Wednesday 31 July 2019

AVI Models Lepidopteran in 1/72

AVI Models (Avi Print, spol.s.r.o) have recently released two 1/72 kits of the De Havilland DH.83 Fox Moth (Macrothylacia rubi), but the release relevant to this blog is AVI72010 'Fox Moth in Foreign Service' which includes two fine Japanese examples. The kit is designed by Rising Models who have also provided the decals. The Fox Moth was basically an early form of 'private jet' or air taxi, based on the Tiger Moth, with a cabin between the engine and cockpit to accommodate 3-4 passengers. 

The first Japanese option is a Fox Moth c/n 4013 'Shirataka' (White Hawk) with modified enclosed cockpit of the Kwantung Provincial Police used in Manchuria during the 1930s and registered as J-APBE. This aircraft is depicted as doped silver overall with black registration letters and the yellow (or gold?) Asahikage (Morning Sunlight - ()()影) emblem of the Japanese Police. This aircraft had been imported to Japan by Mosawa & Co with certificate of airworthiness (CoA) # 3539 issued on 22 July 1932. On 19 February 1937 it was transferred to the Finance Section of the Administration Department (for disposal?) and the registration was cancelled in May 1939.  

The second Japanese option, possibly c/n 4079 or 4080, is an open cockpit example used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the mid-1930s as an ambulance aircraft on the Yoyogi training ground near Tokyo, also doped silver overall with Aikoku 106 presentation inscription, Hinomaru on wings and fuselage together with a red cross marking on either side of the cowling.  Two Army examples, both used as ambulance aircraft, were imported by Mitsui & Co and issued with CoA's in October 1933.  

The three Fox Moths imported to Japan inspired the domestic manufacture during 1933-34 of the  Gasuden (Tokyo Gasu Denki Kogyo KK - Tokyo Gas & Electrical Company) KR (Kogata Ryokaku-ki - Small Passenger Aircraft) 1, with twin floats named Chidori-go  (Plover),  powered  by  a  Gasuden  Jimpû 3 160-180hp  seven-cylinder radial engine (Jimpû = sudden wind or gust). Converting the kit with a suitable radial engine would be fairly straightforward but for the provision of markings I hope AVI Models or Rising might already have that in mind!  The KR 1 as a wheeled aircraft could carry three passengers but only two in its floatplane configuration. Seven were built by Gasuden, including the prototype c/n 1 registered as J-BBJI on 23 December 1933.  J-BBKI c/n 2  and J-BFOG were registered to G Matsukata (?) of Koku Jigyo-sha (Aircraft Enterprise Company?) in June 1934 and December 1935 respectively.  J-BBMI & J-BBNI were both operated with floats by NKYKK (Nippon Koku Yuso Kenkyusho) together with the prototype J-BBJI  as an air taxi service from Osaka to Shikoku and Shirahama in 1933-34.  Japanese Aero Engines* states that 12 were built. Two aircraft were later donated to the Taiwan National Defence Volunteer Association (Taiwan Kokubo Gaikai) and two to the Manchurian Coast Guard at Eikou (now Yingkou in China). J-BACO and J-BACP were operated by the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun (読売新聞) from October 1939, the former going to the IJN in 1944 and the latter burnt at Tamagawa in November 1945.   

The AVI Models kit offers two further markings options for a Nationalist Air Force Fox Moth, c/n 4073, used during the Spanish Civil War, and an RAF SEAC example MA 955, impressed in India in Ocrober 1942 and later operated by 3rd TAF Communications Sqn at Comilla, Burma in 1944. The Fox Moth kit is crisply moulded in mid-grey plastic on a single sprue frame with an additional frame of crystal-clear transparent parts. The simple instruction sheet is of schematic, exploded view type. Interior detail consists of passenger seats, passenger cabin floor, instrument panel bulkhead with raised details, cockpit floor, pilot seat and control stick. A separate rear fuselage spine is included to build the enclosed cockpit version but the windscreen and canopy for that is a single piece. The side doors are separate clear parts and could be displayed open to show the passenger cabin detail. The undercarriage parts include optional spats not required for the featured subjects. Care will be needed when removing the very fine struts from the sprue and in rigging - there are some unclear aspects to that. Actual photos of the Army ambulance version can be found on the Aikoku website here - scroll down to # 106 in the first column and then click on the yellow characters in the last column ro see the images.

This is an intriguing and neat little kit which should be of interest to Japanese civil enthusiasts as well as collectors of police operated aircraft.  It will also make an interesting line-up with the Amodel Tachikawa KKY-1 kits from 2013. With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for kindly providing the review sample. 

* Japanese Aero Engines 1910-1945, Mike Goodwin and Peter Starkings (STRATUS sp.j. as MMP Books, 2017)

Image credits: All kit images © 2019 AVI Models & Rising Models/Decals; Postcard author's collection.

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.