Sunday 25 December 2016

Recent Risings

Concomitant to recent musings on Jake kits Rising Decals recent resin set Acr-022 includes a replacement cowling with individual exhaust stacks for the 1/72 Hasegawa kit (of which more anon). This set includes decals for a single dark green over grey example with the tail code HK-006 from the Higashi Karorin Hikôjô Tai (Eastern Caroline Islands Airfield Unit - 東カロリン諸島飛行場隊 ) based at Moen Island (now Weno) called Haru Shima by the Japanese, Truk Lagoon in 1945. This unit, engaged in routine sea surveillance and anti-submarine patrols, appears to have been formed from the rump of 902 Ku which had been dissolved in August 1944. A profile of sister ship HK-007 appeared in the Thorpe IJN book, identified as 902 Ku. Moen Island had a 3,340 ft long bomber airstrip, a combined seaplane base and fighter strip and a torpedo boat base. 

Two further sets, Acr-034 and Acr-035, feature resin blind flying hoods for the IJN biplane trainer Type 93 K5Y1. The first set (above) includes decals for a single silver doped example with red tail and the tail code カ-758 (Ka-758) from Kasumigaura Ku (Kasu-ku), Japan, in 1938. The second set (below) provides decals for two aircraft. The Takao Ku example with tail code タカ-501 (TaKa-501) at Takao, Taiwan in Fenruary 1944 has a disruptive camouflage pattern of dark green applied over the overall orange-yellow trainer colour. Where the green surrounds the tail code and fuselage number they appear to retain thin outlines of orange yellow but no provision is made for this on the decal sheet and it will present a painting challenge. A second Kasumigaura Ku example, カ-439, also in 1944, is in less challenging overall orange-yellow. Takao Ku, which went through several organisational changes, became responsible for training fighter pilots in January 1944 with large numbers of Type 93 aircraft.  

One other set that has escaped perusal is Acr-029 (above) which provides resin 60 kg bombs and racks for the A6M2-N Rufe floatplane fighter. Tail codes are provided for three bomb-toting aircraft of the 802 Ku at the Shortland Island lair in the Solomons, circa 1943, N1-118 in overall grey and N1-112 and N1-123 in dark green over grey. N1-118 is the well known aircraft attributed to Lt Kaiso Yamazaki with 'battleaxe' victory markings on the fin. Coincidentally the Hasegawa 1/72 A6M2-N is due to be re-released in February 2017 in a duo presentation (two kits on one box) featuring 802 Ku markings for three aircraft (two shown below) at the remarkable price of about £16.50 - good value these days, but get it directly from Japan. 

Finally two more Rising Decals 1/72 sheets which whilst not featuring Japanese subjects probably fall into the category of related topic rather than off topic and are well worth mentioning here. 

RD72072 'The Burma Banshees' (above) is a splendid set of decals for no less than seven P-40N fighters of the skull adorned 80th Fighter Group, operational over Burma in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre from bases in Assam, India. 

RD7073 'Flying Kiwis over the Pacific' (above) provides decals for a selection of seven colourful aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) operational in the South-West Pacific Area (SWPA) consisting of three Dauntless dive bombers - two SBD-4 and an SBD-5 - a P-40M, a P-40N and two F4U-1D Corsairs. The two P-40s represent popular modelling subjects - ace F/O Geff Fiskin's P-40M 'Wairarapa Wildcat' of 14 Sqn in 1943 and P-40N 'Gloria - Lyons' of 4 SU and 18 Sqn in 1944 - previously provided on other decal sheets with variable success so especially welcome from Rising. Please note that the white identity bands are not included and must be applied with paint or decal strips by the modeller. The operations of the RNZAF in the SWPA have been somewhat overshadowed by the USAAF and RAAF  but are worthy of greater attention. In that vein I can very happily recommend  the effort to obtain a copy of Chris Rudge's superlative 'Air-To-Air', (below) a limited edition tome from 2003 which examines the air combat claims of the RNZAF in 408 detail packed pages with many photographs. 

With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the review samples.

Image credits: All resin set and decal images © 2016 Rising Decals; A6M2-N box art © 2016 Hasegawa Ltd via HLJ; Air-To-Air book cover © 2003 Chris Rudge via Abebooks.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Seasonal Wishes

With very best wishes for the Christmas season and New Year to all friends and readers of Aviation of Japan.

