Wednesday 6 May 2015

Lifelike Decals Trio for 1/72 Ki-27

Lifelike Decals have released a welcome trio of 1/72 sets for the Ki-27, scaled down from their popular 1/48th sets for this aircraft.

Set 72-034 Type 97 Fighters Part 1 (above) features decals for seven subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of Maj Takeo Miyamoto, 246th Sentai, Kakogawa, Japan, Dec 1942 - this colourful Homeland defender in factory finish flown by the unit CO features a large red eagle on the fuselage. 
  • Ki-27 of Lt Col Saburo Hayashi, 4th Sentai, Kikuchi, Japan, Sep 1940 - a Type 97 in spendid blue plumage flown by the unit CO, with markings quite well known in the West as a result of a now hard to find 1995 special edition of the venerable Hasegawa kit with Aeromaster decals.
  • Ki-27 of Cpl Susumu Kajinami of 246th Sentai, Kakogawa, Japan, Jan 1943 - another 246th Sentai aircraft flown by a pilot destined to become a Hien ace over New Guinea, this one featuring red cowling and fuselage flash.
  • Ki-27 of 1Lt Iwori Sakai of 64th Sentai, Ertaokou, China, Nov 1938 - the aircraft of the 2nd Chutai leader, well known from the original issue box art of the Mania 1/48th kit also featuring a red cowling and fuselage flash.
  • Ki-27 of M/Sgt Katsutaro Takahashi of 59th Sentai, Hankow, China, 1939 - the aircraft of the leading ace of the Sentai. Lifelike have chosen green for the Sentai lightning bolt, but the Chutai colours for this unit have been variously depicted and are not agreed.
  • Ki-27 of 77th Sentai, Lampang, Thailand, 1942 - this Pacific War era fighter had the wings and tailplanes expediently camouflaged in two colours during the invasion of Burma, making for an interesting and unusual scheme. 
  • Ki-27 of the Manchukuoan Air Force 1942 - this was the third aircraft purchased through subscription by the citizens of Antung, Manchuria and carries the sponsorship dedication on the fuselage side in large black characters.

These are well chosen subjects and the inclusion of two early Homeland Defence aircraft is especially welcome. In addition to the subject specific markings the sheet contains sufficient stencilling and Hinomaru for two aircraft, the latter printed in the correct bright red colour. Two of the subjects will require the cowling painted red to match the fuselage flashes which could be a challenge. The recommended kit is the Hasegawa Type 97 but the decals would probably fit the ICM and RS Models kits too.

Set 72-035 Type 97 Fighters Part 2 (above) features decals for six subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of an unknown training unit in Manchuria - the caption tentatively identifies the unit as the 28th Kyoiku Hikotai at Shimen (now Shijiazhuang?), north China during the summer of 1944, taken from an online Japanese source. That unit does not appear to be part of the 2nd Air Army in Manchuria. Whatever the pedigree of the unit this camouflaged example has a splendid tail insignia of a winged horse set against a yellow or orange rising sun.
  • Ki-27 of Sgt Totaro Ito, 5th Sentai, Kashiwa, Japan 1940 - the pilot of this multi-striped fighter flew against the Doolittle raid in April 1942 and went on to become a Ki-45 Toryu ace over the East Indies, New Guinea and Japan, claiming 13 bombers including 9 B-29s.
  • Ki-27 of Maj Tateo Kato, 64th Sentai, Kwangtung, China, May 1941 - this less well known aircraft of a famous commander was revealed in a partial photo published in the March 2007 Koku Fan magazine. The markings were also featured in a special edition of the Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit. The colour of the arrow marking on the tail is speculative.
  • Ki-27 of 10th Independent Chutai, Taiyuan, China, 1929-30 - the caption dates for this distinctively black tailed Type 97 appear to be in error as the unit was first formed in 1937 and that aircraft only entered service in 1938. The 10th were stationed at Taiyuan from December 1938 to March 1941. The sheet provides decals for the tricky white border to the black tail and a template for painting the black.
  • Ki-27 of 50th Sentai, Clark Field, Philippines, Jan 1942 - a red star was added to the 50th's lightning bolt on 3rd Chutai aircraft, said to represent the sub-unit being detached to the 10th Independent Air Group under the command of Col Komataro Hoshi ('Hoshi' means star) on 7 Jan 1942 when the 1st and 2nd Chutai were transferred to Thailand with the 5th Air Division.
  • Ki-27 of Cap Toshio Sakagawa, 24th Sentai, Hailar, Jan 1940 - the mount of another distinguished commander who after service as 3rd Chutai leader over Nomonhan would go on to command the 47th Independent Air Squadron which introduced the Ki-44 Shoki to action, then the 25th Sentai in China flying the Ki-43 Hayabusa and finally to serve as Executive Officer of the 200th Sentai*, claiming 15 victories in total before being killed in the crash of a transport aircraft. 
* The 200th Sentai was formed at Akeno in October 1944 with six provisional Chutai to participate in the planned reinforcement of the Philippines campaign with Type 4 Ki-84 Hayate fighters. Originally intended to be designated the 1st (1st-3rd Chutai) and 2nd (4th-6th Chutai) Air Regiments of the Akeno Air Training Division its full strength deployment was never realised and as the consolidated 200th Sentai it was incorporated into the 30th Fighter Group, a large ad hoc grouping of all Ki-84 units within the 2nd Air Division in the Philippines. Its aircraft were distinguished by a small red and white Akeno insignia at the top of the fin and large two-digit numbers painted across the fin and rudder in Chutai colours.

