Friday, 14 April 2017

Vallejo IJN Colors Set ~ A Visual Appraisal & Commentary

Following on from the appraisal of the Acrylicos Vallejo, S.L. IJA paint colours set, Art.71169 is a set of 8 paints for 'Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Colours Pre-War to 1945' consisting of the following colours:-
  1. IJN Dark Black Green AV71325
  2. IJN Black Green AV71322
  3. IJN Deep Dark Green AV71310
  4. IJN Ash Grey AV71311
  5. IJN Medium Grey AV71312 
  6. IJN Medium Brown AV71418
  7. AOTAKE Translucent Blue AV71419
  8. Aluminium AV71062
These are also in plastic 'eye-dropper' bottles in an attractive carton featuring a colour photograph of an A6M5 Zero in flight over chips of each paint colour which are fairly close to their actual appearance, a guide with profiles (shown below) and a brief explanation of the usage of each colour with FS 595 equivalents. Inside the box is a folded leaflet showing the Vallejo paint range.

Again the Vallejo colour descriptions do not fully correspond to IJN paint colour designations. This makes it more difficult to reconcile them without direct comparisons and tends to perpetuate the imprecise understanding of the colours fostered by previous hobby paint ranges. A commentary on each paint colour follows. 

IJN Dark Black Green AV71325 - this is described as a one coat upper surface colour as applied by Mitsubishi over ash grey/medium grey or natural metal and compared to FS 34052. It is approximately similar to D1 Deep Black Green but lacks blue-green chroma and is more greyish.

IJN Black Green AV71322 - this is described as representing the upper surface paint of Nakajima-built Zeros and "all kinds of aircraft of other manufacturers", being compared to FS 34077. It is greener than the FS value but duller than D2 Black Green, lacking the blue-green undertone of the original colour. 

IJN Deep Dark Green AV71310 - on the way into green garden shed territory with this one which is described as the upper surface paint applied by Kawanishi and Aichi, being compared to FS 34058. That FS value is the closest to Thorpe's N2 Dark Green but not that close @ 3.99 (where < 2.0 = a close match), being more vibrant and blueish. The difference is shown below.

The two Vallejo Black Greens seem more typical of weathered and aged paint, described the wrong way round, with the colour attributed to Mitsubishi rather more typical of Nakajima and vice versa, although sources do differ on those assertions. The subject is explored in more detail in the AoJ  IJN Greens PDF. The Vallejo colours dry matt which adds to this perception, but they do become slightly richer in appearance with a gloss coat.  The Deep Dark Green is dodgy for reasons beyond the scope of this blog feature but Kawanishi Shiden and Shiden-kai colours were explored here in February and May, 2010, including interiors, but the subject is by no means as straightforward as any confidence in hobby paint sets might suggest! A Shiden colours PDF is scheduled for the AoJ Key Data colour series.

IJN Ash Grey AV71311 - described as the colour for "most embarked aircraft" and in use until 1942/43 it is compared to FS 36350, therefore close to the Mitsubishi Zero early factory colour, albeit just a little darker and browner than the FS value. It lacks the olive undertone of the original paint.

IJN Medium Grey AV71312 - this is compared to FS 36375 and described as used for lower and fabric surfaces. The actual paint is nothing like the FS value which is a slightly violet tinged light blue-grey but is a warmer, more neutral grey closer to FS 36357, so I suspect a typo or something lost in translation here.

IJN Medium Brown AV71418 - this colour is compared to FS 30122 and is similar to many depictions of the pre-war brown applied as camouflage together with dark green to the upper surfaces of IJN aircraft, particularly in the China theatre, but surviving into the Pacific War on types such as the G4M and some floatplanes. The precise hue of this brown is still a matter of conjecture and Japanese researchers have attributed it as H2 more by deduction than proof. The Vallejo paint is a medium to dark reddish brown but not as dark as the prop colour or as reddish as the primer paint.

AOTAKE Translucent Blue AV71419 - more typically blueish-green than the aotake paint included in the IJA set but still more towards green than blue. Although not compared to a FS value, it is similar to Thorpe's N17 Translucent Green.

Aluminium AV71062 - this is the same colour included in the IJA set.

