Saturday 31 January 2015

José A Granado's 1/72 Ki-43-III Ko

The final model in José A Granado's splendidly plumed Hayabusa quartet is the III Ko, built from the Special Hobby kit with similar improvements to the others - enhanced cockpit interior, scratch-built headrest, detailed undercarriage, replacement engine, replacement canopy and metal tubing for the pitot. As with the others José riveted the entire airframe surface.

The model represents an aircraft of the 48th Sentai operating in China during the last years of the war and finished in the Tachikawa factory scheme of olive brown over grey. Previous blog posts on the subject of III Ko colours may be found here, here and here. The chosen finish on José's model harkens back to the original Tamiya 1/50th scale kit of 1964. The 48th was formed at Jiando, Manchuria in July 1943 from cadres supplied by the 77th Sentai and 204th Kyodo Hiko Sentai. It was equipped with the Ki-27 as it worked up to operational status, receiving Ki-43-II in January 1944 and undertaking its first combat sorties from Wuchang, China in April 1944 under the command of Maj Masao Matsuo. It began to equip with the III Ko from August 1944 and ended the war near Nanking. During its relatively brief combat history it claimed 55 enemy aircraft shot down and 40 damaged for the loss of 16 pilots. The lost pilots included three Hikotai leaders and three Chutai leaders.

According to Minoru Akimoto the Sentai emblem on the tail, which represented '48', was variously painted in white, red or yellow without this signifying the Chutai. In fact Dr Yasuho Izawa records the unit as only operating two Chutai and it has been suggested that white was the colour used for the 1st Chutai and yellow for the 2nd. Each aircraft was identified by a two-digit number painted on the rudder, probably representing the last two digits of the aircraft serial. The kanji characters 阿部 (a be) painted just behind the senchi hiyoshiki, the so called 'combat stripe' on the rear fuselage, represent the nickname of the pilot Sgt Shou Abe who flew in the 1st Chutai under Capt Koji Shimura.

These in-progress images show José's meticulous work and attention to detail. Basic 'office' improved with plastic card and wire.

Sidewall detail enhanced and carefully painted.

Instrument panel and engine painstakingly detailed.

The multiple exhaust ejectors drilled out and basic assembly prepared for painting.

As with the other models first a preparatory layer of gleaming aluminium, followed by pre-shaded grey.

Painting and pre-shading of the upper surface, with Hinomaru and yellow leading edge IFF strips added. 

Lower surface Hinomaru painted on and weathering effects added.

The final result is superb. And the miniature Hayabusa is ready to complete the kettle of falcons.

With thanks to José for kindly sharing these images of his work and a beautiful collection. It has been a delight to see and show them.

Image credits: All © 2015 José A Granado

Friday 30 January 2015

José A Granado's 1/72 Ki-43-II Kai

Nakajima's Ki-43-II Kai is often confused with Tachikawa's Ki-43-III Ko. Both had the individual thrust type exhaust stacks but whereas the II Kai only had a single uppermost stack on each side the III Ko had a pair. The water methanol injection of the III Ko, with the distinctive filler spout behind the cockpit, was also introduced during the II Kai production run. The two types have often been represented as consecutive developments but in fact they were produced in parallel, with the last Nakajima-built production Hayabusa being the II Kai model. 

Production start of the II Kai is uncertain but the III Ko pattern aircraft was constructed during April 1944 and production by Tachikawa began in July 1944. Just to confuse matters Tachikawa continued the production of the II series Hayabusa until September 1944. Most Nakajima-built II Kai were delivered in the standard natural metal finish of the II series and camouflaged with the typical mottles, but the last production batches were delivered with a solid upper surface finish of dark olive green, emulating the factory painting introduced in the late summer of 1944, but with the under surfaces left unpainted. The reason for this 'interim' finish was probably because Nakajima Hayabusa production was already being run down to end in September 1944. 

But as usual with Japanese aircraft there are mysteries a-plenty, because whilst photographs reveal mottle finished II Kai with the water methanol injection installation there are also photographs of late production II Kai in the solid interim finish without it! Not all replacement aircraft sent to units were new even though they were often refurbished before delivery. 