Image credit: Mount Fuji After Snow (1932) Shing-hanga print by Kawase Hasui (1883-1957)

Friday 23 December 2016

Richard Tool's 1/48 Mitsubishi Ka-14

Following on neatly from recent A5M Claude features Richard Tool has kindly shared these images of its Dad, the Mitsubishi Ka-14 prototype, in the form of his build of the 1/48 scale Fine Molds kit. This previously obscure prototype aircraft became more widely known as a result of the 2013 Studio Ghibli animated film 'The Wind Rises' by Hayao Miyazaki which dramatised the early life of the Mitsubishi designer Jiro Hirokoshi. Without this film it is unlikely we would have seen a mainstream kit of this prototype aircraft.

Richard built the model straight out of the box with the exception of thinning the trailing edges and adding Eduard IJN lap belts. The cockpit, cowl ring,  engine, reduction gear housing, wing tips and tail were painted in custom mixes of Tamiya paints. The main landing gear fairings were painted with Vallejo MetalColor acrylics whilst the rest of the airframe was covered with Bare Metal Foil Matte Aluminum to produce a fine looking model in appropriately seasonal colours of red and silver. A full build report can be found at the Aeroscale website  here

Fine Molds also released a 1/72 scale version of the kit but available only as a special issue with the January 2014 edition of Model Graphix magazine. In 2013 Shingishenka published a modelling guide to the A5M series "Mitsubishi A5M/Mitsubishi Ka-14 Plastic Model to Begin from the Beginning" which included an article on the Ka-14 with a 1/32 scale conversion feature based on the Special Hobby kit. This book includes serviceable 1/72 scale drawings of all variants and although the text is in Japanese it is worth obtaining for anyone planning an A5M family build and still available. Some confusion has arisen over the colour of the Ka-14 as a result of Studio Ghibli's depiction of the aircraft - and as shown in the Fine Molds box art - which looks white, suggesting a light grey paint, whereas the original was plain aluminium. 

Ka-14 was actually the Mitsubishi company designation for the experimental aircraft to be produced in response to the February 1934 Imperial Japanese Navy invitation to design a 9-Shi single-seat fighter to  a specification drafted by Lt Cdr Hideo Sawai of the Naval Air Headquarters Department of Engineering. The aircraft was completed within a year and began tests at Kagamigahara in February 1935, proving the cantilever wing in a fighter aeroplane suitable for the Navy. The design impressed although development and four additional prototype builds incorporated a succession of power plants in attempts to overcome various engine issues whilst the cranked wing was modified to a straight centre section from the second prototype. 

With special thanks to Richard for sharing these images of his splendid "Claude's Father" model and providing details of the build.

Image credit: Model and  box photos © 2016 Richard Tool; Box design © 2015 Fine Molds & Studio Ghibli

Monday 19 December 2016

Aviation of Japan Blog

Aviation of Japan is honoured but surprised to have been ranked 27th in Feedspot's Top 50 Aviation Blogs with no Twitter or Facebook followers! The blog has now been going strong and sometimes less than strong for more than 8 years and has generally been a most enjoyable and rewarding undertaking, not least in getting to know the many international contributors who have very kindly shared information and images, assisted with translations and/or provided comments and expressions of support. On behalf of Aviation of Japan and personally - thank you and best wishes. 

Monday 5 December 2016

Update - Jake - A Tale of Two Scales

Updated Part 1 with images and information from the 1978 Hasegawa catalogue, Japanese edition. This has a complete listing of A and B kit numbers with their corresponding JS designations.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Jake - A Tale of Two Scales ~ Part 2

Responding to Aviation of Japan's Nichimo retrospective in October 2013, tempestfan got in touch regarding the origin of the Nichimo Jake kit. He was asking for confirmation that the Nichimo 1/48 scale kit was in fact a re-pop of the Marusan 1/50 kit. Unfortunately I don't have an example of the Marusan kit to confirm it absolutely but as tempestfan pointed out the first UPC issue of the Nichimo kit used the same Marusan artwork on the box. A review of Japanese auction sites strongly suggests that it is the same plastic or a very close copy. Burns notes that several Nichmo kits "were copied from other companies" and that the Jake, released in the late 1960s as S-4803, was originally issued as kit # 428 by Marusan.

Marusan Shoten Ltd  was a pioneering plastic kit company, the first in Japan, operating from the early 1950s until 1969, its kits were issued in an eclectic diversity of scales and are now highly collectable. Their Jake was released in 1964 with the box art shown above and UPC re-issued it in 1968 as # 6071 with the box art presented as shown below. 

