Wednesday 25 February 2015

That Other Shoki ~ Update

Following the blog about the Fujimi Shoki, James Nicoletti kindly sent these images of the earliest edition kit as issued by Air Flash in Canada, which had been gifted to him by his longtime friend M. Philippe Medard in France. Burns* records this company as re-issuing Aoshima kits in the late 1970s (which seems very late for this box) and does not mention Fujimi kits. No address or dates of operation for Air Flash are given but there is a little more on this brand in the thread at the website here

The kit appears identical to the Fujimi original but the instructions have been re-printed with the Air Flash logo. Judging by the other images in the linked thread the style of Air Flash over-printing was inconsistent. Any further information about this company is welcomed. I'll add the box art to the previous blog with a cross link.

PS. I just received some of the sample sprues for the forthcoming Airfix Nakajima B5N kit courtesy of  Hornby - more on those later but it looks like IJN modellers are in for a real treat. The Hasegawa/Mania B5N is dead. Long live the Airfix B5N!

* Burns, John W, 'In Plastic - WW2 Aircraft Kits', Kit Collectors Clearinghouse, 1993.

Image credits: All © 2015 James Nicoletti

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Maxim Gorbatyuk's 1/72 1st Hiko Sentai Ki-27 Ko

Maxim Gorbatyuk from Odessa in Ukraine first showed these images of his very cleanly built and colourful ICM Ki-27 Ko at Britmodeller and very kindly gave permission for them to also be shown here at Aviation of Japan.

This model was partially assembled more than five years ago and then put aside for various reasons. The final assembly and painting was then undertaken as a weekend project to take a break from several more complex builds. The ICM kit provides a beautifully detailed engine with the option of displaying it exposed with open panels but Maxim dislikes stripped down models as he feels that the open panels spoil the overall apperance of the aircraft. His decision to display the engine panels and cowling closed up was the greatest challenge in the build as they needed to be extensively reduced to about half their thickness in order to accommodate the engine. Maxim fabricated engine push rods from stretched sprue and drilled out the manifold intakes and exhaust pipes. He also made the undercarriage mudguard supports from stretched sprue.

For painting Maxim used GSI Creos ('Gunze') Mr Color 56 Nakajima Grey-Green as the overall base colour. The ICM decals are poor in both quality and colour fidelity so Maxim used masks and his own home made stencils to paint the bands and Hinomaru insignia. Then light post-shading was applied with Mr Color 101 Smoke Gray, followed by slight shading and weathering with tempera paints, an "oil dots" technique and AK Interactive products.

Maxim's model represents the aircraft of the 1st Hiko Sentai commander Lt Col Toshio Kato who has sometimes been confused with the famous 64th Sentai commander Maj Tateo Kato. His aircraft with its low pressure balloon tyres was photographed at Kagamigahara, Japan in June 1939 just before the unit went to join the fighting at Nomonhan. Sentai Commander Toshio Kato's period of air combat at Nomonhan was from early June to 12 July 1939. He engaged Soviet I-15's on 27 June and SBs and I-16s on 5 July when multiple claims were made for both. But many of the I-16s claimed by the Japanese 97-Sen pilots that day actually returned damaged. 

On 12 July Lt Col Kato was very badly burned when his aircraft was fatally damaged in combat and he had to bail out behind enemy lines. He was rescued by Sgt Toshio Matsuura who landed his Ki-27 near the fallen commander under fire whilst Sgt Maj Mitsuyoshi Tarui (who was to become a 28-victory ace) and Sgt Maj Muneyoshi Motojima (16 victories) strafed Soviet ground troops to keep them at bay. After his rescue Lt Col Kato did not continue as Sentai commander or appear in command elsewhere so it is presumed that his injuries were serious enough for him to be invalided home. Sgt Matsuura was awarded the Order of the Golden Kite (金鵄勲章- Kinshi Kunsho), 5th Class (below with medal ribbon) for rescuing his commander.

Toshio Matsuura later fought over Malaya, the East Indies, Burma and New Guinea, being promoted to Sgt Maj and achieving at least 15 victories before returning to Japan in 1943. He was killed in a flying accident on 2 December 1943.

Lt Col Kato's distinctive Ki-27 is also the subject of a beautiful profile by Ronnie Olsthoorn which was not included in Osprey's Ki-27 Aces but is shown here with his kind permission. A print of this profile in two sizes is available from Aviation Graphic.

The 1st Hiko Sentai was the first aviation unit of the Japanese Army, originally constituted as the Koku Daitai (Air Battalion) at Tokorozawa, Japan in October 1915. The unit became the 1st Koku Daitai in December 1917 and the 1st Hiko Sentai in July 1938. It fought throughout the Second World War equipped consecutively with the Ki-27, Ki-43 Hayabusa and Ki-84 Hayate, and displaying the same simple unit insignia of the rudder and elevators painted in the Chutai colours. The 1st Hiko Sentai ended the war at Takahagi, Japan as part of the 12th Air Brigade defending the Eastern Air Group Area as part of the Mobile Air Defence Forces with 20 Hayate on strength. 

