Wednesday 31 December 2014

Rising Decals Ki-49 Radar Antenna ~ Final Blog for 2014

The latest accessory and decal set from prolific Rising Decals is RD Acr-008 for a Nakajima Ki-49 'Helen' of the 74th Sentai based in the Philippines in October 1944 equipped with a Ta-ki 1 Model 1 sea-search radar. This features resin-moulded Yagi type antenna arrays and their mountings for the nose and starboard wing together with a decal sheet providing the Hinomaru, unit tail marking and nose pennant. A particular kit is not recommended and therefore the set could probably be used to dress up the Revell/Takara veteran as well as with the more recent Hasegawa release.  The resin parts are finely moulded and will require care in their clean-up and construction.

Two identical sheets are included to make up the required markings for one aircraft

The 74th Sentai had been formed on the Mitsubishi Ki-21 'Sally' in July 1940 as part of the 5th Air Brigade, together with the 95th Sentai, for service in Manchuria but re-equipped with the ill-fated Nakajima Ki-49 'Helen' from May 1943. After a brief deployment to the Kuriles in March 1944 the unit was transferred to the Philippines in the autumn of that year. It returned to Obihiro, Hokkaido in April 1945 and was consolidated with the remnants of the 95th Sentai (another Ki-49 unit) which was formally disbanded in May 1945. The 'new' 74th was re-equipped with the Mitsubishi Ki-67 'Peggy'. There are conflicting accounts regarding the fate of the 74th Sentai. Some references report that it moved to Sakhalin with the Ki-67 after consolidation and training at Obihiro, then withdrew to Matsumoto before the end of the war, but other references state that it was still in training with the Ki-67 at Nishi Tsukuba when the war ended. Another source reports that it was assigned as part of 'Ten-go' (the defence of Taiwan and the Ryuku Islands) from March to June 1945.

The Yagi or Yagi-Uda antenna was named after its inventor Hidetsugu Yagi (1886-1976) and was the product of his research into high-frequency radio communications antennae and oscillators at Tohoku Imperial University, aided by two former students Shintara Uda and Kinjiro Okabe. The design was published in a scientific journal in Japan in February 1926 but the subsequent US patent was filed in May 1932 and assigned to RCA. Ironically the Yagi-Uda antenna was in use throughout the world with early radar systems but only "returned" to Japan with captured British and American equipment. Yagi was contemptuous of the Army-Navy jealousy and obsession with secrecy which had impeded scientific research, noting that "each acted as if it would be preferable to lose the war than co-operate."

Army radar development was rooted in Matsatsugu Kobayashi, the manager of the Nippon Electric Company (NEC) who had contacts within the Army Science Research Institute. During 1938-39 NEC managed to secure Army interest and support where none had existed before to develop a barrier-type air detection system known as the Bi-static Doppler Interference Detector (BDID) which was first deployed on the coast of occupied China. Kinji Satake of the Research Institute who had recognised the value of the system went on to develop a more sophisticated radar system for the protection of the Japanese coastline. Further development of targeting systems was spurred when NEC examined captured British and American radar equipment, preparing a research document for the Army which led to the creation of the Tama Technology Research Institute (TTRI or Tama 多摩) in Tokyo, the 'Ta' of which gave birth to the 'Ta' of the Ta-ki designation used for Army airborne radar equipment. The suffix indicated the intended use - 'chi' for land based systems (from tsuchi    for earth), 'se' for nautical systems (from mizu 水 for water) and 'ki' for airborne systems (from kuki 空気 for air). In Western references Ta-chi and Ta-ki sometimes get confused. Tama led and co-ordinated the research effort for the Army but the development work was mostly conducted by the Toshiba Research Institute and the NEC research laboratory of Sumitomo Communications. Ta-ki 1 was an airborne system developed into three applications, with Model 1 used for the detection of marine surface vessels with a range of 12-60 km dependent upon the size of the target. The parallel development of the air-to-air systems is unfortunately shrouded in mystery and secrecy but by the end of the war at least 12 Ki-45 Toryu had been equipped to operate a Ta-ki 2 experimental denpa hyoteki (電波 標的 - radio wave target) air-to-air radar with the antenna installed in a transparent nose cone.

With thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for providing the review sample. 


