Wednesday 21 November 2012

50th Sentai Aircraft Names

Here is a table showing some of the kanji characters painted on the tails of the 50th Sentai's Hayabusa (Ki-43) to identify individual aircraft. They were usually painted on the rudder in white, sometimes above and sometimes below the lightning bolt device. Generally the practice was to name aircraft in the 1st Chutai after birds, those in the 2nd Chutai with moral exhortations or sayings and those in the 3rd Chutai from types of wind. However, there was also the occasional play on individual given names and some aircraft transferred between Chutai retained their original names. The famous lightning bolt device of the Sentai was painted in the Chutai colour.

When the 50th re-equipped with Hayate (Ki-84) they continued to name individual aircraft in this way but the characters were usually painted on the rudder below the lightning bolt device. Examples are WO Tomojiro Ofusa's 'Mutsu' (陸奥) of the 1st Chutai named after his native province in Japan, and Sentai commander Maj Koki Kawamoto's 'Oni' (鬼 - Demon or devil) in the Sentai Hombu shotai (HQ staff flight).

The heading illustration depicts the Ki-43-I of 3rd Chutai leader 1Lt Shigeru Nakazaki named 'Kamikaze' (Divine Wind) and operating from Toungoo in Burma during the winter of 1942/43. The broad red fuselage band in front of the white senchi hiyoshiki (war front sign) rear fuselage stripe indicates his leadership of the first Shotai (flight) in the Chutai (and therefore his leadership of the whole Chutai). Note that this aircraft does not have yellow wing leading edge IFF strips or white border added to the fuselage Hinomaru. The illustration above depicts the Ki-43-I s/n 402 (manufactured in April 1942) of M/Sgt Chikara Kotanigawa who crashed this aircraft behind British lines in the Chittagong hills on 15 December 1942 after accidentally hitting a tree whilst in a very low-level pursuit of the Hurricane IIc of PO Gray of 79 Sqn RAF. M/Sgt Kotanigawa resisted capture unsuccessfully and subsequently committed suicide whilst held as a POW in Delhi by shooting himself.  The narrow red 1" borders to the 6" wide senchi hiyoshiki, although seldom illustrated in profiles, are confirmed in an RAF intelligence report on this aircraft.  

Updated 22 March 2019. The assistance of Keishiro Nagao, Shigeru Nohara and Tetsuya Inoue in the preparation of the data for this blog is gratefully acknowledged. 

Image credits: All © 2012 'Straggler'

Saturday 17 November 2012

More on Miyazawa Resin Kits

After blogging about the 1/72nd scale Miyazawa resin kit of Glen here, I'm grateful to Ed DeKiep for finding and kindly sharing these images of other Miyazawa kits of IJN subjects. I'm guessing that they were perhaps available in the mid to late 1980s as the subjects they represent were kitted in plastic by mainstream Japanese manufacturers during the 1990s. The Fujimi Myrt was released in 1995, the Hasegawa Rex appeared in 1996 and the Fujimi Paul in 1998.

From the photos the well-presented and boxed kits look to be pretty neatly molded in resin, with white metal detail parts, vacform canopies and complete decal sheets. It doesn't appear that they were available outside Japan although the use of English on the boxes suggests perhaps an overseas mail order market. Completely new to me and I'd be pleased to receive any further information or anecdotes about this company.

Fujimi's Myrt was quite expensive when it first appeared and was eventually available in four versions, C6N1 and C6N2, the turbo-supercharged C6N2-Kai and the armed night fighter. The Miyazawa kit bridged the gap between the old Aoshima offering mentioned here and the new Fujimi range.

Of the Miyazawa floatplanes only the enigmatic and charismatic Norm has still not been kitted by a mainstream plastic manufacturer, although there is a recent and pretty good RS Models limited run kit and an older Aviation Usk (late Xotic-72) short run kit. With thanks to Ed for passing these images on.


With thanks to Ed for passing on images of another Miyazawa floatplane kit - this time the Aichi M6A 'Seiran' submarine-borne Panama Canal attacker.

