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

Sunday 12 February 2017

Sword 1/72 Kawasaki Ki-102b

Hat tip to Bill Sanborn for kindly alerting me to this new Kawasaki Ki-102 Otsu kit "coming soon" from Sword models. Another one to look forward to! 

The colour profiles suggest markings for three aircraft but the colours as presented are not typical. 'Randy' would have been dressed in the late-war olive drab, probably with spinners to match, with a possibility that night fighters were painted overall in the very matt finish of  # 38 Noh An Kasshoku  (濃暗褐色 - deep dark brown colour). a dark brownish black or caput mortuum hue applied to some Toryu night fighters. That was similar to a special night finish developed in Germany by Dr Kurt Herberts & Co., consisting of a dead black pigment combining ferrous oxide with magnesium oxide, mixed with small amounts of zinc yellow and black oxide (in dark red form).

Imagre credits: All © 2017 VISION SWORD s.r.o.

Saturday 11 February 2017

Airfix Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero in 1/72

The rather neat Airfix 1/72 A6M2 Zero will make a welcome comeback in March with splendidly striking new box art (above) and a colour scheme perhaps more representative of this variant. The price for this gem is a very competitive £6.59. To be encouraged as I understand that Airfix is not averse to the idea of future Japanese aircraft subjects!


Image credits: All © 2017 Airfix and Hornby Hobbies Ltd

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Jan Hajicek's Type 96 Kansen (A5M4)

Jan Hajicek ("Dead Design") has very kindly shared these images of his Mitsubishi A5M4 'Claude' model which, believe it or not, was made from the Fujimi kit in 1/72 scale and represents a Type 96 fighter model 4, tail code VII-111 of Soryu Kokutai, Houkoku Go No.348 "Dai-2 Jo-kyo-in Go" (donated by Japanese teachers), Formosa.

Jan started the kit in 1998 but found that it needed extra detail and the old Eduard photo-etch parts did not meet his requirements. He put the kit back into the box until he was able to master his own photo-etch design. 

The kit was then brought out again in 2004 and completed with Jan's own photo-etch. The whole cockpit except the floor was constructed from photo-etch parts. 

Jan enhanced the kit engine by adding a scratch built exhaust ring and some rods to the cylinder heads. The power distribution lines and the cowling support tube bracket were from photo-etch. 

The external fuel tank  rack and suspension straps were completely scratch built. The suspension straps holding the tank in place were reproduced using duct tape sprayed with Model Master metallizer and cut into strips. Other photo-etch parts comprised new bomb racks, landing flaps and trim tab actuators. 

All the control surfaces were cut out and repositioned. Jan also added more depth to them by scraping away the area between the ribs. The Fujimi kit features too many panel lines and a careful study of design drawings revealed that some of the panels on the outer part of the wing leading edge were in fact rivet lines. Jan says that he wasn't skilled at using a rivet tool at that time ("and I'm still not and highly doubt I will ever be") he just filled in the superfluous lines. The tail wheel strut was scratch built using thick aluminium foil and a hypodermic needle.

The kit supplied windscreen was too thick so Jan decided to make his own, vacuum moulding a replacement. The technique he used did not reproduce the framework so he again used duct tape, sprayed with MM Metallizer, cut into strips and applied to the windshield. 

Jan deepened the panel lines on the model as he applies artist water colours. to simulate weathering The whole model was airbrushed with Mr. Color (GSI Creos) # 8 to simulate aluminum.

Jan had considered the myth of the Type 96 Kansen Model 4 being "golden" as reproduced in various colour profiles. In 1999 he posted a question at which revealed one possible explanation for the "golden" appearance. The natural metal construction was protected by the application of a phenol based clear varnish to withstand the corrosive effect of salt water. Therefore Jan added another layer to the model - a clear coat tinted with yellow-brown to represent the additional phenol based clear protective coat. Final weathering was applied with artistic chalks after close inspection of photos of the Model 4 variant. Chipping of the clear coating was evident in some photos so Jan decided to reproduce that too.

All the markings were airbrushed using Mr. Color paints and masks designed and plotted by Jan himself. The only decals used on this model are the manufacturer’s plate and the Houkoku presentation marking on the fuselage sides. That was also designed on a computer and laser printed by Jan. The overall result is magnificent, especially in 1/72 scale. 

With special thanks to Jan for sharing these images of his wonderful model.