 Vallejo IJA paint colours shown by their cited FS equivalents ~ the actual paint colours vary slightly 

Again something of a mixed bag. The two Black Greens both lack blue-green chroma and tend towards olive greens, which some might prefer but which are more representative of weathered and aged paints. The greys are uncontroversial unless you still believe in 'white' Zeros, but the so-called Ash Grey lacks the distinctive olive undertone of the original paint and the Medium Grey is closer to FS 36357 than FS 36307 which is associated with J3, 2-6 and the fabric dope. The Medium Brown is a catch all and will probably look good with Dark Green on the pre-war types whilst the aotake is more representative than that included in the IJA set. Colours aside, useability appears a matter of preference with some concerns expressed, but seemed to be of more interest than the colours themselves judging by the comments about the IJA set (!). This set was also purchased from Everything Airbrush (The Spraygun Company Ltd) in Poole, Dorset and is the same price as the IJA set.

Image credit: All © 2017 Acrylicos Vallejo, S.L.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Vallejo IJA Colors Set ~ A Visual Appraisal & Commentary

The Spanish hobby paint manufacturer Acrylicos Vallejo, S.L. have recently released two sets of acrylic paints in their Air War Color Series intended for Japanese aircraft. Art.71152 is a set of 8 paints for 'Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) Colours Pre-War to 1945' consisting of the following colours:-
  1. IJA Dark Green AV71285
  2. IJA Olive Green AV71286
  3. IJA Khaki Brown AV71287
  4. IJA Dark Beige AV71416
  5. IJA Grey Green AV71326
  6. IJA Light Grey Green AV71321
  7. AOTAKE Trans.Green AV71417
  8. Aluminium AV71062
The paints are reportedly intended for airbrush use but have a surprisingly thick viscosity. They come in Vallejo's familiar plastic 'eye-dropper' bottles in an attractive carton featuring a colour photograph of a restored Ki-43 Hayabusa in flight over chips of each paint colour which apart from the aotake are pretty close to their actual appearance, a guide with profiles (shown below) and a brief explanation of the usage of each colour with FS 595 equivalents. Inside the box is a folded leaflet showing the Vallejo paint range.

The first point to note is that some of the Vallejo colour descriptions do not correspond to any official paint colour designations in the IJA KôKaku 39 colour standards. This makes it more difficult to reconcile them without direct comparisons and tends to perpetuate the imprecise understanding of the colours fostered by previous hobby paint ranges.  The second point to note is that this is a preliminary visual and subjective appraisal of painted out samples which have not yet been measured for their precise colour values and it does not take into account any long term curing and colour shift of the paints. There may be updates! A commentary on each paint colour follows.

IJA Dark Green AV71285 - This is similar to the generic IJA Greens in other paint ranges and is compared by Vallejo to FS 34082 which appears lighter and greener. It is a dark, dull olive green and not typical of the stronger greens offered in other paint ranges to represent the so-called 'Nakajima Green' for example.  It approximates # 22 Noh Ryoku Shoku (濃緑色 - deep green colour), but is a little lighter. Probably more useful as a variant of the late war IJA # 7 as applied to some Kawasaki types. 

IJA Olive Green AV71286 - This is meant to represent the late war # 7 olive drab colour and is compared to FS 33070. It is darker and slightly more brownish than the Dark Green AV71285 but slightly greener than FS 33070. It has a good richness of hue.

IJA Khaki Brown AV71287 - This is described as another late-war colour and compared to FS 30118, although it is slightly darker and more greenish. It is similar to the late-war factory paint, a variant of # 7, recorded by Noboru Shimoune as applied to Mitsubishi aircraft like the Ki-67 and Ki-46-III.

IJA Dark Beige AV71416 - This is described as a camouflage colour used in conjunction with Dark Green or as a single upper surface colour and is compared to FS 30215. It is close in appearance to the seventh chip in the Model Art 329* colour chart and described there as cha iro (茶色 - 'tea' colour, light brown or tawny):-

"This colour was used in conjunction with deep-green as a camouflage scheme at the beginning of WWII. Many of the Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" (Oscar) and Nakajima Ki-44 "Shoki" (Tojo) were camouflaged in this two tone scheme or simply spotted with the deep green over the brown." 


"This colour was used on aircraft over the China front. It resembles the colour of the ground surrounding the Yellow River in northern China. It was yellow tinged with tea colour."

Not really typical of the official IJA colour standards for browns which do not use the term "beige" (katakana: ベージュ beeju), dark or otherwise, but similar to many artistic depictions. It has an appearance between the 'orange-brown' of  # 33 Kaki iro (柿色 - persimmon or shingle colour) and the dark earth of # 31 Cha Kasshoku (茶褐色 - ‘tea’ brown colour, dark reddish-brown or liver colour), closer to the former than the latter. Therefore it perhaps has a certain hybrid/generic usefulness as a simplification to avoid head scratching when pondering black and white images to decide which brown! "More tea, vicar?"