In his '20th Century Airplane Plastic Model Encyclopedia' ('20世紀 飛行機 プラモデル 大全' Bunshun Nesco Ltd 2004), Katsumi Hirano shows a variant presentation of the Marusan box (below), but without details of the date of issue. The art on this box is closer in presentation to the UPC box art.

There are at least two other box arts associated with the Marusan kit. The monochrome cutaway art by K Hashimoto, shown above, is unusual because the interior details provided in the kit are sparse. Was this the same or a different set of plastic? Another box art style for the Marusan kit is shown below, with the logo 'Plamodel Marusan', again with no further details known.

The more familiar UPC Jake box art is that by Andrew Scott Eidson (b.1908), shown above. As far as I know the box art for the Nichimo kit by Mr. R Nakanishi (b.1934) was never altered and like the Hasegawa kit it has been the only game in town in its scale. I'm not aware of any vacform or resin examples in either scale. Following Part 1 of this article Aviation of Japan's Texas correspondent Mark Smith kindly sent me this link to a splendid build of the Nichimo kit by Matt Swan. The Nichimo kit seems to have had more aftermarket for it than the Hasegawa kit, of which more anon, and Mark recounts that Mike West of Lone Star Models has told him that Jake items have been some of his best selling stuff. With the Hasegawa release of Pete and Dave surely Jake must be on the cards for re-visiting state of the art at some point? 

Further details or memories about any of these kits will be very welcome, thanks.

Image credits:- Nichimo box art author collection; second Marusan box art variant © 2004 Katsumi Hirano & Bunshun Nesco Ltd; all others various via web.   

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Jake - A Tale of Two Scales ~ Part 1

In 1/72 scale the Hasegawa kit of the Type 0 Reconnaissance Seaplane E13A 'Jake' (Rei Shiki Suijoh Teisatsu-ki 零式水上偵察機, commonly abbreviated  as Rei-Sui 零水), now long in the tooth at nearly 50 years old, is still the only game in town. Hasegawa will re-release their kit in January, the new guise being an aircraft of the `Kashima Air Squadron` (above) complete with catapult. Two tailcode options are included for カシ-95 (Kashi-95) and カシ-98. This presumably represents aircraft from the Kashima Kokutai and not the light/training cruiser Kashima, which also carried an E13A and reportedly used the tail codes 'R' and then 'L', although the inclusion of the catapult makes it a bit mysterious.

 Kit # B20 ~ probably 1977 rather than 1971

Hasegawa catalogue image 1978 

According to Burns* Hasegawa first issued their Jake kit in 1971 as B20 with a second release in 1981 as D10. The box art and box style were identical but B20 had a blue flash (above) and D10 a green flash (below). B20 appeared in the 1978 Hasegawa catalogue with the subsidiary kit designation JS-056. The B-20 box has the designation JS-056:400 on one end of the box but not on D10 which has D010:500 instead. The A and B kit designations do not appear to have been in sequence with the JS numbers as A1, for example, the Ki-44, is listed as JS-090. The box art was by Kihachiro Ueda who illustrated many LS boxtops as well as the 1/48th scale Fujimi and the Revell (Japan) 1/32nd scale box art. Both kits were moulded in dark green plastic and offered markings on the decal sheet for three aircraft - a radar equipped dark green Jake of the Saeki Ku with the tail code サヘ-20 (Sahe-20), another dark green example on the heavy cruiser Maya with the tail code EII-2, and a light grey finished floatplane of the 7th Ku with the tail code I-VII-05. The Hasegawa kit was listed as a "recent new release" in the August 1973 issue of Scale Models magazine, being imported by A A Hales Ltd of Hinckley, Leics. 

 Kit # D10 ~ 1981?

 Kit # JS-056 ~ probably 1973

But here is the rub. The magazine review describes the kit as being moulded in pale grey plastic and in the May 1973 issue a full page Hales advert listed their Hasegawa kits (although not the Jake) only with JS kit numbers. According to Burns the Jake was first issued as JS-056 in 1980 but the Scalemates website shows JS-056 as the first issue. The JS-056 box with the Hales logo is shown above. The logo also appeared on each end of the box and on one side.  The first advert for the Hasegawa Jake in Airfix magazine was in the June 1973 issue by Modeltoys of Portsmouth.  And in the September 1973 issue there was a revealing piece about the importer A A Hales Ltd:-

"Although Frog will no longer be the source of Hasegawa's superb moulding, the Japanese kits will still be available. Another importer A.A. Hales Ltd of Hinckley, Leicestershire, have taken over the licence and now the kits are available in their original Japanese home-market boxes with a Hales trade mark added."

