the US stars and bars now having the original Hinomaru showing as part of the decal, whilst the Ki-46 "Grim Reaper" emblems are now two-piece rather than one-piece and the white background decal has been omitted for the rudder stripes. The alterations present no difficulties however and otherwise the quality of the printing appears to match the originals perfectly. 

Part 1 includes the following subjects:-
  • Ki-61-I Tei - operated by VMF 322 at Okinawa in May 1945 in a very colourful finish of dark blue and white with the USMC emblem in red on fin. Max Models have corrected an error on the original sheet by depicting the rudder and spinner painted red as evidenced by a colour photograph.
  • Ki-61-I Ko TAIC # 9 - at NAS Anacostia in natural metal finish. This aircraft was originally seizou bangou 263 captured at Cape Gloucester and as 'XJ 003' tested at Eagle Farm, Australia before being shipped to the USA. Although seizou bangou (製造番号is often referred to as a 'serial number' the term means, literally, 'manufacturer production series number' and as stencilled on the airframe was coded by one of three known methods to provide a level of deception about how many aircraft had been produced. 
  • Ki-84-1 'S17'  - as tested by TAIU-SWPA at Clark Field in the Philippines in 1945 in natural metal finish (nmf) with pre-war rudder stripes. Originally s/b 1446 this aircraft had a long post-war career in various spurious finishes including an appearance in the 1954 film 'Never So Few' (blink and you'll miss it). It was eventually returned to Japan and is now displayed in the markings of its former operator the 11th Sentai. With a bit of research an interesting line-up could be made of this survivor in its various finishes.
  • Ki-44-II Hei 'S11'  - another aircraft tested by TAIU-SWPA at Clark in natural metal finish with pre-war rudder stripes . This aircraft carried the original s/b 2068. The uncoded serial number of this aircraft was 1068 and it was manufactured in July 1944.
  • Ki-44-II Hei - a late production aircraft with individual exhaust stacks still in IJAAF camouflage with the partially over-painted emblem of a former operator the 70th Sentai on the rudder. This will make a very interesting model but will require some conversion. The Sword kit may be a better bet than the Hasegawa as it has separate cowl flaps (perhaps indicating a late production Ki-44-II Hei might eventually appear?)
  • Ki-46-II TAIC # 10 - formerly s/b 2846 as captured at Hollandia, New Guinea in September 1944 and made airworthy by the 13th BS, 3rd BG whose "Grim Reaper" insignia was applied to the nose. 
  • Ki-46-II TAIC # 10 - the same aircraft shown as it appeared after being shipped to the USA and tested at Anacostia, Patuxtent and Eglin. 

This is an excellent sheet that offers a number of interesting subjects for anyone interested in IJAAF and/or captured aircraft, as well as anyone planning to build a collection of TAIU birds.

Part 2 focuses on IJN aircraft and contains the following subjects:-
  • A6M5 'TAIC 11' - the original construction number was 1303 and it was one of the aircraft captured on Saipan and not at Singapore as stated. The legend 'AI 2G . . .' appears beneath the 'Technical Air Intelligence Center' beneath the cockpit but is not included on the sheet. This was the Air Ministry section responsible for German and Japanese air intelligence. This aircraft was scheduled for delivery to ATAIU-SEA in India but that plan was probably overtaken by events.
  • A6M2 'B1-12' - operated by ATAIU-SEA at Tebrau, Malaya in 1946. Once thought to be applied by the British the tail number is now known to be IJN original  and identifies IJN Air Group 381.
  • J2M3 'S12' - another nmf Clark Field TAIU tested bird # 3008 in natural metal with pre-war rudder stripes captured on the emergency airstrip at Dewey Boulevard, Manila.
  • J2M3 'B1-01' - former 381 Ku Raiden in ATAIU-SEA ownership at Tebrau, Malaya.
  • D4Y3 'S16' - another nmf Clark TAIU bird # 3957
  • N1K1-J 'S9' - another nmf Clark TAIU bird # 7102
  • B6N2 'S19' - another nmf Clark TAIU bird # 5350
  • B6N2 '131-57' - in original IJN camouflage at Iwakuni, Japan in October 1945
  • A6M5 TAIC # 7 - markings are provided to finish this aircraft in any one of three schemes sported; one with US insignia and two with spurious Japanese insignia including the IJAAF-type tail marking that inspired the original Airfix Zero kit! This was another Saipan aircraft # 4340 at one time named "Tokyo Rose"and is the aircraft now displayed at the NASM.
This is another excellent sheet available again and I know the ATAIU-SEA examples will be  appreciated by modellers in the UK, especially as very clear IWM photographs provide guidance to their challenging worn and tatty appearance. I hope Max Models will consider re-releasing other Rising Decals sheets which are now out of production but highly sought after.

