Monday, 8 July 2019

Louis Gardner's 1/48 Tamiya Ki-61-I Tei

The Tamiya Hien Tei kits in 1/48 and 1/72 are deservedly popular, reflecting a general popularity amongst modellers for the Japanese Army's only inline engined fighter. There was a scattering of disappointment at the outset that the chosen Tei variant offered less choice of schemes than other variants but that seems to have abated. In fact production of the Tei straddled both the factory finish natural metal (with or without depot applied solid and mottled camouflage schemes) and yellow green No.7 eras. Louis Gardner has kindly shared his observations about Tamiya's 1/48 kit together with his report of building the fine 244th Sentai example shown above. In his own words then:   

"This is a model that I completed a couple of months or so ago. It also happens to be my favourite Japanese fighter from the war, it is so elegant and streamlined. The Tamiya new tool Ki-61 kit # 61115, fit together perfectly, the engineering being so clever and precise that I didn’t feel the need to glue several parts in place. However I still used glue throughout the build just to be safe.

"I wanted to build an example of the 'long nosed' Tei variant Tony - and something besides the usual ones you normally see with the red tail that is commonly associated with the 244th Sentai. I had a set of older Aero Master decals dating back to 1995 which included an option for a long nosed Tony with tail markings from the 244th Sentai. The plan was coming together and fortunately for me the old decals worked flawlessly. I discovered that Lifelike Decals also produced a more recent set of decals (48-003R) for this same aircraft and the markings appeared identical to Aero Master's, so I felt better knowing this, as Lifelike does considerable research on their subjects.

"Some time ago I had done an online in box review of the Tamiya kit shortly after it was released. Ever since then I had been wanting to build it as I was so very impressed with the contents of the box.  I finally said “to heck with it” and simply opened the box and got busy. Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest thing to do. I still have a set of decals for a 68th Sentai example and will eventually build one using the older (but still highly acceptable) 1/48 Hasegawa kit. In order to build that model I will have to use the “short nosed” variant, in combat earlier and more often encountered in the skies.

"The Japanese were very proficient at using camouflage. It varied from using freshly cut vegetation from the nearby jungles to conceal the planes, to spraying on various squiggly lines and shapes over the natural bare metal finish that most Tonys were delivered in. This was often done using as little paint as possible, since it was in short supply. The ground crews often applied just enough to knock down the “shine” of the bare metal. Sometimes this camouflage paint was applied using a brush, while at other times it was sprayed on.  The application methods and styles varied considerably, even between aircraft of the same unit. I tried to replicate the look on my model by doing the same thing. If you look closely, you can see that the stencils are still readable. In the image below you can see just how effective this camouflage process actually was. On one side I left the plane in a highly polished finish that was created using Bare Metal Foil. On the other side I simply sprayed on a light coat of green squiggly lines of various intensity.

"I wished to make this plane look as if it was flown, but not “war weary”, so I added some exhaust stains using Tamiya weathering decks to create the exhaust patterns. You can see this darker streaking in the lower portion of the image immediately above.  You can also see how the area around the canopy was left in a natural metal finish. I also tried to recreate a few very small scratches into the green sprayed on paint. If you look closely you can see a few where the pilot would have made them as he entered the cockpit.

"Tamiya has captured the cockpit very nicely. This is exactly how it looks right from the box. No aftermarket parts were added. However, if I were to build this one again, I would add a different seat harness. 

"The other pictures here show the plane as it looks from directly overhead, and from various angles. From this vantage point you can see just how effective the green paint was at reducing the shine. No other coatings were used on the top side of the model other than a very light coat of green. The shine of the bare metal was highly reduced with a minimal effort. Initially I tried using a semi-gloss Testor's Dull Coat spray coating directly from the can to knock down the shine somewhat. This helped, and was a step in the right direction, but it needed more to achieve the appearance I wanted. So I went back a second time, and lightly applied another very light coat using Testor’s Dull Coat right from the spray can. This gave me the result I was after - the light was still reflected from the foil, but now it had a more oxidized appearance. If you look closely at the images you should be able to see what I’m talking about but for the best and most natural look it has to be seen in person and in natural sunlight. It really pops !

"The following photos show the kit during the construction phase and you can see how shiny the finish was by using the three different shades of Bare Metal Foil. I used Ultra Bright Chrome on some panels, Chrome on others and Matt Aluminum for the remaining areas that had to be covered.   I tried to mix things up and not have two panels located next to each other in the same color, to give the illusion that each panel was a separate sheet of aluminum as it was on the actual plane.

"You can see the decals as they were applied but believe me it was hard to start spraying on the green over this beautiful foil. A part of me wanted to leave it alone, since I really like this look, but I wanted it to look more authentic, so I decided to start covering this beauty with some green. Now I’m happy that I did…

"The kit comes supplied with a single clear side fuselage half. I didn’t use it for obvious reasons. The nice thing about this is that with a little effort, Tamiya should be able to release a new tool “short nosed” Hien or even possibly a Ki-100, since the rest of the airframe was almost identical.