IJA Grey Green AV71326 - This is a distinctly creamy or brownish grey which is compared to FS 36405 and is similar to the late-war factory applied under surface paint on types like the Tachikawa-built Ki-43-III Ko and Nakajima Hayate. It would also be useful to represent the creamy grey reported on some Ki-27 training aircraft. The Vallejo paint is just slightly more brownish than 36405. 

IJA Light Grey Green AV71321 - This is similar to generic IJA Grey Greens in other paint ranges and is compared to FS 34424. It is close to the first paint chip in Model Art 329 which is described as hai ryoku shoku (灰緑色 ash green colour), but more greenish than the # 1 colour standard for that colour and as the FS equivalent suggests, similar to the RAF colour Sky. The IJA colour standard sits more typically between the two Vallejo colours so there is an opportunity to mix them to achieve different effects.

Neither of the grey greens in the set represents the more blueish-grey colour seen on some Army types.

AOTAKE Translucent Green AV71417 - This is a surprisingly bright emerald green colour and not typical of the more subtle blue or blue-green hues of real aotake. No FS equivalent is given but it is similar in appearance to FS 14193. It is the only colour which does not look similar to the chip shown on the box. Probably the least useful colour in the set.

Aluminium AV71062 - This is a bright aluminium somewhat between a polished and oxidised natural metal finish.  Impressive for an acrylic paint.

Vallejo IJA paint colours shown by their cited FS equivalents ~ the actual paint colours vary slightly

Like the curate's egg this paint set is good in parts and worth considering for those who like to use acrylics and find Vallejo paints suited to their use. I found it potentially more useful than expected after seeing the colour descriptions and before being able to examine the actual paints. The colours have an attractively subtle and sombre "military" quality that should look good on models in contrast to the brighter national and unit insignia. It is a pity that the designers strayed from official designations and that the aotake and aluminium colours were included in preference to some arguably more useful camouflage colours such as # 21 or # 30. In the UK the cost of the set works out at about £2.30 per paint bottle but I don't know if the paints are yet available separately or will be. The appraisal set was purchased from Everything Airbrush (The Spraygun Company Ltd) in Poole, Dorset.   

Appraisals of the Vallejo IJN and AK Interactive IJN sets to follow. . .

Update: In respect to issues of viscosity and application Ken Glass has since kindly provided the helpful advice that Vallejo Thinned Medium VJ70.524 will ease brush painting and improve levelling. 

* Camouflage & Markings of Imperial Japanese Army Fighters, Model Art No.329 (1989)

Image credit: All © 2017 Acrylicos Vallejo, S.L.



Friday, 7 April 2017

Michael Thurow's Tamiya Raiden in 1/48

Michael Thurow has kindly contributed another article describing the rejuvenation of his original Raiden model built from the 1/48 Tamiya kit in 1977.

Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden - Tamiya 1/48 
by Michael Thurow


The Mitsubishi Reisen or the Nakajima fighters may be more typical of Japan's WWII fighter technology, but for me the truly Japanese combat aircraft are the Army's Ki-61 Hien and the Raiden. It must have been Revell's exciting box art of the sixties which as a boy inspired my lasting affection for these two airplanes. So they were among the first models that I built in 1/72 (Hien) and 1/32 (Raiden) scales.

Naturally the Raiden was also one of the first when I started my 1/48 collection ten years later. At that time only the Tamiya kit was available. "Only" should be the wrong word since it is a superb model. On the outside - dimensions, shape, fit, panel lines - all look perfect. Even cockpit and details are still competitive by today's standards although a lot can be improved with the latest aftermarket items as we will see. My 1977 model was built out of the box except for an open cockpit and extended flaps. I used the old Humbrol N1 which came very close to "IJNAF green" when I mixed it with the early Humbrol gloss varnish that tended to yellow strongly (see picture below), while for the underside I choose a much too whitish grey. The model represented ƎD-1195 of the 302nd Kokutai, allegedly Sadaaki Akamatsu's mount. This is the history of the model that I recently disassembled and restored.