With special thanks to Maxim Gorbatyuk and Ronnie Olsthoorn for kindly allowing their superb creative work to be shown here.

Image credits: All model photos © 2015 Maxim Gorbatyuk; Order and Ribbon image via Wiki; Aircraft profile © 2015 Ronnie Olsthoorn

Monday 23 February 2015

Update ~ Al DuVal's Collection

Further to the blog about Al DuVal's collection of 1/48th models it is a pleasure to report that a permanent home for the collection has now been found at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas. Al loved that place and it would have meant the world to him to know that his models would be on display there.  

Thanks to Mark Smith for this good news.

Sunday 22 February 2015

A6M2-K Trainer Vignette in 1/72nd scale

Modeller Giuseppe Grande very kindly sent these images and information about his superb 1/72nd A6M2-K Zero Trainer vignette featuring a painstaking conversion of the Tamiya A6M2 kit. One can almost feel the heat of the sun on that bleached airfield concrete.

Giuseppe originally planned to use the AML kit but found it undersized and elected instead to convert the recent Tamiya kit using some AML parts. A challenging part of the project was completing the rear cockpit of which details are obscure. Nevertheless Giuseppe was able to elicit indications from an exhaustive article at  He opened up a rear compartment on the Tamiya kit and scratch  built the cockpit using the AML kit as a guide. The front cockpit, almost perfect in the Tamiya kit, was enhanced with an Eduard photo-etch set. Giuseppe also obtained the CMK set for the two-seater Zero as it contained ready to use parts such as a vacuum canopy and a resin cast rear fuselage framework. 

Giuseppe fabricated the rear cockpit fuselage fairing using a vac-form of the CMK resin cast part. This problematic operation required special attention as well as a lot of work and Giuseppe recommends it only for very experienced modellers. The exposed engine is a CMK Nakajima Sakae with replacement Vector heads to which were added some Eduard photo-etch parts. The exhausts were fabricated using 1mm lead-wire. The flaps and undercarriage were detailed using Eduard phot-etch whilst the wing pitot was made from plastic rod. 

Giuseppe painted the model to represent a well-used, faded and subdued finish using an orange-yellow ochre colour matched to FS 33434, weathered with brown oil paint and Citadel inks. The CMK figures were finished with Vallejo acrylics and Citadel inks. Giuseppe made the base himself and added resin and Brengun photo-etch accessories such as the bucket and tools.

With special thanks to Giuseppe for sharing these images with Aviation of Japan.

Image credits: All photographs © 2015 Giuseppe Grande

Saturday 21 February 2015

The Museum of Classic Model Airplanes

The Museum of Classic Model Airplanes is a Japanese website with an impressive gallery of civil aviation in 1/72nd scale that includes many solid scale and scratch-built models as well as kit conversions, resins and vacforms.  The titles are in English and the Museum a cornucopia of wonderful models of lesser known aircraft but of particular interest to readers of Aviation of Japan will be the three galleries dedicated to Japanese Civil Aviation from 1919-1939, Japanese Navy Aviation and Japanese Army Aviation before the Pacific War. 

Nakajima Type 90 Seaplane, 1931

Aichi Type 96 Carrier Bomber, 1936

A selection of model photographs from the Galleries are included here with the kind permission of Shinichi Miwa the Museum owner to whom grateful thanks are extended. Shinich-san has focussed on modeling 1/72 scale vintage civil aircraft for almost 20 years but IJA and IJN subjects are also in scope. The heading photo is of a model of the Nakajima Ki-11 Communication Plane of 1935, the forerunner of the Ki-27.

Mitsubishi Type 93 Twin engined Light Bomber, 1933

Mitsubishi "Ohtori" of Asahi Newspaper Company, 1936

Image credits: All © 2015 The Museum of Classic Model Airplanes

Friday 20 February 2015

John Haas Modelling the Ki-64

In response to a comment about his Ki-64 project in yesterday's blog, John Haas has very kindly sent these images of the work in progress. An accident in dropping the model has delayed the project and required a re-work but the images speak for themselves. John has also provided a link to a gallery of his other models here.

I share John's interest in this type and have previously struggled with both Czechmaster resin and MPM kits of the Ki-64 in 1/72nd scale, now languishing on the shelf of doom. In addition to the tandem engine and contra-rotating prop the design also incorporated a vapour-phase cooling system with steam condenser panels and outlets on the wing surface which increased the speed of the test aircraft (a Ki-61) by 25 mph during flight trials. This system circulated water under pressure to generate steam which passed to the condenser panels in the wings.

