Friday, 4 December 2020

Vintage Zero Models of John Haas

John Haas, whose several superb Japanese solid aircraft nodels built from scratch grace these pages, had his own memories of building the classic Tamiya 1/48 A6M2 kindled by Mark Smith's evocative memorial to that kit. John built several 'because it was such a splendid model in those times' and has kindly shared these images of three of his vintage Zero models.  

After building regular light grey versions from the Tamiya A6M2 kit, which was cheap in them there days, the A6M3 Model 22 shown above was converted from the kit with a modified cowling from an Otaki Zero. It represents a field camouflaged aircraft from 582 Ku based at Buin on Bougainville Island during 1943. In pre-internet days John used the Squadron Signal Zero in Action book for reference.  I had a false memory of a Tamiya Model 22 kit of that vintage and had hunted fruitlessly for it for hours in the stash before receiving John's email and images of his converted model, then checking to realise that my memory was playing tricks. The 'Model 22' box art that I thought I remembered was actually the A6M5c. Tamiya only released an A6M3 Model 32 in 1982 and an A6M5c in 1983. Maybe they reckoned a Model 22 could be built by combining the A6M2 and A6M3 kits thereby boosting sales! Now what could you do with a Model 32 airframe and a Model 21 cowling?


The A6M5 model shown above was built from the Otaki kit as standard but John also converted another Otaki kit to represent the A6M5c or Hei variant as shown below. 

With very special thanks to John for sharing these images of his vintage Zero models.

Image Credit: All photos © 2020 John Haas

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

William Davis' 1/48 Ki-44 Shoki and Hiko Dai 29 Sentai

William  Davis has very kindly shared these images of his model of the Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki 'Tojo' built from the 1/48 Hasegawa kit and representing an aircraft of Hiko Dai 29 Sentai in August 1944. William replaced kit parts with a True Details seat and Quickboost exhaust, as well as using Eduard masks. 

After assembly of the main components the model was primed and painted overall with Tamiya aluminium as a base coat. William then sprayed a cheap hairspray onto the aluminium before applying the top coats of Tamiya XF-13 J.A. Green on the upper surfaces and XF-14 J.A. Grey on the under surfaces with AK 2071 to highlight panel lines. He then chipped the paintwork with a moistened toothpick and also used fine sandpaper pressed into the paint to simulate micro scratches. The decals used were from Revi sheet # 48005 for the Ki-44.

In February 1944 the 29th Sentai was reformed as a fighter regiment at Hailang, Manchuria from the 29th Dokuritsu Hikotai, a reconnaissance unit and part of the 13th Air Brigade, converting first to the Ki-27 and then the Ki-44. On 6 May 1944 the Brigade, then consisting of the 29th, 30th and 31st Sentai, was formally transferred to the 8th Air Division on Formosa (Taiwan). The 29th departed Manchuria on 3 July with 38 Shoki but lost 17 aircraft during the staged movement across China with only 21 arriving at Taipei. The Sentai Commander Maj Takeo Kawada felt the losses were due to insufficient training on type so despatched the main force of the unit to Hsiaochiang airfield for further training, retaining only nine aircraft at Taipei under Capt Masatsugu Tsuchihashi, the Hikotai and 1st Chutai leader, for air defence duties.


It was during this period that the 29th adopted the unusual tail insignia of a horned skull, symbolising great change and the veneration of the dead, with a pattern of diagonal bands to denote Chutai and Shotai, the sequence and assigned colours of which are uncertain. A former member of the unit has confirmed that this was the Sentai insignia at that time and not a personal marking. In August 1944 in response to an increased tempo of operations in China the main force of the unit was despatched there, arriving at Nanjing on the 27th of that month with about 20 aircraft and being deployed to Wuchang. It was then assigned to the air defence protection of traffic on the Yangtze River and Army supply lines, with little opportunity for aerial combat. The unit's only major combat in China occurred over Ertaokou (Kiukiang) on 7 October 1944 when it lost two of five aircraft scrambled in response to an incursion by P-40s of the 74th FS. The early warning system had failed and the Japanese fighters were caught taking off with Sgts Mitsuo Hashimoto and Masao Gomi being killed. The 29th claimed two P-40s shot down although none appear to have been lost, whilst the 74th claimed two 'Oscars' destroyed, two damaged and one probable. 
When Formosa came under attack from US carrier forces from 10-12 October the loss of aircraft, including a Ki-44 from the 29th Sentai cadre piloted by WO Ryotaku Hase, prompted the return of the China detachment on the 18th of the month. Around this time the tail insignia was changed to the better known 'wave-arrow' marking which, whilst often depicted on the unit's Ki-84 Hayate aircraft, was the subject of considerable doubt as to its existence due to the absence of photographs. It was first depicted in the December 1964 issue of the Japanese Aireview magazine in a series on IJAAF unit insignia illustrated in colour by Kikuo Hashimoto (see below), subsequently presented in a colour profile by Uwe Feist in the Aero Series # 2 book 'Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate' (Aero Publishers, Inc., 1965) and became well known from the painting by Jack Leynnwood which featured on the cover of 'Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II' by Donald W Thorpe (Aero Publishers, Inc., 1968). More recently photographs have established the existence of the marking on a Ki-44 abandoned in the Philippines (please see Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 100 'Ki-44 Tojo Aces of World War 2' photo page 51 and profiles 17 and 18 also shown below courtesy of the artist Ronnie Olsthoorn).          
Aireview Magazine December 1964