To inspire my Raiden with a second life I focused on the weak spots: cockpit, engine compartment and undercarriage. Let's begin with the front section which challenged my abilities the most. First, I cut the cowl from the main fuselage. This had to be done with care because it is not a natural separation line on the kit. I drilled and sanded off the remains of the molded exhausts, sliced the cooling flaps in order to bend them slightly inward (a typical feature of Raiden flaps when closed), and scraped the front ring of the open fuselage to a sloping profile. Opening the air slots behind the cowling was a delicate job. I used a Dremel saw but more damage was done than I had expected. I spent several hours correcting the slots and inserting the small access panel connectors. Adding new exhausts (Quickboost # 48383) and re-attaching the front section was easier.

The next hurdle was finding a solution for the prop attachment because - disregarded by Tamiya - the aircraft has a fixed ring between propeller and rotating cooling fan. How to fabricate and, particularly, how to fix this with any stability? Groping through all kinds of scrap and metal parts that a household offers I was finally lucky to find an iron separation ring as used between a screw and a nut that possessed exactly the diameter needed. I backed it with a piece of cardboard of equal size in which I fixed two metal pins at the 6 and 9 o'clock positions as on the real plane. These connected to holes drilled opposite in the inner cowling ring. It held fast as hoped and the propeller shaft would pass through to the fan centre. One more separation ring served as a new back plate for the Tamiya propeller.

Next came the cockpit. There are two excellent aftermarket items: the Aires cockpit set # 4538 and the Eduard detail set # 48201. I used both and, although meant for the Hasegawa kit, they fit perfectly inside the fuselage after I had cleaned the walls of the molded detail. Not available was a type 96 transmitter which sits quite prominently behind the pilot's headrest. Nevertheless I removed the kit's insufficient "block" from the rear decking to upgrade this area. I finally found a suitable radio in the scrap box and with some detailing, painting and decals it looks realistic enough.

As can be seen I initially prepared supports for the armoured glass inside the wind screen, which I later shortened as my choice of plane didn't have this feature (see text below). With some regret I decided to hide the wonderful cockpit under a closed canopy because too many of my models have open cockpits and the Raiden looks much "faster" with the hood closed. I took the one from the Falcon 33 IJNAF canopy set - the material is very stiff and hard to work on! (I prefer Squadron vacu parts) - and I made a mistake when I didn't separate the middle and rear sections. I hoped to save time - but no, it was a nightmare getting the unwieldy part to fit the fuselage.

Finally I turned my attention to the undercarriage. Everything was enhanced to create a more authentic appearance: The wheel wells received fake access holes and rounded stringers, the original undercarriage legs (no aftermarket item available) were brought into shape and brake lines added, the wheel covers came from Quickboost (# 48399 - hard to remove from the resin block without cracking the thin parts!). I didn't use the True Details tires which I had bought because they were too wide to fit between gear and door, hence the Tamiya wheels got a second chance. During final assembly I added a few additional improvements like an overhauled oil cooler and new Air Master # 48-021 metal gun barrels.


I favour planes for which photos exist. Thus ƎD-1195 was no longer an option, but I wanted to keep the Yokosuka Kokutai history and after some deliberation choose ƎD-1183. Pictures of this aircraft are shown in FAOW No.61 on p.28 (below), p.69 and (probably) p.10. Its pilot may have been 1st Buntai leader Tai-i (LT) Junro Teramura (Osprey Aces 129) and it was possibly shot down by Major James Trapp, CO of the 78th FS while flown by Chu-i (LTjg) Ei Fukuda on 19 April 1945 (FAOW).

A nice extra feature of this aircraft is that it was one of the few equipped with an oblique firing 20mm Type 99 cannon fitted to the port side below the cockpit. With some care a hole can be drilled at the correct angle with a thin paper rectangle simulating the blast protection.

While building my Raiden model two questions came up that I felt inspired to investigate. Did ƎD-1183 have the early propeller with blades that tapered towards the hub or the later broad-bladed "high altitude" version? I concluded that the former would be more likely. Here is why -
  •  The Tamiya kit contains only the thin propeller... just a joke! 
  • The side gun equipped Raidens were modified from early batches in late summer 1944 (some still were J2M2s). By the time the broad props appeared the oblique-firing concept had proven unsuccessful.  
  • The picture on p.10 of FAOW most likely shows ƎD-1183. The propeller is not visible but the plane next to it - also with side gun - has the early prop. 
  • I measured the width of the rotating blades on the photo above against both variants on other pictures with approximately the same perspective. It appeared closer to the early propeller than the late one.

