Kicking off a season on Japanese twins the Ki-48 was designated the Type 99 Twin-engined Light Bomber ('Kyu-kyu Shiki Soh-hatsu Kei Bakugeki-ki' - 九九式双発軽爆撃機) usually abbreviated to 'Kyu-kyu Soh-kei' ( approximately '99 light twin' - 九九双軽) or simply 'Kyu-kyu shiki' ('Type 99' - 九九式). A recent Limited Edition outing of Hasegawa's venerable but essential Ki-48 kit passed me by long enough to miss it at HLJ and although it is still available elsewhere it is not cheap! As most will already know it originated as a Mania kit circa 1973 (but 1976 according to Burns). My first encounter with it was in Hasegawa premier edition guise as C-12 in about 1978 with the early era "green" box art by Shigeo Koike. It cost the princely sum of HK$8.60 (less than £1) and I bought it in the old Universal Models shop in Argyle Street. I didn't discover the Mania original until later on leave in the UK when I bought a box lot of Japanese aircraft kits from a modeller who was switching his interests. The beautiful presentation of the Mania kit was a revelation - and somewhat puzzling until I discovered the chronology of the Hasegawa take over. The cleanly moulded kit featured Mania's usual attention to interior detail which was well ahead of its time and this has enabled it to survive as a perfectly respectable build to this day. A couple of years ago there was an Eduard/ Platz pre-coloured photo-etch interior detail set to enhance it but that seems hard to find now. There was also an Eduard mask for the canopies and a Pavla vacform replacement canopy set.
Original Mania presentation of the Ki-48
The Hasegawa kit presentation was less ambitious than Mania and it has been re-issued several times since, in standard form with marking variations and as special or limited editions sometimes featuring various add on parts. This latest kit provides a brass photo-etched fret for the dive brakes for the Ki-48-II Otsu and three markings options one of which is quite interesting. This is for a Ki-48-I from the Hokota flying school used for dive bombing tests and which features the dive brakes positioned to the rear of the wing chord rather than in the later forward position outboard of the engine nacelles. The other options are for the 75th Sentai example shown on the box art and an earlier red-ruddered Ki-48-I standard bomber from the same Sentai over Malaya in 1942. An in-box review is here and of note are the very clear and crisply moulded canopy parts for such an old kit (Airfix take note!). For others who missed the Limited Edition kit and would like to build the aircraft with dive brakes Rising Decals released a photo-etch set which also includes markings for an aircraft of the 8th Sentai.
Original C-12 1978 - E-12 issue from 1981 has darker green logo flash
The first Hasegawa C-12 kit provided markings for three aircraft. The 16th Sentai example from 1943 depicted on the box art, a dark green 90th Sentai example from 1942 and an overall grey-green example from the Hokota flying school.
The weird sepia box from the mid 1980s
Following C-12 the kit was re-issued circa 1981 with identical box art as E-12. This issue can be distinguished by the darker green logo flash on the box top and ends as well as the new number. After that it disappeared for a while until it was re-released briefly in a strange undated sepia box with a small monochrome representation of the original box art. The kit parts, instructions and decals were identical to the earlier issues.
NP1 - New Shigeo Koike box art and markings in 1995
In 1995 the kit was re-issued again as NP-1 with new Shigeo Koike box art depicting a pair of colourful 8th Sentai machines fending off the attentions of an RAF Hurricane IIC. This issue included decals for only two options - the machine shown on the box art and an overall grey-green example from the 75th Sentai's 2nd Chutai with red and yellow fin and rudder. The kumogata scheme, with bright blue lines demarcating the camouflage segments, required the brown camouflage segments to be mixed from Gunze (now GSI Creos) Aqueous or Mr Color paints using 40% Brown H7/7, 30% Yellow H4/4 and 30% Green H6/6. The green segments were Mr Color 130 Dark Green (Kawasaki). The interior colour was to be mixed from the same combination as the exterior brown but as 40% Yellow H4/4, 30% Green H6/6 and 30% Brown H7/7, this colour presumably matching an extant interior olive sample which has been compared to Munsell 5 Y 5/2 (approx. FS 34201). This same kit was also re-issued together with parts for an I-Go missile but the box art was unchanged.