The Ki-64 was designated as an experimental high speed fighter (shisaku kousoku sento-ki - 試作 高速 闘機). Preliminary study for the project began in 1939 and after a hiatus was resumed in October 1940. Much work went into the development of the cooling system with testing of the equipment installed on a Ki-61 at Akashi during the summer of 1943. A prototype was completed by December 1943 but flying trials immediately produced problems with a serious oil leak from the rear engine on the fifth flight and numerous difficulties with the contra-rotating propeller mechanism. Curiously the design was allocated the Allied code name 'Rob' in the belief that it would eventually be encountered in combat but the project was suspended before completion due to the ongoing technical problems and war situation. During flight trials the Ki-64 achieved a speed of 437.3 mph at 16,400 ft and plans were in hand to increase engine capability to 2,800 hp in order to achieve a 500 mph top speed.

Armament was proposed to be a single Ho-5 20mm cannon in each wing and either two Ho-5 or two Ho-103 12.7mm machine cannon mounted in the upper cowling for synchronised firing. There was a parallel project but that's another story.  It could be said that the Ki-64 is a better proposition for a what-if fighter model than the Ki-78 so perhaps we might see a new 1/72nd scale kit one day!

Whilst on the subject of solid or scratch-built models, this Japanese club site dedicated to solid and scratch-built modelling is really worth exploring as there is a multitude of superb models on display, including many Japanese types. It is all in Japanese but fairly easy to navigate by clicking on the links to the left of the main page and the models themselves do much of the talking.

Image credits: All photographs © 2015 John Haas

Thursday 19 February 2015

Early Toryu in 1/48th Scale by John Haas

Back in October 2013 Aviation of Japan lamented the passing of that long standing veteran of the Japanese kit industry Nichimo. For many years one of the stalwarts of their range and the only mainstream kit of the type to 1/48th scale was the Kawasaki Ki-45 Kai Toryu (屠竜 - Dragon Slayer) 'Nick' twin engined heavy fighter, the official Army designation for which was Type 2 Two-seat fighter (Ni-Shiki Fuku-za Sento-ki - 二式複座戦闘機) usually abbreviated to Ni-Shiki Fuku-sen (二式複戦). John Haas originally bought three Nichimo Toryu kits, making one up as standard to the box contents, converting another to represent the Ki-102 and then, pondering what to do with the third, decided to back date it to the first operational version as shown here.

The necessary modifications began with a new contoured and shorter nose, the addition of two nose guns and a central landing light.

Further modifications were necessary for the engine nacelles. The early version had no intakes in the upper part of the cowlings and the exhausts were different, with only two large stacks instead of the multiple ejector stacks of the later engines.

John's painting was experimental and based on photographs he found in the Japanese monograph by Burin-Do # 26 of 1972. The model was first painted with Polly-S Acryl Light Olive A/N 21 (PCJ94) and then an overall wash of brown water colour was applied, with the excess paint being carefully removed with paper tissues. John did not overdo the weathering and completed it by applying some additional accents with coloured pencils. He was rather pleased with the result, considering it not too bad for a first attempt. Though nowadays he has some doubt about the light duck egg green colour. Was it correct? Should it not have been a light grey? Anyhow too late to change it now! The factory finish of the early Toryu was overall IJAAF # 1 Hairyokushoku (灰緑色 - ash green colour), the precise hue of which is subject to much interpretation and discourse.

John's model is presented in the Homeland Defence markings of the 2nd Kougekitai (攻撃隊 - assault company) of the 4th Hiko Sentai which began converting to the Ki-45 from the Ki-27 in August 1942 and became fully operational on the type from early 1943. The unit marking represented a Tsuba (鍔 - sword guard) over a winding river and related to Tachiarai (big sword washing place) where they had first formed in 1918 as the 4th Koku Daitai (航空 大隊 - Aviation or Flying Battalion). 

Ozuki Airfield in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan

The 4th Hiko Sentai operated the Toryu from Ozuki in western Honshu in the air defence role throughout the war. In June 1944 they became part of the 19th Air Brigade building up under Maj Gen Furuya and responsible for the defence of strategic industrial facilities in northern Kyushu which was part of the Western air defence sector. At that time they had 35 Toryu on strength, of which 25 were operational and eight were designated as "improved model night fighters", probably Ki-45 Kai Ko types equipped with oblique dorsal armament (see below). The 4th had its baptism of fire on the night of 15 June 1944 from which many lessons were learned and improvements implemented - which is another story. The 19th Air Brigade was enlarged to become the 12th Air Division under Lt Gen Michio Sugahara with three fighter Sentai on strength. By July 1945 the 4th was a designated night fighter unit in the Permanently Stationed Air Defence Forces with 20 aircraft on strength. 