From 8 November 1944 the unit served in the Philippines from main and auxiliary airfields at Zablan near Manila with about 20 Ki-44 where it suffered heavy losses with 15 pilots killed in action, including Capt Tsuchihashi the newly appointed Sentai commander who fell in combat on 7 December 1944. On 13 November the unit was heavily engaged with USN carrier aircraft raiding across the Manila area, claiming nine enemy aircraft destroyed and two probables for the loss of six aircraft and four pilots which included the 3rd Chutai leader Lt Tokuji Chiji-iwa. Following the raids a total of 30 USN aircraft were reported as losses, including 10 Hellcats, with 11 pilots missing or killed. The surviving elements of the Sentai's Philippines deployment were withdrawn to Formosa in January 1945. During service in the Philippines the unit had begun conversion to the Ki-84 Hayate. It remained in Formosa until the end of the war but participated in the Okinawa campaign.  

The 29th Sentai wave-arrow marking was featured in the box art of Shigeo Koike and as a decal option in the 1982 Hasegawa 1/72 Ki-84 kit as nicely modelled by Britmodeller Sean here.  

With special thanks to William for kindly sharing these images and details of his inspiring Ki-44 model here and to Ronnie for his kind permission to show his superb Ki-44 profiles.
Image credit: All model photos © 2020 William Davis; Profiles © 2020 Ronnie Olsthoorn; Tail insignia image © 1964 Aireview magazine/K Hashimoto; Box art © 1982 Hasegawa Corp.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Jason Brash's New Command Recce Trio in 1/72

Jason Brash has kindly shared images and details of another of his excellent Japanese twins projects - this time a trio of Mitsubishi Ki-46 'Dinah' models in 1/72 scale. The svelte Ki-46 or Type 100 Command Reconnaissance plane was popularly known as the New Command Recce (Shin Shi-tei 新司偵). In Jason's own words then:-

'For my next project I decided on a dual build, which turned into a triple build, of the Hasegawa Ki-46-II & III and an LS (since re-released by Arii/Microace) -II-Kai. Hasegawa make a fantastic looking Ki-46 'Dinah', capturing the beautiful lines in both versions. The LS kit is good with very fine detail and engraved lines, though I do feel it's a little fatter in the fuselage, engine pods & wing thickness 

'The trainer needed some details scratch built as the kit was only supplied with one seat and bulkheads way out of scale. Fortunately the Hasegawa kit comes with dual controls and seats so I was able to integrate these. Though not a perfect it they filled the rear canopy nicely. With some advise I painted both interiors on the -II's in a dark blue grey, mixing the shade from SMS paints using various shades. The - III's interior was painted in a greenish khaki. 

'From here the main construction started with all three being fully built up. The LS kit went together well with minimal filler needed around the wing roots and underside between the wings. Both Hasegawa kits were a perfect fit with no putty needed at although care is needed when trimming the engine pods from the sprue to avoid problems when joining them to the wings.

'Onto the painting. All three were black based and highlighted in various shades of white, grey and tan. For the trainer, I used SMS Trainer yellow, Marigold Orange & School Bus Yellow to achieve an overall orange-yellow shade, leaning more to the yellow  and with a slight fade. I was inspired for the -II and -III from photos and a painting of some distinctive machines. The -II was finished in a blue-grey colour, which SMS Kure Grey fitted the bill for quite well without too much fade or modulation. This scheme is believed to have been on some machines although no photos exist. The -III was finished in an earth brown which had an olive hue to it. This was made from SMS Olive Drab & RAAF Earth, modulated with Middle Stone for fading. I wanted this one to look as though it had been in the tropics for a while though still in front line service. 