The unit marking consisted of the stylised central figure '8' and the Hiragana characters for 'He' (へ) and 'i' (い) joined together to make 'Hei' (Hey-ee) and to appear as 'the wings of a kite'. The significance of 'Hei' was that Heito in Taiwan was the original base where this unit was first formed.The sequence of colours for the tail marking of the 8th Sentai, referred to informally as 'takohachi' ( 'kite eight' 凧八 or 'octopus eight' 蛸八) or "dancing octopus", have been variously attributed but a former Sentai member Mr Kenzo Matsuma confirmed the sequence as follows. The 1st Chutai (squadron) operated the Ki-46 'Dinah' whilst the 2nd-4th Chutai operated the Ki-48 'Lily'. All aircraft were marked with the 'octopus eight', in white for the 1st Chutai, red for 2nd Chutai, yellow for 3rd Chutai and blue for 4th Chutai. Above this emblem were a series of horizontal stripes which signified the Shotai (flight) and aircraft. These stripes were white for 1st Shotai, red for 2nd, yellow for 3rd and blue for 4th. The number of stripes indicated the aircraft, one for #1, two for #2 and three for #3. The illustration above of aircraft brought down in Burma confirms that the marking was in Chutai colours, showing the 1st aircraft of the 3rd Shotai of the 4th Chutai and the 2nd aircraft of the 1st Shotai of the 3rd Chutai respectively. This sketch was contained in an intelligence report issued by HQ, Air Command, South East Asia (New Delhi) in July 1944 which discusses the question of Chutai colour distinctions and the drawings were attributed to aircraft individually examined and documented by the technical intelligence section of the HQ (extract below). According to this report the 1st Chutai of this four-Chutai Sentai operated a number of Ki-46 aircraft with distinctive tail markings which will be discussed in due course.
Another example of an 8th Sentai tail marking was provided in a document of carefully prepared sketches sent to HQ, Air Command, South East Asia on 10th January 1944 by Air Commodore G Bartholomew, air attaché at the British Embassy in Chungking. This had been provided by the intelligence section of the Chinese Third Route Army via the commander of the Chinese Air Force and is shown below. As well as the red insignia the caption mentions a black insignia too. This Chinese document appears to be an echo of an earlier intelligence summary originating from the RAF. The illustration shows the 1st aircraft of the 2nd Shotai of the 2nd Chutai.
Mention of a black variant of this insignia had previously been made in an insignia chart (as shown below) issued with the G-3 Intelligence summary 207 of May 1943 and before the identity of the Sentai had been established. One of the 44 entries on the chart documented the markings of a Ki-48 brought down at Baidyapara, India at 1200 hrs local time on 15 December 1942. According to the Intelligence Report EAI/1/20 this aircraft had the construction number 529 and had force landed in a clearing due to the failure of the damaged starboard engine. There were explosive cannon shell strikes in the port tailplane, engine cowling and trailing edge of the port wing; 20 mm ball strikes in the starboard side of fuselage, under the tailplane, traversing the full length of the aircraft and in the starboard engine nacelle, severely denting one cylinder. The starboard engine had broken away on landing. The centre section and fuselage forward of the dorsal gun position was completely burnt out, with only the wing tips, tail and front part of one engine undamaged. After the landing the crew had stripped the aircraft and then set fire to it with the help of local people. One wounded crew member, a corporal, was captured and taken to Chittagong hospital. The other three crew members escaped with two machine guns from the aircraft.
This Ki-48 was camouflaged a dull sage-green with blue-grey under surfaces and Hinomaru in six positions, those on the fuselage being outlined in white. The aircraft had a white senchi hiyoshiki rear fuselage band forward of fin. There was a horizontal black band 3” wide across top of fin and rudder (but shown red in the drawings), 9” from top. It also had the yellow wing leading edges and red painted spinners. This Ki-48 was one of three claimed by Hurricane IIc pilots of 79 Sqn RAF (Nil nobis obstare potest - 'Nothing Can Hinder Us') who had intercepted 9 aircraft in the second of three "Army 99" bomber formations attacking Chittagong from 12,000 feet. Two sections of Hurricanes attacked the unescorted bombers from 15,000 feet whilst a third section was directed beneath the cloud cover at 6,000 feet to "look for enemy fighters" and were there promptly bounced by Oscars of the 50th Sentai.
