Wednesday 30 September 2015

Zbyszek Malicki's 1/72 Fine Molds A6M2

Another fine Zero model in the divine scale! This time an A6M2 built by Zbyszek Malicki from the finely moulded Fine Molds kit with just the addition of a little engine wiring and aftermarket decals from Aeromaster. 

The model was painted with ACJ16 Mitsubishi Zero Grey-Green from the former White Ensign Colourcoats range which is now being marketed in the UK by Sovereign Hobbies (and also available in the USA via H&B Hobbies).

The model represents the A6M2 flown by Lt Sumio Nono, the leader of the 4th Fighter Combat Unit from the carrier Hiryu participating in the second wave Pearl Harbor attack.

Lt Nono led nine Zeros as escort to 18 B5N2 'Kates' from the carrier Shokaku attacking Kaneohe Naval Air Station. After a single strafing pass of Kaneohe Lt Nono's Zeros flew on to strafe Bellows Field. There the Zeros shot down one P-40 as it was attempting to take off and a second which had managed to get into the air to engage the Zeros.

With special thanks to Zbyszek for sharing these images of his excellent model.

Image credits: All © 2015 Zbyszek Malicki

Sunday 27 September 2015

Mark Smith's 1/72 Tamiya A6M2

This superb evocation of a Pearl Harbor A6M2 in 1/72 scale by Mark Smith is a natural prequel to Oleg Pegushin's A6M3 duo of yesterday. The model, made from the Tamiya kit, not only came first in its own category at the Fort Worth Supercon show but also won Best World War II Subject there from amongst 150 entries of aircraft, armour and ships. Mark has kindly penned some thoughts about the model and its colour for Aviation of Japan.

"I remember that my return to model-making as an adult was spurred by opening the then-new Monogram AT-6.  It was quite exotic for its day, and still makes a beautiful model when built.  I can’t help thinking that the new-tool 1/72 Tamiya Zeros (they make the Model 21, 22, 32, and 52c) could serve the same purpose in luring many out of modeling hibernation and back into playing with plastic.  I don’t even build 1/72; that’s the Dark Side.  But when I received this as a Christmas gift, I was amazed; a little single malt convinced me I should at least take the parts off the sprues that night and see how things fit.  They fit.  And I ended up building it.  It’s a masterpiece.  The cockpit somehow gives up nothing to its 1/48 big brother.  The landing gear is a press-fit - aligned - without glue. So I don’t buy the occasional quibble I hear that these kits are pricey. They’re worth every penny.

At the recent Fort Worth show, several people asked about what paint was used on this model, and it’s interesting that whilst the ancient Humbrol A/N2 shade is indeed a dead dog - nevertheless I sensed that the 'new' paradigm (not so new now) is generally perceived to be on the greener rather than browner side of things.  It is still a color that surprises, and it seemed so dark and so brown when mixed that I wasn’t so sure.  The first time I saw the color on a model was Greg Springer’s 1/48 build of Iida’s Zero from Soryu many years ago.  Greg’s research and effort to establish an accurate mix were truly meticulous and at that show the model created a great deal of interest – and, of course, not a little doubt among some at the time.  After all, it wasn’t even close to Humbrol A/N2!  There are fewer of us now (at least here in North Texas, it seems we are not being replaced in kind) and we have generally mellowed as we have gotten rounder to realize that the color of airplanes is not a ditch worth fighting over, much less dying in.  But we are still damned interested.  Considering the body of evidence for this color and the well-marshalled arguments on this blog, at and in Bob Mikesh’s work, I think more than anything this demonstrates the sway that model paint manufacturers have over received opinion.  