Image credits:- © 2012 Max Models with permission

Friday 24 August 2012

Zero Intelligence

This illustration of a Japanese Zero, painted by Sqn Ldr Harold H Booth of the RCAF, appeared in the 'Book of Modern Warplanes' published by Garden City Publishing in Canada in 1942. It is strangely reminiscent of the Texans used to represent Zeros in films such as 'Tora, Tora, Tora' (1970), even down to the odd two-seater appearance of the canopy. It is described as "The Zero (T.00) - Fighter of the Japanese Air Force".

The 1943 edition of the Observer's Book of Airplanes published by Frederick Warne & Co Ltd quaintly describes the aircraft as the "Mitsubishi Navy S-00 (Double-Oh or Zero)" and goes on to rashly assert that "The Double-Oh fighter is a development of Nakajima Army S-97. The SSH-00 is a floatplane version of the S-00 land plane fighter." The illustration, reproduced from 'The Aeroplane' magazine looks like a cross between a Zero and a Ki-43, down to the absence of fuselage Hinomaru and white senchi hiyoshiki (literally 'war front sign') band around the fuselage! No doubt the simultaneous onslaught of the Zero with the Ki-43-I Hayabusa of the 59th and 64th Sentai had caused confusion in discerning the two types.

Emanuele Stieri's 'Supplement to Building Model War Planes for the Army and Navy' from February 1942 described the aircraft as "Sento Ki Type 001" - "a single seat Japanese Navy fighter. The data on hand procured from observations at Hawaii." Although something of a historical cliché the extent of ignorance about the Imperial Japanese Navy fighter is still remarkable. The story of the first captured and intact example from November 1941 is well told and illustrated at But this was still late in the day for the intelligence to reach all the front line aircrew who would encounter it in combat. In July 1942 Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham's despatch at the end of his tenure as C-in-C Far East  singled the Zero out as one of the contributing factors to the Allied debacle there:-

"The efficacy of the Japanese Army and Air Force was particularly underestimated on the following points: their disregard for weather conditions' their mobility, due to the small reliance they placed on mechanisation and artillery and the fact that the men only required simple food; the initiative of the individual Japanese soldier; the performance of the Zero single-seater fighter; the rapidity with which they repaired bridges and aerodromes."

In 'Old Friends, New Enemies' Professor Arthur J Marder draws attention to the fact that in May 1941 details of the armament and fuel capacities of the Zero obtained from an example shot down in China in May 1941 were sent to Singapore by the British Air Attaché in Chungking and this was followed by further data sent to Singapore and London by the same source in September. That this data did not appear to reach RAF operational squadrons Marder calls "gross negligence" but responsibility has never been pinpointed. There was at the time an arrogant and chauvinistic disbelief in Japanese airpower capabilities, even today and with hindsight still expressed in some quarters. Experts like Colonel G T Wards, a fluent Japanese speaker and former Military Attaché in Tokyo who attempted to lecture officers in Malaya on the capability of the Japanese Army were scorned as "alarmists" and their information disregarded.

