Sunday 30 June 2013

Update - Blog Mechanics

Had a recent problem with heading images on some blog entries not being clickable or enlarging in a new screen - for the Robert Short, Aeromodeller and Rising Decals features. I think that has now been rectified but please let me know if any such problems occur, thanks. The heading images are always intended to be clickable and openable!

Image credit: Gremlins © 1943 Walt Disney Productions/Roald Dahl

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Something More About Mary ~ Update

Back in December 2010 there was a brief run through of Kawasaki Ki-32 'Mary' kits (scroll down) with a later update in June 2012 to add the Try Angle 1/48th scale resin kit. Now Tom Draper of Indiana, USA has kindly sent an image of his model of 'Mary' (above) that won a special honourable mention in the single engine injected class (not the vacuform class) of the 1982 U.S. IPMS Nationals and was made from the Eagles Talon vacform kit, not mentioned in the original blog. Thanks to Tom I have now added this one to the list of Ki-32 kits!

Eagles Talon was originally started as Vacplane by Michael Majer in southern California in 1979 but only one kit was released under that name before it was changed to Eagles Talon. The Ki-32 was the second kit released under the new name, as ET-102, in 1979. Wings Models, LLC is now the owner of all moulds, decals, parts, and inventory of Wings 72, Wings 48, and Eagles Talon. Don Bratt started the Wings 72/48 Inc company in 1980 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The first 1/72nd scale kit was the Yokosuka E14Y1 Glen but the next three kits were the same as Eagles Talon's first three kits - the Sukhoi Su-2, Kawasaki Ki-32 Mary and Heinkel He-178 - all issued in 1980.

Image credits: Model image © 2013 Tom Draper; Eagles Talon kit image via web

Monday 24 June 2013

1960's Era Fujimi "One Hundred Series" A6M3 Model 32 Box Art!

Further to the blog post about 1963-era Zero kits Gustavo Antonelli very kindly sent these wonderful images of the imaginative box art and instructions from the original Fujimi A6M3 Model 32 "One Hundred Series" No.2 kit mentioned in his comment. 

Image credits: Kit and box art © circa 1960s Fujimi Mokei Co. Ltd. via Gustavo Antonelli

Thursday 20 June 2013

Opportunities to Model the A6M ~ Fifty Years Ago!

Fifty years seems like a long time but 1963 was only yesterday for some of us TOF's. Even so when I look around now that particular past was indeed a foreign country! This issue of Aeromodeller magazine from July 1963 featured the Zero "in full detail plans & pics". The specially commissioned cover art was by Lawrence Bagley (1922-1983), a one time civilian Technical Illustrator at Royal Navy Portsmouth shore station HMS Vernon who freelanced in marine and aviation paintings.  The caption notes that whilst  "Not normally a colourful subject, we have gone to some trouble to find the brightest possible authentic decoration for a Zero." Apart from the ubiquitous red cowling of the time the scheme appears to be of one of the early China theatre Zeros but applied to an A6M5 and taken from an in-flight photograph of an A6M2 which appears in the magazine (see below). It still conveys an accomplished if delicate technique and the charm of so many of those covers, some of which were the work of C. Rupert Moore A.R.C.A. , which may be compared and contrasted to the ultra realism of computer generated artwork on the covers of modern modelling magazines. In the days before widespread colour photographic publishing, prolific profile vehicles and the image overload of the internet they were nothing short of inspiring.

Although this venerable Model Aeronautical Press Ltd (MAP) magazine was more usually focussed on flying scale topics there is an interesting summary page of the then available A6M plastic kits by the late Alec Gee which is reproduced above. Most of the kits briefly reviewed are well known old stagers some of which have been around until quite recently masquerading as respectable and fooling the unwary but the trio of Fujimi boxings shown at the bottom of the page are new to me in terms of their box art. The box art shown bottom right of the quartet appears to be the same illustration that adorns the instruction sheet in an early A6M3 kit in my collection.

Instruction sheet from Shizuoka Hobby # 2 - compare to box art in image above

But curiously whilst the box in the photo appears to bear the Fujimi logo, mine, which I had assumed to be an earlier issue, is labelled only Shizuoka Hobby without the Fujimi name appearing at all, although it has the distinctive trademark ship's wheel. It is also marked as being to 1/72nd scale. The box art is much better too, although the artist is unknown, and the box design is similar to the earliest imported Hasegawa boxes with a Japanese flag. The kit inside is identical to those later imported in Fujimi-AHM and Fujimi-Bachmann boxings with K Hashimoto box art.

Shizuoka Hobby (Fujimi) A6M3 - Splendidly iconic box art but pity about the kit!

According to Burns* the 1/70th scale A6M3 kit was first issued as A-2 in 1965. This cannot be as there it is in Aeromodeller in 1963! It was then re-issued as 7A-2 from 1972-74 transformed to 1/72nd scale, as FC-2 by AHM, 0702 by Bachmann and 8018 by UPC. The Shizuoka Hobby trademarked kit bears the number '2' but there is also another boxing with identical art, the standard Fujimi trademark of that era and numbered 7A2-100 (below).