Watson, Raymond C, Jr - Radar Origins Worldwide (Trafford Publishing 2009)
Mikesh, Robert C - Japanese Aircraft Equipment (Schiffer 2004)
Brown, Louis - A Radar History of World War II, Technical and Military Imperatives (Institute of Physics, 1999)

Image credit: All © 2014 Rising Decals

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Seasonal Best Wishes

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

Image credit: Cranes on a Snow-covered Pine Tree (Katsushika Hokusai 1834)

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Kit Trivia ~ 1/72 'Kate' Kits

With the announcement of a new Airfix Nakajima B5N2 'Kate' in 1/72nd scale the 41 years old 'only game in town' is finally going to face impressive competition. The original and respectable Mania kit of the type is still going strong thanks to a programme of regular re-release by the owners of the original moulds, Hasegawa. The Airfix decision to release a new kit is therefore imaginative and bold. As a carrier borne aircraft capable of long range reconnaissance, high level bombing and torpedo attacks it is an important historical type and although usually associated with Pearl Harbor it was in operation over China from 1938 when Britain's Fleet Air Arm was still dependent on the biplane Swordfish. 'Kate' will make an interesting comparison to that Fairey torpedo bomber, also recently kitted in new form by Airfix.

Original Mania B5N2 box art from 1973 - the box top was devoid of logo and titles

Colour profiles card illustrating the kit options

The Mania kit of the 'Kate' first appeared as the B5N2 in a single boxing from 1973, three years after their first kit of the Nakajima Ki-27 'Nate'. The kit featured the new standard of engineering pioneered by Mania with fine engraved panel lines and surface detail together with a comprehensively furnished interior. Four markings options were included, three Pearl Harbor era aircraft, EII-307 off Zuikaku, Cdr Mitsuo Fuchida's AI-301 off Akagi , EI-311 off Shokaku and the radar equipped KEB 306 of the 931st Kokutai later in the war, together with a card of colour profiles and monochrome schematics of the upper surfaces. KEB 306 should have been depicted with a diagonal red band on the fin and rudder with drift sight markings on the tailplanes. Oddly, although two of the options were for bomb-carrying Kates, only torpedo armament was included in the kit. The brown tail of EII-307 was to become the focus of heated controversy in later years.

Upper surface schematics from original Mania kit

Breakdown of kit parts for the Mania Kate - the extent of interior detail was revolutionary for 1973!

The fuselage of the Mania kit has been reported as being too short in length but on checking the kit parts against the 1/72nd scale plans in the Bunrin-do Famous Airplanes of the World (FAOW) # 32 of 1982 the difference appears marginal, barely 1 mm in the position of the fin and rudder. However the canopy on the Mania/Hasegawa kit does appear a little shallow in profile.

Nitto Kagaku kit # 361-100 circa 1972

At the time of Mania's B5N2 release the only previous kit of the type in comparable scale was by Nitto Kagaku from 1968 which was originally marketed as being to 1/75th scale. The surface detail is reminiscent of early LS kits with prominent engraved panel lines combined with heavy rivets. The kit featured rather crudely working folding wings and in my own second issue (?) example, labelled as being to 1/72nd scale, with 1972 box art by S Komatsuzaki there are three markings options for tail codes KEB-306, A-301 and EII-308, although curiously not B1-312 featured in the art. Interior detail is restricted to three identical crewmen sitting in tandem astride a pole supported in the usual way on fuselage pegs. It is now a relatively rare kit and not easy to find.

Mania 02-800 2 in 1 kit from 1975

In 1975 the Mania 'Kate' was re-issued as 02-800 with two kits in the box with a sprue frame providing the engine and bulged cowling parts for the B5N1 variant together with multiple bomb racks and bombs in addition to the torpedo armament. Most boxes included one kit moulded in silver plastic and one moulded in light grey.

Mania B5N1 sprue frame

This double kit included markings for a B5N1 W-326 off the Soryu during the China campaign as depicted on the superb box art together with three examples of the B5N2: KEB 306 again, AII-306 off Kaga and Fuchida's AI-301. The glossy paper instruction sheet reproduced the box art and included colour profiles of the markings options in a high quality presentation.