Image credits:- Japan internet auctions via Ed DeKiep

Wednesday 14 November 2012

New 1/48th Hayabusa Decal Sheets from Lifelike

Lifelike in Japan have released two new very colourful decal sheets in 1/48th scale for the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa - 48-041 and 48-042 - with five subjects in each set for ¥1,500 (about £11.80/$18.73).

48-041 contains markings for the following subjects:-
  • Type I of 1st Sentai, flown by Sentai Commander Maj K Takeda
  • Type II Otsu of 23rd Sentai in Homeland Defence markings
  • Type I of 50th Sentai, flown by Sentai Commander Maj T Ishikawa
  • Type I of 50th Sentai, flown by ace Sgt S Anabuki
  • Type II Ko of 54th Sentai, flown by M/Sgt A Sugimoto

48-042 contains markings for the following subjects:-
  • Type I of 11th Sentai, flown by Sentai Commander Maj K Sugiura
  • Type II Otsu of 204th Sentai, flown by Sentai Commander Maj T Aizawa
  • Type I of 64th Sentai, flown by 2nd Chutai acting leader Capt S Nakamura
  • Type III of 29th Shinbu-tai (Special Attack Unit)
  • Type III of unidentified Special Attack Unit
As is usual with Lifelike decals there are comprehensive notes for each subject with the relevant reference sources cited, making it clear what is and is not known about the markings shown. I really appreciate this approach which is especially useful for modellers who might not have access to the references themselves. In these sheets the notes appear even more extensive than usual and form a mini-reference to the subjects in their own right.

Kits recommended are the Hasegawa Ki-43 Type I and II, the Arii (ex-Otaki) Ki-43 Type II and the Fine Molds Ki-43 Type III. I guess that they might also suit the Nichimo Ki-43 Type I and Fine Molds Ki-43 Type II family although care might need to be taken with the various fuselage stripes.

These are excellent, well-printed decal sets for a perennially popular modelling subject offering a diversity of colourful schemes which have been carefully researched. With special thanks to Mr Keishiro Nagao for the opportunity to examine them first hand. 

Image credits: All © 2012 Lifelike Decals

Monday 12 November 2012

The Kawasaki Ki-119

Continuing serendipitously with the Kawasaki theme attention is drawn to a design that was full of Eastern promise but ultimately not to be - the Ki-119. Many envisage and describe this interesting aircraft as a desperate development within the special attacker concept - as a kamikaze aircraft - but in fact the Ki-119 was planned to serve principally as a conventional aircraft, in the sense that it was intended to survive and return from sorties having discharged its ordinance. The 'last ditch' aspect relates to its deployment in the expected final defence of Japan, as Allied invasion forces approached and attempted to land. The design and development of the Ki-119 was directly related to the Ki-67 Hiryu which it was intended to replace - or perhaps more accurately supplant - as one of the imperatives for its creation in the first place was the failure of large scale and rapid production of that superlative design. 

But what of the designation? Bueschel and Francillon both refer to the Ki-119 as a Light Bomber. Shuppan-Kyodo's Encyclopedia of Japanese Aircraft refer to it as the Experimental Ki-119 Fighter Bomber, (試作 キ-119 戦闘爆撃機 - shisaku ki-119 sentoubakugekiki) whilst Kantosha's General View of Japanese Military Aircraft in the Pacific War (1953) uses the term Experimental Attacker  (試作攻撃機 - shisaku kougekiki). Does it matter? Probably not, especially as the design envisaged a multi-role capability as dive bomber, fighter-bomber and fighter. The Ki-119 certainly returned to the somewhat archaic concept of the single engined bomber, primarily to best exploit the supply of Army Type 4 Mitsubishi Ha-104 engines intended for the Ki-67, but might legitimately be described as a true fighter-bomber. Despite its conventional 'single seat fighter' appearance, which is deceiving, it was to be a very large aircraft, more than 3 metres  longer and with a span 2 metres wider than the Ki-100, although sharing some of that type's design characteristics.