Fujimi 7A2-100 - note trademark difference

The Fujimi Zero kits of this era were little more than toys and it is apparent that the toolmakers intended them as such. They are characterised by an absence of panel lines, prominent rivets, ill-defined shapes, cylindrical cowlings and shallow canopies. The masters appear to have been carved by eye without reference to plans or dimensions and the box art by Hashimoto-san managed to capture the form of the aircraft far better than the master and toolmakers. Of course this harsh judgement is made with hindsight and exposure to the improved quality of kits over fifty years. I can't really assess how these kits might have been received in the context of 1963 other than that they appear to be more basic than the Airfix kits of the time.

Fujimi-AHM A6M3 imported as FC-2 in late 1960's - same kit now with K Hashimoto box art

The Shizuoka Hobby A6M3 kit shares one characteristic with early LS Zero kits, which is that the plastic is moulded in the "correct" colour - a slightly amber grey-green between Munsell 5 GY 6/1 and 10 Y 6/1. I like to think that this might be more than just coincidence. The colour is very close to that chosen for the recent Fine Molds A6M2 moulding...

5 GY 6/1 vs 10 Y 6/1

Also included with the Aeromodeller article on the Zero were 1/48th scale plans drawn by D H Cooksey whose notes demonstrate a slightly less than firm grasp of A6M type development. The colour notes for the ATAIU-SEA B1-05 are still fascinating however and the reddish brown doped rudder seems just too precise and convincing a detail to have been plucked from nothingness or even wishful thinking. There are some even more bizarre applications of red oxide dope and primer to share with you but those can wait for now lest the horses get too scared...

* 'In Plastic - WW2 Aircraft Kits' by John W Burns (Kit Collector's Clearinghouse, 1993)

Image credits: Aeromodeller (MAP) © 1963; Box Art © Fujimi Mokei Co. Ltd 

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Recent Rising Decals in 1/72 - Early Birds and IJN Dive Bombers

Two more recent Rising Decals sheets to expand an already prolific repertoire of interesting Japanese aviation subjects and very welcome these are too. Sheet RD72055 Japanese Early Birds covers 12 early IJA subjects - all imported/licence-built types bar one. And all are distinguished by small size characters and numbering on the tails which would be virtually impossible to achieve convincingly otherwise and has hitherto been an obstacle to representing these early biplane types in IJAAF service.

First up a pair of 1st Sentai Nakajima-Nieuport 29 C.1 Ko-4 biplane fighters in aluminium dope with brightly coloured rudders and elevators, one yellow with white stripes and one bright blue. The Ffrom-Azur kit is the only game in town and it might be hard to find now. Secondly a SPAD XIII C.1 Hei 1 in French five-colour camouflage for the Eduard or Revell kits. Then another one in smart silver dope with white fuselage band - a nice alternative SPAD XIII scheme this one. On both SPADs the combination of rudder characters and numbers provides a unique opportunity to model these early types and a good excuse for Japanese aircraft enthusiasts to enjoy the lovely Eduard kit! Sticking to a French theme the Nakajima-Nieuport 24 C.1 Ko-3 is next, two options in silver with either a broad or narrow red fuselage band, for the exquisite but challenging Roden kit. We move to British imports next with a pair of Sopwith 1½ Strutters, one in aluminium dope with a polished cowling and one in PC10 khaki drab dope (probably). The Flashback, Toko or Eastern Express kits are required for these. A bonus is the tail feather markings for a Nieuport 83 E.2 (Nieuport 10 Ko-2) - for which you'll need the very nice HR kit - # 72016 - which comes with Japanese decals for three options but all of which are actually for the Nieuport 81 (Nieuport 12 Ko-1) and it is not cheap! Three Avro 504 trainers come next, two in silver dope and one in PC10. These are very nice subjects and provide options for an aircraft with large wing, fuselage and tail codes or two which retained the distinctive Avro company logos and fuselage address stencils - an interesting juxtaposition to the Hinomaru. There are kits by Airfix (not currently in production but readily available second-hand and sure to re-appear) and A-Model (of the Soviet copy). The Airfix kit requires a few modifications for accuracy about which there will be more in a future blog post. And finally, rounding off what is at first glance a modest but is actually a most useful and inspiring sheet, a Nakajima Type 91 parasol fighter in silver dope with jaunty red and yellow striped fin, rudder and tailplanes for the suggested AZ Model kit (unfortunately also out of production and hard to find). All in all a superb sheet and I hope that we see more from Rising Decals featuring Japanese early birds - perhaps a rising sun rudder for the Nieuport NG/NM (IVG/M) monoplane which is planned to feature here in due course presenting genuine pre-1914 plans and data for the actual aircraft.

The second sheet RD72056 moves to WWII and the IJN presenting 'Japanese Naval Dive Bombers' Pt.II with 12 subjects, six Yokosuka D4Y1/2/3 'Judy' for the Fujimi or recent AZ Models kits and four Aichi D3A1/2 'Val' - for which I note the Fujimi rather than Cyber Hobby kit is recommended! For the 'Judy' there are three D4Y1 Model 11 options from the 523rd Ku with the tail code 'Taka' (鷹 - hawk or falcon) in yellow and white and another with the tail code '01-070' from the 501st Ku, the actual tailfin of which may be seen here and here. Then a D4Y1/2 '81-110' of the 1081st Ku at Atsugi with white rectangle behind the fuselage Hinomaru. Next are three D4Y3 Model 33 (with radial engines), '29-219' of the 210th Ku at Meiji, '763H-79' of the 763rd Ku and a late model '601-07' of the 601st Ku at Oppama, all in standard finish with darkened Hinomaru borders. 

