Tuesday 24 December 2013

Seasonal Best Wishes

Wishing all readers of Aviation of Japan the very best for the Season and the New Year.

Image credit: John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) via Web

Friday 20 December 2013

New Rising Decals Trio

A veritable cornucopia of colourful decals for Japanese aircraft in 1/72nd scale is provided by these three new sets from Rising Decals. First up is RD72059 with the continuation of Japanese Naval Carrier Bombers Part II containing markings for four 'Kates', two B5N1 and two B5N2, and three B6N2 'Jills'

  • B5N2 of 601st Ku, Zuikaku 1944. A torpedo carrier in standard dark green finish.
  • B5N2 of Zuikaku at Peal Harbor in Dec 1941. A second wave bomb carrier with command markings and 'sunray' stripes on the upper wings.
  • B5N1 of Yokosuka Ku Maintenance Training Unit in Summer 1941. Silver with red tail and fuselage arrow marking. Although described as natural metal finish some B5N1 were painted aluminium so check your references carefully.
  • B5N1, another Yokosuka Ku maintenance trainer in silver with red  tail and fuselage length red stripe
  • B6N2 of 653rd Ku, 263rd Hikotai off Zuikaku in June 1944 with the curious character 'naka' (中 middle, centre, sometimes used for China) positioned on the fuselage Hinomaru.
  • B6N2 of 210th Ku at Kushira, Japan in March 1945 - a torpedo carrier.
  • B6N2 of Okinawa Ku, April 1945.

A useful set offering some welcome alternative markings for Hasegawa's ex-Mania 'Kate' and especially for Fujimi's 'Jill'. As always with Rising excellent colour printing and saturation. Bear in mind if building the Pearl Harbor 'Kate' that although the colour call out given is for standard IJN Green the matt dark green paint on the aircraft downed during the attack has been reported to be in the range FS 34079-34064-34084. Overall and under surface colours were the amber grey factory colour, approximately slightly lighter than FS 16350.

Next is Part II of Japanese Army Light Bombers as RD72060 providing markings for three Ki-30 'Ann', three Ki-36 'Ida' and three Ki-51 'Sonia'. Very appealing this one, with some colourful and unusual insignia.

  • Ki-30 of the 2nd Chutai, 31st Sentai flown by a named pilot over Burma in early 1942. In green and brown camouflage with command band and victory markings.
  • Ki-30 of Dokuritsu 74th Chutai in the Philippines in 1942. In dark green with the uncommon 'flag' type fuselage Hinomaru set on a white rectangle. This might have been related to or reflected by the Naval General Staff Order No.162 of 21 August 1942 regarding the Army-Navy agreement for distinguishing markings on aeroplanes  which stated at III.B that "the red roundels on the fuselage of camouflaged airplanes will have a white rectangle or roundel as background."
  • Ki-30 of the 6th Sentai in Manchuria in plain grey-green scheme. Curiously Rising suggest GSI Creos (Gunze) # 35  IJN Grey for this and other aircraft on the sheet. That is a definite blue-grey, slightly more bluish in appearance than FS 36373.
  • Ki-36 of an unknown unit, said to be in the China area circa 1939. The square marking on the tail is a stylised Katakana character 'ro' (ロ). Other aircraft in the same unit were marked 'i' (イ), 'ni' (ニ), and 'ho' (ホ). The aircraft is depicted in a tri-tone scheme* with green and brown added to the basic grey-green but it is probable that three colours were applied on the upper surfaces, either khaki, olive green and red-brown or khaki, olive green and indigo. The  interesting wing leading edge line of sight bearing markings are included as decals too.   
  • Ki-36 of Dokuritsu 74th Chutai at Baguio in the Philippines in 1942. A companion to the Ki-30 in dark green with the same rectangular 'flag' fuselage Hinomaru and a yellow fuselage band.
  • Ki-36 said to be of the Dokuritsu 73rd Chutai in the China area circa 1941. A colourful bird in grey-green with red tail feathers and blue and white fuselage bands.
  • Ki-51 of an unknown unit, said to be a Tokko unit during the Okinawa campaign of Spring 1945. In a reticulated green mottle with colourful cherry blossom and wings marking on the tail.
  • Ki-51 of 3rd Chutai, 26th Sentai at Dagua, New Guinea in 1944. In an interesting worn and hybrid scheme that will provide a satisfying challenge to paint.
  • Ki-51 of  2nd Chutai, 26th Sentai at But, New Guinea in 1943.