José's model, built from the AML kit, represents a Nakajima-built II Kai as flown by Maj Toyoki Ito the commander of the 64th Sentai in late 1944. The 64th Sentai operated the Hayabusa in all its variants from the beginning to the end of the war. The AML kit is a short run composite with resin as well as plastic components and is by no means a straightforward build (ask me how I know). José was deft in installing the resin sidewall detail, making up the composite cowling and building and painting the resin cockpit components. I ended up with my fingers stuck together and the dog hiding under the dining room table with his paws over his ears, resin and superglue being inventions of the Devil.

Again José riveted the whole airframe surface of the model and replaced the kit canopy with a Rob Taurus vacform. Note the composite resin and plastic construction in the photos below.

For the II, II Kai and III Ko models José scratch-built three tiny gunsights, each from eight separate pieces of plastic and photo-etch. Crumbs!

The result is a testimony to his patience, eyesight and fingers! The photo below shows the gunsight as installed on the previous Ki-43-II model.

Painting proceeded with a preliminary natural metal finish, followed by the green camouflage and painting the wing Hinomaru and yellow leading edge IFF strips.

The final result is superb. 

With thanks to José for kindly contributing the images to Aviation of Japan, especially the in-progress shots.

Image credits: All © 2015 José A Granado

Thursday 29 January 2015

José A Granado's 1/72 Ki-43-II

The second Hayabusa of José's quartet is a Ki-43-II built from the Special Hobby kit which was marketed as a Ki-43-II Ko but which is more correctly referred to as a mid-production or naka ki (中期) version. José wanted the model to represent what he refers to as an Otsu version but which is really a late production or nachi ki (後期) Ki-43-II, so he embarked on the necessary modifications.

The Special Hobby kit was a good starting point but presented the typical problems of a short run kit. The extra work to produce the version desired was to scratch build new exhaust outlets of the thrust type and to fashion a larger rollover pylon/headrest. Although the latter is already included in the kit José found it a poor representation, being too small and not sufficiently detailed.

The new exhaust pipes were fashioned from Contrail plastic aerofoil section and the larger headrest scratch-built to include details such as the  fuel supply warning buzzer on the right hand side. José also replaced the kit's poor relief-moulded engine with a resin casting from his spares box, adding ignition wiring and other details. A suitable resin Nakajima Ha-115 replacement engine is also available from Engines & Things as item # 72152 for $8 (approx £5.28). 

José also riveted the airframe surface on this model using a 'Rosie the Riveteer' tool.  He chose not to install drop tanks on this model but whilst early in the production of this variant the position of the drop tank attachment points remained inboard of the undercarriage (as provided in the Hasegawa kit) they were later shifted to a position outboard of the undercarriage. The kit landing gear was improved by the addition of exquisitely scratch-built torque links and brake wires.

José also fashioned the part of the fuselage ribbing frame visible at the rear edge of the cockpit aperture. Meticulous work!

The enhanced cockpit interior was painted to represent the blue aotake finish although this was not typical for mid to late production Oscars which usually had the cockpit finished in yellowish green opaque paint.

The model was first painted aluminium (highly polished!), the wing Hinomaru were painted on and then the dark green mottle was added in stages.

New decals were chosen to represent the aircraft of the 77th Hiko Sentai's 2nd Chutai leader, Capt Yoshihide Matsuo, as flown in the New Guinea theatre in 1944. The 77th reportedly used a non standard sequence of white, blue and red for Chutai identification. The decals are from the Berna set BER72039.

The 77th Sentai lost all its pilots in New Guinea and only a few members of the unit survived to return to Japan. Capt Matsuo was probably not flying this aircraft when on 12 March 1944 he was shot down and wounded in air combat against B-24s 12 miles east of But. He managed to bail out but died in May 1944 on the overland trek to Sarmi with the other surviving pilots of the unit. Of the seven Hayabusa that engaged the B-24s, five were lost, with three pilots killed and two bailing out. One pilot returned with engine trouble and the last managed to emergency land at Wewak with his aircraft on fire.

The cowling carburettor intake differences were not addressed in this scale although the Special Hobby kit parts are closer to representing a late production Hayabusa to begin with.

With thanks to José for kindly contributing the images to Aviation of Japan, especially the in-progress shots.

Image credits: All © 2015 José A Granado