Saturday 31 March 2018

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

Since I blogged about 'Tets Research Institute' and the Ki-61-II 'Bubbletop' project of Tetsuya Inoue in June last year, he has been continuing to work his magic as a master modeler and miniature engineer. Bearing in mind the scale of his model - 1/48 - the painstaking work involved is nothing short of awesome. The latest progress is described and pictured here

Do visit Tetsuya's blog and prepare to be inspired and amazed, not just by the detail but by the absolutely convincing painting too. Did I mention the scale is 1/48? I have a sneaking suspicion that Tetsuya has a one and a half inch tall pilot waiting patiently in a dispersal hut to climb into this aircraft and test fly it when it is completed!

With special thanks to Tetsuya for kindly alerting me to the progress report on this project.

Image credits: All © 2018 Tetsuya Inoue 

Monday 26 March 2018

Update ~ Rising Decals Ki-45

In response to a query have updated the Rising Decals 'Flight of No Return' review with paint ratio correction and clarification for the "Dark Green" Mr Color paint mix cited for the Ki-45 subjects. The Mr Color paint mix as suggested by Hasegawa results in a rich olive brown presumably intended to represent the # 7 colour. Note that the colour as mixed and depicted by Hasegawa (below) is not a "reddish brown". The subject of "brown" Toryu (and Ki-46) will be addressed in more detail in a future blog.

Image credit: Paint chip © 2018 Aviation of Japan; Box Art © 2014 Hasegawa Corporation via Hobby Search Japan

Saturday 24 March 2018

More Avimodel 1/72 Claudes

In something of a current modelling 'Claudefest' in both scales, Avimodels, designed by Rising Decals, have released two more Claude variants in 1/72 scale. The Mitsubishi A5M2b (above) AVI72003 is the enclosed canopy Claude which comes with three markings options as shown below. The decals, all for 12 Ku in China, are well chosen with a Houkoku-emblazoned bird in classic silver and red, a red-legged aircraft with the sliding canopy removed and another Houkoku-emblazoned machine camouflaged in green and brown.

This is a unusual variant which saw limited use and will make an interesting comparison display with the Ki-27 'Nate'. The canopy on this one is injection moulded and very clear.

Also released is the two-seat trainer variant A5M4-K AVI72004 with two markings options as shown below. An Oita Ku example in dark green over orange-yellow with spat-stripped undecarriage and an overall orange-yellow bird from  the same unit. 

The two windscreens for this one are also injection moulded. Instructions warn that these kits are produced with short-run technology and intended for experienced modellers only.

Finally, in their accessory series Rising have released a pre-painted photo-etched instrument panel sheet (above)to go with their A5M1-3 kits - RDAcc-018. The sheet includes a set of seat belts too. A resin Kotobuki 2 engine for the A5M1 is also on the way.