A very colourful set!

As usual with Rising all the schemes on this sheet are interesting and well-chosen, providing lots of opportunity to model something different from the kits suggested. Hasegawa's ex-Mania 'Sonia' is still the only game in town but a good one. Fujimi's Ki-36 is an enjoyable classic with ripe poential for enhancement and AZ Models has issued a revised and improved version of Pavla's Ki-30. I doubt we shall see 'Ann' from Fujimi or Hasegawa any time soon but one can live in hope and these decals certainly sharpen that aspiration.

Last but not least is another set to cover Japanese historical civil aviation subjects as  RD72062 J-Birds Part III with markings for a Douglas DC-3, a Junkers F-13 with sea boots and a Tiger Moth. There are bonus markings for DC-2 too!

  • Douglas DC-3 Dakota J-BDOL 'Kashiwa' of Dai Nippon Koku Kabushiki Kaisha circa 1940 in overall natural metal finish with large black codes, the airline logo, aircraft name and Douglas trademarks. Alternative finishing details for this aircraft are provided at the Rising website together with photos of the original.
  • Junkers F-13 J-BAZG 'Dai Nana Giyuu' of Nippon Koku-Yuso Kenkyusho om the early 1930s in natural metal and black with black and white codes. Rising offer a separate resin modification set for this subject.
  • De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth J-APAE 'Hayabusa' of the Kwantung Provincial Police, Manchuria circa 1930s in overall aluminium dope finish with black codes and two options of police 'sunburst' insignia in red and yellow or black and yellow.
That Japanese Police Tiggie has to be one of the 
more unusual options for the classic biplane!

A very nice set filling another gap in options for anyone looking for unusual and off-beat schemes for classic aircraft. Fortuitously Airfix have a newly-tooled DC-3 and Tiger Moth scheduled for 2014 and if they are anything like their recent new tool releases they will be worth waiting for. With special thanks to Mirek for providing the opportunity to preview these excellent decal sets.

*The Arii (ex-LS) kit of the Ki-46 depicts a similar tri-tone scheme but shows three distinct upper surface colours (as opposed to two colours combined with the overall grey-green). These are described in the instructions as 'deep green colour' (nou ryoku shoku or ko midori iro 濃緑色), 'tea brown color' ( cha kasshoku 茶褐色) and 'light brown colour' ( unusually written as  usu cha iro 薄茶色 - the first character 薄 usually means weak or diluted and I have seen this colour term described as 'buff' in an old Japanese dictionary, whereas a more common term for light brown is tan kasshoku - 淡褐色. I think there is a distinction to be made here between a light brown per se and a genuine buff colour or true khaki). All three colours need to be mixed from various combinations of the basic Gunze (GSI Creos) colours green, yellow, brown and black. This is not to suggest the descriptions or mixing ratios are correct but only to note and record it for information. The colour term cha kasshoku is an interesting one as I have seen it translated variously as tea brown, yellowish brown, dark reddish brown, liver colour and brown slightly tinged  with black!

Image credits: All © 2013 Rising Decals

Monday 16 December 2013

Goodbye To Some ~ A Novel

When I blogged the images of that stricken Sonia over Miri in October I confess that I was a bit ignorant of the role and record of the PB4Y patrol bombers - navalised B-24  Liberators - of the United States Navy (USN)  during the Pacific War. After the blog I was made aware of the number of PB4Y 'ace' crews with multiple Japanese aircraft claims and also about a novel called 'Goodbye To Some' written in 1961 by Gordon Forbes, a former USN pilot and language teacher (and not to be confused with the South African writer of the same name). Although the book is presented as fiction it is based on actual experiences and is very clearly a 'disguised' memoir. It pulls no punches in the honesty of its depictions and there is one heck of a sting in the tail at the end.

