Sunday, 2 December 2018

Wingsy 1/48 Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia

With special thanks to Dan Salamone and Chad Akins for their kind heads up about the forthcoming Wingsy 1/48 scale Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia, announced for January 2019 release. Sample sprue shots are shown below and pre-production CAD renders can be viewed here.

Splendid box art by Sergey Zoshchenko depicts a 1st Chutai Ki-51 of  Hiko Dai 27 Sentai with a very small pilot and an unusually complex camouflage scheme coming under fire from an AVG P-40.  This light bomber unit gradually converted to the Ki-51 from the Ki-32 in March 1941 and was active in the assault on Malaya, the Dutch East Indies and Burma.  The unit insignia on the fin and rudder combined the Japanese 'ni'  (二) for '2' in black with '7', the diagonal bar being painted in the Chutai colour. In addition to the tail insignia the 1st Chutai applied the representation of a swallow to the fuselage side, whilst the 2nd Chutai applied a stylised representation of the 'matoi' (纏), a battle standard or fireman's standard from the Edo period (as shown below), consisting of variously shaped heads, often with characters painted on them, and hanging strips.

The price is not revealed but Hannants have the Wingsy A5M kits at £36.99 (about US$47) so start saving or be prepared to wait for your Christmas present. The new Wingsy kit should eclipse the veteran and long-cherished Nichimo kit of currently uncertain availability. Japanese birds with spats seem to be the currently favoured flavour so let's hope someone, somewhere, is planning a 1/48 Ki-36/55 (but please let it not be a well known purveyor of limited run vinyl).  

Image credits: Box art and kit parts © 2018 Wingsy Kits; Matoi image via web


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Dead Design Resin for Tony and Claude

Dead Design Models have recently released high quality aftermarket resin sets for the Tamiya 1/72 Ki-61-I Tei and all versions of Fine Molds and Wingsy 1/48 A5M Claudes.  

Set RM72001 (shown above) provides a pair of Type II wooden drop tanks and wing racks to rectify the surprising ommission of those from Tamiya's Ki-61-I Tei kit. The pieces are very finely and delicately moulded in a grey-green resin, requiring care in separating them from their mould tabs, especially the racks.   

Set RM72002 (shown above) provides a set of separate replacement flight control surfaces for the same kit, consisting of a pair of ailerons, a pair of elevators and a rudder, all also neatly moulded in grey-green resin. Also included is a tiny sheet of aerodynamic hinge covers. 

Each 1/72 set retails for €5.76, about £5.13 or US$6.55.  

Set RM48001 (shown above) provides a set of replacement and correct flight control surfaces for all versions of the Fine Molds A5M2b (early and late) and A5M4 Claude kits, consisting of a pair of replacement ailerons, a pair of tailplanes with separate elevators and a rudder. Again these are exquisitely moulded in grey-green resin with beautifully rendered doped fabric and rib tape effect, especially on the rudder. 

Set RM48002 (shown above) is a similar set designed for all versions of the Wingsy A5M kits.  The dark staining on the parts seen in the image has been added to better illustrate their surface detail; the actual resin parts as sold are pure grey-green.  

Each 1/48 set retails for €7.68, about £6.84 or US$8.74. 

With special thanks to Jan of Dead Design Models for the review sets. 

Image credit: All © 2018 Dead Design Models

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Zegeye's AVI Models A5M1 in 1/72

This splendid looking Mitsubishi A5M1 was made by Zbyszek Malicki ('Zegeye') using the 1/72 AVI Models kit. He describes it as a short run kit with all the features of being short run but overall not bad. The plastic is rather soft, the internal details of the cockpit not very sharp and the kit needing some filler here and there.

Zbyszek added some details with Plastruct rod and fabricated the exhaust pipes from scratch as they are not included in the kit. He added a Yahu instrument panel which is almost invisible in the finished model. The model was painted with Gunze paints. All the markings were painted except for the tail code and small stencils which are the kit decals. The decals are very soft and thin, and must be applied gently. Zbyszek recommends not using any softener before the decals are in place and dry. He used SOL softener after the water on the model had evaporated, and from habit rather than a need. The decals seal very well without it.

It represents the aircraft of an unknown 12 Kokutai buntaicho in late 1937. 12 Ku's fighter hikotai re-equipped with the A5M during October and November 1937, operating from the newly captured airfield of Dajiaochang (which the Japanese called Daikojo) at Nanking (now Nanjing) from December of that year. Prior to re-equipment 12 Ku had operated the A4N from the airfield established by the Japanese on the golf course at the Kunda Textile Factory in Shanghai, on air defence and ground support sorties due to the limited range of that aircraft.   

This was the type of early A5M which featured - as models, no cgi then - in the 1977 Chinese movie 'Heroes of the Eastern Skies' (筧橋英烈傳). 