Finally, courtesy of correspondent Daniel Cox comes this interesting June 1942 insight to camouflage in the SWPA. The Zero is described as being "fawn, dirty silver and greenish brown" - fawn generally recognised as being a light yellowish-brown colour (white and pale grey Zero aficionados take note). But the author emphasises that the Zero usually appeared "fresh and clean which suggests constant cleaning, polishing or waxing". As touched on in previous blogs and the Zero e-guide modellers should decide at what point of the "paint journey" they wish to represent a subject aircraft as that will determine whether the finish is more "fawn" and shiny or more grey and dull! This document also has a bearing on the prevalent idea that aircraft built for the RAF in the USA had grey rather than duck egg blue undersurfaces. In fact it suggests that aircraft delivered in the Olive Drab and Neutral Grey schemes might have had their undersurfaces re-painted in duck egg blue/sky blue.

More on Zero intelligence in due course.

Image credits: © 1942 Sqn Ldr H H Booth & Garden City Publishing; © 1943 Frederick Warne & Co Ltd and The Aeroplane magazine; © 1942 Emanuele Stieri via Mark Jahsan; Australian National Archives AIR-0018 via Daniel Cox

Thursday 23 August 2012

Aleksei Kryukov's Hasegawa 1/48 85th Sentai Ki-44-II Ko “Shoki” ~ Part 2

Here is the continuation and completion of Aleksei's description and photographs of his superlative Hasegawa Ki-44 build.

Landing gear doors, struts and wheels  

"The insides of the landing gear doors supplied in the kit are more appropriate for the later marks of Ki-44-II since they lack the ribbing. The original parts were rather thick, so I scratchbuilt the new ones from sheet aluminum. The process was as follows:

  • New doors cut from sheet aluminum using original parts as templates;
  • Riveting added with a needle and lower parts were bent into the proper shape;
  • Ribbing was imitated with thin stripes of plastic glued in place with epoxy glue;
  • Original kit smaller doors were thinned, riveted and detailed with retraction rods from wire and plastic;
  • Oleo rubber covers’ folds were deepened with a thin file, oleos detailed with photoetched parts and wiring (fixed by superglue and rings made of foil stripes);
  • Tubes on main wheel disc covers were cut off and made from scratch using pieces of wire with flattened ends. 

"After the fuselage halves and wings were glued together I slightly detailed the tail wheel well (anyway not much will be seen through the closely fit doors). Tail wheel doors were scratchbuilt similarly to the landing gear doors, i.e. cut from aluminum and detailed with plastic. Tail wheel fork details were deepened with a blade.

"After that additional detailing followed: scratchbuilt landing light, adding photoetched grills, rescribing some panel lines, deepening elevator, aileron and rudder hinge lines, adding some access panels from foil, deepening the exhaust outlet and thinning its walls; adding pitot from fine tubing, building antenna mast from a needle, adding wiring to the gun sight, using syringe needles in place of cowling machine guns, drilling out wing guns’ barrels, detailing headrest with photoetched parts and plastic, filling out 3 holes in the headrest and drilling out 4 new ones.  

"Canopy fit to the fuselage is below average so a lot of trimming was required. It was sanded, front part was glued in and seams filled with superglue. Silicon molds were formed on the leading edge lights in order to make copies from transparent epoxy with some color paint added. Oil radiator housing was modified (plastic walls thinned to scale, grills added). Model was riveted on top of the primer coat. 

Painting and weathering

"Except for stencilling on the control surfaces few of the kit decals were used. Himomaru, stripes and various fuselage elements as well as control surfaces were airbrushed with proper colors and masked off. The following paints were used:
  • Hinomaru: GSI Creos (Gunze) Mr. Color 3 Red
  • Wing and propeller warning stripes: GSI Creos (Gunze) Mr. Color 58 Orange Yellow
  • Control surfaces: GSI Creos (Gunze) Mr.Color 128 Gray Green
  • Propeller: GSI Creos (Gunze) Mr.Color 131 Propeller color

"Wheel wells were first painted aluminum; square masks were placed over some holes, followed by a coat of aotake - GSI Creos (Gunze) Mr. Color 57 Metallic Blue Green). Strictly speaking wheel wells could also be painted the cockpit color (blue-gray), but I really wanted to paint them in aotake. One more argument in favor of aotake is the fact that aforementioned Shoki wreck in China shows remnants of aotake inside the wheel wells.   