The 'Val' options consist of a very colourful D3A1 'EII-206' off Zuikaku with flashy white-flashed red wheel spats and a Houkokou legend to boot which participated in the attack on Rabaul in January 1942 - a nice alternative to a Pearl Harbor bird - and three D3A2. The first, '81-241' from 1081st Ku is in standard finish but the last two feature very worn finishes - '81-1130' also from the 1081st Ku at Atsugi in 1945 and タイ-584 (Tai-584) from the Tainan Ku in 1944 without wheel spats. Very good options these for the Fujimi kit offering plenty of scope for weathering techniques. A nice feature of this sheet for both types is the selection of tail drift stripes, data blocks and various stencils. Highly recommended. 

With thanks to Mirek for the kind provision of the review sheets.

Image credits: All © 2013 Rising Decals

Saturday 15 June 2013

Robert Short ~ The First Flying Tiger

On 22nd February 1932 near Suchow (now Suzhou 苏州) in China three Type 13 attack aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy from the carrier Hôshô were intercepted by a single biplane fighter purportedly wearing the insignia of the Chinese central government. One of the Japanese aircraft was attacked and damaged with the navigator killed and the observer wounded but before further attacks could be pressed home three escorting Japanese Type 3 carrier fighters had swooped in and one of them, piloted by Nokiji Ikuta, shot the interceptor down. The American pilot, Robert Short, was killed in his cockpit and his aircraft, a Boeing 218 demonstrator, plunged into a canal near the village of Gaodian. The victor flew low over the crash site with his two wingmen and they dipped their wings in turn, probably to get a better look at the downed aircraft, but Gao Jing-sheng, a Chinese farmer from the village who had watched the air combat, took that to be their salute to the fallen, a chivalrous gesture. In the 1930s the popular media was still wedded to the notion of chivalry in the air as a result of the proliferation of air combat stories from the Great War. This was the first recorded incident of air combat between an American volunteer pilot flying an American fighter aircraft on behalf of China and the fighter aircraft of the Empire of Japan and it was also the first Japanese air-to-air victory in war.

Although the incident and perhaps more importantly its context seem to get little attention it was significant in the history of Chinese and Japanese aviation in a number of important aspects. Short's combat and  heroic death has unfortunately tended to obscure the role and exploits of other Chinese pilots at this time, as well as that of other Chinese operated aircraft. It remains a little known but fascinating preliminary episode to the great air war over China that was to erupt in 1937 and continue for eight years.  

Background to the 1932 Incident

Tension between Chinese nationalists and Japanese interests in Shanghai had been rising since the Japanese intervention in Manchuria in 1931. But there was an underlying Chinese resentment against the Japanese presence in China for their part in the treaty-imposed trading port concessions enjoyed by Western colonial powers which had possibly been encouraged by the Central Government's nationalism. Since 1925 the Japanese had recorded 713 attacks against Japanese persons and property in China, ranging from vandalism to Japanese owned buildings and property to the abduction and murder of Japanese citizens. After exchanges of fire between Chinese police and a Japanese group from the Shanghai Seinen Doshikai which had attacked the Chinese San Yu bathtowel factory in retaliation for the factory workers assaulting two Japanese buddhist priests the tension came to a head. The 78th Division of the Chinese 19th Route Army commanded by General Tsai Ting-kai began digging in around the outskirts of the international settlements in Shanghai where the Japanese had a large concession of trading interests and factories. The previous year the Chinese had sought German assistance in improving and reinforcing with concrete their coastal battery forts at Woosung where the Whampoa river (now Huangpu 黃浦江) joined the Yangtse and at Lion Hill fort on the northern outskirts of Shanghai. The presence of these forts was a potential challenge to the Japanese naval vessels navigating the rivers to the city. After further incidents involving clashes between so-called "plainclothes soldiers" of the Chinese Army and Japanese civilians and police and the failure of attempts to secure an end to hostilities by the Japanese Consul-General, Rear Admiral Shiosawa the local Naval Force commander and General Tsai, Lt General Ueda the commander of the Japanese 9th Division issued an ultimatum for the Chinese forces to draw back behind a line 20km from the settlements. This was rejected and as a result the Japanese landed army and naval forces which began engaging and attempting to drive back the Chinese troops from the city environs.

Satellite map of Shanghai and Nanking (Google Maps)

Air Operations Over Shanghai

Air operations began on 29 January when Type 14 E1Y and Type 90-3 E41Y floatplanes from the tender Notoro which had arrived on 24 January conducted very low-level bombing attacks against Chinese army positions in the Chapei district of Shanghai. Wet and misty weather conditions obscured visibility and despite the dropping of flares and directional signals from the ground there were heavy civilian casualties and damage to buildings as a result of the attacks. Japanese airpower over the city was reinforced by the arrival of the aircraft carriers Kaga and Hôshô a few days later. The main complement of these vessels were the Mitsubishi B1M Type 13 carrier attack aircraft, a three seat biplane capable of carrying torpedos or bombs and the Nakajima A1N2 Type 3 carrier fighter, a developed version of the British Gloster Gamecock design from 1925.