"This is not a criticism of any of those companies as I’d rather see them taking a crack at specialty colors than not.  But it is fairly strange that Tamiya’s shade for this color does not better reflect the value of so many relics measured by eye and colorimeter that, taken together, are surprisingly consistent, and which have been documented and presented with such care over several years.  Nor do they match the relevant Model Art chips, or the large chips from the T-Stoff Japanese chip chart (which has held up well in comparison to much later work).  In fact I don’t know what source these are meant to match, if anything.  After all, Tamiya is known for the traditionally superb research behind their products.  But in taking care to mix the color for this model using Greg Springer's Tamiya formula cited in Nick’s guide to Painting the Early Zero-Sen, I was surprised how different the results were from Tamiya AS-29 or XF-76, the two colors Tamiya has marketed for what is now generally termed J3.  An unscientific description: the Tamiya color is close – but not really.  Too green.    

"It was suggested in the guide that this mix could be lightened using ‘light green’ and so my next question was, as you can guess, ‘what light green?’  And such could quickly lead to questions like, ‘What is light green, anyway?’ and maybe putting on some Bill Evans – and a total loss of initiative. (I know about these things).  So I tried this and that, and ironically the best paint I found to slightly lighten the custom mix without much loss of the warm olive tone was…Tamiya XF-76!  But it doesn’t take much to shift the color.  Like most readers of this blog I have many books and resources on the Zero, but regardless of what one uses for reference when building one, Painting The Early Zero-Sen is the perfect complement for providing all essential color information in one place, cross-referencing several systems of color standards through a graded range of color chips.  Nor does it leave out alternative interpretations or known exceptions regarding the listed standards.  Luddite that I am, I printed mine out and had it comb-bound for a workbench copy."     

As Mark observes, in addition to a diehard body of opinion (and art) that still dresses early Zeros in a near white livery, there is a strong tendency towards pale, bright, lime-greenish grey-greens that mimic the RAF paint colour Sky and are sometimes referenced to 'pistachio', above and below Zero models of all variants. The Methuen Handbook of Colour sets pistachio green as 28 C 4 and I have only one word for anyone who still thinks that represents the paint colour of the Zero - no! You need to be looking way back at 4 D 4 which Methuen describes as olive brown. The difficulty in appreciating the true colour value of the paint is evidenced by its slippery appearance under different forms of illumination as shown in the last pair of photos taken by Mark above. Indeed there are those who, observing an accurately painted model, will still perceive a colour more like RAF Sky (even one of the photos here drifts towards that impression), the amber - yellowish-brown - undertone being completely invisible to their personal colour acuity. 

With special thanks to Mark Smith for sharing these images of his prize-winning model at the show and to Bert Greynolds for taking them. And a special tip of the hat to James F Lansdale and Greg Springer for their pioneering efforts in the pursuit of true colours.

Image credits: Bert Greynolds via Mark Smith and Mark Smith

Saturday 26 September 2015

Zeros Galore!

Zero models (and Zero Aces) are a perennial favourite with modellers all over the world and there has never been a better selection of quality kits from which to build examples of them. If only the abundance of kits and their popularity were matched by more attention to the real colours of the aircraft rather than a dogged adherence to the mythology that has grown up about them. As recently as last year forum pundits were opining about 'clear lacquer coats' based on nothing more than 'belief' and muddying the waters yet again. And don't get me started on the fad for depicting abundant paint-peeling bare metal.

Having said that no apologies are offered for showcasing some very fine and accurately painted 1/72 models of Mitsubishi's A6M carrier fighter over the next two blog posts, in reverse evolutionary order and beginning with a superb duo of A6M3 Model 32 Zeros crafted by Oleg Pegushin. Both models represent aircraft of the Tainan Kokutai, the camouflaged example Tai-180 as flown by ace NAP 1/c Takeo Tanimizu from bases on Formosa (Taiwan) during September 1944. Oleg's build report, in Russian, is here and includes many useful images of the real aircraft and artifacts.

Oleg's models were built in parallel from the mainstream Tamiya and restricted issue Fine Molds kits. Oleg wanted to know if the Fine Molds kit is still the best 1/72 Zero and discovered that the Tamiya kit appears to have some problems with geometry around the cockpit compared to the drawings in the FAOW book.

