Tuesday 9 September 2014

1/48th scale Kyushu K9WI Maple (Cypress) by John Haas

This time another exquisite John Haas 'little gem' in the form of the diminutive Kyushu K9WI Momiji (楓 - Maple), Allied code name Cypress, Navy Type 2 Primary Trainer Model 11, a license- build Bücker Bü-131"Jungmann". It was originally built under licence for the IJN but in 1943 the Japanese Army also adopted it as the Ki-86, Type 4 Primary Trainer, ultimately using more than three times as many as the Navy. 

John made this model from a 1/48th scale vacuform kit from MPM Models, now out of production. He was impressed by the MPM vacuforms and managed to purchase most of the range including some rare examples like the FW-89, Tupelov SB-2  and Siebel Si-204.

Whilst appreciative that it usually takes more care and experience to build vacuforms than injection moulded kits, John thought this one was a piece of cake. However the small parts which were injection moulded took a lot of work to clean up and remove flash from. John liked the special camouflage paint- diagram, which also included the underside.

The Kyushu Aeroplane Co. (Kyushu Hikoki K K), originally the Watanabe Ironworks Ltd (Watanabe Tekkosho K K) also made other types for the Navy and produced wheels for other aircraft manufacturers. The IJN had first evaluated the Bücker Bü-131 in 1938 as a potential replacement for the Type 3 Primary Trainer, subsequently importing a total of 20 for testing. Watanabe were then instructed to produce a similar aeroplane design and submitted two, one of them a monoplane, but the IJN decided on domestic production of the original Bücker design with Watanabe obtaining a licence to manufacture. The first example was constructed in August 1941 with a Japanese engine, the Hitachi Hatsukaze Model 11. A total of 17 pre-production examples were built, followed by 200 production aircraft and Hitachi manufactured an additional 60. The Hitachi engine was not as efficient as the German original suffering from more vibration and inconsistent power output. The type was originally designated as Koyo (紅葉 - autumn leaves, also maple).

The Army version was manufactured by Nihon Kokusai Koku with the first prototype completed in July 1943 and official acceptance in early 1944.  The original aircraft had a metal fuselage frame and metal panels but in January 1944 an all-wood version was proposed as the Type 4 Otsu (Ki-86 II) whereupon the earlier version received the designation Type 4 Ko (Ki-86 I). 

Image credit: All model photographs © 2014 John Haas

Saturday 6 September 2014

Old, unhappy, far-off things, And battles long ago

The map above shows the results of the B-29 bombing campaign by comparing Japanese cities to comparably sized cities in the USA and expressing their destruction as a percentage of how much of the city was burned out.

I've just completed the draft text of Ki-61/Ki-100 Aces for Osprey. As I wrote the last two chapters the experience was sobering and thought provoking. The air defence of Japan also featured in Ki-44 Aces and here I was again reading and writing about the aircrew experiences on both sides, trying to reconcile the often confused and contradictory testimonies, contemplating the horrible reality of what the statistics concealed, coming to terms with the extent of human tragedy and loss, as well as the paradoxical demonstrations of the finest qualities of the human spirit. It is all too easy to drift into viewing that terrible campaign through the prism of actual B-29 losses alone and to presume old clichés about the extent to which the Japanese fighter force was "finished" in the air. But that really does a disservice to the young men on both sides who endured and sacrificed so much in the name of duty and responsibility, determination for their homeland and desire to protect their families. 

That map and the B-29 losses are sobering enough but the statistics of damaged B-29s and wounded crewmen (physical and otherwise) are largely unknown. There is the darker aspect of the B-29 crews who survived the horrific experience of being shot down only to be executed by their captors, in some cases after the war had officially ended. This was an intense, vicious air campaign with little or no let up on either side. I don't particularly enjoy the experience of flying in modern airliners but the B-29 crews and fighter pilots, Japanese and American, accepted the danger of flying, in combat and in hostile skies, again and again knowing what they risked. My respect for them knows no bounds.

On 27 January 1945 the bombers attacking the Nakajima factory endured 984 individual fighter attacks, the 497th BG alone enduring 554 of them. The 530 B-29s that attacked Kobe on 5 June 1945 endured no less than 647 individual Japanese fighter attacks. The 862 B-29s that attacked Japan on the night of 1 August 1945 burned out an average of 78% of the built up areas of four cities, over six square miles, and dropped 1,025 tons of high explosive, 5,115 tons of incendiaries and 242 tons of mines. The single B-29 loss was the result of flak hits followed by two gun attacks and then a ramming or collision by a single fighter pilot almost blinded by the glare of the conflagrations below and lucky to survive afterwards. Most of the crew of that B-29 also returned home.

Some people have complained that my books contain nothing new - in fact they do, but it is impossible to write on the subject of past events using the recorded facts without treading some familiar ground. Or that they don't contain enough technical data about the aeroplane - the clue is in the series title. But in any case they are not so much written for the pundits who already have all the books and references as to hopefully introduce the subject to a broader and less specialist audience and to consolidate for an easier consumption. And a lot of very good people have helped enormously with that and been very kind.

Image credit: National Archives