IJN Type 14 Reconnaissance Seaplane E1Y (Wiki)

It was reported that the Chinese had about 70 aircraft on airfields in the vicinity of Nanking and at Suchow. At this time the Central Government air force was still in its infancy and its fighter assets were limited to the Boeing 218 demonstrator, two Blackburn Lincock IIIs and eight Junkers K47 two seat fighters whilst the remaining aircraft were about twenty Corsair, Douglas O-2MC and Waco two seaters. On 5th February a formation of Type 3 fighters from Hôshô commanded by Lt Tokoro Mohachiro and Type 13 from Kaga commanded by Lt Hirayabashi Nagamoto encountered over Kunshan an assortment of Chinese aircraft from the Central Government's 6th and 7th Squadrons, commanded by the 6th's deputy leader Wang Yu-chuan (Huang Yuquan) a Chinese-American who had returned to China in 1926.  The Chinese aircraft were in transit from Nanking to Zhenru in preparation for an attack against Japanese warships lying off Woosung.

IJN Type 13 Carrier Attack Aircraft B1M (Wiki)

This encounter battle was inconclusive but Chinese ground forces reported the shooting down of one of the Type 13 aircraft, another was damaged and two Chinese pilots were wounded. During the fight Chu Da-shan (actually J D Singh, a naturalised Chinese of Indian origin) had engaged the formation of Type 13's in a Blackburn Lincock III fighter, but his guns had jammed and he had been injured by return fire. This aircraft or the second Lincock was subsequently destroyed at Chenju airfield when it malfunctioned as Wang Yu-chuan was attempting to take off in it. Some sources assert that the aircraft was destroyed on the ground by Japanese aircraft but the fate of the two aircraft may have been confused.

Blackburn Lincock III in Chinese service ( via Early Chinese Aircraft)

On 19th February after the Boeing 218 had been prepared for operations at Hongqiao airfield, Shanghai, Short  took off in it to fly it to Nanking. During this flight he encountered and was attacked by three Type 3's from Hôshô under the command of Lt Kidokoro. A brief dogfight ensued during which Short managed to scatter the Japanese formation and damage Kidokoro's A1N2. Several sources mistakenly assert that Kidokoro was shot down during this encounter but there is little doubt that the 218's sparkling performance came as a surprise to the Japanese flyers.

On the 22nd February the Central Government ordered all its aircraft to move from Nanking to Hangzhou. Because of the speed of the Boeing 218 Short was flying alone rather than with the main Chinese formation when over Suchow he encountered the flight of Type 13 attack aircraft. Some sources assert that this was an accidental encounter, others that Short had taken off from Suchow in defence of the airfield after landing there. At the time both sides resorted to propaganda to assert moral superiority over the incident. Although the Japanese formation was characterised as attacking the Suchow railway station crowded with civilian refugees, the Japanese asserted that it was following the railway line to the airfield at Suchow in search of the Chinese aircraft that had recently been encountered in the air. Chinese sources confirm that the airfield at Suchow was attacked by Japanese aircraft that day. According to Nokiji Ikuta it was just a routine patrol with the Type 3s flying in stepped down formation above and behind the Type 13 formation when Short's lone fighter suddenly appeared beneath the leading Japanese bomber and fired up at it from less than 100 yards range. Some sources state that Short made three consecutive climbing and diving attacks before firing a burst that wounded the wireless operator/gunner and killed the navigator 1/Lt Susumu Kotani, an Eta Jima classmate of Ikuta who was also the formation commander. Although the Type 13 Short attacked was damaged by his fire the pilot was unhurt and was able to return to Shanghai.

IJN Nakajima Type 3 Carrier Fighter A1N2 as flown by Nokiji Ikuta (© Rikyu Watanabe)

As the Boeing fighter dived away to gain speed then turned and climbed up for another firing pass Ikuta and his wingmen Toshio Kuroiwa and Kazuo Takeo peeled off and cut across its path in a steep dive, firing from 150 up to 50 yards. Ikuta saw his rounds hit the cockpit as the Boeing veered to evade his attack and it immediately dropped away awkwardly in an inverted spin. Ikuta recognised at once that he had either wounded or killed the pilot, and saw it continue to fall haphazardly until it crashed into the canal. The brief combat had lasted less than three minutes. "I was very moved by both the bravery of this man and his skill" Ikuta told a reporter many years later. Ikuta was later told that Short had attacked Japanese aircraft on two previous occasions. There may have been a perception that the 218 had also been in action on the 5th February. According to Minoru Genda the performance of the Boeing 218 fighter had come as a shock to the Japanese pilots and the  19th and 22nd February encounters with it were instrumental in contributing to the development of the Nakajima A2N1 Type 90 fighter to replace the Type 3.

Short was posthumously awarded the honorary rank of Colonel in the Chinese Army by the Central Government and given an official funeral which his mother was invited to attend. Chinese newspapers carried the story of his air battle and loss as front page features.

Ikuta was deeply affected by this experience and afterwards to much opprobrium from his comrades and senior officers he resigned his commission and left the Navy. "I lost my spirit" he recounted, "I could no longer feel the things that made me fight. I hated anything military and renounced my place as a fighter pilot." In 1976 the Japanese wife of a retired US Air Force Colonel contacted Robert Short's brother Ed to ask him if he would like to meet Ikuta. Ellis told Ed that since the incident Ikuta had prayed every day for the repose of Robert's soul. The two men subsequently met and with reconciliation remained in touch. At a visit to Yasakuni Shrine Ed thought of his brother and the Japanese officer who had been killed in the air combat.