Surprisingly, given the quality of the writing, it was quite hard to get hold of a copy and I had to ignore a few negative reviews  and the usual purple paperback blurb of the time in my determination to read it. Although classed as an 'anti-war' novel it is objectively cynical rather than subjectively embittered and there is none of the sometimes clichéd self-pitying and self-serving disillusionment often expressed in anti-war literature, fictional or factual, about the war in Vietnam. The author, a native of California, who died in 2009 in a Veterans Nursing Home at the age of 91, fronted most of the chapters with a literal translation of words taken from the Japanese 'Roei no uta' - 'Bivouac Song'. The Japanese enemy in the book are not faceless and encounters with Japanese aircraft are constructed with some authenticity. There is also a fascinating back office illumination of the way crew rosters and assignments were worked out. But it is the dangerous tedium of constant routine long-range flying that captures and enlightens the imagination, for example the palpable terror of piloting an overloaded bomber off a pre-dawn dark coral strip and watching the fuel syphon from the over-filled tanks in a stream above the wing as sparks twinkle back from the exhausts below it.

The book speaks for a host of flyers, pilots and crewmen, American and Japanese, very young men who did not ride to glory and into the pages of history as 'aces' but who did their simple duty, as confided by Admiral Nelson, in relative obscurity. Ordinary men who though often terrified, went up for sortie after sortie until the end, either to be killed or to survive and to continue in the obscurity that marked their service. For that reason alone I think the book is worthy of being mentioned. But it is just worth reading regardless and I unhesitatingly recommend it.

I'm departing from SOP here to add a received comment from Mark Smith to the main blog article. I hope he won't mind but I felt it conveyed a lot more about the book than I managed to write above and deserved to be included here:-

"I concur that this is a book of enduring value. It has a haunting quality. No one who reads it will quickly forget the character of Prime, a hell-for-leather pilot of undoubted bravery bordering on insanity, but a kind with whom few want to fly, and one that most deeply dislike. (Whether it was fair or not, I couldn't help but think of McGuire). At some point in a Prime mission, everything in the cockpit will be 'glued to the overhead,' and most everyone inside terrified that the ship will break up. And after this book, 'siphoning' afterward always will have a malevolent secondary meaning. 

Yet it's one of the funniest books I can remember, if that humor is sometimes black, and even Elmore Leonard never wrote better dialogue. I've read it twice and will again; it's a good antidote to the blind romanticism that characterizes much aviation history. Technically it's fiction, yet nothing rings untrue; and some details demand attention as history, forgotten by all others except the ones to whom it was happening, a Minority Report to the official squadron history. 

There is no real affection for the aircraft, rather a mistrust and dread, and a deep desire to survive the machine. Japanese aircraft are occasionally encountered or reported, but not feared in the way that an overloaded Consolidated routinely sent just beyond its maximum range (usually for an officer's glory) is feared. I thought I wanted to build a PB4Y someday, but after reading this book years ago, that oddly and permanently changed! We asked so much of men like these, how could they possibly have come home and told the rest of us what it was like? Forbes needed a few years to process it, but the novel was the perfect form, and the result remains a masterpiece. "

Thank you Mark. You echo my thoughts exactly.

Image credit: Book cover © 1965 Panther Books Ltd and ©  1961 Gordon Forbes

Saturday 14 December 2013

Thorpe in 3D!

Mark Smith who has been following the ongoing series of rambling Thoughts about Hayate very kindly sent this image of a stunning 1/48th scale Hayate model built by Jim Barr and inspired by the painting of the 29th Sentai Hayate on the cover of Donald W Thorpe's 1968 'Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II'. Unfortunately this is the only image still available as the model was built "a long time ago in a galaxy far away". Jim masked and painted the wave arrow insignia using tape. The blog post title is taken from Mark's email too. Thank you both for facilitating the sharing of this one.

Image credits:- Hayate model © Jim Barr via Mark Smith; Book cover © 1968 Donald W Thorpe and Aero Publishers, Inc.