Although the Ki-67 bomber was a Mitsubishi design, Kawasaki were heavily involved in its production, building the wings, tails and completing the final assembly. Actual production of the bomber was disappointing, falling far short of what had been planned (81 completed vs 447 planned between December 1944 and August 1945) and that situation was exacerbated by B-29 raids specifically targeting aircraft production plants. The Ki-119 project commenced in March 1945 and in April Kawasaki received a directive to move as much of its aircraft production into underground facilities as possible. The company began plans to set up production in underground tunnels at Mino, Watchi and Misunami but this had not been completed by war's end. Nevertheless the Ki-119 was designed from the outset to be easier to build within these restricted facilities as a series of sub-assemblies and easier to fly by inexperienced pilots who had had less opportunity for training.

There were three proposed configurations for the Ki-119 and all of them retained a basic armament of two 20mm Ho-5 lightweight fixed machine cannon in the cowling position*. Configured as a dive bomber the Ki-119 would carry an 800 kg bomb on the centreline, or a 500 kg bomb on the centreline and two 600 l drop tanks under the wings for an extended mission range. For this role, intended to strike at the capital ships of enemy invasion fleets closing on Japan, it would undoubtedly have had dive flaps installed, probably of a similar slatted design to those fitted to the Ki-48-II. As a fighter bomber it would carry two 250 kg bombs under the wings (and probably other forms of ordinance) to be used against beachheads, landing ships and troop concentrations moving inland. And finally as an escort fighter for those roles it would be armed with additional wing armament of two Ho-5 20mm machine cannon. This multi-role approach to the design would provide simplicity of maintenance and operation by receiving units. Note that in most previous descriptions of this aircraft project the dive bomber and fighter-bomber configurations have been transposed.

Progress on the Ki-119 project was rapid and by June a full-scale mock up had been built and production drawings almost completed. Then two devastating B-29 raids on the Kawasaki plant at Kagamigahara on 22 and 26 June effectively halted further progress. In the first raid the Ki-67 parts assembly, sub-assemply and final assembly shops were badly damaged, together with the administration building. In the second raid the whole site was effectively knocked out with a number of essential facilities such as heat treatment, hydraulic press and acetylene gas systems destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The design team immediately began work to replace the damaged drawings in anticipation of being able to produce a prototype aircraft by November 1945. This restoration plan was first compromised by an attack on Gifu in July which destroyed most of the remaining Kawasaki workshops and then finally derailed by the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Ki-119 was to be of metal construction with a main spar of Extra Super Duralmin (ESD), and the rest of the structure of Super Duralmin (SD) and Duralmin. Production aircraft were to have a three-bladed Hamilton-type propeller of 3.6m diameter but due to the bomb damage to facilities the prototype was to be fitted with a four-bladed Junkers-type propeller. A wide-track undercarriage incorporated shock absorbers from the Ki-102 to provide durability in rough field landings by inexperienced pilots. Several innovative features were planned, including high-pressure oil hydraulic operating systems for the undercarriage, oil cooler shutter, wing and cowling flaps and gun charging. An electrically operated auto-pilot was planned but pending its production the aircraft would have automatic rudder control only. The reason for the off-set position of the oil cooler, a feature of the turbo-supercharged Ki-100-II, is unknown. There is no indication of plans to instal a turbo-supercharger in the Ki-119 and it seems unlikely to be related the centreline bomb carrying arrangements. 

The Ki-119 design was integral to the 'striking defence' concept of the Army within a scenario which could not have envisaged the deployment of atomic bombs by the enemy. It remains a significant aircraft design representing the planned, if not actual, final aerial defence of Japan against invasion. In this respect, and as far as modelling goes, it has tended to be overlooked for more obscure experimental project types.