On 23rd February Japanese aircraft attacked Suchow and Hongqiao and on the 25th the Central Government directed that all aircraft should be concentrated at Jianqiao airfield at Hangzhou, the site of the aviation school, to prepare for another attack against the Japanese warships. The following day the Japanese attacked Jianqiao as the Chinese aircraft, warned of the impending raid, prepared to move to Bengbu airfield in Anhui Province. The aircraft had been moved overnight from the airfield to a strip of land alongside the Qiantangjiang River and at the approach of the Japanese aircraft, Shi Bangfan the 2nd Sqn commander and Zhao Puming took off in a Junkers K-47 and Corsair V92-C to attack as the rest of the aircraft were being hastily prepared for flight. Shi was wounded in the arm during his attack and had to force land in a rice paddy, his gunner Shen Yanshi pulling the pilot from the wreckage as Japanese aircraft strafed them. Shi lost his arm but survived to become known as the "one arm general". Zhao was hit in the chest and neck as he attempted to take off under fire in the Corsair but managed to get the damaged aircraft down at Qiaosi, succumbing to his wounds three weeks later. The airport at Qiaosi was later named after him. The Japanese destroyed six aircraft on the ground and the aviation school buildings in the raid but lost one aircraft which made an emergency landing in the river and was deliberately sunk to avoid capture.

The fighting at Shanghai continued until 3rd March, although there appears to have been no further air to air combat, and following the League of Nations intervention on 5th March General Shirakawa, the Japanese expeditionary force commander, issued an order for his units to cease hostilities. Japanese casualties in the incident amounted to 718 killed and 1,788 wounded. Chinese casualties are variously cited as approximately 12,000 with the Japanese claiming 40,000 killed, wounded or missing with untold civilian casualties.

Robert Short, Aviator

Robert Short (Historic Wings)

Robert McCawley Short was born in Steilacoom, Washington in October 1904 and after his father left home in 1912 was brought up by his mother in the Tacoma area. Robert was the eldest of three children with a younger sister and brother. Growing up he was known for his audaciousness with several harmless but frowned upon escapades in school that got him into trouble, including managing to appear twice in his 1925 graduation photograph by some deft footwork between the two shots that were necessary to complete the picture. After a succession of jobs Robert joined the Air Corps and commenced pilot training at March Field. He wrote to his family "I am very confident in my ability to fly. If I get washed out, it will not be because of my lagging spirit." He was and it wasn't. The military discipline and routine rankled with him and culminated in him bombarding a farmer's truck from the air with water melons.

After the Air Corps he went through a succession of flying jobs including assistant manager at Tacoma airport but he lost that job to a political appointment. He was then offered a job flying the mail for the Central Government in China, duly arriving in Shanghai in late February 1931. The maintenance regime of the Loening amphibian that was assigned to him to fly was alarming and he quickly gave up the post, eventually electing to join L E Gale in Shanghai as a demonstration and delivery pilot for Boeing aircraft.  

After the Shanghai incident erupted in 1932 Robert, who was living in the city, wrote his last letter home on 4th February "It burns me up why the Chinese planes which are superior to the Japanese don't come. China could win in a walk in aerial fighting." He ended this letter with a reassurance "Don't you worry. I'll be very careful."

The monument to Robert Short in present day Suzhou, China (Mr Maurice Chi via Richard Douse)

The Boeing 218

Boeing 218 X66W (XP-925) (San Diego Air & Space Museum via Wiki)

The Boeing 218 originated as a private venture initiative to adapt the P-12 to test prove a metal-skinned semi-monocoque fuselage. It effectively became the feasibility prototype for the P-12E (with the Army designation XP-925) and the F4B-3. The Boeing aircraft record shown here suggests that several changes were made to the airframe and engine, as well as reconditioning and repairs on at least two occasions. The prototype XP-12E was completed and rolled out on 1st October 1931 whereupon the 218 became surplus to requirements. It was sent to L E Gale, the Boeing representatives in China, on 28th October 1931, crated aboard an American Mail Line ship. This was presumably to garner interest in export orders for the P-12E although the actual reasons are obscure. The only known photographs show the aircraft at the time it was being tested in the USA, although these are sometimes presented as showing the aircraft in China. The Boeing aircraft record sheet suggests that it was probably not displaying the US government serial X66W at the time of its operations in China as that section has notably been left blank for the China movement details. See the modelling section below for additional comments regarding its likely colour and markings at the time of the incident.

Boeing 218 X66W (XP-925) (with kind permission of

Boeing 218 Aircraft Record Sheet (Boeing Archives via Mike Lombardi)

The Blackburn Lincock III

Blackburn Lincock lightweight fighter and racing aeroplane (Arents Cigarette Cards)

The Blackburn Lincock was a British private venture lightweight fighter design from 1928 powered by a 270 hp Armstrong Siddeley Lynx Major IVC. Designed by Major F A Bumpus B.Sc., A.R.C.S., Wh.Sc., F.R.Ae.S., the chief designer, chief engineer and joint managing director of Blackburn, the name 'Lincock' was derived from 'Lynx-Cock' in reference to the power plant. From 1915 to 1919 Major Bumpus had served as a technical officer in the RNAS. Only five of the type III were built with two purchased by the Japanese Army. Two Lincock IIIs were also purchased by General Ho Chien, the Governor of Hunan Province, China in October 1930, but he was prevailed upon to surrender them both to Nanking Central Government service. They arrived in Shanghai aboard the SS Glengarry in December 1930, were assembled at Lunghua aerodrome and then transferred to Nanking in May 1931 where they were assigned to the 6th Squadron of the nascent Central Government air force. 