The first operational version of the Ki-45 Kai, retrospectively designated Ko (甲), was armed with a brace of fixed forward-firing Ho-103 12.7mm heavy machine guns in the nose and a fixed forward-firing Ho-3 20mm cannon in a ventral tunnel position on the starboard side. The latter had a 50-round drum magazine (which the observer/rear gunner had to replace by hand) and a very slow rate of fire that both proved to be a weakness in fighter versus fighter combat. Later some Ko types were equipped for the night fighter role with additional oblique dorsal armament of two Ho-103 12.7mm heavy machine guns. The first production prototype for the Ki-45 Kai was uncoded s/n 12, the first of three produced from May to July 1941. Production work up was slow and by December 1941 only an additional 15 aircraft had been completed as s/n 15-29.    

The Nichimo kit from 1970 appears to represent a Kai Tei (丁) with oblique dorsal armament, although the instruction sheet is labelled as a Ki-45 Kai Hei (丙) However, the kit is something of a hybrid, as it appears to include the barrel of the 20mm Ho-3 for the ventral position but with the enlarged ventral fairing for the 37mm Type 94 tank cannon fitted to the  Ki-45 Kai Otsu (乙) as an anti-bomber weapon. Nevertheless, for the era it was and still is an excellent kit featuring engraved detail which with a little work makes up into a very good looking representation of Toryu as these images show. 

The 4th was an early operator of the Ki-45 but the first unit to be equipped with the new fighter was the 84th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai (later becoming the 21st Sentai) then at Gia Lam airfield, Hanoi in Indo-China. The 84th was chosen to test the new type on operations because it was a small compact unit, it was not engaged in heavy combat and Hanoi had good communications with Japan. The 84th sent their pilots to Akeno to begin training on the Toryu in January 1942 and they returned to Hanoi at the end of February 1942 with nine Toryu to commence operations. At Akeno they had practiced the new 'rotte' tactics, flying in co-ordinated pairs and making hit and run passes against Ki-27 and Ki-43 single engined fighters in mock combat. The pilots found that whilst they could not outmanoeuvre their opponents in horizontal flight if they commenced combat with an altitude advantage they could  successfully use the hit and run tactics. But some pilots, used to the sparkling agility of the Ki-27, were dismayed at the prospect of flying the Toryu in combat, finding it difficult to start, difficult to fly and suffering from engine and cooling system vulnerabilities. One pilot even refused to fly the type. 

After their first combat experience on 12 June 1942 during a combined attack against Kweilin in which they appeared to have a slightly confused mission objective and had faced the P-40s of the AVG (Flying Tigers), the 84th submitted an evaluation report on the type. They concluded that its performance had been disappointing, listing a number of complaints and recommendations for improvements. Despite this early attempt to introduce the 'rotte' tactics the 84th's disappointment in the type heralded an ongoing doctrinal dichotomy within the IJAAF that would plague it throughout the war, affecting both design development and operations. The AVG pilots were surprised by the encounter, presuming the unfamiliar aircraft to be bombers and shocked to discover their forward firing armament.

Unarmed Ki-45 Kai Ko of Akeno Flying School, Flight Instructor Division

The first Homeland Defence unit to operate the Toryu was the 5th Hiko Sentai at Kashiwa near Tokyo, which received six aircraft at the end of March 1942 and actually sortied them in response to the Doolittle Raid in April. But the 5th's Toryu climbed to high altitude in preparation for using their hit and run tactics and missed the scattered low level B-25 intruders. They were then fired at by their own anti-aircraft artillery and had to be escorted back to landing by Ki-27s to avoid the risk of further friendly fire. In June 1943 the 5th deployed overseas to the New Guinea theatre with their Toryu, returning to Japan in September 1944 and continuing to operate the Toryu from Kiyosu near Nagoya in the air defence role until the end of the war, although in May 1945 they also began operating the Ki-100 single seat fighter. The 5th was also a  designated night fighter unit in the Permanently Stationed Air Defence Forces with a small number of Toryu fitted with experimental air interception radar.

The Nichimo Toryu, for nearly 40 years a popular candidate for improving and super detailing for the display tables, was finally eclipsed by the introduction of the Hasegawa family of all new-tooled 1/48th scale Ki-45 Kai kits (above) at the end of 2007 

With special thanks to John Haas for kindly sharing these images of his Toryu model with Aviation of Japan. John is currently beginning  a new project to scratch build a 1/48th scale Kawasaki Ki-64 'Rob'. He has always found it a fascinating aircraft with its two engines in tandem but as it seems there is no kit in 1/48th scale, he is resorting to the time honoured scratch building in wood. John has provided a preview above. I hope that he keeps Aviation of Japan posted with his step by step progress!

Image credits: All model photographs © 2015 John Haas; Satellite map © Google Earth; Toryu profile © 1968 Koku Fan magazine; Box art © 2011 Hasegawa Corporation.