Was the upward firing cannon removed from ƎD-1183 at a later stage, particularly by the time the picture above was taken?  I would say yes, because -
  • There is no clear evidence of a protruding gun barrel (perhaps or perhaps not).
  • It seems the additional gun sight in the upper left corner of the windscreen, which appears installed on FAOW p.10, has been removed. No gunsight = no gun!? (The location of this gun sight inhibited installation of the armoured glass - as mentioned - which is seen missing in the photo; another reason was weight).
  • The oblique cannons had little effect and were later removed, also to save weight which was critical to reach B-29 combat altitudes.

Concluding my report I'd like to thank Nick for his excellent Raiden Colour Notes that I received just in time to guide my painting of the model. For the topside D2 Green Black Colour I mixed old Humbrol N1, of which I still had an unused tin, and Humbrol 195 "satin green". The J3 Grey undersides are painted with Humbrol 40 toned down with a strong touch of rust brown. Some PC screens may not exactly represent the original colours of my model. I experienced several different hues of green which strongly reminded me of Nick's message about correct colour interpretation!

Michael Thurow

Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings WWII, Donald W. Thorpe, Fallbrook, 1968 

Mitsubishi Navy Interceptor Fighter Raiden, Famous Airplanes of the World No.7, Tokyo, 1971 
Navy Interceptor “Raiden“, Famous Airplanes of the World No.61, Tokyo, 1996 
Mitsubishi J2M Raiden, Mushroom Model Magazine Special No.6110, Sandomierz, 2004 
Mitsubishi Navy Interceptor Fighter "Raiden", Mechanism of Military Aircraft No.4, Japan, 2011 
Mitsubishi J2M Raiden, Model Art Profile No.11, Tokyo, 2011
J2M3 Imperial Japanese Navy Interceptor Raiden, Zoukai-mura SWS No.VI, Kyoto, 2013 

Mitsubishi J2M Raiden Colour Notes, Nick Millman, 2015 
J2M Raiden and N1K1/2 Shiden/Shiden-Kai Aces, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 129, Botley, 2016

Image Credit: All model photographs © 2017 Michael Thurow; Photo of ƎD-1183 from FAOW © 1996 Bunrindo Co.Ltd

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Rising Decals Zero Pt. IV in 1/72

The latest sheet from Rising Decals is the fourth set to provide markings for the Mitsubishi Zero in 1/72 scale. RD72074 contains decals for no less than 14 very interesting subjects across a range of variants and colour schemes.

  • A6M2 'Rai-112' or 'Rai-152' of 256 Ku at Shinchiku, Taiwan in February 1944 - in classic Nakajima factory finish of dark green over grey with a yellow lightning bolt and character 'Rai' (Thunder) in red and white to provide a splash of colour.  
  • A6M3 Model 32 'T2-133' of 204 Ku at Munda, New Guinea (sic - should be New Georgia) in 1943 - in overall amber grey Mitsubishi factory finish with black tail code, yellow tail stripes and yellow fuselage band. This aircraft has long barrel cannon in the wings.
  • A6M5a "43-136" of 343 Ku at Orote, Guam in June 1944 - in badly worn Nakajima factory finish with yellow tail code and stripes. This subject provides the opportunity for worn paintwork Zero fans to indulge themselves without straying too far from reality. But without the reference photo it will be guesswork!
  • A6M2 '2-185' of 582 Ku over the Solomon Islands in 1943 - another overall amber grey bird with the interesting white cowling stripe seen on some Zeros around this time, white-bordered fuselage hinomaru, with red tail code and fuselage chevrons. 
  • A6M2 'B1-12' of 381 Ku in Malaya, 1945 - Nakajima factory finish. This is one of the well-known ATAIU-SEA tested aircraft and was fitted with long barrel wing cannon. Another opportunity to indulge weathering and wear experiments. 
  • A6M5c '721-164' of 721 Ku at Miyazaki, Japan in February 1945 - in standard Nakajima factory finish enlivened by white tail code, tail stripes and wingtips. 
  • A6M5a 'Rai-153' of 256 Ku at Malbalacat, Philippines in October 1944 - in standard Nakajima facory finish with white tail code.
  • A6M5c '721-63' of 721 Ku at Miyazaki, Japan in Fenruary 1945 - a stablemate of subject # 6 but with a narrow yellow tail stripe and white flash,
  • A6M3 Model 22 '162' of 251 Ku at Rabaul in May 1943 - overall amber grey factory finish with dark green "trellis" field-applied camouflage, white tail code, tail stripe and twin diagonal fuselage bands. You are on your own for the upper wing pattern!
  • A6M2 'OTa-1190' of Oita Ku in Japan, early 1944 - another most unusual subject in Mitsubishi-style factory finish with extensive areas of white paint, spinner, cowling front, tail fin/rudder and tailplanes. 
  • A6M2 'OTa-150' of Oita Ku in Japan, 1943 - splendid in overall orange-yellow with black tail code painted on a white band and unusual cowling anti-glare demarcation. The modeller will need to fabricate the exposed tail wheel assembly but Czech Master Kits do provide neat resin accessory sets for that, designed for the Hasegawa and Tamiya kits.
  • A6M3 Model 32 'V-190' of Tainan Ku's Buna Detachment, in New Guinea, August 1942 - in overall amber grey factory finish with black tail code, white tail stripes, black diagonal fuselage band and Houkoku presentation legend.
  • A6M5c '352-157' of 352 Ku at Kasanohara, Japan, in March 1945 - in standard Nakajima factory finish with yellow tail code and white diagonal fuselage band.