Image credits: All © 2017 Jan Hajicek

Monday 6 February 2017

Tamiya 1/48 Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei

Dan Salamone has kindly contributed his in-box review of the new Tamiya 1/48 scale Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei kit. Over to Dan:

"Today I received my copy of the brand new Tamiya 1/48 Ki-61-I Tei. Though I was surprised when I heard a few months back that Tamiya was going to release this kit, it was welcome news. I have been nearing completion of the Hasegawa 1/48 Ki-61-I Hei kit, released back in 2005, so this review will not only report on aspects of the new Tamiya kit, but also offer some comparisons to the older Hasegawa kit. 

"The box art is truly stunning, showing the subject on an intercept mission against USAAF B-29’s. Though there are not a great number of parts to this kit, you will find that the box is full. Tamiya has included an informational “background” sheet in Japanese, English, German and French, a sheet showing both of the two provided markings options to 1/48 scale and the traditional Tamiya style instruction sheet.

"There is a set of kabuki tape canopy masks included but they must be cut out, rather than the Eduard style of laser cut masks. The aforementioned markings include the aircraft on the boxart, a 244th Sentai machine flown by 2nd Lt. Shunzo Takashima, as well as the aircraft flown by 244th Sentai leader Teruhiko Kobayashi. I will mention here that the Tei variant of the Hien has fewer color and markings options than the earlier Ko, Otsu and Hei variants. If a modeler wishes to model something other than a 244th Sentai aircraft, your main verifiable choices would include the 19th, 55th, 56th, and 59th Sentai, as well as the Akeno and Hitachi Flying Schools.

"The kit consists of 5 sprues, 3 in grey and 2 in clear, including a clear left fuselage half as an option instead of using the standard grey fuselage half. This would help to show off the full engine and cockpit detail provided in the kit. The surface detail is fine and beautiful, the engine detail is more than sufficient for most modelers, and the cockpit and other interior parts are comprehensive. The trailing edge of the wings are almost razor thin, so this should result in a very accurate looking scale thickness.

"Fabric flight control surfaces (ailerons, elevators, rudder) show some raised rib tapes which are visible but not highly prominent. Some builders may wish to sand these down a bit. Build options for the modeler include an open or closed canopy, which requires a different set of parts for the spine immediately behind the cockpit, as well as interior cockpit rail parts. The instructions make it very clear which parts are to be used for either option. There is also a very well molded sitting pilot figure. Additionally, and this is not illustrated in the instructions, the full engine does not need to be installed. Instead it can be replaced with part A43, which provides the stem required to attach the prop and spinner assembly.

"The parts breakdown for the under fuselage radiator bath is very different from the older Hasegawa kit, as well as the way in which the assembly is attached to the model. Whilst there is far more detail, Tamiya have molded the parts in a way that precludes displaying the radiator bath outlet door in the lowered position. This can be altered by the modeler, but be sure to check reference photos as some late war Hiens had this outlet door removed in the field. There is a set of lap belts included as decals. To the best of my knowledge, the Ki-61 lacked any sort of shoulder harness for the pilot.

"Some of the weaknesses of the older Hasegawa kit have been addressed and improved upon in this new tool kit from Tamiya. The level of cockpit detail is far superior in the new kit, the wing dihedral appears to be correct, the supercharger intake shows the appropriate vertical slats (whereas the Hasegawa kit is simply an open rectangular shape). The open canopy option is an improvement, especially with the highly detailed cockpit. Personally, one aspect of the Hasegawa kits that always got under my skin was how shallow the main landing gear bays were. Though hard to see in the image above, the bays are deeper and more realistic in appearance in the new Tamiya kit. Other small items to note are the separately molded rudder actuators, landing light lens for the left wing leading edge, and optional pilot head/shoulder armor for the cockpit.

"In summation, this kit is a true gem, superior in all respects to the older Hasegawa kits. That said, until Tamiya releases the short nosed Ko/Otsu/Hei versions, don't sell off your older Hasegawa kits. Hopefully this release signals the return of Tamiya to 1/48 Japanese aircraft subjects . . . . and maybe an equally well executed Hayabusa!"

With special thanks to Dan for sharing this review. The box art is puzzling as Kobayashi presented '24' to Lt Takashima after the 244th Sentai began operating the Ki-100 from 23 April 1945 and the unit had been assigned to the 30th Fighter Group (for direct special attack escort) as a result of operational changes made in March 1945. Takashima was the leader of the special attack 159th Shinbu-tai formed from within the 244th on 26 April. '24' was photographed in early May with its armament removed. On 28 May Takashima flew to Chiran from Chofu in this aircraft, escorted by Lt Koutaro Yokote of the 244th's Sentai Hombu in a Ki-100. Takashima subsequently flew '24' on a one-way suicide mission from Chiran on 6 June.  It seems improbable that Takashima would have been in combat against B-29s in this aircraft. Perhaps the artist intended to depict Kobayashi in '24' with its traditional blue fuselage stripe? The instructions and decal sheet are at odds with this, presenting Kobayashi's aircraft with a red fuselage stripe, as suggested in 2004 by Takashi Sakurai, the historian of the 244th Sentai. In fact the idea of a red fuselage stripe on Kobayashi's '24' is not new as artist Kihachiro Ueda had already illustrated it that way circa 1972 for the box art of the Revell 1/32 kit (shown below) with aircraft sporting blue and yellow stripes in the background!