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

Image credit: All © 2018 Avimodels & Rising Decals


Wednesday 21 March 2018

Rising Decals ~ Flight of No Return

This newly issued decal sheet from prolific Japanese subject producer Rising Decals presents a selection of markings for 12 different and colourful aircraft from the Army special attack units -  tokubetsu kōgeki tai 特別攻撃隊 or tokkōtai 特攻隊', as set RD72076 'Flight of No Return'. This sheet provides decals for the following subjects:-
  • Ki-45 Kai Hei of 8th Hakkô-tai 'Kinno-tai' - as flown by unit leader Lt Takumi Yamamoto with tail number '1' in an overall single colour scheme for which Rising suggest Gunze Mr Color 130 Dark Green (Kawasaki) or 304 Olive Drab or a "Dark Green" prepared from a mix of Mr Color primary colours 4 Yellow, 6 Green and 7 Brown* (see note below and update)
  • Ki-45 Kai Hei ditto but with tail number '9'
  • Ki-45 Kai Hei of 11th Hakkô-tai 'Kokok-tai' as flown by unit leader 1Lt Kyoichi Miura with tail number '1' in similar overall single colour scheme.
  • Ki-45 Kai Hei ditto but with tail number '10'
  • Ki-43-II of unknown tokko unit in solid dark green over natural metal with fuselage number '413' photographed at Chiran, Japan in April 1945
  • Ki-43-II of unknown tokko unit in mottled green over natural metal with red lightning flash on fuselage and rudder number '17'. The yellow tail insignia is similar to Hiko Dai 103 Sentai, a unit more usually associated with the Ki-84 Hayate but which reportedly used Hayabusa for training - and possibly special attack. 103 operated as part of the 3rd Attacking Group during the Okinawa operations, together with 65 and 66 Sentai and two other Shinbu-tai, sortying aircraft in special attacks against US surface units from Tokuno Shima on 29 March and 1 April 1945.  
  • Ki-43-II of 19th Shinbu-tai as flown by 2Lt Tadahiko Inoue in solid dark green over natural metal with tail number '82', at Chiran, Japan for Okinawa operations in April and May 1945  
  • Ki-84 of Hiko Dai 101 Sentai as flown by S/Sgt Nobuo Saito depicted in olive drab over grey-green with tail number '82'. This was another Hayate unit associated with special attacks during the Okinawa operations, forming the 2nd Attacking Group at Miyakanojo with 102 Sentai and two other Shinbu-tai. The finish on this aircraft was heavily worn, with large areas of complete paint loss, so it would make a challenging but interesting subject to model. 
  • Ki-84 of 197th Shinbu-tai 'Seiki-tai' in olive drab over grey-green at Kita ise in Spring 1945. This aircraft is distinguished by the large representation of Momotaro the Peach Boy on the fin and rudder. 
  • Ki-48-11 of 25th Makoto-hikotai in mottled green over grey-green at Jurinko (Shulinko), Taiwan in May 1945.
  • Ki-51 of unknown but presumed tokko unit photographed post-war at Omura with skull and crossbones on fin and rudder. The kanji characters 'Shidou' - (士道 - chivalry) on the tail are speculative. 
  • Ki-61-Ib of 56th Shinbu-tai as flown by 2Lr Ryoji Uehara in camouflage of dark green whorls over natural metal with white number '696' on nose, at Chofu in May 1945. 

This is an interesting sheet providing the opportunity to model several unusual subjects and to inspire further research into the operations of these, often enigmatic, special attack units. With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for this review sample.

 Hiko Dai 101 Sentai Ki-84 of S/Sgt N Saito (foreground) showing extensive paint wear

The Hakkô-tai (八絋隊 - eight directions unit, from Hakkō ichiu 'eight crown cords, one roof' a saying attributed to the Emperor Jinmu and interpreted by nationalist Chigaku Tanaka to mean Imperial rule divinely ordained to cover the whole world) were those special attack units organised in the Philippines by the 4th Air Army from 7 November 1944 to 13 January 1945. The Shinbu-tai (振武隊 - showing martial spirit unit) were special attack units organised in Japan under the 6th Air Army whilst the Makoto-hikotai (誠飛行隊 - fidelity/loyalty air unit) were special attack units operating under 8th Air Division command on Taiwan, both engaged in the Okinawa operations. 8th Air Division came under 1st Air Army (Japan) command. The 6th Air Army was formed on 26 December 1944 from the Air Training Army, sometimes referred to as the Air Instruction Army. It originally had three roles, the air defence of Japan, to attack US bases in the Marianas and to prepare for the defence of Japan against invasion by attacking the invasion forces. By February 1945 due to practical limitations its role had been reduced to providing a strategic reserve against enemy invasion task forces only. In March 1945 the 6th Air Army was temporarily deployed to the operational command of the IJN Combined Fleet for the defence of the Ryuku Islands (until July) and centralised its operations from Kyushu. Its provisional defence duties (against invasion task forces) in the Kanto sector were taken over by the newly established 30th Fighter Group (Dai 30 Sento Hiko Shudan - 第30戦闘飛行集団). 

As mentioned previously here 30th Fighter Group then came directly under General Defence Command and consisted (originally) of Hiko Dai 47 and 244 Sentai, the 18th, 19th, 25th, 45th and 47th Shinbu-tai, Shimoshizu Hikotai & Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 17 Chutai (those two units providing reconnaissance support), plus three guide bombers from Utsonomiya Air Instruction Division and two navigation air squads. In July 1945 when 6th Air Army reverted to the air defence of Japan role headquartered at Fukuoka it had about 1,000 special attack aircraft under command in various Shinbu-tai as well as the 30th Fighter Group which then consisted of Hiko Dai 59, 62 and 244 Sentai plus Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 17 Chutai. Other units under 6th Air Army command at that time were 11th Air Division with Hiko Dai 55, 56 and 246 Sentai, 12th Air Division with Hiko Dai 4, 47 and 71 Sentai, 100th Air Brigade with Hiko Dai 101 and 103 Sentai, and 7th & 21st Air Brigade HQs. In addition under direct 6th Air Army command were Hiko Dai 2, 60, 65, 66 & 110 Sentai, plus the whole of the 51st Air Instruction Division headquartered at Gifu.