There is plenty for Zero enthusiasts to get their teeth into here, offering a great selection of colourful subjects. The packed sheet includes a selection of hinomaru with or without white borders as well as some basic stencilling. Inspiring decal sets like this one can also be used to dress up older kits, even giving them a new lease of life.

With thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the review sheet.

Image credit: All © 2017 Rising Decals

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Japanese Aero Engines 1910-1945

It is a delight to see this part work series on Japanese Aero-Engines by the late Mike Goodwin re-published as a quality mainstream hard cover book through the good offices and effort of Peter Starkings, the former Editor of the IPMS (UK) Japanese Aviation Special Interest Group journal 'JAS Jottings' in which the original series first appeared from 2001-2007. I fully expect this book to be the definitive English-language reference on this subject for many years to come, if not forever. It provides not just a thorough account of aero engine manufacture in Japan but a fascinating journey through the development of Japanese aviation manufacturers in general, standing as a "dip in" reference work as well as a rewarding read from cover to cover. This re-published work by MMP Books has been revised, considerably expanded and also enhanced by a generous selection of well-reproduced photographs, many of which will be useful to super detailers, especially those who like to work in the larger scales.

The contents of the 216-page book are as follows:-

Introduction and Overview
1. The Early Years  
2. Aero-Engine Designation Systems
3. Minor Manufacturers
4. Aichi and Kawasaki Aero-Engines
5. Gasuden/Hitachi Aero-Engines
6. Hiro and Yokosuka Aero-Engines
7. Mitsubishi Aero-Engines Part 1 - Pre-Pacific War
8. Mitsubishi Aero-Engines Part 2 - Pacific War Period
9. Nakajima Aero-Engines Part 1 - Pre-Pacific War
10. Mitsubishi Aero-Engines Part 2 - Pacific War Period
11. Jet Aero-Engines

All in all this book is a superb reference and a testimony to the dedication and hard work of both Mike Goodwin and Peter Starkings. Very highly recommended, it is available from MMP Books and via Amazon

Image credit: Book cover design © 2017 MMP Books

Monday, 3 April 2017

Sword 1/72 Kawasaki Ki-102 released.

Sword's new 1/72 Kawasaki Ki-102 Otsu 'Randy' has now been released with the announcement of a Ki-102 Ko variant to follow.  

The Ki-102 was designated Experimental (or Test Prototype) Ki-102 Attack (shuugeki) Plane (試作 キ-102 襲撃機). An in-box review and comparison of this welcome kit will follow.

Box art for Ki-102 Ko

Image credit: All © 2017 VISION SWORD s.r.o.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Oscars of John Haas

John Haas, inspired by Stefan Sjöberg's Otaki Oscar model, kindly sent these images of his own Otaki Oscars built several years ago together with images of a Nichimo Oscar - all in 1/48 scale.

Above, the well-known Ki-43-II s/n 5640 of Major Toshio Sakagawa, 25 Hiko Sentai commander in China, here in its original presentation of markings. In recent years the tail stripes have been re-interpreted as white, yellow and red from the leading edge of the fin, supposedly to represent each Chutai, but the white and blue markings are as illustrated by Rikyu Watanabe for an article on the 25 Hiko Sentai and its predecessor the 10 Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai by Dr Yasuho Izawa which appeared in Aireview magazine circa 1973. That article acknowledges the co-operation of a number of ex-25th Sentai veterans as well as Major Sakagawa's widow, Mrs Kozen Sakagawa, and included profiles of individual aircraft. In 2001 Dr Izawa very kindly sent me a full translation of the article together with its original profiles, a treasured possession. For this reason I have always had a preference for the markings as presented on John's model. 