Image credits: All model pics © 2018 Zegeye; movie images web

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Tetsuya Inoue's Ki-61-II 'Bubbletop' Project in 1/48

At Tets Research Institute (reported here in June 2017 and March this year) Tetsuya Inoue has continued his awesome, painstaking and ultra-realistic 1/48 scale model engineering project with an update (and additional images) here. Tetsuya's work in recreating the propeller hub assembly (below) has to be seen to be believed.

Truly outstanding work.  With thanks to Tetsuya for sharing it with Aviation of Japan.

Image credits: All © 2018 Tetsuya Inoue and Tets Research Institute

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Pat Villareal's Hasegawa 1/48 Hayate

Courtesy of the good offices of AoJ Texas correspondent Mark Smith as go-between, Pat Villareal has kindly shared these images of his excellent Hasegawa 1/48 scale Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate 'Frank' model in natural metal plumage. The kit was won as a raffle prize in 2007 and tackled in a recent stash reduction exercise. Pat couldn't believe he had waited so long as he found it very detailed and a nice surprise to build. In his own words then.

"After market items used were from an Eduard photo-etch set.  Most of the photo-etch got installed but the instrument panel is box stock since I thought the details were better.  Scratch-built items are the antenna mast and pitot probe.  The antenna mast is made from a flattened paper clip (pounded on a hobby anvil) and shaped with a file.   The pitot probe is made from a straight pin filed down at the tip.  The gunsight was improved by cutting off the molded reflector plate and a plastic holographic sequin cut to shape and installed in its place.  I also added a reflective circular green optical lens on the upper surface of the sight using a hole punch to give it a little more interest.

"Hasegawa decided to engineer this kit using a lot of polycaps to install the fuel tanks, landing gear struts, wheels, fuel cooler and prop.  For the landing gear this resulted in a wobbly stance and was hard to align correctly.  So instead I decided to glue sprue into the polycap casing and then drilled out installation holes to match the struts.  That achieved a more conventional kit installation and a firmer stance. 

"The kit landing lights were extremely tiny and I considered them impractical for installation.  So I mixed 2-part clear epoxy and dabbed it into the light frame using a needle.  Once cured I painted them with Tamiya Clear Green and Red.  The results were much better than expected.

"Paints used were Model Master, Testors and Alclad with acrylics from Tamiya and Vallejo.  The plane was sprayed with Alclad Aluminum without primer, just straight onto the plastic.  However, I had to be very careful when filling seams since metallic finishes reveal every tiny flaw.   I brush shaded some panels with a cocktail of Future (Pledge - Revive It), water and different Vallejo paints (black, sienna, blue & sand) for color variation.

"Decals were from AeroMaster set 48-616 'Imperial Hayates Pt.II' and the color scheme represents an aircraft of the 2nd Chutai, Hiko Dai 73 Sentai  in the Philippines during 1944.  Micro Set and Sol were used in placing them and they reacted very well.  I did have to cut some relief holes for the upper markings to allow the aileron rods to protrude properly. Once the decals were cured I applied a coat of Future to protect them.  Then a few coats or Model Master clear flat lacquer in preparation for charcoal weathering.

"Hard to believe I started this hobby with just a basic cheap kit, tube glue with no paint.  And now building models has become an adventure in using a plethora of materials, tools and paints.  Reminds of the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime” . . . . with a little play on words:

You may find yourself sitting at a hobby table 
You may find yourself building a Tamiya Tomcat 
And you may find yourself installing photo etch parts 
You may find yourself painting with an Iwata airbrush 
With a lighted painting booth 
And you may ask yourself, well 
. . . . . . Letting the days go by . . . . . 

"Hmm, How did I get here???? Enjoy the pictures and “BUILD ON!” "

The 73rd was formed on the Hayate at Kita-Ise airfield south-west of Nagoya in May 1944 in preparation for the 3rd Phase reinforcement plan for the defence of the Philippines as part of the Hayate-heavy 21st Air Brigade with 72nd Sentai, the two Air Regiments of Hayate (1st and 2nd) to be be formed from the Akeno Army Aviation School and a heavy bomber regiment (3rd) from Hamamatsu Army Aviation School. There is a useful and illuminating history of this unit in Arawasi magazine Issue 10 of August 2008 although the 30th Fighter Group (第30戦闘飛行集団) to which it was eventually subordinated in the Philippines is incorrectly translated as 30th 'Combat Air Division' - 集 shû not shi 師!     
With special thanks to Pat Villareal for the images and build report and to Mark Smith for facilitating.

Image credits: All model photos © 2018 Pat Villareal; Aeromaster 48-616 image via web.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

New Fine Molds 1/48 'Babs' Variants Due in December

Fine Molds will release three new variants of their splendid 1/48th 'Babs' kit in December this year.  IJA Type 97 Model 1 'Tiger Troop' (above) features the early variant with markings options for two aircraft of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 18 Chutai and what appears to be an aircraft of Kumagaya Army Aviation School.