Hiko Dai 62 Sentai might seem an odd addition to 30th Fighter Group but after returning to Japan from the Philippines in January 1945 it was designated as a tokko unit with specialised Ki-67 Sakura-dan and To-go (800 kg x 1 in bomb bay and 800 kg x 1 in fuselage) aircraft, participating in the Okinawa operations and incurring heavy losses. On 12 April 1945 Sentai Commander Maj Shozo Sawanobori was killed in a flying accident with 10 other Sentai personnel during a move from Nishi Tsukuba to Tachiarai whilst on board the 1st Chutai leader Capt Yasumasa Iwamoto's Ki-67. Maj Yuzaburo Ono became the unit commander until the end of the war.

* The mix seems to be based on that given in some Hasegawa Ki-45 kits but the ratio as printed results in 130%! If so it should be 30% x 4, 50% x 6 and 20% x 7. This results not in a dark green as such but in a dark, rich olive brown approximation of the # 7 colour as shown above (from a measured swatch of the mixed paints).The question of "brown" Toryu (and Ki-46) will be addressed in a future blog.

Image credits: Decal instructions and sheet © 2018 Rising Decals; Colour chip © 2018 Aviation of Japan

Sunday 18 March 2018

Otaki 1/48 Kawanishi N1K1-J Ko Shiden by Michael Thurow

The Aviation of Japan blog is 10 years old today and to mark the occasion it is a delight to present another splendid rejuvenation project of a classic kit by Michael Thurow. There is no cake or candles today but Michael more than provides the icing on the cake with his re-build treatment of this Otaki kit. Over to Michael:-

Kawanishi  N1K1-J Ko  Shiden  –  Otaki  1/48
by Michael Thurow

Phoenix from the Ashes

Otaki (now Arii) was one of my favourite kit manufacturers in my early 1/48 years – mainly because in the seventies not many firms offered a well-rounded selection of kits in this scale. Besides Monogram (for US planes) there were Fujimi, Nichimo, a few Tamiya and – Otaki. Consequently I still own a considerable collection of their models which I purchased in this period. My Kawanishi Shiden was originally built in 1988, and I must admit that I never much liked my work. The kit is one of the early Otaki products with only a few unsophisticated extras: a simple engine, a basic cockpit and poor detail. However, like most Otaki models, it exhibits superb accuracy in dimensions and shape.

To complete my trilogy of late-war IJN planes (after Raiden and Suisei) I decided to try a full overhaul of this venerable model, and in all modesty I'm very satisfied with the result. This is a summary of my work: 

A Kernel Renovation

After stripping, only the airframe survived, consisting of fuselage, wings, tailplane and cowling, albeit still in one piece - except for a detached cowling!

Front Section

The upper and lower intakes were cut open and received new strakes. I fabricated open cooling flaps and added Quickboost #48565 exhausts which needed some adjustment. Note also the small air scoop below the exhausts on the starboard side! The front cylinder row of a Vector resin #48-016 Nakajima Homare upgraded the model's engine and the spinner received larger holes and cuffs for the prop blades. I opened the oil cooler outlet under the fuselage and added a flap. All flaps were formed from thin cardboard as described in my Shoki build report. Finally I cut revised ventilation slots into the forward fuselage sides with a Dremel saw.

Cockpit Area
The Aires #4539 cockpit is an excellent aftermarket item. I just needed to extend the side walls which the Hasegawa kit, for which it was intended, obviously did not require. To remove the old kit’s cockpit through the front fuselage opening, however, was a lot of difficult work because the floor reached into the wing root. 

After successfully inserting the new cockpit structure I constructed a headrest from cardboard (open to the rear), covered it with adhesive foil to imitate laminated wood and modified the rear cockpit decking (the direction finder antenna seems to be missing on this particular plane – see original below). The canopy is the Squadron Vacuform # 9548. I could not resist the detailing bug and also added the hood opening handles cum cables.

Undercarriage Upgrade

This was the most demanding undertaking since the only aftermarket item available for replacing the archaic kit parts are Quickboost undercarriage covers.