Major Sakagawa commanded the 47 Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai which trialled the Ki-44 in operational conditions at the outbreak of the Pacific War. Later as commander of the 25 Hiko Sentai in China he frequently led combat sorties, claiming a B-24 on 21 August 1943 and two P-51 Mustangs on 6 May 1944. In July 1944 he was transferred to Akeno where he became the Executive Officer of 200 Hiko Sentai, the Hayate-equipped reinforcement unit deployed to the Philippines and drawn from Akeno instructors and students. On 1 December 1944 he was appointed to command 22 Hiko Sentai but was killed in a transport plane crash on 19 December. 

John also converted the Otaki kit to represent a Ki-43-III Ko from 48 Hiko Sentai, another China-based Oscar unit (above). The 48th was formed in July 1943 from a cadre of 77 Hiko Sentai and 204 Kyodo Hiko Sentai personnel at Jindao, Manchuria, with just two chutai (squadrons) as a component of the newly formed 15th Air Brigade of the 2nd Air Army and activated at Anshan in November 1943. The 15th Air Brigade also contained the somewhat mysterious 30 Hiko Sentai formed as an Assault (ground attack) unit with the Ki-43 at the same time*. The 48th adopted hikotai organisation in February 1944 with a separate seibitai (整備隊) or maintenance unit, but retained its original two chutai strength. 

In April 1944 the 48th moved into China to Wuchang near Hankow and from May began staging to an advanced landing ground at Bailuqi (Pailochi, also known as Sheumatow) just north of Tung Ting (Dongting) Lake from where it flew combat operations. Three successive hikotai leaders and three chutai leaders were killed in action during operations in China as well as at least 10 pilots. The 48th ended the war at Taihsien, near Nanking with approximately 20 Oscars as the planned escort unit for no less than seven newly formed special attack units.  

John's third Otaki Oscar represents an instructor's Homeland Defence aircraft from the Kumagaya Army Flying School. In mid-1944 the school was re-organised as a Flying Training Division with instructors and test pilots also assigned as secondary provisional units - Tônigo Butai (東二号部隊 - literally "Eastern No.2 force" as the units were first conceived in Eastern Army Command) - to be sortied in emergencies to augment the strength of the 10th and 11th Air Divisions in their air defence operations against B-29 raids. 


The subsequent performance of these units was disappointing due to issues with air ground communications as the units could not operate effectively within the air defence structure of the regular divisions and the training regime also suffered as a result of the dual roles. In December 1944 the force was increased when the 22 Hiko Sentai at Sagami and the 16th Air Brigade at Shimodate consisting of 51 and 52 Hiko Sentai, all newly withdrawn from the Philippines, were also designated as Tô units. However, those additional units, still in the process of reforming and under strength, were unable to achieve any quantitative or qualitative improvements so the secondary provisional system was officially abandoned in April 1945.

John's final model (above) is the fine Nichimo Ki-43-I, completed to represent the aircraft of the famous 64 Hiko Sentai commander Major Tateo Kato at the time of his death in May 1942. 

With special thanks to John for sharing these images of his Oscar models.

* 30 Hiko Sentai was subsequently transferred to the Philippines in mid-1944 as part of the 13th Air Brigade with 29 and 31 Hiko Sentai by which time it had been re-designated as a fighter unit. The Brigade move began in May 1944 and was completed by July. 29 Hiko Sentai, at that time equipped with the Ki-44, was diverted to Formosa (Taiwan).

Image credit: All © 2017 John Haas

Friday, 17 March 2017

1/48 MYK Design Decals for Kawasaki Ki-61

Dan Salamone kindly alerted me to the impending release of no less than six sets of decals for the Ki-61 in 1/48 scale from MYK Design Decals in their ASU-DECA series. The decals are an interesting hybrid sort of waterslide and dry transfer - as explained here - where after applying them in the usual way and letting them dry the clear varnish layer can be peeled away to leave just the printed colour. And very nicely saturated colour too. The sheets are produced in limited quantity, sell out fast and don't seem to get re-printed - so if you want them you need to be quick!