By 19th April 1943 the unit had been identified as 8th Hiko Sentai and Air HQ Bengal was able to send a further representation of the unit markings from this aircraft (as shown below) and details of another one examined at Bodega on 27th March 1943 to Air HQ India together with the suggestion that these should be made available to RAF Wings and Squadrons. This document reveals that the aircraft spinners were also painted in the Chutai colours although again there appeared to be some difficulty in deciding whether the blue markings were in fact black! Air HQ India firmly advised that any such documentation should come from them!
The black/blue issue is interesting and I offer only as a possibility the fact that a blue pigment in common use by the Japanese during the war - Azurite, the colour of which is typical of the blue used in their markings - is known to turn black when subjected to extremes of heat, such as might occur in an air crash. This characteristic was the subject of experimentation and a research paper by Ryoichi Nishimura and Ari Ide-Ektessabi of the graduate school of engineering, Kyoto University in 2008. They found that the pigment abruptly changed colour after 40 to 60 minutes of exposure to temperatures of 260°.
NP1 was subsequently re-issued with parts for a Fine Molds (?) I-Go missile. The kit and box art remained the same, with new lettering announcing the additional parts. The I-Go missile was in fact carried by a Ki-48-II but the kit did not mention this or the necessity of switching the intakes above and below the cowlings. There was also no provision for mounting the missile beneath the model. A Navy Technical Intelligence report (in pdf) on Japanese guided missiles can be found here.
Ki-48-II with I-Go guided missile
Kit # 00093 in 2000
The next issue of the Hasegawa kit as 00093 in the year 2000 featured box art by a new artist and markings options for only two aircraft again - a 90th Sentai, 3rd Chutai example from 1943-44 in China in a plain dark green finish (as depicted on the box art) and a mottled example from the 208th Sentai in the Philippines in 1944 (the subject of a well known Clark Field capture photo). Colour call outs were the same as for the previous kit.
Kit # 00877 in 2007
Another outing in 2007 saw the kit labeled as '34th Flight Regiment' and re-numbered as # 00877. A kumogata scheme was again depicted but this time there were two more options for a mottled 34th Sentai example in New Guinea in 1944 and another plain grey-green Hokota flying school example with yellow and blue fuselage stripes. The same paint mixes were given for the interior and exterior brown but the colours were now described as 'dark grey(ish?) yellow-green colour' (暗灰黄緑色) for the interior and 'tea brown colour' ('chakasshoku' - 茶褐色) for the exterior brown. The latest kit repeats this description for the interior but suggests it is mixed from 90% Khaki 55 and 10% Red Brown 41 or simply Khaki 55. The interior colour and primer colours as recorded by Jim Lansdale on a Ki-48 wing section are shown below. Part II of this article will examine exterior colours in more detail.
There is no FAOW on the Ki-48 yet but it has been covered in a useful Maru Mechanic book (# 16 of May 1979 and various editions since) and the old Aircam Aviation Series No.32 of 1972 (odd that this was before the Mania kit appeared). There was also a useful article on IJAAF Ki-48 unit operations by Mark Huggins in Air Enthusiast # 113 of September 2004 which is worth looking out for as it contains a couple of Ki-48 crew member accounts, including one from the 8th Sentai December 1942 action described above. The type served almost from beginning to end of the war, making the transition from light day bomber to night bomber to dive bomber and finally to special attacker and was also used for various experimental projects. Elements of its airframe design are apparent in the Ki-45 Toryu although they are seldom seen paired together as models.
Image credits: All box art © Hasegawa Corporation; Mania kit author's collection; Facsimile documents author's collection with very special thanks to Edgar Brooks; Rendered colour chips © 2013 author; book covers © 1972 Osprey and 1979 Maru Mechanic.