'With the painting completed it was time for the markings. All Hinomaru, IFF and flight bands were painted on with only tail insignia decals being used. The decals in the LS kit were unusable and the wrong shade so the tail markings for the trainer were made from what I had on hand and are fictional. Though the large numbers on the wing undersides most likely did not exist, I liked the look it gave so they were kept. With a black/brown wash made from Tamiya panel liner plus some pigments and weathering pencils for exhaust, they were completed and ready for display. One extra step I took with the -III was the construction of the base from an old photo frame. The photo provided showed the aircraft in a field, abandoned and in disrepair. Though my model is serviceable I had the scene layout in my mind throughout the build and I think this addition really finishes the model. 

'Though I enjoyed all three, I have to give the Hasegawa Dinah the cake here. They build up very well and I prefer their shape to that of the LS model, though for the time (1974) I am impressed. I would loved to have built the Hasegawa trainer variant but it's hard to find and if found not cheap. Now to build the -II in surrender scheme plus an interceptor version . . . the list goes on.'

With very special thanks to Jason for sharing this trio of superbly finished Ki-46 models. 

Image credit: All © 2020 Jason Brash

Monday, 23 November 2020

Rob Ronconi's 1/72 Donryu


Rob Ronconi has kindly responded to the invitation for Ki-49 models with these images of his own splendid Donryu also built from the 1/72 Hasegawa kit and representing an aircraft of the 2nd Chutai of Hiko Dai 74 Sentai in an elaborate tri-colour camouflage scheme. 

The build was straight from the box with colours mixed from Tamiya paints and applied with Rob's Iwata HP-C Plus airbrush. Rob comments that the very small windows on the tail gun 'gazebo' were enough to drive him to the optometrist. 

With special thanks to Rob for sharing these images.

Image credit: All © 2020 Rob Ronconi

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Jason Brash's 1/72 Mitsubishi G3M2 'Nell'


Next from Jason Brash is this excellently realised model of the Mitsubishi G3M2 'Nell' (IJN Type 96 Land-based Attack Aircraft - 96-Shiki Rikujoh Kogeki-ki - 九六式陸上攻撃機 - known colloquially as the 96-Rikkoh - 九六陸攻), built from the 1/72 Hasegawa kit and representing the aircraft flown on 10 December 1941 by Lt Kauro Ishihara of Genzan Kokutai as he began the first wave attack on Force Z - HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, launching a Type 91-kai torpedo at the latter ship. In Jason's own words then:-

'This project was started about 10 years ago but unfortunately sat on my shelf of doom until about a month ago when I finally decided to use it as a bit of a test bed for colours. As you see it progressed further.

'Initially I built the cockpit, landing gear and torpedo as well as assembling the fuselage and wings. I started to paint the markings and the exterior with Vallejo silver but it didn't turn out well, with a lacklustre shine and grainy surface. The model was put to one side to gather dust until recently when I watched a movie where I got an idea on how to age silver without loosing the lustre. So out with the sanding pads and the Nell was back on the bench. 

'I started with polishing the surface before using SMS paints again. I was excited to use their metallic range as the pigment is very fine and the surface is very durable. I first painted the entire aircraft in Jet black, then applied Super Silver. The surface was then marbled with a light grey before Super Silver was again applied over the surface to blend the two colours (the natural metal effect is excellent! Ed.) 

'The upper surface camouflage is based on my interpretation of the kumogata scheme. The two colours were airbrushed freehand using two RAAF colours - Foliage Green & RAAF Earth as the base colours, then highlighted with RAF colours Forest Green and Dark Earth. The colours were then sun bleached with a very thin white sprayed through a spray mask.

'With the model looking decent I decided to complete it and display it. I applied markings for an aircraft that attacked the Repulse and Prince of Wales on December 10th, 1941 in the south China sea. If I had my time again I might have gone with a brown that was a little lighter, something that I have since purchased and will experiment with in the future. Still it was nice to revive an aircraft from the shelf of doom.'

With special thanks to Jason for sharing these images and details of his build of a very fine model.

Image credit: All photos © 2020 Jason Brash