So it appears that the JS-056 was indeed the first issue, appearing in the UK circa mid-1973 and then followed by the B20 and D10 issues circa 1977 and 1981 respectively. The artwork on the JS-056 box  is similar to early Shigeo Koike illustrations for Hasegawa but the signature does not appear to be his. Similar boxes were sold in the USA with the Minicraft logo added (below). 

 Kit # JS-056 US Minicraft import

 Kit # JS-056 Japanese domestic box?

The same style of box was also issued with Japanese characters in the lower left portion (above), perhaps for the domestic or Far East markets as suggested by the Airfix magazine statement. Scalemates show the B20 box as being the second release issued in 1977 which accords with my memory of first buying the kit in that box circa 1978.  Hales also sold the B20 kit in a flimsier cardboard, end-opening box with the art on both sides, moulded in dark green plastic. The JS-056 kit offered more decal options with tail codes for six aircraft - X-5 on the seaplane tender Kimikawa Maru, 531-03 aboard the armed merchantman Akagisan Maru for the Aleutians, 52-031 of the 452nd Ku (as shown on the box art), ZI-21 on Kimikawa Maru, I-VII-05 of the 7th Ku and YII-20 on the seaplane carrier Mizuho.

 JS-056 Instruction Sheet

In 1973 Hales sold the Jake kit for 45p and the Scale Models review was generally positive about the kit, commenting on the absence of overscale rivets and a straightforward construction requiring only minimal filler. The instruction sheet (above) had a good description of the type and drawings showing the three main versions. Although more recent appraisals of the kit are sometimes less than complimentary the weakest aspect was the lack of interior detail which consisted only of a floor, three rather crude seats and a simple instrument panel for the pilot. Three identical crewmen were also included and appeared to be based on the contemporary Airfix jet pilot modified to represent IJN flying kit. When installed the crewmen sitting in tandem, all with their heads turned slightly to the left, presented rather a comical appearance. 

Kit # C9/JS-117 ~ 1977 or 1980?

Burns records the kit also being issued as C9 from 1970-80 with a Kure Mk 2 Model 5 catapult and again as JS-117 with the catapult from 1980. The box art is shown above and the box in my collection is marked on the end as C9 and JS-117 with a price tag of HK$8.60 (less than £1). The kit was listed in the 1978 catalogue as C9 with the susidiary designation JS-117 although the catalogue image shows JS-116! The Jake is the basic B20/D10 kit moulded in dark green with the same decal options whilst the catapult is moulded in dark grey plastic. Scalemates record this kit as being issued in 1977 and another which appears to be exactly similar as E9 in 1981. The Encyclopedia of Military Models** records that the catapult was originally made by Ross Abare and sold seperately for $3 by Unique Scale Accessories of Springfield, Mass., with Hasegawa subsequently purchasing the mould for inclusion in their kits.  

Kit # 717 of 1990

Hasegawa's Jake was re-issued again in 1990 as # 717 in a new box with art by Tetsuo Makita (above). Moulded in pale grey plastic this kit offered decal options for a radar equipped E13A1 of the Yokosuka Ku in 1944 with the tail code ヨ-19 (Yo-19) as depicted in the box art, an E13A1b of the 452nd Ku at Shimushu in August 1944 with the tail code 52-026 and an E13A1 on the heavy cruiser Atago off the Philippines in January 1942 with the tail code DII-3. The first two examples were dark green over grey and the latter an overall grey aircraft. This issue included instrument panels for the pilot and navigator with decals for both.  

Kit # 51530 of 1995

In 1995 the Jake and catapult were re-issued in a new style box with modified art as # 51530 and NP10 (above). In 2001 the Jake by itself was re-issued as kit # 00277 Aichi E13A1 Type Zero (Jake) Model 11 'Battleship Yamato' with new box art and decal options for various tailcodes of aircraft carried on the battleship from 1942 to 1945 (below).

Kit # 00277 of 2001

  Kit # 01996 of 2012

In 2012 a limited edition of the Jake and catapult was released as kit # 01996 Aichi E13A1 Type Zero (Jake) Model 11 'Midway' w/Catapult (above). This kit included decal options for two overall grey aircraft from the heavy cruiser Tone and Chikuma with tail codes MI-4 and MII-6 respectively and a dark green over grey example from the heavy cruiser Myoko with the tailcode FI-I.  