It is a special privilege to be able to illustrate this blog post with images of a superb 1/48th scale model of the Ki-119 crafted by Mr Sumito Koyama from the Racoon resin kit. Of special interest is Mr Koyama's convincing realisation of the probable late-war colour scheme and markings, better reflecting the simplicity and functionality of the aircraft - as well as its likely appearance had it actually gone into service - by comparison to some of the more fanciful depictions seen. Tail markings would perhaps have represented adaptations of those used by former Ki-67 regiments or by other light bomber/assault aircraft units, as well as fighter units, so there is considerable potential for 'what if' builders to use their imagination.

The Racoon kit may be hard to find and the only other kit I am aware of is the 1/72nd resin kit by Unicraft Models and shown built up here of which more details will be provided later. I can find no reference to any vacform kits of the Ki-119 in any scale which is rather surprising.

* The Imperial Army designated all automatic weapons above 11mm in calibre as kikan hou (機関砲)- machine cannon - regardless of the type of ammunition fired. The Ho-5 (Type 2 lightweight machine cannon) was in effect a scaled up version of the Ho-103 13mm machine cannon firing a 120 x 94 cartridge at a rate of 850 rpm with muzzle velocity of 820 ms. The ammunition available for this weapon included practice ball, three types of armour piercing tracer (APT), explosive incendiary, explosive and two types of special incendiary. The fighter version of the Ki-119 was to be armed with four of these weapons, two synchronised firing through the propeller arc from the cowling position and one in the inner section of each wing, firing from outside the propeller arc.

Source credits: Richard M Bueschel; René J Francillon; Ryusuke Ishiguro & Tadeusz Januszewski; Sumito Koyama (Racoon Model images); Robert C Mikesh;  

Sunday 4 November 2012

The Box Art of Brian Knight 1926-2007

Some of the prolific and very attractive box art of artist Brian Knight 1926-2007 is featured at a commemorative website setup by his grandson that promises to provide more details of his career and work. Of interest is the inclusion of his original draft and notes for the box art of the 1960s 1/72nd Revell Ki-43 Hayabusa kit H-641 (reproduced below) which differ slightly from the final version.

On the back of this draft are the following notes:-

"The Nakajima Ki.43 Hayabusa (oscar) was exceptionally maneuverable but suffered from light armament. However Japanese airforce 'aces' established the larger part of their score while plying this aeroplane.

Colour scheme: Jungle green dapple, over natural metal finish, upper surface. Under surface natural metal, black anti-dazzle panel over the top of cowling back to cockpit windscreen. Leading edge of wing yellow. Airscrew spinner red or jungle green, squadron number in white on rudder. Red outlined in white, flash across fin rudder. Red band outlined in white around fuselage rear."

It is apparent that Mr Knight also prepared the drawings for the kit instructions as the original layout for these is also revealed. They show an appreciation for the shape and details of the Ki-43-I which were sadly not reflected in the kit parts. Note the fine spinner and cowling shapes, the canopy and the head rest/rollover pylon attached to the seat and the slender rear fuselage. The only obvious details missing are the annular oil cooling matrix in front of the engine and the tubular optical gun-sight emerging from the windscreen. If Mr Knight's drawings had been faithfully followed by the mould makers we might have had a very neat kit of the early Hayabusa in the mid-1960s. The most glaring shape issues of the kit were an over scale and incorrectly shaped spinner, an over scale canopy, a rear fuselage that was too fat and deep and undercarriage legs that were too short. All these combined to prevent the finished model from presenting a good impression of the original aircraft but were correctable with work. Unfortunately the world still awaits a good Ki-43-I in 1/72nd scale.

There were two versions of this box art on the issued kits. The first, on the small black-sided ""picture frame" box with name plate as seen in the heading illustration depicted the aircraft with a three bladed propeller like the Ki-43-II, as drawn and titled correctly in the draft. But this box had the title 'Ki-43-I Oscar'. The second version used on a later issue box was corrected to show the two-bladed propeller of the Ki-43-I, which was the type actually depicted in the kit, but the titling on that box was simply 'Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa'! I suspect that this might be the reason that the propeller in the box was so poor because during the production of the kit there was some confusion about variants and a last minute alteration.

Image credits: All © Briant Knight Estate and Revell