Friday 13 December 2013

Vojta Halamíček's Ki-61-II Kai 'Bubbletop' in 1/72nd scale

It is no secret that I'm a bit partial to the real 'Japanese Mustang' whose performance potential was curbed both by the unreliability of and subsequent unavailability of its engine. The Ki-100 was a sparkling substitute but there are many intriguing possibilities had the Ki-61-II Kai been developed with a fully-functional and unflawed DB 605 engine available for production in quantity. It is therefore a real delight to be able to share and show these images of the RS Models KI-61-II Kai in 1/72nd scale as built by Vojta Halamíček in the markings of the 56th Sentai based on a well-known photograph of the original. The finesse and attention to detail of this model (note those blanked off gun ports), especially in the painting and finishing, are simply stunning and put many a larger scale model to shame.

Vojta found that the dimensions and shape of the kit matched plans very well and encountered no problems in assembly, the kit requiring only a tiny lick of putty around the top cowling panel and radiator. Vojta chose to replace the radiator grid as the only real detour from an out-of-box build. The kit supplied cockpit is detailed and well equipped so Vojta made just a few simple improvements but notes that there is a photo-etch set available for this kit from Brengun. The complete build can be followed here in Czech language where Vojta comments on the subtle green-brown shifts of the paint scheme.

During the build Vojta corresponded about the paint finish and colours of this aircraft so I was pleased to be able make a very modest contribution to the superb end result. The upper surface finish beautifully represents the factory applied olive brown colour (IJAAF # 7 or 1-1 as it became after February 1945) which Vojta  mixed from GSI Creos (Gunze) H78 Olive Drab 2 and H405 Olive Green. The under surfaces were Alclad 101 Aluminium variously tinted and toned. Overall varnish was Sidolux and then the model was oil washed and weathered with 502 Abteilung oil paints and MiG Production pigments. Finally the paint chipping was added using Tamiya X-11Chrome Silver.

More views of this superb model here. With special thanks to Vojta for kindly sharing the build details and images here. And I have an inkling of his next build which is eagerly awaited at Schloss Straggler.

Image credits: All © 2013 Vojta Halamíček

Saturday 7 December 2013

Yet More Hayate Thoughts ~ The Non Standard Schemes Part One

The star-spangled Hayate attributed to Corporal Noburo Naito was brought to attention in the West by the Richard Ward profile (below) which appeared in the Aircam Aviation Series book of 1971 - 'Nakajima Ki.84a/b Hayate in Japanese Army Air Force Service'. It later appeared, similarly presented in a solid dark green colour scheme, in the splendid cover painting by artist Otto Kuhni for Scale Modeler magazine of September 1972  (above), depicting it as the furthest of two hard climbing Hayate of the interesting 520th Rinji Bôju Sentai, one of the few Hayate units to actually qualify as B-29 interceptors. According to an earlier Japanese reference book 'Japanese Military Aircraft and Air War' Vol.4 Corporal Noburu Naito of the Kurata tai (sic. Lt Kurai's unit) had shot down one B-29 and damaged  two. Aircraft '16' with the eagle and bomb motif was flown by Cpl Kuroiwa and Cpl Naito's aircraft '24' carried the motif of a leaping hare on the port side of the cowling above that number. 

The box art of the Tamiya 1/48 Ki-84 released in 1972 depicted Cpl Naito's '24' (above) about to attack a formation of B-29s, its white Homeland Defence 'bandages' applied as rectangular 'flags'. The aircraft is depicted with solid dark green upper surfaces, without an anti-glare panel, and the instructions suggest blue for the under surfaces. In the instructions Naito is referred to as Staff Sergeant Joten Naito and the aircraft as being flown from Nakatsu airfield from March to May 1945.