"I hope that you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed the building and research process. Tamiya hit a home run with this baby and anyone who tells you different needs their head examined! It’s the best Ki-61 in this scale that I have built so far. Now don’t get me wrong, the older Hasegawa kit is still very acceptable and I’m not bashing it by any means. It still looks good when completed, but it is also a product of the early 1990’s and has been eclipsed by this newer offering from Tamiya. Go out and get yourself one of these - you’ll be happy that you did.  Now if they would release that earlier variant of the Hien with the shorter nose,  or even a Ki-100, using this kit as the basis, that would be perfect and I'd happily purchase several of each!"

With special thanks to Louis for sharing these images of his splendid Hien model and the write-up about the kit and build. 

Image credits: All © 2019 Louis Gardner

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Clandestine Pre-War Flights in Nell

Continuing the retrospective of RAF Flying Review articles on Japanese aviation here is IJN Commander Hajime Sudo's account of his clandestine photo-reconnaissance flights in the Mitsubishi G3M2 'Nell' prior to Peal Harbor as published in the October 1959 issue of the magazine (Vol.XV, No.2). Also included in that issue was a handy cut out and keep Pictorial History of 'Nell' schematic illustrating and describing G3M variants.  

The official designation of 'Nell' was the Type 96 Land-based Attack Aircraft - Kyu Roku Shiki Rikujoh Kohgeki-ki  - 九六式陸上攻撃機, usually abbreviated to Kyu Roku Rikkoh - 九六陸攻. The type began very long range strategic bombing raids against China from Taiwan in August 1937 and continued to serve in the front line role throughout 1942 despite the introduction of the G4M 'Betty'. 

Commander Sudo's account includes his observation that the clandestine aircraft had a 'slightly different grey finish to that normally applied to these aircraft', which is intriguing as grey is not a colour usually associated with the type, the depictions of which often present natural metal, either overall or as the under surfaces on camouflaged aircraft. But note the Hasegawa box art for the  Kanoya Ku 1944 example カヤ-455 in the heading image which appears to represent the under surfaces in typical IJN amber tinted grey rather well (the instructions suggest Mr Color 128 [IJA] Gray-Green which is not quite right in appearance). Was Commander Sudo noticing the difference between standard J3 and the J3 'leaning slightly towards ameiro' introduced with the Zero?    

The RAF Flying Review article preceded the appearance of the venerable LS series of G3M kits by seven years, but those ground breaking kits are still available 53 years later under the Arii Microace brand. Although superceded in detail and finesse by the Hasegawa G3M2 kit released in 1997 (and subsequently intermittently re-released in various colour schemes and markings), the LS/Arii kit is still a decent proposition and makes up into a good looking model, being both quick and easy to build as well as inexpensive. One advantage of the LS/Arii family of G3M kits is that it includes the earlier multi-turreted variants as well as the civil/transport variant. A comprehensive 1/48 mixed media kit of the G3M was released in 2007 by Koster Aero Enterprises consisting of vacformed, resin and white metal parts as shown here. Current availability of this kit is unknown but Resin2Detail has since acquired the Koster resources and is reportedly planning to re-release the kits. Another 1/48 vacform kit of 'Nell' is also available from UK manufacturer Sanger at £39.

Image credits:- Heading Art © 2016 Hasegawa Corp.; Others all © 1959 Royal Air Force Review Ltd.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Zegeye's Neat 'Claude Made For Two'!

Zegeye's (Zbyszek Malicki) splendid A5M4-K built from the 1/72 Choroszy Modelbud resin kit has already been shown at Britmodeller but he very kindly offered to share these images of the stages of his build and the finished model with Aviation of Japan.

It is evident from these that considerable work went into enhancing the interior and engine, as well as into construction and painting. 

The model represents an aircraft of the Oita Kokutai. Production of the A5M4 fighter series had terminated in 1940 but development of a two-seat trainer version from the A5M4 airframe was initiated at the 21st Naval Air Technical Station at Omura. The cockpit was moved forward with adjustments to the engine mounting and firewall, making space for a second cockpit behind it. A rollover pylon was added between the cockpits and spin stabilisor strakes were fitted to both sides of the rear fuselage. Spats were removed or replaced by an abbreviated form (as shown on the model). A total of 103 A5M4-K were manufactured.

Of particular note on this model is the excellent effect of subtle surface wear and weathering with the original orange-yellow paintwork showing through the dark green camouflage. Beautifully achieved. 

With special thanks to Zbyszek for sharing these images of his excellent model. 

