There seems to have been a recent flurry of new Japanese aircraft kit subjects in 1/72nd scale - so many that it has been difficult to keep up with them all and I have had to don my special new release review equipment and fire up Gordo to recycle mail order boxes. Modellers generally have never had it so good and Japanese aircraft modellers can join in with kits that could hardly be dreamed of in the supposed golden years. Airfix are resurgent, with kits already released and planned of innovative and classic subjects. A Fine Molds "magazine issue" A6M3 Model 22 is on the way, which was a logical prediction and let's hope it doesn't put Mr Tamiya off. The publishing of a Bunrin-do FAOW on the Army Type 97 Heavy Bomber (Ki-21)* perhaps bodes well for the possibility of a new Japanese kit of this much needed type and the yen price is down...
Following on from the release of a family of Kugisho D4Y Judy kits by AZ Model to their 'HQ' full quality mould technology a couple of the kits have now been examined. A full review and comparison with the Fujimi kits will be blogged in due course. First impressions are excellent, especially the surface detail which is a little more substantial than the Fujimi style and there is more cockpit detail, although not especially more accurate. One thing to note is that the actual kits in the boxes are all the same, with the optional parts for each version on the sprues, only the boxes and decals being different. So plenty of spare parts.
From Sword comes a Ki-44-I with striking box art showing Capt Kuroe of the 47th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai "dancing" with an RAF Buffalo in a particularly evocative and beautifully illuminated scene. The kit includes a new sprue with lower wing, wheel covers and conical spinner but disappointingly the annular oil cooler matrix is no improvement on the old Hasegawa kit and could - perhaps should - have been done in photo-etch. The kit contains resin parts for the engine and pilot's seat but otherwise is all plastic. Decals are included for an example from each 47th DHC Shotai plus a late production Ki-44-I from the embryonic 47th Sentai in Japan with Homeland Defence "bandages". The painting guide might confuse the unwary as the colour profiles on the reverse of the box show brown camouflage but don't say so whilst the instruction sheet has monochrome profiles with the camouflage keyed as green! Both are shown as solid finishes too. The box art shows the correct appearance of a very dense mottle.
Also from Sword, and again with strikingly dramatic box art, a surprising B7A2 Ryusei Grace which looks lovely in the box. The approach to the bomb bay is impressive, with realistic multi-part doors to be fitted in the open position if desired and a representative bomb load. There is also optional torpedo armament. Again the kit is all plastic except for - curiously - the radio D/F loop and the wing cannon barrels. The canopy is multi part and interior detail is again superior to the Fujimi kit. I have a hunch this one will look impressive all opened up. Markings options include Yo-251 from the Yokosuka Ku and two from the 752nd Ku - with tail codes 752-24 and 752-53. The rear of the box has colour profiles as a painting guide. At last there is a good stab at the warm grey under surface colour but the green is much too light and olive. Grace colours have been blogged here.
Then from Amodel a family of Tachikawa KKY series light aircraft with inline and radial engines, including a civil example KS-1 registered as J-AARD and operated by the Bureau of Railway Construction as a photographic survey aircraft. This had a large open camera window and mounting in the port fuselage which Amodel rather extravagantly provide as an extra fuselage half. There was also a camera window in the lower fuselage, not incorporated in the model, the exact location and size of which is unclear. Amodel suggest the colour scheme as light grey but photographs strongly suggest that the original aircraft was finished overall in aluminium dope.
Those familiar with Amodel kits will know that they can appear daunting but I have found with their I-16 kits that if care is taken in preparing and fitting the parts a good model will result. The Tachikawa KKY is a little like a large biplane Auster and is an interesting if somewhat arcane subject.
In 1932 the Japanese Army had contracted for a light ambulance aircraft with the Ishakawajima Shipbuilding Company's Aeroplane Factory, which was to become Tachikawa Aeroplane Company in 1936. The design by Ryokichi Endo, assisted by Moriyuki Nakagawa, drew on aspects of the imported De Havilland DH 83 Fox Moth light aircraft and was designated KKY for Kogata Kei Kanja Yusoki (小形型患者輸送機 - literally 'small type patient transportation machine'). The aircraft was crewed by a single pilot and a medical orderly with provision to carry two stretchers (included as a single piece in the Amodel kit) and various medical stores as specified by Yoshinobu Terajii, the Army Senior Surgeon. With STOL capability it could operate close to the front lines from improvised airstrips and like the Ki-27 had provision to be fitted with low pressure tyres for this purpose.
The prototype flew in 1933 but the type was not accepted for service by the Army until 1935. At first powered by a Cirrus Hermes Mk.IV inverted inline engine with metal prop as the KKY-1, this was replaced in 1938 with a Gasuden Jimpu 150hp 7-cylinder radial engine with a wooden prop and the modified variant designated KKY-2 Kai. A total of only 23 machines was built from 1933 to 1940 with 17 of them built during 1938-39. Many of these were Aikoku aircraft purchased by subscription and carrying dedication legends on the fuselage side. The KKY-1 kit contains markings options for two such aircraft # 97 and # 125. The KKY-2 kit offers a plain camouflaged example with no unit insignia or identifying numbers and a captured example in Soviet markings - presumably from Nomonhan. The KS kit has provision only for the single example registered J-AARD, although there were at least two such machines used by the Bureau.
I like these - an interesting little kit offering a challenging build and the opportunity for some neat dioramas.
* Does anyone else hate the new HLJ site interface and search engine? With their old system it used to be so easy to check what was new by company and now by the time you find what you were looking for it is probably sold out...
Image credits: All © 2013; AZ Model; Sword; IBG Models (Amodel); KKY-1 postcards author collection.