"The model was given a coat of GSI Creos (Gunze) Mr.Color 8 Silver and several layers of Alclad. Before spraying the camouflage colors thin masks of scotch tape were added around hinomaru and anti-glare strip. I used GSI Creos (Gunze) Mr.Color 129 Dark green (Nakajima) for the green mottle and the brown blotches were mixed from Tamiya acrylics XF-78 Wooden Deck Tan, 64 Red Brown, and 68 NATO Brown).

"After painting smaller details with a brush, the model was given a flat coat of Akan (a well known Russian producer of authentic paints). The post shading and weathering effects were achieved with airbrushing, Mig pigments and oils. Alluminum scratches were painted with a thin brush using Tamiya enamel. Akan semi-flat was used for the finishing coat. 

"After the final assembly (leading edge lights, antenna, etc.), minor corrections and toning surface with oil the construction was finished. 

"Unfortunately I couldn’t avoid some mistakes. For instance the formation light on a rudder should be transparent. Air scoop above the engine is left blanked off because no reliable information regarding this part could be found."

Aleksei Kryukov

Image credits: All images © Aleksei Kryukov via Iskender Mailibayev 


Wednesday 22 August 2012

Aleksei Kryukov's Hasegawa 1/48 85th Sentai Ki-44-II Ko “Shoki” ~ Part 1

It is a very great pleasure to be able to share this description and photographs of Aleksei Kryukov's exacting build and beautiful model of Capt Yukiyoshi Wakamatsu's Ki-44-II Ko “Shoki” from the Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit in the first of a two part article courtesy of Iskender Mailibayev who also kindly provided the English translation.

"The Ki-44 kit produced by Hasegawa in 1/48th scale cannot be considered well detailed or very accurate by modern standards, but nevertheless can be built into a beautiful model. I should start by saying that the construction process in general was hampered by the lack of information, especially on such important (from a modeler’s point of view) areas as the engine, cockpit and wheel wells. A fellow modeler, Iskender Mailibayev, shared available information on a Shoki. 

"The following aftermarket sets were used in the construction process:-

  • Eduard FE163 (Ki-44 Tojo) photoetched set;
  • True Details 48415 (Ki-44 Shoki Seat) resin;
  • Vector 48019 Sakae – 11/12 / Ha-25 engine (needs some conversion, to be discussed later).

    "I chose the paint scheme of Yukiyoshi Wakamatsu’s Ki-44-II Ko from 85th Sentai. It should be noted that the kit instructions suggest  a single color for the upper surfaces, whereas surviving photos and color profiles in several publications show a two-color application. Also the hinomaru on the actual plane were slightly different in size from the kit supplied decals.

    "Construction required certain modifications which can be generally grouped into cockpit, engine, wheel wells and landing gear.


    "Photoetched details were used; various levers were detailed with “ball” handles made from superglue;
    cables and rods imitated with thin wire; several parts were scratchbuilt; resin seat was used. Following recommendations the cockpit was painted dark blue-gray #3 (Hai-ai-iro). The color is a mix of Tamiya XF-18 (Medium Blue), 19 (Sky Grey) and 8 (Blue). After painting smaller details (black, metal, aotake), the surface was toned down with oil, followed by minor silver dry brushing, gloss coat, wash, flat coat and some Mig pigments on the floor surface.