Image credits: All © 2019 Zbyszek Malicki

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Yokosuka R2Y Keiun

Another 'lost and found' RAF Flying Review article in this occasional series, this time from the March 1959 (Vol.XIV No.7) issue and featuring an interesting account of the Yokosuka (Kugisho) R2Y Keiun (景雲 - 'Auspicious Cloud') experimental reconnaissance aircraft by Mr Ichiro Naito, translated by Mr Takeshi Hattori and published therein by courtesy of the Japanese magazine Aireview

English language data on Keiun is sparse so Mr Naito's first person account is especially welcome for its details even if 60 years old! A Model 2 (R2Y2) variant of the type was planned to be powered by a Mitsubishi Ne-330 turbo-jet engine fitted to each wing (as shown above in the article's side-view plan).

 Fine Molds Keiun 1995

Fine Molds Keiun 2001

Fortunately for those modellers interested in Japanese experimental types there is a decent 1/72 kit of the fascinating Keiun by Fine Molds. First released in 1995 it was re-released in 2001 with new box art depicting orange-yellow under surfaces. The kit is currently in stock at HLJ for a very reasonable £11.91 (US$15.91) and there is a photo-etch details accessory set AA-17 available separately at £7.74 (US$9.92). A 1/72 resin model of the turbo-jet powered R2Y2 was announced for release this month by International Resin Modelers but comes with a hefty price tag of US$100 for non-members.  

A splendid model of Keiun built from the Fine Molds kit is shown here (above and below) courtesy of the builder Mr Hiroyuki Kato via Mr Hiromichi Taguchi, the editor of the excellent Japanese monthly web magazine Web-modelers. Mr Taguchi's web magazine should be of special interest to those who enjoy seeing older kits as well as recent releases carefully built and painted. The magazine also features nostalgic articles about Japanese aviation and modelling history, including past times Japanese model shops and  modelling magazines. All the back issues of the magazine can be browsed at the website.

With special thanks to Mr Hiroyuki Kato and Mr Hiromichi Taguchi for their kind permission to share the images of Mr Kato's Keiun model with Aviation of Japan. The RAF Flying Review article is from the author's own collection of the magazine. Please credit and link to Aviation of Japan if referencing this article or its contents, including Wiki updates, thank you.

Image credits: Heading image via web; Magazine pages © 1959 The RAF Review Ltd; Box art © 1995 & 2001 Fine Molds Corp.; Keiun model images © 2019 Hiroyuki Kato via Hiromichi Taguchi & Web-modelers

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Jan Hajicek's 9-Shi Improved Prototype in 1/72

Jan Hajicek has very kindly shared these images and his build report of the Fine Molds 1/72 IJN 9-shi Experimental Fighter (Mitsubishi Ka-14 Improved Prototype) at Kagamigahara airfield, Japan in the Spring of 1935. In Jan's own words then:

"The Type 96 kansen is one of my favourite IJN types where I’d like to build the whole genealogy. I have already built a 1/72 scale A5M4 and 1/48 scale A5M2b Early and since Fine Molds released the 9-shi Experimental Fighter (Mitsubishi Ka-14 Improved Prototype) last year I was happy to get it because the first prototype released as a Model Graphics magazine issue was hard to obtain (although I do already have one). The kit is much better that even expected revealing finely recessed panel lines with excellent cockpit and engine details.

"The kit was built almost straight form the box. I  added some wiring to the cockpit and engine and a seat harness from photo-etch. That was my idea to finish the kit quickly. It was an enhanced prototype and should look like new – shiny and almost clean.

"During the process I found that the exhaust stacks protruding from the cowling would be evident and I could not live with the fact they were not hollow. As the exhausts are in the form of tubes that were diagonally cut off I wondered how I should recreate them without spending too much time. This is a common catch that usually stops my progress. But this time an idea quickly came. I used thin aluminium foil from which I formed tubes over an Evergreen plastic rod, glued the mating line and then cut the desired angle. Then I slipped them off the plastic rod and attached them to the already adjusted, shortened kit part.  The result looks much better than solid plastic.

"The construction of this kit was easy and delightful. Every part mated with the other as it should and the only trouble I encountered was in mating the cowling assembly to the fuselage. That was mostly due to the thick colour coat I had sprayed since I painted the cowling assembly and fuselage separately and assembled them afterwards. 

"When Hasegawa released the 1/48 E8N Dave in 2015 featuring overdone fabric and ports I wondered how this could be revised. At that time an idea arose of a mask that after spraying would create an optical illusion. It took time to realise that idea (in the meantime a fellow modeller from CZ had started to produce such masks for 1/72 scale kits) and I first used it on this kit, even though I used a similar method on my Fujimi 1/72 scale Type 96 Model 4 Kansen. I must admit I have not mastered this method yet but the result is good for a 1/72 scale kit. Unfortunately the oil wash almost ruined my work as it absorbed into the clear coat making the overall appearance faded.

"Mask used – canopy both sides, all markings and control surfaces Optical Illusion Mask. Colours - Gunze overall, Vallejo for the small parts. Weathering – MiG and Artist chalks."

With special thanks to Jan for sharing these photos of his excellent model and the details about his build. If anyone is interested in the masks for this kit please email Jan.

Image credits: All kit photos © 2019 Jan Hajicek; Box art © 2018 Fine Molds Corp.