Hasegawa A32 from 1978

Hasegawa took Mania over in 1977 and quickly released the kit under their own logo in B5N2 guise with early Shigeo Koike box art as # A32 in their 'Red' series in 1978. Two markings options were offered in the kit, both torpedo carriers, with tail codes A1-301 and AII-306. It was typically moulded in silver coloured plastic. The kit was re-issued with identical box art as # B4 in the 'Blue' series from 1982 to 1987. Two previous issues are reported in Burns* although I have not seen the boxes - JS-129 in 1980 and B004 in 1981. 

Hasegawa B4 from 1982

Hasegawa 02515 from 1988

In 1989 the kit was re-issued with new box art by Tetsuo Makita as 02515 (sometimes listed simply as '515'). This release featured three markings options - BII-315 as depicted on the box art, a Pearl Harbor attack aircraft from Hiryu, the silver and red-tailed 3-317 from the 12th Kokutai in China during 1940-1941 and A1-301 from Akagi as commanded by Cdr Mitsuo Fuchida during the Indian Ocean raids in 1942. 

Hasegawa SP19 from 1989

In the same year Hasegawa also issued the B5N1 variant as SP-19 with profile box art (above) by Eichiro Hasegawa, the artist responsible for many of the Koku Fan magazine colour fold-out profiles. This boxing contained the original Mania B5N1 sprue frame with appropriate engine and cowling parts together with the multiple bomb racks and bombs.  Two markings options were offered, the field-camouflaged and red-tailed 3-356 of 12th Kokutai in China as shown on the box art and a colourful silver C1-301 from the carrier Zuiho in 1942 with a red tail and red horizontal fuselage stripe. The camouflage for 3-356 was suggested to be mixed from Gunze (GSI Creos) aqueous (acrylic) paints; the green from 50% H5 Blue, 45% H6 Green and 5% H4 Yellow, whilst the brown was 60% H4 Yellow, 30% H7 Brown and 5% H3 Red.

Hasegawa AT15 from 1992

In 1992 Hasegawa re-issued the kit as AT15 (above) with identical box art to the 1989 # 02515 issue but with different titling and logo presentation on the box top. Markings options were unchanged.

Hasegawa NP12 from 1995

Three years later the B5N1 got another outing as kit # NP12 'China 1939' with new box art by 'K F'. This kit offered the silver and red-tailed W-326 off the carrier Soryu as depicted together with a field-camouflaged 9 over 349 of the 14th Kokutai. This time the green, described as deep green black colour (濃緑黒色), was to be mixed with 45% H5 Blue, 40% H6 Green, 10% H4 Yellow and 5% H2 Black. The brown, described as dark brown colour (暗褐色) was to be mixed with 65% H7 Brown, 20% H2 Black, 10% H4 Yellow and 5% H3 Red.

Hasegawa AT106 from 1997

In 1997 the B5N2 was re-issued in a special edition as kit # AT106 'Pearl Harbor' with extra parts for a 800kg armour piercing bomb. The box art by 'K F' depicted Cdr Fuchida's AI-301 off Akagi but I do not have an example to record what other options, if any were provided.

Revell 2001 Pearl Harbor Attack Set

In 2001 to mark the 60th Anniversary Revell released a 'Pearl Harbor Attack Set' which consisted of their 1/426th scale USS Arizona kit together with a guest appearance of the Mania/Hasegawa B5N2 in Fuchida's AI-301 markings. The kit included resin and photo-etch parts for the 800 kg bomb. A review of  the complete set is here.

Hasegawa 00378 from 2002

In 2002 the B5N1 flew again as kit # 00378 '3rd Air Wing' with new Shigeo Koike box art depicting the colourful C1-301 off the carrier Zuiho from the 1989 kit. A second silver and red-tailed Yokosuka Kokutai option was provided in the kit as Yo-335. Both torpedo and bomb armament was included.

In 2003 the B5N2 got another brief special edition outing as 'Pearl Harbor Torpedo Command' with the box art depicting A1-311 of Lt. Commander Shigeharu Murata off Akagi. I do not have an example of this kit to verify the number or other markings options and have only been able to find one small image of the box art (above) which replicates one of the 1/48th scale issues. The 1/48th scale version of the kit offered alternative markings for BII-320 flown by Lt Heita Matsumura off Hiryu.