First I bored out the wheel wells which are too shallow (a typical issue with Otaki kits) by using a core drill. The wing/fuselage joints got in the way and the drilling became quite brutal. The kit’s plastic is not very heat-resistant, so care was needed to avoid melting it. I built up new wheel bays referring to what rare pictures were available, then attached the inner wheel covers from the Quickboost #48592 set and added a home-made snap bracket.

Turning to the undercarriage struts my work became most enjoyable. The Shiden's struts had a contraction mechanism with hydraulic lines, valves, joints and rails, none of which are present on the simplified Otaki legs – obviously a feast for my detailing obsession. For modellers who consider such folly too time-consuming an aftermarket strut set should be made available. It would be worthwhile but also boring...

It remains to be mentioned that I also corrected the kit's odd tail gear with some scratch parts.

Underwing Components

I had built my 1988 model with extended landing flaps which I decided to keep but with some enhancement. This feature adds realism to the model since flaps tended to drop when the hydraulic pressure lessened after some time on the ground.

The next items on my list, Otaki's gun pods, were not bulbous enough. I wedged them wider at the top to form a trapezoid cross section. Surprisingly, thanks to superglue, the two halves didn't burst apart. I sanded the rear ends into shape and fabricated new barrel casings from unused 5 in. HVAR war heads. All four cannons are equipped with Air Master #48-021 metal gun barrels.

Last but not least I spent a couple of hours preparing attachment points for the 400 litre drop tank. I'm not sure if this addition makes the Shiden look any better - it rather emphasises the plane's stoutness. I might pass it on to an N1K2-J if I ever build one. Those who are familiar with this Otaki kit will detect other small embellishments that I have not listed here as I now want to share some thoughts about this specific aircraft.

Surrendered in the Philippines

201-53 was production number 5511 built in October 1944 at Kawanishi's Naruo plant and delivered to the 201st Kokutai in the Philippines. 201 Ku was a Zero unit – one of the first employed for suicide attacks. I could not determine why the unit received Shidens and how many. FAOW No.53 (p.44) assumes that they were replacement aircraft. Thorpe 1977 (p.39) states that the Shiden was assigned to the 1st Buntai 'to develop special attack tactics'. Nick Millman comments that surviving Shiden in the Philippines were used as Tokko escorts or fast recce so it is possible 201 Ku received some for that role. 201 Ku's personnel suffered complete annihilation in ground fighting after all aircraft had been lost or disabled. 201-53 was found by American troops at Clark Field at the end of 1944 and this little-used airplane was duly vandalised.

Questionable Colours

I used Colourcoats ACJ01 for the topside D1 Dark Green Black. This was the easy part. With regard to lower surface 'camouflage', different views are presented in publications and internet forums regarding the question of grey or silver? It may not be true for all Shiden but the underside of 201-53 appears to be natural metal. The underwing panels show different shades which is typical for natural metal surfaces. I took Tamiya PS12 spray colour and hand-brushed some panels with a thin layer of lighter or darker silver.

The colour of the control surfaces (ailerons and elevators) is even more controversial. Covered with fabric they would have been doped with either silver or grey varnish. Though silver seems more obvious I chose grey because the original colour looks quite lustreless. I worked on the hypothesis that these parts were manufactured by subcontractors who painted them according to IJN directive with J3 Ash Grey, maybe even consuming a stock of pre-fabricated N1K Kyofu parts. My decision to also finish the gun pods in grey colour is definitely speculative, again suggesting that they came from subcontractors. On very early specimens like pre-production machines the pods look more like natural metal but those are of a slightly different type with access doors on the outer rather than inner sides. The pods for series production appear very smooth, as though made of wood, which would support my theory. I scrutinized dozens of pictures to form this opinion but it may all be very simple, say silver. However, the variation of colours does make for a livelier looking model.

One final observation concerns the yellow wing leading edge stripes of 201-53. From a closer look it is apparent that the formerly narrow stripes were overpainted and broadened along the upper surface. A portion of the original (darker) stripe is still visible close to the wing root, on both sides of the airplane.

The Shiden is the last of three IJN warplanes that I wanted to create when I began two and a half years ago. They make a very nice collection but I have now had enough of dark greens and greys for a while. Colour needs to return to my modelling life and therefore I plan to indulge one of my other areas of interest - American fighters of the thirties. I hope to report back in a couple of years with a series of Ki-61/Ki-100 models.