In addition the famous civil 'Kamikaze' record-breaker will be released as a separate kit (above) with two versions of markings (below). 

Also, completing the trio,  the IJA Type 97 Model II '8th Squadron' kit (above) with markings for two different aircraft of Hiko Dai 8 Sentai.  Price of these kits direct from Japan will be about £21 each.

With thanks to Dan Salamone for the heads-up on these releases. 

Image credits:- All © 2018 Fine Molds, via HobbyLink Japan Ltd.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Japanese Anti-Submarine Aircraft in the Pacific War ~ A Review

Japanese Anti-Submarine Aircraft in the Pacific War by Ryusuke Ishiguro and Tadeusz Januszewski, published by MMP Books, has been long and eagerly awaited since first announcement here in February 2017 and subsequent updates. This magisterial book does not disappoint and is an important addition to the accessible English language literature of WW2 Japanese aviation as well as an important subject in its own right. Far from being an arcane or obscure aspect of Japanese aviation the airborne anti-submarine response was a critical component of both Navy and Army airpower during the Pacific War, deployed against an increasingly effective, wide ranging and destructive Allied submarine campaign. The latter has been covered in the West to great depth in various books over the years but most of them have paid only superficial attention to Japanese anti-submarine warfare (ASW), either focussing on surface vessels or making scant reference to Japanese ASW aircraft, and usually in generic terms. Books on the development of Air to Surface radar follow a similar pattern, where the Japanese programme and projects are covered all too briefly, if at all, to no great depth and leaving many unanswered questions.

Here then is a book that sets out to answer those questions and delivers, often for the first time in the English language. But more than that it provides a seminal reference to the subject from the tactical to the technical, and should therefore leave no excuses for future naval historians of the Allied submarine campaign to omit its impact or reference to it. In that sense it is not just an 'aviation' book but is of undoubted naval interest as well. For modellers it should be required reading for any contemplating a collection of Japanese aircraft models in ASW guise - and there are plenty to choose from here! But, because many aircraft were adapted to the ASW role by both the Navy and Army the book is of more general interest too. Each type, whether adapted or specialist, operational or experimental, receives the same degree of attention, with full background, development history and operational use where appropriate, together with newly drawn and excellent plans. This coverage of some familiar types already described elsewhere might be questioned by some but this reviewer thinks the approach is correct. It results in a consistent structure to the book with all relevant information in one place, achieving a balanced presentation. Wiki entries on individual Japanese aircraft are patchy and too often full of errors. The standard English language reference work for Japanese aircraft in the Pacific War is the Putnams book, by R J Francillon, with the latest edition now being 18 years old. It won't be accessible to everyone and second hand copies are not cheap. Otherwise one must look to monographs on individual aircraft types with many gaps still to be filled. Too easy therefore to get drawn into reviewing a book from the perception of an interested and informed 'pundit' with an already extensive subject library, who might think that 'there is nothing new here' for those types, rather than to consider those taking up an interest for the first time and new to the subject. But in fact there is much that is new throughout this book and the authors have worked long and hard to unearth it. The whole package is excellent.    

The book consists of 248 pages and is divided into sections with the first 11 pages covering patrol service, IJN units and tactics and sea escort service. There follows a detailed compendium of individual ASW aircraft, first Navy and then Army, examining their development and operational use, with performance data tables and, in some cases but not all, a discussion of their colour schemes with some interesting information and insights. These sections prompt the obvious gaps for kits, especially of Army types. New mainstream 1/72 kits for the Kyushu K11W Shiragiku, Kokusai Ki-76 and Tachikawa Ki-54 would be welcome! After the individual aircraft sections there is a chapter on patrol and anti-submarine aircraft equipment, followed by one on anti-submarine bombs and torpedoes, and finally an exposition of IJA aircraft carriers. Although individual these chapters link to present a holistic whole and a book which delivers a satisfying, well-structured read as well as a useful reference work to dip into as required. Of particular note is the inclusion of operational aircraft types which have received little detailed coverage elsewhere - the IJN's Kyushu Q1W Tokai, the IJA's Kayaba Ka-Go and Ki-76 Stella. That alone gladdens the heart but some of the even more obscure proposed and experimental types are described as well. The coverage is comprehensive.  