Hasegawa A7 from 2003 - the 'standard' kit

Also in 2003 the new 'standard' issue of the B5N2 appeared as kit # A7 (00137). This came with torpedo armament only and three markings options for BII-315 off Hiryu, a silver and red-tailed 3-317 from the 12th Kokutai in China during 1940-41 and AI-301 of Cdr Fuchida off Akagi for the Indian Ocean raids in 1942. New box art by 'K F' depicted BII-315.

Hasegawa 00635 from 2003

2003 was a busy year as there was yet another special edition B5N2 issued as kit # 00635 'Midway' with unsigned box art depicting BI-310 of Lt Jouichi Tomonaga off Hiryu. This was a curious presentation as although only one option was shown in the kit instructions the decal sheet included a full set of BI and BII codes with alternative double blue fuselage stripes for the latter 'to be freely used'. Perhaps this reflected the fact that photographs of Midway Kates are as rare as hen's teeth.

Hasegawa B5N1/2 'Combo' kit from 2012

In 2012 Hasegawa issued one of their 'Combo' kits of the Kate with parts for two models representing both the B5N1 and B5N2. Optional markings for three aircraft were included, two with unusual tail codes: a natural metal B5N1 ヒメ-307 (Hi-me-307) of the Himeji Kokutai; B5N2 BII-322 off the Hiryu at Pearl Harbor and B5N1 ウサ-317 (U-sa-317) of the Usa Kokutai.

Hasegawa Limited Edition 02013 from 2013

In 2013 Hasegawa re-issued the 800kg bomb-carrying Kate as a Limited Edition kit # 02013. New Shigeo Koike box art depicted Cdr Fuchida's well-known red-tailed AI-301 again with alternative markings for BII-307 off Hiryu. The bomb is  a white metal casting with photo-etched fins. With the release of the Airfix kit will there be any more Hasegawa Kate re-issues, one wonders?

If anyone has any other Hasegawa B5N1/2 box issues not shown in this article the author would appreciate scans of the box art and details to be included here, thanks.

Image credits: Hasegawa box art © 1978-2013 Hasegawa Corporation; Mania art and images author's collection; with special thanks to Dmitry Korolkov for information and image of the Revell Pearl Harbor Attack Set.

Monday 22 December 2014

New for 2015 - 1/72 Nakajima B5N2 'Kate' from Airfix

Pleased to be able to reveal this now as I've been sitting on the knowledge, sworn to secrecy, for too long! New mould, folding wings and optional armament configurations for torpedo or bombs are planned. This is the first all-new 1/72nd scale kit of the type since the 1970s Mania release subsequently re-issued by Hasegawa and very, very welcome. It completes a Pearl Harbor trio for Airfix with only the Aichi D3A1 'Val' as an old moulding so let's hope that they re-do that one too!

The two images above are of the prototype kit during development and include the B5N1. I understand that the interior detail will be more complete and accurate than the Mania/Hasegawa kit.

Additional sprue shots of the kit taken at the Nuremberg Toy Fair by Thomas Volgt:-

Link to Airfix website entry:- Airfix AO4058 B5N2 'Kate' A

Image credits: All © 2014 Hornby Hobbies

Monday 8 December 2014

Some observations about the Ki-78

As a follow-on to discussion of the Friendship Scale Models Ki-78 kit some further observations about that interesting aircraft. The experimental (Ken-3) high speed research plane (試作 [研三] 高速研究機- shisaku [ken san] kousoku kensan kyuu ki) was the outcome of an initially civil research initiative into high altitude and high speed distance flight subsequently taken over by the Army as the Ki-78. The abbreviation 'Ken' was for kensan (研鑽 - research or study). The background and basic details of its origin, development and testing are readily accessible through Francillon* and even Wiki so won't be laboured here beyond some interesting details which are seldom explored.

* Francillon, René J., Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War (Putnams)

Ki-78 - note dark prop blades, absence of Hinomaru and lack of wheel covers

The project began in 1938 under the auspices of the Aeronautical Research Institute at the University of Tokyo but was taken over by the Army in May 1940, whereupon the projected design was designated Ki-78 and Kawasaki were requested to create two prototypes based on a completed wooden mock-up.