Michael Thurow
March 2018

Kawanishi N1K Kyofu/'Rex' & Shiden/'George', Aircraft Profile No.213, Windsor
Kawanishi Navy Interceptor Fighter Shiden, Famous Airplanes of the World No.2, Tokyo, 1971
Nipponese Uniquity ... The Story of Kawanishi's Violet Lightning, Air Enthusiast Vol.4, Bromley, 1973
Japanese Navy Air Force Camouflage and Markings WWII, Donald W. Thorpe, Fallbrook, 1977
Kyofu, Shiden, Shiden Kai, Famous Airplanes of the World No.53, Tokyo, 1995
Shiden / Shiden-Kai, Mechanism of Military Aircraft No.1, Japan, 1999
Kawanishi N1K1-J / N1K2-J Shiden / Shiden-Kai, Gakken Vol.24, Tokyo, 2000
The Dark Green Paints of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, Nicholas Millman, 2016
J2M Raiden and N1K1/2 Shiden/Shiden-Kai Aces, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 129, Botley, 2016
N1K1-J Shiden Series - The Imperial Japanese Navy Interceptor, Model Graphix 232067, Tokyo, 2017

Wonderful! With very special thanks to Michael for sharing this excellent and most interesting project with Aviation of Japan.

Image Credits: All model pics © 2018 Michael Thurow; Box art © 1972 & 1975 Otaki Plastic Model

Friday 16 March 2018

New Book ~ Japanese Anti-Submarine Aircraft of the Pacific War

I have just received especially welcome confirmation that this eagerly awaited and important book by Ryusuke Ishiguro and Tadeusz Januszewski. will now be published by MMP Books this Summer.

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 details are provided for a wide selection of historic aircraft, both Navy and Army, and their fascinating colour schemes are illustrated in specially commissioned profiles. The featured aircraft are:

• Aichi E13A (Jake)
• Aichi H9A
• Kawanishi E7K (Alf)
• Kawanishi H6K (Mavis/Tillie)
• Kawanishi H8K (Emilly)
• 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)

In A4 Softcover format (ISBN 978-83-65281-39-5). 

Excellent news!

Image credit: © 2018 MMP Books via Ryusuke Ishiguro

Tuesday 13 March 2018

John Haas' 1/48 Ki-78 Project ~ Part Four

John Haas concludes his scratchbuilt Ki-78 project in 1/48 scale with these images of the completed model and his account of how all the pieces came together.  

First the canopy. John made several pieces, just to be sure, and indeed found that he needed three in order to make a good one. It is always a matter of inch and pinch to blend the canopy into the fuselage and it took two evenings of work before John was happy with the result.

With a sigh of relief  John went on to make some exhausts. A bit odd as the stubs were different. Why that was John doesn't know, but on his model they are different.

Then it was time to paint to model. John chose blue-grey, agreeing with suggestions at this blog about the colour. First  he applied a Polly-S Acryl Paint as a primer to check the surface for imperfections, etc. Then the final coat of blue-grey. It seemed to be similar to PRU-Blue but a bit lighter. Using Humbrol paints John mixed 87 Matt Steel Grey with a drop of 96 Matt RAF Blue and a dash of 76 Matt Uniform Green, then to finally lighten the mix a bit, he added some 64 Matt Light Grey. 

The next step  was the scribing of the panel lines in the paint. By this method very fine lines can be achieved but mistakes are difficult to repair!

By way of explanation for his colour choices, John had studied all the material he could find on the Internet and noted many differences in presentation. The paint schemes of model kits were often very different, for example the antiglare panel on the nose. John felt it was a darker blue-grey rather than black and in a matt finish, considering that infamous and sad photograph of the crushing of the poor plane. Then the filming (?) - markings, which he felt were black and white. For the propeller, John concluded that the front of the blades were natural metal with red warning stripes, and painted them dark brown on their rear.

The next step was to apply the decals. The roundels came from the spares box, whilst the black and white markings were a matter of carefully clipping old decal stripes. For the final details John made two balance-horns for the elevators from stretched sprue.  He also chose to give the model a slightly used look, adding some exhaust staining and a few panel lines with a black pencil. And the model was finally completed! John's conclusion about the whole project was that it can be done, but he has to improve the moulding process to achieve sharper edges. And especially heating the plastic sheet for moulding - that is the difficult trick. But as an experiment, the result was better then John had hoped for.

With special thanks to John for sharing this innovative and interesting project with Aviation of Japan, together with the images of his work-in-progress and completed model. John has also asked me to thank all those who have made kind comments throughout the project.

Image credits:- All © 2018 John Haas