A5M kits have been flying in from different directions and in different scales recently, from Sweet's tiny masterpiece to the new Fine Molds and Wingsy 1/48th scale releases. Dan Salamone has very kindly shared the results of his build of an older Fine Molds kit featuring the A5M1 variant. The monochrome box art painting by Masao Satake (the artist responsible for the current 'black' series Bunrin-do FAOW covers) depicts a camouflaged A5M1 '4-115' of the 13th Kokutai flown by PO3c Kan-ichi Kashimura in December 1937.
"Here is my recently completed 1/48 Fine Molds A5M1 Claude, the very first aircraft in the scale that this company released in 1991. It depicts an aircraft based in China, circa 1937.
"The early kits from Fine Molds are more like high quality limited run kits, compared to their cutting edge quality kits of more recent times. Much like their Ki-43 and D4Y kits, dry fitting and sanding will reward a modeler with a nice result. This kit also lacked some of the basic markings, such as prop and wing stripes. A good comparison would be to Classic Airframes kits, whereas recent Fine Molds kits like the Ohka and Ki-10 are right up there with Tamiya quality.
"The decals reacted rather poorly to Gunze decal solution, and the fuselage stripes were printed in straight lines rather than curved, so needed a lot of cutting and decal solution to conform to the model.
"The Fine Molds A5M4 kit just released this summer bears little resemblance to this kit, the quality of the moldings, parts count, and practically all else showing just how far this company has come in the past 25 plus years. Hopefully someday I will be able to display them side by side in my display case!"
With special thanks to Dan for sharing these images of his very fine model, which represents an aircraft flown by a Buntaicho of the 12th Kokutai. This unit was operating from an airfield near Shanghai, China on ground support duties when, during October and November 1937 it re-equipped with the A5M1 from its previous Type 95 biplane fighters. With the fall of Nanking it moved to the Dajaochong airfield at that city and participated in attacks against Nanchang and Hankow, being designated as a fighter unit early the following year when it absorbed the aircraft of the 13th Kokutai.
Image credit: All © 2016 Dan Salamone; Box art © 1991 Fine Molds via Dan Salamone