The Nakajima A1N2

IJN Nakajima Type 3 Carrier Fighter A1N (via Wiki)

The Nakajima 'G' (for Gloster) was developed from the Gloster Gamecock as a joint venture between Nakajima and Gloster with designer Takao Yoshida working with the British manufacturer to produce a carrier fighter able to meet an April 1926 IJN requirement for a fighter to replace the Mitsubishi Type 10. The design was closely related to the Gambit, a Gloster private venture adaptation of the Gamecock intended for carrier operations and equipped with an arrestor hook and floatation bags.  In April 1929 the Nakajima 'G' was accepted by the IJN  as the Type 3 Carrier Fighter A1N1. The A1N1 was originally powered by a Nakajima licence-built version of the Bristol Jupiter VI 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engine of 420hp but in 1930 the design was improved by the installation of a Nakajima Kotobuki 2 engine of 450hp and accepted into service as the Type 3-2 Carrier Fighter, A1N2.

IJN Nakajima Type 3 Carrier Fighter A1N (via Historic Wings)

Approximately 150 Type 3 Carrier Fighters were produced between 1929 and 1932, 50 of A1N1 type and about 100 of A1N2 type. After deployment on four of the IJN's aircraft carriers the Type 3 was retired from service in 1935. In carrier service the A1N was finished in silver dope overall with Hinomaru in six positions and red high-visibility tail fin rudder and tailplanes. Wing struts were painted gloss black. Large alpha-numeric unit and identity codes were displayed, black on the wings and fuselage and white on the tail. 

Modelling the Blackburn Lincock and Boeing 218

The only 1/72nd scale Blackburn Lincock kit I'm aware of is the very rare "The New Types Park" mixed media kit (shown above) and issued only in a limited run of 500 in about 1992. For any brave soul contemplating a scratch build there are 1/32nd plans of the type available from MyHobbyStore.  The delivery scheme of the Blackburn Lincock to China was overall plain silver dope but photographs of the aircraft in service reveal that the rear fuselage and tail were painted a dark colour, probably dark green but possibly dark blue, with white ID numbers and a broad white (or possibly light blue and white) stripe aft of the cockpit. The aircraft has also been depicted with a red rear fuselage and blue tail. One aircraft had a large number 609 and the other a smaller number 610 painted on the fuselage. The undersurface of the wings at least was marked with the 'white sun in blue sky' insignia of the Central Government air force but the rays of the sun did not extend to the outer circumference of the blue roundel as seen in later presentations.

The New Types Park Lincock - a neat looking kit but rare! (photos kindly provided by Carlos Carreira)

It's a little ironic that whilst details of the Lincock colour scheme and markings are better documented there is no readily available kit for that type whereas although the Boeing 218 is available in the form of an easy adaptation of existing P-12 kits the colour scheme and markings remain uncertain!

Matchbox Boeing P-12E - still possible to find

The Matchbox Boeing P-12E is probably the best contender as a sound basis for building the 218 in 1/72nd scale. The fairing behind the cockpit must be modified to the correct shape. The main issues with this kit are the incorrect dihedral of the upper wing and a very poor engine. Starfighter Decals make a replacement wing in resin and a replacement engine. Alternatively a Monogram F4B-4 kit could be cannibalised for its wings and engine (the Starfighter pieces are based on the Monogram pieces). The flotation gear panels have to be removed from the underside of the Monogram upper wing and the corrugated skin representation is better on the Matchbox kit so fitting the Matchbox ailerons to the Monogram wing is also worth doing. For those who enjoy working in larger scales there was a Classic Airframes kit in 1/48th scale and the classic 1/32nd Hasegawa kit which is still obtainable. The painting shown below depicts the aircraft in action in its olive drab and yellow demonstrator scheme as X66W, and this has been repeated for the recent Hobbymaster 1/48th die-cast model, although it appears to have had a red or orange fuselage flash at some time.

A splendid painting of the Boeing 218 Demonstrator X66W in action over China (© 2009 Birdy Chang)

The Hobbymaster 1/48 die-cast model of X66W

The 218 looks smart in olive drab and yellow but Japanese sources suggest that at the time of the incident the aircraft was painted dark green with large Chinese markings on wings and fuselage, as shown in the heading illustration. As a US Government serial number the X66W designation was unlikely to have been worn at this time. A Chinese source also confirms that the 218 had been painted green - and armed - when it was being prepared at Hongqiao for delivery to the Central Government as a test aircraft. It might be that only the yellow parts of the airframe were re-painted with the possibility of a difference in colour between the original olive drab and the green. The Japanese pilots who engaged Short reported that his aircraft carried Chinese insignia and later US demonstrators in China are also known to have worn prominent Chinese insignia. Yer pays yer money...

Matchbox Boeing P-12E

Modelling the IJN Type 3 and Type 13

There are exquisite resin kits for both these types available from Choroszy Modelbud

As might be expected there are conflicting accounts of the air operations over China during the Shanghai Incident of 1932. The known details are consolidated here at best endeavour as a resource and in tribute to Robert Short, Nokiji Ikuta and the Chinese pilots of the Central Government of China. Any additional information or corrections are welcomed and this blog feature will be updated accordingly. 