Kit # 012154 of 2015

In 2015 the Jake and catapult were released again as as another limited edition kit # 02154 Aichi E13A1 Type Zero (Jake) Model 11 `Light Cruiser Yahagi` (above) with decal options for two aircraft with tail codes 220-21 and 220-22 involved in the Yamato Okinawa operation. 

Part 2 of this series will consider the larger Nichimo kit and Part 3 will focus on the details of the actual Hasegawa kit itself in relation to the real aircraft.  Please comment with any additional information about the kit or corrections, thanks.  

* 'In Plastic WW2 Aircraft Kits' by J W Burns, Kit Collectors Clearinghouse, 1993
** 'Encyclopedia of Military Models' by Claude Boileau, Huynh-Dinh Khuong and Thomas A Young, Airlife, 1988 (translation from first French edition of 1986)

Image credits: All box art © Hasegawa  Corporation circa 1971-2016 via Scalemates, Hobby Search and personal collection

Friday 11 November 2016

Clipped Wing Claude

A short piece of interesting contemporary animation showing how 24 year old  PO3c Kan-ichi Kashimura lost half the port wing of his 13th Ku A5M1 in a dogfight with Chinese fighters on 9 December 1937 during a raid against Nanking. Kashimura collided with a Chinese fighter, reportedly in a head on attack after shooting down at least one other but the animation suggests perhaps a mistimed hineri-komi manouevre? Despite the damage and an uncontrolled fall that took him close to hitting the ground Kashimura was able to regain control of the aircraft and return to his base at Shanghai. After four attempts to land he managed to get the aircraft down. It turned over but he escaped unhurt. The film also includes brief footage of the damaged Claude in flight and on the ground. The incident attracted considerable press and public interest in Japan and the damaged aircraft was later put on display. The Japanese Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai presented Kashimura with an inscribed photograph of his damaged aircraft in flight.

Kashimura's camouflaged Claude '4-115' featured on the monochrome box art of the original Fine Molds A5M1 kit. After service with the Yokosuka Ku Kashimura joined the 12th Kokutai when it absorbed the 13th Ku at the end of 1939 and later returned to the Yokosuka Ku. In December 1942 he was transferred to the 582nd Ku but was posted as MIA (Missing in Action) during combat over the Russell Islands on 6 March 1943.  At the time of his loss he was credited with 12 victories, 10 of which had been claimed over China.

The unit's Claudes were  field camouflaged on the upper surfaces in a pattern of dark green and brown with the Army's white senchi-hiyoshiki fuselage band but retained their black cowlings and natural metal under surfaces.

Image credits: Film footage via YouTube; All photos via web

Thursday 10 November 2016

New Tamiya 1/48 Hien Tei

All things Hien must be flavour of the month in Japan. Following on from the Aoshima foray into the Kawasaki Hien family in 1/72 (of which more anon), the Kawasaki unveiling of the restored Ki-61-II (of which more anon) and the expectation of new Ki-61 decals from Lifelike (of which more anon), Tamiya have now announced a 1/48 Ki-61-I Tei kit for release on Christmas Eve. This is expected to retail for about £23 if bought direct from Japan. 244th Hiko Sentai commander Kobayashi's well-known # 24 appears to be at least one projected kit subject, with blue command stripes, and the kit includes a Ha-40 engine, the Kawasaki licence-built version of the German DB 601A.  

The Tamiya cachet and reputation for detail and fit will no doubt make this a popular kit despite the existence of a well respected Hien family in this scale from Hasegawa, albeit now 22 years old. The last Tamiya Hien was a 1/50 scale Ki-61-II released in 1964 and the type was never included in their original 1/72 series. This release is therefore more significant than it might at first appear. 

The Tei variant was the penultimate Tony, in production from January 1944 with a lengthened nose to accommodate the installation of the Ho-5 20mm cannon, providing the heaviest homegrown Hien armament. A total of 1.358 of this version were manufactured until January 1945 and it featured prominently in the air defence of Japan, often with armour and armament reduced to improve high altitude performance (check your references when choosing subjects). 

Hat tip to Dan Salamone and Aviation of Japan's Texas correspondent Mark Smith who both alerted me to this forthcoming kit, thank you both.

Image credits: All © 2016 Tamiya Inc.