The 520th originated in the 1st Rensei Hikotai (Operational Training Unit), also coded as the Tobu (Eastern) 133rd unit or Kon (Dark Blue) 520th unit. According to Yoji Watanabe the unit was formed from the 1st Rensei Hikotai at Sagami (now Nakatsu) in Kanagawa on 22nd July 1944 for operational training and to provide an air defence interception capability using shotai (flights) led by instructors and composed of the most talented student pilots fresh from flying schools. The unit had about 100 pilots, mostly 18-19 years old  with "student pilot" Sergeant rank. It was commonly referred to as the 520th Rinji Bôju Sentai (臨時傍受戦隊) meaning  temporary (or special, extraordinary) air defence (interception) unit. The unit was mainly equipped with the Ki-84 but also operated the Ki-27 and Ki-43. After January 1945 they engaged briefly in air defence interceptions, but from March they were re-organised into tokubetsu kôgeki tai (usually abbreviated as tokkô tai ) special attack units for the battle of Okinawa, their aircraft upper surfaces re-painted in an almost black dark green with Hinomaru retained only on the underside of the wings and each pilot's individual motif applied in white chalk

According to Allied intelligence sources the 1st Rensei Hikotai had been formed in April 1944 to provide operational (or advanced) fighter training with Ki-54, Ki-55 and Ki-79 (Mansyu Type 2 advanced trainer) aircraft. The training unit came under the 102nd Kyoiku Hikodan (Training Air Division) headquartered at Gifu and was also noted as using Kagamigahara airfield. From July to August 1945 the 1st was noted as  "training NCO pilots on fighters and light bombers under 52d FDk."  The 10th May 1945 intelligence summary (page II-9) recorded that virtually all of the fighter Rensei Hikotai "are largely equipped with combat type aircraft" and that many "have been used tactically for convoy escort, anti-submarine patrol and interception." According to Mr Watanabe the 520th special interceptor unit was under  direct 1st Air Army command.

Naito's eponymous Hayate was one of the options included in Tamiya's second issue of their 1/72nd Hayate kit FA104  from 1971 and also featured on the box art  (above), but curiously only showing the starboard side of the aircraft. It was  presented both on the box art and in the instructions (shown below) in a mottled colour scheme noted as  being "spotted painting of dark green colour on the blue ground".  The blue was described in a 1968 AiReview magazine article on the 520th by Rikyu Watanabe as a 'beautiful' light blue similar to the Luftwaffe's Hellblau rather than the standard Army grey green colour. The 1st/520th unit marking was a diagonal red band with white border on the vertical fin but each formation painted a distinctive colour on the spinner whilst formation leaders were distinguished by two or three white bands on the rear fuselage. For a brief period some aircraft had the leading edge of the fin painted yellow rather than the diagonal red band. The 'coloured' lower portions of the wheel covers frequently shown in illustrations of Hayate from this unit were in reality just the distinctive heavy staining from the lower cowling exhaust outlets which passed over those parts of the covers in flight.

Although Sergeant Noburo Naito was indeed a pilot in the 520th the famous Hayate with the shooting stars on the cowling was in fact the regular mount of his squadron leader 2nd  Lt Toshizo Kurai and appears in photographs in Yoji Watanabe's 'Pictorial History of Air War Over Japan - Japanese Army Air Force' (Hara Publishing 1980) and in the January 2001 Koku-Fan magazine. These show the aircraft with a mottled rather than solid finish and with one and later three white fuselage bands. The Koku Fan photograph shows two  'shooting stars' whilst a photo of the sleeve of Lt Kurai's flight suit in Mr Watanabe's book shows five embroidered 'shooting stars' to represent his claims. As was often the case the markings on this particular aircraft probably did not remain static but changed over time with the fortunes of its pilot(s). Also the shooting star emblem might have been a standard 'kill' marking within this unit. The colour scheme and markings of Lt Kurai's aircraft were as shown below in the profile and notes from the excellent Lifelike Decals sets 72-013 and 48-013 for the Ki-84 Hayate.