There are 22 sets of aircraft plans, to 1/72 scale where feasible, 229 photographs, four in colour, and numerous diagrams and tables, as well as excellent colour cutaways by Giuseppe Picarella. Those detail the Q1W1 Marker Bomb Rotary Launcher, Q1W1 cockpit layouts and radar equipped B5N2 cockpit layouts. The photographs, albeit on matt paper, are clearly printed and presented to good sizes, the majority being absolutely relevant to the subject matter; in fact a remarkable compilation of many new and interesting images as well as some more familiar ones shown clearly for the first time. Collected at the rear of the book are 38 large colour profiles by Dariusz Karnas representing the aircraft types described in the text, with nine additional plan or detail views in colour. The profiles do not have individual captions which seems a pity, so that some controversial schemes like the blue Ki-51 of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 49 Chutai (page 245), for example, have no further description or elaboration.  There are some minor typos in the book and some inconsistencies in terminology but those pale against the wealth of information provided and its attractive presentation. A video preview of the book from publishers MMP is available here and it is very highly recommended.
With thanks to Ryusuke Ishiguro and the publishers for the review copy. 

Image credit: © 2018 MMP Books

Thursday, 26 July 2018

An Early Vietnamese Military Aviation Pioneer

One of the first military aviation pioneers, a street in Casablanca named after him, was a Vietnamese, Lieutenant Do-Huu Vi, a French Foreign Legion officer serving in the French Army's 1st Aeronautical Group which was sent to Casablanca in February 1912 with four Blériot monoplanes. Their sponsor was  General Lyautey, later Resident-General of Morocco, influenced perhaps by his mentor General Joseph Galliéni who had confounded his contemporaries in the 1911 manouevres in France by using aerial reconnaissance to capture a Colonel of the Supreme War Council and all his staff.

The Moroccan Aero Group spent five months on preparatory familiarisation flights, planning routes by stages and the siting of emergency landing grounds and fuel depots. On 17 August the first operational sortie was flown by Lt Do-Huu with Lt Van den Vaéro when they provided air reconnaissance for a column under Colonel Robillot south of Fes.  Do-Huu, without proper maps to navigate, drew sketch maps showing the position of hostile concentrations and dropped them to the column in weighted bags. Flight was challenging in the heat of the Moroccan summer as the Blériot's 80hp engine could not ascend above 4,600 feet, dust impeded fuel flow, damaging the engines and there was constant turbulence. to contend with. In May Lyautey had requested bombs but they were not available, however the number of Blériots was increased to six. Aerial bombing was not conducted in Morocco until April 1914 when 3 kg bombs were dropped in support of General Gouraud's campaign against the Tsouls tribe. The bombs were manufactured in Morocco with glazed earthenware casings. The tribesman responded with mass rifle fire, bringing down the aircraft of Capt Hervé and air mechanic Cpl Rocland on 8 April 1914. They were killed on the ground and their heads displayed around the Tsouls villages.

In December 1912 Lt Do-Huu flew a daring reconnaissance sortie in the Blériot to the fort at Dar el Kadi where Major Massoutier was under siege. In November 1912 a second section of the Group had been established at Oujda with five pilots and Deperdussin two seaters (below), flying operational sorties from January 1913.  

Lt Do-Huu was one of five sons of a prominent Vietnamese family in Saigon, his father the honorary mayor of Cholon. He was born on 2 February 1883, educated in France and in 1906 was commissioned à titre etranger at the military academy at St Cyr. He served in the 1st Regiment of the Foreign Legion in Morocco from 1907 to 1910 before undertaking flying training and gaining pilot's licence no.649 from the Aéro-Club de France and military licence no.78. Do-Huu remained in Morocco until 1913. After touring in France he returned to Saigon in 1914 to explore the use of the Lambert hydroplane (below) on the Mekong and Red Rivers. 

The outbreak of war saw Lt Do-Huu return to France where he continued operational flying, and all aircraft in Morocco were also returned to France. In 1915 a bad crash during bad weather left him with very serious injuries - a fractured skull and jaw, his left arm nearly torn off and in a coma for nine days. On partial recovery he insisted on returning to combat flying but his crippling injuries prevented him from piloting an aircraft so he became an observer in the 1st Bombardment Group, flying on sorties over Germany from Malzéville with Marc Bonnier as his pilot. Eventually his physical condition grounded him and he returned to infantry duties as a Captain in command of the 7th company of a Foreign Legion regiment on the Somme. The 33 year old Capt Do-Huu was killed on 9 July 1916 leading an attack near Chancelier and buried at Dompierre. In 1921 his brother Colonel Do-Huu Chan brought his remains back to Vietnam and re-buried them in the garden of his ancestors at Cholon.

When urged by his friends and relatives not to be so daring and reckless Do-Huu would say that it was necessary for him to be doubly courageous because he was both French and Annamite. His tombstone in France had reflected that - 'Capitaine-aviator Do-Huu. Died on the Field of Honour. For his fatherland Annam. For his country of France.'  

Image credits: Heading photo via web; postcard via web; Blériot plan Flight magazine circa 1910; Deperdussin image Flight magazine circa 1914; Lambert hydroplane Automotor magazine .