    "The kit’s engine is traditionally simplified and requires additional detailing or a replacement. As far as I know no aftermarket Ha-109 exists in 1/48, however in general it looks similar to Ha-25, which is produced by Vector. Crankcases are visibly different, the one on Ha-109 has a different shape and is larger in size compared to Ha-25. As a result I had to mate kit’s crankcase to Vector’s engine. The list of additional modifications to the engine is as follows:
    • Ignition manifold perimeter was drilled for spark plug attachment points;
    • Some surface details were carefully cut off from the resin crankcase and glued onto the kit’s plastic crankcase;
    • Revs regulator was detailed with plastic
    • Holes drilled in cylinders in place of pushrods and spark plug wires’ attachment points;
    • Ignition manifold glued back and detailed with punched bolt heads;
    • Cylinders interconnected with small plastic bars;
    • Cowling interior painted grey;
    • Pushrods and spark plug wiring made from thin wires;
    • Starter dog on a spinner hub was correctly shaped with a blade;

    Wheel wells   

    "Wheel wells were modified in several stages. The list of modifications is as follows:
    • A 90 degree angle between well’s rear wall and cupola was made round (convex) with putty
    • Maintenance holes were drilled in places already marked on the kit and in additional areas. Holes also had to be drilled in the well side walls. The holes on the front walls didn’t turn out the way I wanted, so I covered them with round panels (similar to Ki-43). Plastic around the holes was thinned on the inside to look more to scale. 
    • Holes in cupola were blanked off with plastic from the inside;
    • Pictures of a Ki-44 centresection wreck on display in China show that some holes inside wheel wells were covered by panels (rectangular natural metal color patches visible on the aotake coat around the holes). I decided not to cover all holes with panels, but to leave some of them open (randomly), painting natural metal rectangular patches in place of the “removed” panels.
    • Rear walls were detailed with some plastic ribs and wiring. 

    "To be continued . . . "

    Image credits: All images © Aleksei Kryukov via Iskender Mailibayev 

    Saturday 18 August 2012

    204th (Kyodo) Hiko Sentai Ki-43-II at Lashio, Burma

    This Ki-43-II Oscar of the 204th Hiko Sentai photographed at Lashio, Burma in March 1945 appears to display the "old" form of marking for that unit when it was the Kyôdô ('Teaching') Hiko Dai 204 Sentai - an arrow "flight" on the rear fuselage behind the Hinomaru. This was said to be inspired by a historical warrior Chinzei Hachiro whose name evoked the location where the unit was first formed in April 1942 at Chinzei in Manchuria. The wingtips and top section of the tail fin (and perhaps rudder) appear to be painted white. The form of the mottle and typical paint wear is also usefully shown in this view for anyone contemplating an(other) Oscar model.

    After the change of designation the unit insignia became a "flash" on the leading edge of the fin with small "wings" extending onto the inboard forward edges of the tailplane in the Chutai colours, said to represent the flight of the crane. The 204th were active over Burma as an Oscar fighter unit from November 1943 to October 1944 when they moved to the Philippines to counter US forces landing there. After withdrawing to Japan in December 1944 they supposedly re-equipped with the Ki-43-III Ko and then re-deployed to Saigon in French Indo-China in February 1945. As part of the secret 'Kaku manouevres' to increase air defence in Japan the 204th was to be shifted to Formosa (Taiwan) as part of the 25th Independent Air Brigade at the end of June 1945, together with the other elements of the Brigade - the 13th fighter, 50th fighter, 8th light bomber and 58th heavy bomber Sentai. Part of the unit moved to Formosa in March 1945 and was re-designated Makoto (誠 - sincerity, fidelity) 204th Hiko Sentai to participate in Tokubetsu kôgeki - tokkôtai - 'special attack' suicide operations against Allied naval forces.