Sources and References

Sino-Japanese Entanglements 1931-1932 - A Military Record by Motosada Zumoto (The Herald Press, Tokyo, 1932)
The Air Battle Over Shanghai 1932 by Ah Xiang (republicanchina,org 2011)
The Lesson of Robert Short by Anne F Thurston (unpublished manuscript, undated, via Boeing Archives)
A History of Chinese Aviation by Lennart Andersson (AHS of ROC 2008)
Flight in the China Air Space 1910-1950 by Malcolm Rosholt (Rosholt House, 1984)
Sunburst - The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power 1909-1941 by Mark R Peattie (Naval Institute Press, 2001)
The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Imperial Naval Air Service by Peter J Edwards (Pen & Sword, 2010)
Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II by Ikuhiko Hata and Yasuho Izawa (Airlife, 1989)
Pictorial History of Japanese Military Aviation by Eiichiro Sekigawa (Ian Allan, 1974) 
Japanese Aircraft 1910-1941 by Robert C Mikesh & Shorzoe Abe (Putnam, 1990)
P-12/F4B In Action by Larry Davis (Squadron/Signal #141, 1993)
The American Fighter by Enzo Angelucci with Peter Bowers (Orion 1987)
Boeing Archives
San Diego Air & Space Museum

With special thanks to 'Old Man' for his advice regarding modifying the Matchbox P-12 kit.

Ulrich Schütt's 1/32nd A5M4 and Ki-61-II Kai

These images of two beautiful 1/32nd scale models of Japanese subjects were kindly contributed by Ulrich Schütt from the Netherlands.

The A5M4 is the Special Hobby kit with all markings applied by airbrush or by hand except for the tailcode and stencils. The actuators and tie-down rings were fabricated from Evergreen stock to replace the photo-etched items. The models display a sobering contrast over seven years of war, from the first  optimistic days of carrier borne victory to the desperate defence of Japan in the shadow of the atomic bombs. A comprehensive build report for the A5M4 with additional pics may be found here but the accompanying text is in Dutch.

The 1/32nd Ki-61-II Kai model was converted from a Hasegawa Ki-61 Hien using the Alleycat Ki-100 canopy. Ulrich cut down the back of the Hien and filled it with scrap plastic/Evergreen stock and putty, enlarged the vertical stabilisor, sanded down the "hump"of the nose, enlarged the cowling with Evergreen and putty and scratchbuilt the air-intake. All markings except the number on the tail were applied with an airbrush or by hand. The weathered paint finish on this model is expertly rendered and very convincing. A build report with additional pics may be found here although the text is in Dutch. Remarkable work!

I hope to be able to share more of Ulrich's stunning work in future and thank him for the opportunity to share it here.

Image credits: All © 2013 Ulrich Schütt

Friday 14 June 2013

Johan de Wolf builds a Manko Junkers Ju 86Z in 1/72nd scale

It is a delight to be able to present this second build article by Johan de Wolf in which he tackles the very handsome Junkers Ju 86Z airliner used by the quasi-military Manchurian airline Manshu Koko Kabushiki Kaisha (MKKK - known familiarly as 'Manko') by combining two Italeri kits. I look forward to further China-related model builds from Johan.

Kit Details
Aircraft: Junkers Ju 86Z
Scale: 1/72
Kits used: Italeri #1029 (+ #120)
Parts: 104 light grey + 8 clear injection molded
Surface detail: finely raised
Decals: 2 options
Accuracy: very good
Price: bought for 10 euro in a sale.


The Junkers Ju 86 is one of those mid 1930’s designs that were modern at birth, but soon overtaken by rapid advances in aviation technology. It was designed to a 1934 specification for a fast airliner/medium bomber. Although Junkers opted for the modern smooth stressed skin instead of the tried and tested corrugated skin, he still stuck with the drag-inducing “double wing”. Flight testing of the prototype revealed unpleasant handling characteristics which necessitated some redesign work. Stability problems were only alleviated by the introduction of a long fin like extension to the rear fuselage in the C version. The somewhat weak narrow track under carriage remained a problem throughout it service life. Another feature that prevented the Junkers 86 from becoming an export success was the original choice of engine. Junkers had chosen to use their new Jumo 205 diesel. Although these engines had a less favorable power to weight ratio than conventional engines, they offered a far superior fuel efficiency. The drawback was that the Jumo 205 needed a different fuel and maintenance crew were not used to dealing with diesels. In 1937 in order to improve the potential for export orders Junkers decided to offer the 86 with optional BMW license-built PW Hornet radial engines. Although the fuel consumption of these engines was increased over the 205, they offered a significant improvement in performance. The radial engined variant attracted more customers, the most well known being the Swedish air force. Other customers were Chile, Hungary, South Africa and Japan/Manchuria. The Ju 86 performed satisfactorily during the Spanish civil war but the He 111 was clearly superior. By the time the Second World War began the 86 was simply too slow to be of any operational value. Most ended their days in the training and transport role. There were a few exceptions to this though. Junkers had developed two very high altitude versions of the 86, the P and R, and these remained operational throughout the war as strategic photo-reconnaissance machines.  Although Junkers had orders for some 840 aircraft, for both the civil and the military versions, less then half that number were actually built when the outbreak of war dictated other priorities.