This is another excellent set with some colourful and well-chosen subjects, the first and second subjects being especially welcome. Again there is sufficient Hinomaru and stencilling for two aircraft with one set being white bordered for the first subject.

Set 72-036 Type 97 Fighters Part 3 (above) features decals for seven subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of Sgt Moritsugu Kanai, 11th Sentai, Nanking, China, 1940 - Sgt Kanai became an ace during the Nomonhan fighting and went on to a distinguished career in the 25th Sentai over China, claiming 26 victories in total. His Ki-27 was marked with an unusual red saltire and as wingman to WO Shinohara, the 11th's leading ace over Nomonhan, might have carried victory markings which are unknown. It was a presentation aircraft bearing the 'patriotism' No. 437 on the rear fuselage. 
  • Ki-27 of 2Lt Iichi Yamaguchi, CO of 68th Shinbu-tai, Tenryu, Japan, March 1945 - the gaudy aircraft of the leader of one of several special attack units formed on the Ki-27. The term 'Shinbu' approximately means 'stirring the martial spirit'. The 68th with 12 Ki-27's on strength commenced anti-shipping suicide operations on 8 April 1945 as part of the Dai Ni Kikusui Sakusen (2nd Floating Chrysanthemum Operation) and aircraft from this unit armed with 250kg bombs were responsible for severely damaging LCS(L) 57 and the destroyer escort USS Rall (DE-304) in suicide attacks on 12 April 1945. 
  • Ki-27 of 13th Sentai, Taisho, Japan, 1942 - This unit's 3rd Chutai was originally the 102nd Independent Air Squadron formed as a secret interception unit at Akeno in July 1941. The three stripes on the tail represent the 3rd Chutai and the central symbol is a stylised cherry blossom representing the 13th's origin at Kakogawa (noted for its blossom) together with the first character 'Dai' (大) of Taisho which was its parent base from September 1941 to April 1943. A photograph of this aircraft appears on page 80 of Osprey's Ki-27 Aces although the date is incorrectly captioned as 1941 instead of 1942.  
  • Ki-27 of 47th Sentai, Chofu, Japan, 1944 - At this time the 47th was equipped with the Ki-44 and based at Narimasu but this somewhat mysterious aircraft is said to have been used by the unit as a liaison and communications aircraft.
  • Ki-27 of Cap Kenji Shimada, 11th Sentai, Manchuria, May-Jun 1939 - the aircraft of one of the first Army aces to become well known in the West. The 11th was the top scoring Ki-27 unit over Nomonhan and Shimada claimed 27 victories. The eight stars were painted on his aircraft during the June 1939 lull in the fighting and represent claims made in only two days of combat against Soviet aircraft in May. 
  • Ki-27 of 2Lt Kawabata, 1st Sentai, Harbin, China, Jan 1941 - This unusually marked aircraft carries the diagonal stripes associated with the 5th Sentai as well as the 1st's rudder and elevators painted in Chutai colour. 
  • Ki-27 of Cap Shigetoshi Inoue, 1st Sentai, Nomonhan, Sep 1939 - This well known and very colourful aircraft was one of the subjects in the first Hasegawa release of the original Mania 1/72nd Ki-27 kit from 1977 so these decals will be especially welcome to those who might wish to model that aircraft and replace the old kit decals. Although not mentioned in the instructions the elevators need to be painted yellow like the rudder   and close examination of original photographs of this aircraft suggest that the fuselage chevron might also have been yellow denoting Inoue's leadership of the 1st Chutai. 

This is another excellent selection of varied subjects including three very unusual aircraft as well as a pair of famous aces. As with all Lifelike decal sheets full descriptions are provided for each subject providing interesting details and citing reference sources. All the sheets are well printed with glossy finish, excellent colour saturation and definition. One additional feature of these sets is the good quality ziplock bags slightly larger than the decal and instruction sheets. This facilitates easy removal and return of the sheets when examining them whereas the bags of some other manufacturers are so tightly sized that it can be difficult to remove and return the instruction sheets and decals without damaging them - and then there are those self-adhesive envelopes!

With special thanks to Keishiro of Lifelike Decals for kindly sending the decal sets for review.

Image credits: All © 2015 Lifelike Decals


Daniel Velázquez said...

Thank you very much for the detailed review, Nick. Seems like I have a lot to catch up in the decals department.


Ronnie Olsthoorn said...

Great selection of Ki-27 decals (some subjects being very familiar!). Like you, I have my doubts with some of the colour choices, but there's plenty to choose from on each sheet. Good stuff.