    Image credit: NARA

    Friday 17 August 2012

    Zero Over Hong Kong Harbour

    This especially clear image of a well-known photograph showing a Zero attempting to intercept B-24 bombers of the 308th BG attacking the Kowloon dockyards on 16th October 1944 is interesting because it appears to show a light painted starboard wing tip. The fin might be painted in this light colour too. This form of marking has been associated with some IJN fighter units for special operations and particular air defence commands - such as 331 Ku for their participation in the joint Army-Navy raid against Calcutta on 5th December 1943 and air defence at Balikpapan. The marking has been variously described as being on one or both upper wingtips and in light grey-green or white. According to an article in the (Japanese) Military Classics magazine #19 (2007) for the Ryu Ichi-Go operation against Calcutta the following command special instructions were  given:-

    "For participating IJAAF aircraft the yellow identification band on leading edge of wings should be made more clearly visible.

    "For participating IJNAF aircraft the upper surface of right wing tip and both sides of vertical tail should be painted in light gray-green (lower surface colour)."

    The high altitude B-24 raid against the dockyards (the area of smoke and conflagration in the centre part of the image) was co-ordinated with low-level skip bombing attacks against shipping in the harbour by B-25s, the results of which are visible in the image. It was one of the most successful strikes in CBI with 90% of the bombs dropped hitting the target which was only a 1,000 x 3,500 ft area. 15 cargo vessels were sunk (32,000 tons) or damaged and the largest Japanese ship repair facility in the area sustained major damage*. During the raid only a few Japanese fighters were reported attempting to intercept the B-24s unsuccessfully.

    The resident Zero unit at Kai Tak aerodrome was 254 Ku based at Sanya on Hainan Island which sent detachments to Hong Kong for air defence even though the garrison was an Army responsibility. Directly beneath the Zero on the far side of the harbour is the Tsim Tsa Tsui peninsula and on this side below left the distinctive shape of the race course at Happy Valley, the Yaumatei typhoon shelter and Kellett Island, now home of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. Kai Tak is the large light area at the extreme right below Lion Rock. Pity the photo is not clear enough to make out the tail code on the Zero!

    * 'Chennault's Forgotten Warriors - The Saga of the 308th BG in China' by Carrol V Glines (Schiffer, 1995)

    Image credits:- NARA

    Monday 13 August 2012

    For John

    I was shocked and saddened to learn that a regular visitor to this blog and an enthusiastic correspondent took his own life last Friday. His last email only a week before had given no hint of any inner turmoil and was all about his plans for future projects. Then on Friday I received a farewell message sent to a circulation list. I was concerned and sent a message but received no answer. Only by dint of others on the list did I learn of this gentle man's depression and of his Vietnam War service at the sharp end. The consequences of that conflict reach far and are not forgotten here. John's name is not on the memorial but along with many others it probably should be. 

    I hope that John now rests in peace amongst friends and comrades. He deserves that and more.

    Darkness, Darkness
    Be my pillow
    Take my head
    And let me sleep
    In the coolness of your shadow
    In the silence of your deep

    Darkness, Darkness
    Hide my yearning
    For the things I cannot be
    Keep my mind from constant turning
    Toward the things I cannot see now
    Things I cannot see now

    Darkness, darkness,
    Long and lonesome,
    Ease the day that brings me pain.
    I have felt the edge of sadness,
    I have known the depth of fear.
    Darkness, darkness, be my blanket,
    Cover me with the endless night,
    Take away the pain of knowing,
    Fill the emptiness of right now,

    Darkness, darkness, be my pillow,
    Take my hand, and let me sleep.
    In the coolness of your shadow,
    In the silence of your deep.
    Darkness, darkness, be my blanket,
    Cover me with the endless night,
    Take away the pain of knowing
    Fill the emptiness of right now,

    Image credit: web

    Thursday 9 August 2012

    New Tamiya A6M2 in 1/72nd Scale!

    Coming soon - another new Zero model in the one true scale available for pre-order from HLJ. Less than a year after the Airfix A6M2 was released Tamiya will release their own A6M2 in September. I hope this means that perhaps we might see a new Zero Model 22/32 in this scale from Tamiya. 

    Psst! For those who might not have realised it - the colour of this whole blog page background (not the text box or sidebar background) is the colour of the original Zero paint colour, carefully rendered!

    Image credits:- © 2012 Tamiya via Hobby Link Japan