The Kit

Inside a top-opening box you will find two light grey sprues and a clear one, with a total of 112 parts. Of these 32 will not be needed for this version. The moulding quality is very good with no flash, sink marks or ejector marks. The transparent parts are clear and free of scratches despite being packed in the same bag as the other sprues. Surface detail is by way of very fine raised lines. The instruction leaflet includes a short history, a parts location diagram, six easy to follow construction steps and two 4-view colour schemes. The large sharply printed decal sheet offers markings for an all metal Swiss Z-1 type and a B-0 type of Lufthansa. 


Dimensionally the kit is right on track.  Built straight from the box it will result in an accurate replica of the original Ju 86 Z-1. The kit captures the graceful lines of this mid 30’s design very well.


As I wanted to build a Manchurian Z-2 I needed to replace the Z-1 kit diesel engines with radial engines. I also needed a longer tail. For these I resorted to Italeri's sister kit of the Ju-86 E1/E2. I started by glueing the wings together and then the engine fairings and set them aside to dry. The interior of the fuselage was next. The structural detail was simulated with Evergreen plastic stock strip of various sizes. The floor was lengthened so it extended all the way to the rear bulkhead. The cockpit area is made up of 7 parts. I replaced the rather clunky armchair type seat with a more suitable item from the spares box. I also added some equipment boxes and other details. The fuselage door was put into place and I added hinge fairings to the outside. Then the cabin windows where installed and the fuselage was closed. 

After the fuselage had dried I chopped of the short tail end and replaced it with the long part removed from the E version. As this is the civil version, the holes for the bomb bay doors and the crew access hatch have to be closed in the wing center section. These parts don’t fit very well, and as they are rather thin I strengthened the whole assembly with more strips of Evergreen stock. This will prevent break up during filling and sanding. The center section was then glued to the fuselage and left to dry before sanding everything smooth. 

I turned my attention back to the wings now. The first thing was to add rib detail to the wheel wells. Then the engine fairings where mounted. These fitted so well that no filler was needed at all. The engines where now painted and installed in their cowlings. After the fuselage was sanded, the wings where put on. I needed to remove quite a bit of the locating tabs to get a good fit. I replaced the strengthening strip over the join with a new one made from Evergreen strip. The tail wings and fins where next, followed by the landing gear. The canopy didn’t fit very well and needed to be faired in with filler. The “double” wings went on without a problem. The cowlings were fitted next followed by the rest of the smaller exterior details.

Painting and Decals

Painting details are suggested with Testors Model Master numbers as well as generic descriptions and, where available, by FS595b numbers. The instructions suggest pale green for the interior but I chose to use RLM 02 instead. Several other colours were used for the smaller details. The instructions of the Blue Rider decal sheet that I chose to use (BR-256) only states light grey for the airframe and dark blue for the engines. I pondered for a while what these colours could actually be, and in the end decided that they might be German pre war colours. I looked for colours that would be closest to colours the Japanese used at the time. So I used a light blue grey for the airframe, which appears close to L40/52 Hellgrau although the actual paint might have been Ikarol single paint 132/3 Grau which is recorded for the Ju 86 in a Lufthansa list from 1936. And for the engines I used dark blue gray. This colour  resembles a very dark navy blue. The Manchurian machines remained in service throughout the war and pictures show that the dark paint on the engines faded rather badly. I simulated this by dry brushing the upper areas with azure blue. I could not find evidence that the fins of these machines were only painted yellow on the upper half as per the Blue Rider instructions. In photographs there is no evidence of a demarcation line between the yellow and light grey. So I painted the whole fin yellow. This seemed more logical to me as the Fokker Universals and Ki 34 of the MKKK also had all yellow tails. 

I painted the spinners in roundel blue. The panel lines were highlighted with a black pencil. The model was given a clear gloss coat in preparation for the decals. The decals went on ok but had trouble conforming over the raised details. As the normal Agama setting solution had no effect I used the extra strong formula. This made the decals start to shrivel terribly but I resisted the urge to touch them. After a few hours they had settled down so well that they almost looked painted on. The model was then given a wash with dark aquarelle paint to break up the plain finish of the grey paint. Then everything was sealed in with a coat of satin varnish. I used pastels to create an exhaust trail and staining on the underside of the wings where the wheels would throw up dirt. With everything ready I added the antenna wires. Although the Blue Rider instructions show three antenna masts I couldn’t find photographic evidence for that configuration so I just used the kit part, and ran wires to each of the fins.


This is very much an oldie but goody. Even though the basic military variant of this kit came out some 30 years ago it holds up pretty well. The civil variant is from a more recent date. While detailing is not up to modern standards, the kit builds with few problems and is accurate. The Italeri/Revell kits are still the only ones available and as they are pretty good it is unlikely there will be anything new in the near future. 

After completing the conversion I noticed that Revel had actually released a kit of the Z-2 (kit nr.4260), so I could have spared myself the trouble of doing my own conversion. If you are wondering what I will do with the left over parts from both kits… well the short tail and the diesels are exactly what is needed for a Ju 86A!

Waffen Arsenal Band 163 
Air Enthusiast #20
Putnam German aircraft of the Second World War
Monogram Official painting guide to German aircraft 1935-1945

Image credits: All model photos © 2013 Johan de Wolf; Box art © ItaleriJu 86 photos author's collection and via Insignia of China