Note also absence  of counter balances on elevators

The aeroplane was diminutive, with length and span just over 26 feet. The wing had a laminar flow, low-drag profile (with a very fine leading edge) of low area designed by Echiro Tani with three different types of wing section applied - LB-510-3A16, LB-510-3B14.5 and LB-5103B12. This resulted in a high wing loading and tricky low speed flight during take-off and landing exacerbated by limited vision from the tiny streamlined cockpit canopy. The take off speed was 128.13 mph and landing speed was 106.25 mph. Combination Fowler and split flaps were augmented by drooping ailerons to improve low speed lift. As the main flap deployed the split flap opened to correspond and when the flaps were fully down a synchronised system dropped both ailerons to 10 degrees down. 

The selected power plant was an imported Daimler-Benz DB 601A of 1,175 hp enhanced with water-methanol injection to 1,550 hp. Wing fuel tanks held a total of 250 litres and 60 litres of methanol were carried. Various cooling systems were considered including surface evaporation but ultimately conventional radiators in closely faired housings either side of the rear fuselage were decided on. 

An initial test flight was made from Gifu at dusk on 26 December 1942 with Kawasaki test pilot Saizaburo Kataoka at the controls. All went well and he reported that the acceleration of the aircraft was phenomenal. Following further test flights an issue with elevator flutter was encountered at a speed of 393.75 mph at 3,608 feet as a result of which modifications were made which may have incorporated the counter balances seen in some photographs. Speed tests continued satisfactorily through September to December 1943 culminating in the highest speed recorded of 435 mph at 11,539 ft during the 31st test flight on 27 December 1943. Ultimately the Ki-78 suffered the ignominious fate (below) of many historic Japanese aircraft which if preserved would now be considered priceless.

AZ Models What if?

A 244th Sentai Ki-78 approaches USN Helldivers - is it going to ram them?

The 2010 AZ Models 1/72 injection moulded kit was issued in two versions, each containing parts for two models. It appears to be exactly similar to the Planet Models resin kit which is reviewed here. The rear fuselage looks a wee bit suspect compared to the photographs, a little stunted and hump backed, slightly too deep from the rear of the cockpit back. Checking the dimensions suggests that the kit is short in length by almost a scale foot, just over 4 mm, and this takes away slightly from the sleek look of the original. For those who are bothered by this it is feasible to separate the fuselage at the panel line just in front of the tail and insert a plastic card plug to increase the length, sanding down the depth of the fuselage at top and bottom to achieve a sleeker appearance. The radiators are also too deep but correcting them is more difficult; removing and replacing them with plastic card not being an easy proposition. The relatively thick leading edge of the wing also needs work to represent the razor sharp edge of  the original.

The prototype schemes as presented in AZ 7302 - the second looks very orange!

The first kit AZ 7302 features the actual prototype in two schemes, the painted scheme being shown as orange with the photographic reference panels in red and white. The second kit AZ 7303 presented the Ki-78 in various permutations of what-if warlike garb providing three spurious markings options for the 244th Sentai, the IJN Yokosuka Kokutai and possibly the 1st Sentai, but without identifying them as such. However, the high wing loading and closely cowled power plant made it extremely unlikely that any weapons could be fitted without extensive modification to the airframe, probably resulting in something heading towards Ki-61 territory anyway. The top speed of 435 mph achieved by the Ki-78 was without armament, armour or fuel protection, whereas the armed and armoured Ki-61-II Kai achieved 379 mph at 19,685 ft.  There appears to be no provision in the kit for representing any armament. If the Ki-78 was going to be deployed belligerently it was probably suitable only for use as a fast air-to-air rammer against the B-29!

The 3 markings options in the What if? kit AZ 7303

The Platz Kit

The Platz kit consists of a solid fuselage, single piece wing and separate tailplanes very finely moulded in grey resin. The radiators are moulded integrally to the fuselage with neatly recessed intakes. There is no interior and the canopy is solid clear resin. All other parts, spinner, prop, undercarriage components and tailwheel are cast in good quality white metal. A decal sheet provides the Hinomaru, red prop blade warning stripes and black and white photo reference markings. The comprehensive instructions are in Japanese but all the colours are called out in English. In comparison to the AZ Models kit the Platz kit better captures the svelte look of the original aircraft.