There has been a lot of online whinging about the recent Tamiya kit being a long-nosed Tei because allegedly that variant offers less colour scheme and marking options than the short-nosed variants. Not so IMHO.  The production of the Tei spanned the period from aircraft being delivered unpainted and factory painted so the potential subjects include plain natural metal finish, various green mottles over natural metal finish and the factory-applied solid olive brown. The Tei variant was also produced in greater numbers than any other and was used by many units both overseas and in Japan, including a number of operational training units and special attack units, the latter with some distinctive camouflage patterns offering a real painting challenge. The issue is not one of limited choice, far from it, but rather whether decals for a particular subject are available. 

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien `Long Nose (Model Tei)` (shown above) demonstrates that by providing tail markings for Tei variants based on the Tamiya kit with eight different units including 19, 55, 56 and 105 Hiko Sentai, 5, 17 and 18 Rensei Hikotai and the Hitachi Kyodo Hiko Shidan.

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien `Short Nose (Model Ko/Otsu/Hei)` (shown above) provides tail markings for six different units including the controversial first marking for 78 Sentai, 18, 19 & 68 Hiko Sentai, 39 Kyoiku Hikotai and Akeno Rikugun Hiko Gakko.

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien 244th Fighter Group `The Imperial Guards`(shown above) provides markings for four different aircraft of the 244th Hiko Sentai excluding national markings and stencils.

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien 244th Fighter Group `Commander Teruhiko Kobayashi` (shown above) provides markings for three different aircraft flown by the famous 244 Hiko Sentai commander, again excluding national markings and stencils. 

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien `National Insignia & Caution Data -Short Nose-`for Hasegawa provides hinomaru and stencils designed to fit the Hasegawa series of Hien Ko/Otsu/Hei kits.

Kawasaki Ki-61-1 Type 3 Fighter Hien `National Insignia & Caution Data -Model Tei-` for Tamiya provides hinomaru and stencils designed to fit the Tamiya Hien Tei kit.

The decal sets are available direct from HobbyLink Japan and Hobby Search

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Stefan Sjöberg's 1/48 Otaki Ki-43-II

Stefan Sjöberg of Sweden had kindly shared these images of his Otaki Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa in 1/48 scale. The model was built straight from the box with just the addition of new markings from  Rising Decals RD48018 Emperor's Eagles Pt.1 to complete it as an aircraft from the 2nd Chutai 13th Hiko Sentai at Kamari airfield, Noemfoor Island, in early 1944.

The 13th Sentai had been formed at Tachiarai as the 13th Hiko Rentai (聯隊 - regiment) in 1937, becoming a Sentai* the following year. It went through a number of organisational changes throughout its service, absorbing and detaching Chutai from and to other units. From August 1942 it operated both Ki-43 and Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu aircraft as a specialised air defence interception unit based at Kashiwa in Japan with detachments in Korea and at Sapporo. It was sent to Rabaul in April 1943 and later absorbed the 5th Sentai's detached 'tokushou kougekitai' (特称攻撃隊 - specially designated attack unit) which had been operating Ki-45 and armed Ki-46 aircraft in the air defence role there since February. After suffering heavy losses in New Guinea during August 1943 the unit began operating increasing supplementary numbers of Ki-43 aircraft until formally re-designated as a Hayabusa unit on 17 January 1944. Withdrawing from the New Guinea theatre in April 1944 it consolidated in the Halmaheras.

This venerable but straightforward and enjoyable kit is still available under the Microace/Arii logo for less than £7 direct from HLJ Japan.   It was first issued in Otaki's popular 1960s series of Japanese fighter types and a brief kitography illustrating the box art is here

*Common western usage of the organisational term Sentai (戰隊) for the IJAAF often drops the qualifying Hiko (飛行) - for aviation, air or flying - and there is disagreement about the most appropriate English translation with Regiment or Group both being used and Corps often appearing in Japanese English translations. Kenkyusha's 1942 dictionary gives "battle corps" for Sentai whilst Sqn Ldr A  R Boyce's Japanese Air Terms (Far Eastern Bureau, Ministry of Information, Calcutta, 1944)  gives Air Regiment for both Hiko Rentai and Hiko Sentai.  One modern Japanese source gives Squadron which seems inappropriate in view of the size of the unit and the constituent Chutai (中隊) which corresponds historically to the cavalry squadron but is also translated as company, battery or troop. 

Image credits: All © 2017  Stefan Sjöberg