Finish is depicted as dense dark green mottle over natural metal 
note how mottle becomes heavier towards tail

Lt Kurai's aircraft also featured in a 2002 limited edition issue from Hasegawa of their veteran 1/72nd Hayate kit (below) but in my own example the decal sheet is misprinted and the "shooting stars" consist only of blue discs and red comet tails with no white stars. The aircraft is depicted without fuselage bands and the option to place the "shooting star" decals on both sides of the cowling. The green mottle is shown over grey green and not the primary source description of light blue in the 1968 article. A second 520th option in solid dark green colour with two white fuselage bands is also included and a photograph of this machine may be found on page 181 of Kojinsha's excellent Maru magazine special # 8 'Japan No1 Fighter Nakajima Ki84 Hayate'. Interestingly the suggested cockpit interior and wheel well colour for this kit is GSI Creos 331 which represents BS381c # 638 Dark Sea Grey.

In addition to this the markings of this aircraft were featured in 1/72nd scale on Microscale decal sheet 72-167 Axis Aces WWII (below) and in 1/48th scale in Aeromaster 48-616: Ki-84 pt II. Aeromaster's subject is depicted in a plain dark green scheme. A line up photograph of 1st/520th Hayate fighters shows the aircraft in a mix of natural metal, solid and mottled finishes. Lt Kurai was killed on 10 February 1945 when he reportedly rammed a B-29 and his parachute failed during the costly raid against the Nakajima assembly plant at Ota.

Microscale depicted the aircraft in dark green mottle over pale green 
with decals for the supposedly red wheel covers

The star-spangled Hayate is a worthy modelling subject, featuring a challenging colour scheme and representing both an interesting unit that pioneered the Ki-84 in its limited B-29 interception role over Japan and a pilot with multiple B-29 claims. Most scale models of Hayate seem to favour the "standard" solid schemes but in this and future Hayate Thoughts articles some different and non-standard schemes will be explored.  Previous articles in this series may be found here and here.

With special thanks to Mr Ryusuke Ishiguro.

Image credits: Otto Kuhni Ki-84 painting © 1972 shown with the kind permission of Challenge Publications Inc.; Richard Ward profile © 1971 Osprey Publishing Ltd; Box art and instructions © Tamiya Inc; Decal profile © Lifelike Decals (with kind permission of Mr Keishiro Nagao); Box art © 2002 Hasegawa Corporation

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Japanese Aircraft Models ~ IPMS Roanoke Show 18-19 October 2013

Ken Glass has very kindly shared some of his excellent photographs of Japanese aircraft models displayed at the IPMS Roanoke Show in October this year. The superb models and equally superb photography speak for themselves but unfortunately some of the builders are unknown. If you should recognise your model here please do drop me a line and I shall be very pleased to update this blog with full attribution and any details about the kit and build you might care to share here, thanks.

Expertly finished 1/48th scale Mitsubishi A6M2 from the carrier Hiryu

Impressive 1/48th scale A6M5-K two-seat trainer of the Tsukuba Kokutai built by Kevin Hensel using an Eduard zoom set for the cockpits, Master gun barrels in the cowling, pitot from Aluminum tubing, and some other added details. Kevin notes that the panel wash is not as light as it appears in the photos.

Beautifully finished 1/72nd scale Mitsubishi G4M2 'Betty' in TAIU-SWPA markings by Scott Bregi of IPMS/ Tidewater won best aircraft of show.

Splendid Nakajima Ki-27 Otsu of 244th Sentai in Home Defence markings

Lovely 1/48th scale Nakajima Ki-44-II Hei of the 29th Sentai

Simply stunning 1/32nd scale Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu (Ho-301 armed) of the 47th Sentai in Home Defence markings also built by Kevin Hensel with added Eduard seatbelts, Quickboost exhausts, wired engine and other minor additions.  Kevin also filled and rescribed the fuselage panels on the forward fuselage which he found was the worst feature of the kit due to the way Hasegawa moulded the separate panels.  He says that he probably spent more time on those panels than on any other part of the kit!  Kevin used homemade masks to paint the Hinomaru and the canopy with masks by Montex.

Awesome Kawasaki Ki-61-I of 244th Sentai Hombu 

Image credits: All © 2013 Ken Glass; A6M5-K and Ki-44-II Otsu model details courtesy of builder Kevin Hensel