Of course the provision of both blue and red stripes on the decal sheet leaves modellers free to make their own choice when modelling Kobayashi's famous '24'.

Image credits: Heading art © 2017 Tamiya Inc,; All kit photos © 2017 Dan Salamone; Revell 1/32 box art via eBay

Saturday 4 February 2017

26 Colourful Tonys (and 2 Nates) ~ 1/48 Lifelike Decals for Ki-61

Lifelike Decals have just released no less than four new decal sets for the Ki-61 in 1/48 scale. In addition to re-issuing the three 244th Sentai sets in updated format as 48-003(R) to 48-005(R), they have also released a new set 48-050 'Kawasaki Ki-61 Part 1' with decals for four aircraft sporting victory markings. With the release of the new Tamiya 1/48 Ki-61 Tei these sets are timely and welcome temptations to think outside the box!

244th Sentai Part 1 48-003(R) contains the markings for no less than three Tei and five Hei variants as follows:-
  • Ki-61-I Hei '295' flown by Capt Kobayashi in mottled green with with blue and white fuselage stripes and red painted empennage.
  • Ki-61-Tei '24' flown by Capt Kobayashi in mottled green with red fuselage stripe, red painted empennage and drop tank slogans
  • Ki-61-I Tei '24' flown by Lt Takashima as above but with blue fuselage stripe
  • Ki-61-I Hei '43' flown by Cpl Ishioka in mottled green with red and white lightning flash on nose and yellow spinner cap
  • Ki-61-I Hei flown by Cpl Suzuki in natural metal finish (nmf) with red fuselage stripe, redpainted empennage and five victory markings. This aircraft has the Hinomaru on white Homeland Defence bandages
  • Ki-61-I Hei '57' flown by Lt Shinomiya as above but with lightning-style fuselage stripe. This aircraft does not display the unit insignia on the tail but instead has the katakana character ㇱ (Shi) in white on the rudder 
  • Ki-61-I Tei '57' flown by an unknown pilot in mottled green with red lightning flash on fuselage and Homeland Defence bandages
  • Ki-61-I Hei '45' flown by Cpl Ando in mottled green with red lightning flash, white fuselage stripe, red-painted empennage and Homeland Defence bandages
This set is very comprehensive with alternative markings, such as red and yellow leading edge strips, where these details are uncertain or contested, but it should be noted that it contains sufficient Hinomaru for one aircraft only and the white Homeland Defence bandages must be painted on by the modeller. As usual with Lifelike there are detailed notes for each subject, generic notes on the colours and markings of 244th Sentai aircraft, plus additional schematics showing the placement of wheel cover numbers and stencilling, etc.

244th Sentai Part 2 48-004(R) offers markings for two Type 97 (Ki-27 'Nate'), a Ki-61-I Ko, an Otsu, two Hei and two Tei.
  • Type 97 in grey-green with colourful early air defence markings of blue forward cowling, red and blue fuselage bands and white Homeland Defence bandages. This aircraft has the early form of 244th Sentai tail emblem and red leading edge IFF strips
  • Ki-61-I Tei '24' flown by Capt Kobayashi in nmf with red fuselage stripe and red painted empennage. This aircraft represents subject # 2 in 48-003 with the camouflage mottle removed
  • Ki-61-I Tei '62'' flown by Capt Kobayashi in factory-painted # 7 olive drab with red painted empennage and white fuselage stripes 
  • Ki-61-I Hei '15' flown by Cpl Suzuki in mottled green with seven kill marks and Homeland Defence bandages
  • Type 97 in grey-green with air defence markings and later sentai emblem 
  • Ki-61-I Ko '16' flown by Cpl Nakano in post-factory applied dark green with red painted empennage, Homeland Defence bandages and three kill marks
  • Ki-61-I Hei '33' flown by Cpl Nakano in nmf with red painted empennage, katakana character ナ (Na) on rudder and Homeland Defence bandages
  • Ki-61-I Otsu '73' flown by Sgt Itakagi as above in nmf with katakana イ (i) character on rudder
Another set of interesting markings options with the Type 97 subjects providing an opportunity to model some of the aircraft operated by this famous unit in chronological sequence.   

