Friday, 6 July 2018

Photo-Etchery ~ Ki-48 Sokei/Lily

I'm not a great fan of photo-etch. That's not due to any inherent faults with any of the vast amount of after market photo-etched detail enhancements now available. Rather it is indicative of my own inability. I have never been able to get on with using super glue. It always seems to end up where it shouldn't and not where it should, with precariously tilted panels and sidewalls which become an immoveable monument to inaccuracy and my clumsiness. The arrival of pre-painted photo-etch just increased the anxiety over the bending, fitting and glueing, with so much more exquisiteness to risk being ruined with clumsy fingers and old man eyesight. 

Recently Fred Boucher of Aeroscale kindly made me aware of the Platz photo-etch set M72X-07 designed for the Hasegawa 1/72 scale Ki-48 Sokei/Lily (above) which he has comprehensively reviewed here. The Hasegawa ex-Mania kit is due to re-appear in September as a 'Special Equipment Version' with the extended fuse rods in the nose of a rather plain-looking special attack aircraft (below). 

Fred's kindness and generosity then went further in providing me with a set. I won't reiterate the information in his review beyond confirming that the set is indeed exquisite. I like the fact that it is designed for an older but much esteemed kit which already has a pretty good interior to work on. Platz have a number of Japanese subject sets available in 1/72 scale, including the J1N Gekko (M72X-09),  G3M Nell (M72X-06), Ginga/Frances (M72X-05), G4M Betty (M72X-02), Ki-67 Peggy (M72X-03 - Aeroscale review here), A6M2 (M72X-01). The sets also cover a number of JASDF aircraft types and are 'projected' by NBM21 and made by Eduard. They can be ordered direct from Platz.

The panels in the Ki-48 set are a mid-toned olive green in the range FS 34130-34151. The modelling convention is for all Kawasaki cockpits to be painted in the yellow-brown colour attributed to the Ki-61 Hien or one of the convenience hobby paints derived from that belief, like RLM 79 (wrong!). Mr. Sunao Katabuchi posited in 2007 that Ki-61 cockpits were painted grey-green and that paint turned more brownish due to photo-chemical discoloration. The paint was sensitive to UV exposure as each component (oligomer or high polymer) was not consistently or effectively purified and contained many aromatic rings. Some extant artifacts in Japan as well as colour photographs appear to bear that out. Contemporaneous photographs taken inside the Ki-48 in service show a mixture of dark and light paints, perhaps the earlier dark-blue grey and later grey-green - or maybe yellow-brown. 

Interior paint colours examined on a Ki-48 wing section were shown at this blog in April 2013 here and were a light olive brown similar to FS 34201, with primers of dark green and dark yellow green. Without pigment analysis whether those colours represent colour shifts is open to speculation.    

When LAC I C Morton of the RAF examined Japanese aircraft at Meiktila in 1945 he reported: "In common with most Japanese aeroplanes seen, the three Oscar 2s had a yellowish-green finish all over the interior."* Morton tended to record any unusual or unexpected colours, so the fact that he examined Ki-48 aircraft in Burma and later Thailand without mentioning their interior colours might lead to a conclusion that they were also finished in a yellowish-green. The Platz paintwork is a little too dark and olive to perfectly fit that description but I doubt that the panels would look out of place with the rest of the interior finished in the yellow-green of the Japanese Army standard # 29 Ki midori iro or even the popular buff green hobby paints attributed to everything Nakajima.

The Ki-48 was popularly referred to by IJAAF personnel as 'Kyu-kyu sôkei' (九九双軽) - not 'Ninety-nine twin light' but 'Nine-nine twin light'. The Japanese abbreviation was - 'so' for sôhatsu (twin motored) and 'kei' for light(ly),  whereas in the West it might have been referred to as a 'light twin'. Morton reported on a Ki-48 examined at Don Muang, Siam in January 1946 (more details here) that the pilot had a 'first class forward view', that the landing speed was very high, with a tendency to instability at low speeds. In the air he thought it travelled fast, with 'a deep-throated roar from the two Kawasaki Type 2 radials'. He observed that all Japanese aircraft he had seen to date had made three-point landings and that Japanese pilots appeared to know their job thoroughly and had plenty of 'air sense'.    

* The Aeroplane Spotter, Vol.VII., No.156, 21 Feb 1946 pages 46-47.    

Image credits: Heading photo vintage postcard; Photo-etch © 2018 Platz Co. Ltd.; Box art © 2018 Hasegawa Corp; Colour chip © 2018 Aviation of Japan