In Oleg's opinion, although the Tamiya kit has some finer details, the Fine Molds kit is still better, but he admits that maybe that is because he only has a few of them "in stock" and needs to advocate purchase of this more expensive kit! The Tamiya A6M3 is still a beautiful kit, he says, also more affordable and easier to obtain.

Both kits were made out of the box with only the markings for the Tamiya model from Rising decals. Oleg used Vallejo and some Gunze Sangyo (GSI Creos) paints. He tried to replicate scratches and paint wearing on the dark green camouflaged Fine Molds model using a special Vallejo fluid but didn't like it as it results in an orange peel effect. Oleg's build report, in Russian, is here.

Although not the most popular of the A6M Zero variants I have always had a fondness for the look of the A6M3 Model 32 which is well displayed in Oleg's excellent photographs. It was the very first of the Hasegawa early generation Zeros that I ever built, ignoring Mitsubishi painting practice and taking the 'pale blue' part of the IJN aotake description (淡青色透明) too literally. The pugnacious stance of this variant has appealed to me ever since.

The type designation A6M3 Model 22 was intended to designate the marriage of a developed Sakae 21 engine - with two-speed, two-stage supercharger, down draught carburettor (with the air intake in the upper cowling lip rather than beneath the cowling as in the A6M2) and a re-geared 10 ft propeller - to an essentially A6M2 airframe. The intention was to improve altitude and climb performance. However flight testing of the prototypes demonstrated disappointing performance and the test pilots suggested that the folding wing tips of the A6M2 should be removed. By doing this, fairing over the wingtips to create a clipped, square-tipped wing with shorter wingspan and modified ailerons, other improvements resulted - a better roll rate, reduced stick forces, and a faster level speed - so the planned Model 22 was shelved and the improved version ordered into production as the Model 32 instead. There was initially some discussion about the designation of this variant before it was settled on as A6M3 Model 32.

However front line pilots didn't really like the A6M3 Model 32 for various reasons and with the Guadalcanal campaign its limited range (it carried 22 gals of fuel less than the A6M2 and was heavier) became a strategic issue forcing the deployment of the earlier A6M2 for long range sorties. The operational requirements for a longer range were then incorporated into the improved engine design with a reversion to the original longer wing (but without the folding tips) to accommodate fuel tanks in the outer section and aileron balancing tabs to reduce the control forces on the longer aileron. Although this variant actually followed the Model 32 the previously intended designation of Model 22 was reinstated for this version.

Oleg's A6M3 collection, with "one he made earlier"

The Models 32 and 22 were manufactured exclusively by Mitsubishi with the first production examples of the former emerging from the factory in June 1942 and the Model 22 from December 1942 when the last 23 Model 32 aircraft were manufactured. Production of the Model 22 then continued until August 1943. In total only 340 Model 32 and 560 Model 22 were produced. All A6M3 Model 32 Zeros and the first 225 A6M3 Model 22 Zeros were delivered in the standard overall amber grey finish. From approximately mid-March 1943 Zero fighters engaged in the Solomons campaign began to have dark green upper surface camouflage applied to them in the field. The application methods varied and there was no standardised pattern. Deep green paints of unknown origin were applied to the upper surfaces of the aircraft in mottles of varying density, blotches, tiger stripes and even cross-hatched patterns. Later aircraft still in use in second line or training roles were re-painted in the standard solid deep green black over amber grey scheme. 

With special thanks to Oleg for sharing these images of his excellent models. 

Image credits: All photographs © 2015 Oleg Pegushin

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Update ~ Arawasi Eagle Eye Series No.2

Further to the review of Arawasi Eagle Eyes Series No.2 on the K5Y1/2, British readers might like to know that the Aviation Book Centre now holds stock of the book and Arawasi magazine #12.