244th Sentai Part 3 48-005(R) presents markings for five Ki-61-I Tei, two Hei and one Otsu.
  • Ki-61-I Tei '87' possibly flown by Capt Kobayashi in dark green with red painted empennage. 
  • Ki-61-I Hei '21' flown by Lt Hiranuma in mottled green with red and blue fuselage bands and Homeland Defence bandages. This aircraft has two kill marks on the right side of the fuselage
  • Ki-61-I Tei '62' flown by Lt Itakura in factory applied # 7 olive drab with red painted empennage and drop tank slogans
  • Ki-61-I Tei flown by a special attack Shinbu-tai in factory applied # 7 olive drab with a large artwork of a Hien diving on a ship painted on the fuselage
  • Ki-61-I Tei '24' flown by Capt Kobayashi with roughly applied green blotching, white fuselage stripe and red painted empennage
  • Ki-61-I Otsu '16' flown by Capt Shono in mottled green with Homeland Defence bandages
  • Ki-61-I Hei '88' flown by Capt Shono in nmf with red lightning flash and Homeland Defence bandages
  • Ki-61-I Tei '71' flown by the Soyokaze-tai of the 244th Sentai in factory applied # 7 olive drab with plain Hinomaru
Another interesting collection of subjects with options for several differently painted Tei requiring interpretative choices. From these three sets all Sentai Commander Kobayashi's various aircraft can be modelled. Of interest is the suggestion to paint the interiors a light blue colour close to FS*5550. This is based on an article by Mr Katabuchi in Gakken 61 which states that Kawasaki painted the interiors of the Ki-61 in Army colour # 1 grey-green (hairyokushoku) which over time became brownish with the appearance of a khaki tan or sand brown. Gakken 61 contains a printed colour chart and the chip for # 1 is shown as a pale blue like FS*5550. The idea that Kawasaki applied a more blueish-grey version of # 1 has arisen before,  reinforced by some extant paint samples.

Kawasaki Ki-61 Part 1 48-050 contains markings for three Hei and one Otsu type Hien, all of which display kill marks.
  • Ki-61-I Hei flown by Lt Takeo Adachi of 55th Sentai in nmf with four kill marks.
  • Ki-61-I Otsu flown by Sgt Shuichi Kaiho of 39th Rensei Hikotai in green mottle over nmf with four kill marks
  • Ki-61-I Hei flown by Lt Tomiho Tohda of 55th Sentai in post-factory applied dark green with four kill marks
  • Ki-61-I Hei flown by Lt Takeshi Nakamura of 18th Sentai in nmf with a single kill mark
The two 55th Sentai aircraft are from the stay-behind cadre in Japan which participated in Homeland Defence operations led by Lt Tohda whilst the rest of the unit was serving in the Philippines. Again the instructions include notes for each subject, a coloured schematic showing stencilling placement and this time sufficient Hinomaru for two models. The decals are sharply printed by Microscale for Lifelike with good colour saturation.

With special thanks to Lifelike for the review sheets.

Image credits: All © 2017 Lifelike Decals

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Japanese Anti-Submarine Aircraft in the Pacific War

Due for publication on 1 September 2017  Japanese Anti-Submarine Aircraft in the Pacific War is a new Mushroom Model Publications White Series book by Ryusuke Ishiguro and Tadeusz Januszewski. This very welcome study of a little known but fascinating subject is by the well-respected researcher-author and talented artist duo responsible for previous Mushroom books on Japanese Special Attack Aircraft and the Kugisho E14 'Glen'. It is printed to A4 size and consists of 240 pages. More details to follow.

The Japanese Anti-Submarine aircraft of World War II are not well documented and this book is the first on the subject in the English language. Full technical details are provided for a wide selection of historic aircraft and their fascinating colour schemes are illustrated in specially commissioned profiles. The featured aircraft are: * Aichi E13A Reisu (Jake); * Aichi H9A; * Kawanishi E7K (Alf); * Kawanishi H6K (Mavis/Tillie); * Kawanishi H8K (Emily); * Mitsubishi G3M (Nell); * Mitsubishi G4M (Betty); * Nakajima B5N (Kate); * Nakajima B6N Tenzan (Jill); * Kyushu Q1W Tokai (Lorna); * Q1W1-K Tokai Ren; * Mitsubishi Q2M Taiyo; * Kyushu K11W Shiragiku; * Kyushu Q3W Nankai; * Kayaba Ka-Go; * Kokusai Ki-76 (Stella); * Kobeseiko Te-Go; * Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Sonia); * Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu (Helen); * Tachikawa Ki-36 (Ida); * Tachikawa Ki-54 (Hickory)."

Image credits: © 2017 Mushroom Model Publications via Ryusuke Ishiguro