Platz (Unlimited Air Models) Ki-78 'Kensan' Box Art

This kit is now shown as discontinued at HLJ (despite what it says there the Platz instructions do include details for the dark grey option). But if you really want one it can still be ordered direct from Platz and in confidence as they have an excellent mail order service via Hobby Collective. Use the contact form at their site and they will send a confirmation in English and a PayPal invoice on receipt of an email order.

AZ Models vs Platz ~ note position of vertical panel line forward of tail

Colour Schemes

There were two main schemes, documented and evidenced by photographs. The overall metal finish as seen in the photographs above, varied by the addition of an anti-glare panel and Hinomaru in six positions, as shown below. The sequence of at least three different schemes is debatable but the different propeller blade finishes provide clues. The polished blades with red warning stripes usually represent an earlier IJAAF standard whilst the dark brown painted blades with yellow warning stripes came later.

Note prop blade finish and apparent black and white wing tip markings

Whether the metal finish was anodised or treated in any way is unknown. The overall painted finish has been depicted in Japanese sources as a glossy medium blue grey with a matted anti-glare panel (in the same colour) and six photographic reference panels in black and white, three on each side of the fuselage. In addition the upper wing tips had black and white chord wise stripes. The Platz kit depicts the Hinomaru in six positions but the aircraft has also been depicted without upper wing Hinomaru.

The blue-grey painted finish

The Platz 1/72nd scale resin kit showing the two main finishes

Why this painted finish has so often been depicted as orange is puzzling. IJAAF experimentals and prototypes do not appear to have followed IJN requirements or Army-Navy conventions and were generally unpainted. Despite the Naval General Staff Order No.162 ‘Army-Navy Agreement With Regard To Distinguishing Markings For Friendly Military Airplanes’ of 21 August 1942 which called for experimental aircraft to be painted yellow (黄色 - ou-shoku) where possible, Kawasaki Army experimental prototypes before and after Ken-3 remained unpainted - e.g. Ki-60, Ki-61, Ki-64. In any case the Army colour was more an orange-yellow than the deep orange suggested by the AZ Models kit and other depictions. The reason for painting Ken-3 in the unusual blue grey scheme is obscure; whether that was connected to the secrecy of the first test flight or whether it just represented an attempt to improve aerodynamics by filling, painting and smoothing the airframe is unknown. 

United Air Models (Platz) prototype model in flight

The Platz kit suggests that the grey finish was used for the 31st test flight on 27 December 1943 and that it has often been described as dark grey but that Takeo Doi (the Kawasaki designer responsible for the Ki-61 Hien) maintained that it was a light grey. With medium greys the degree of darkness or lightness perceived in the colour is often subjective. But however dark or light it was it wasn't remembered as orange!

In models of the Ki-78 some variation in the metal finish scheme could be achieved by differencing the fabric covered flying control surfaces which were finished in aluminium dope and by representing an anodised or coated finish on the metal panels to give a slightly golden or amber effect. The anti-glare panel on the metal finish was possibly painted in the standard Army # 32 Koku ran shoku (黒藍色 - black indigo colour) which was a blueish-purple black similar to the colour of aubergines (eggplant). For the blue-grey finish a paint like the French gris bleu foncé is suggested, a little darker than FS 35164 and just a little more blue than RAL 7031 Blaugrau. Humbrol 79 Matt Blue Grey and Revell 79 Greyish blue (which is supposed to match RAL 7031) are in the ball park but bear in mind that the finish was glossy and that will slightly darken the appearance of the paint. The prop blades on the grey scheme appear to be polished metal with red tip stripes and the rear faces painted dark brown or possibly black.

Interior colours are anyone's guess but the Army standard at the time was the dark blue-grey of # 3 Hai Ran Shoku (灰藍色 - ash [grey] indigo colour). Was that same colour also used on the exterior?

Whichever kit is selected the diminutive Kansen makes an interesting display companion to Kawasaki's Ki-60 and  Ki-61 or in any collection of experimental prototypes.

Image credits: Artwork unknown; Photographs: SanDiego Air and Space Museum and web; Post-war photo courtesy James F Lansdale; Box art © AZ Models; Platz model images © Platz ; with special thanks to Tetsuya Inoue 

Thursday 4 December 2014

Horatio Hernández and Friendship Scale Models

Back in May when I blogged the images of John Haas' superbly scratch-built Ki-77 I briefly mentioned the Friendship Scale Models 1/72 mixed media kit of that type. Friendship Scale Models was the brainchild of the late Horatio Hernández, perhaps one of the unsung pioneers of Japanese aviation modelling. Horatio was an enthusiastic modeller of Japanese aviation history of the Second World War and of the inter-war period. His own favorite scale was 1/72nd so that was the scale he chose for Friendship Scale Models. In the period from circa 1991 to 1995 he also distributed Model Art, Model Graphix and other Japanese publications within Mexico.

I had the privilege, all too briefly, of corresponding (old style) with Horatio (shown above) at the turn of the century. It was about an aircraft of mutual interest - the Ki-44 - and I still have the working dossier copy that he had prepared and sent to me with meticulously catalogued examples of that machine and his carefully considered questions about their markings and colour schemes. In early 1992 Horatio conceived the idea of making resin kits of the rarer types of Japanese aircraft under the brand name Amigo Models and approached the Smooth-On distributors of silicon rubbers and urethane resins in Mexico as a potential source of resin. Smooth-On advised Horatio to make the larger parts of the bigger kits he planned to create by using the vacuum forming process.

In early 1993 Horatio changed the name of his company to Friendship Scale Models and issued his first kit of the Kokusai Ki-59 as FSM-001. Unfortunately I have been unable to locate any images of this kit, built or unbuilt. Horatio's second kit was the Ki-77 as FSM-002 (above). In contrast the third and sadly the last kit was the diminutive Kawasaki Ki-78 experimental research aeroplane as FSM-003, of which I do have an example. After this third kit Horatio had problems with the vacuum forming arrangements and his future planned releases were never made:-

FSM-004 Nakajima Ki-87
FSM-005 Tachikawa Ki-94
FSM-006 Mitsubishi Ki-57
FSM-007 Tachikawa Ki-54
FSM-008 Aichi H9A1 (planned for 1994)

That was a great pity because the Ki-78 is exquisite, both in the quality of moulding and presentation, putting some more mainstream manufacturers to shame.

The Ki-78 is moulded in buff-coloured resin with a solid fuselage and separate one-piece wing as the main components. All the remaining parts are delicately moulded in resin with the exception of the vacuum-formed canopy, still perfectly clear. Unusually for such a limited run resin kit two identical sheets of well-printed decals are provided, stencil markings included. There is a summary history of the type, references and colour scheme notes, together with plans showing the two scheme options. This was, and is, a quality product revealing a labour of love.

The amount of data included is impressive

Assembly diagram showing component parts of the kit

Provision is made for the model to be finished in-flight with wheels up with the covers moulded in the closed position. The fuselage radiators are separate parts (whereas they are moulded integrally to the fuselage in both the AZ Models and Platz kits) and a pilot seat is included. The resin is finely moulded with delicately recessed panel lines and the overall shape captures the compact, svelte appearance of the original aircraft. There is a nice build of what I think might be the FSM kit by Jim Schubert at the Wings of Peace website here.

The decal sheet complete with stencils ~ the photo reference marks should be black and white

The main resin components of the Ki-78 kit - the detail parts are equally finely moulded

Plans included - a quality product

After FSM's pioneering 1/72nd scale Ki-78 came the superb Platz resin model in 2003, then the Planet Models resin kit and ultimately the AZ Models limited run plastic kit in 2010, two models in each box, from which a proliferation of orange models unfortunately appeared, of which more anon. In 1/48th scale there were the Japanese Raccoon and Czech MTS resin kits.

At his home in Mexico City Horatio liked to wear traditional Japanese dress for comfort and inspiration, one might say that he was immersed in his enthusiasm for the subject. He attended model contests, bringing ten or so models with him. Later he moved to Aguascalientes on the other side of Mexico and into modelling obscurity. I am indebted to Guillermo for his personal insight about Horatio but if any readers have additional knowledge, anecdotes or examples of the kits (especially the Ki-59)  it will be a pleasure to be able to add them here as a lasting tribute to Horatio's passion for the subject. It is a particular regret that I cannot include an image of Horatio himself. Horatio Hernández and Friendship Scale Models, Aviation of Japan salutes you. Gone but not forgotten.

Image credits: Ki-77 box art via net; others author's collection