Tuesday 29 December 2020

Rob Ronconi's 1/72 Kawasaki Ki-48

It is a delight to be able to continue this brief season of Japanese Army twins with another Kawasaki Ki-48 model built from the Hasegawa (ex-Mania) kit in 1/72 scale, this time by Rob Ronconi. This Lily is all closed up and resplendent in a very effectively realised kumogata scheme to represent an aircraft of Hiko Dai 34 Sentai. The 34th was established in Indo-China in October 1942, serving on the Burma front as part of the 4th Air Brigade from Loilem (near Heho) with 20 aircraft on strength and 15 committed to operations. From February 1944 the unit was deployed to the New Guinea theatre but operated there at very low strength with an average of only 12-13 aircraft and at one point was described as a training unit. Withdrawn twice to the Philippines for refitting it was disbanded in August 1944.    

Rob described a straight forward build from the box with no fit or assembly problems worth mentioning. The only additions being an Albion Alloy pitot tube, and EZ line antenna wire. Rob also substituted the kit RDF loop with one made by wrapping fine solder wire around a pen to achieve the desired circumference and diameter. Tamiya paint mixes were used and the propellers were finished and chipped with a silver Prismacolor pencil.

With special thanks to Rob for kindly sharing these images of his Ki-48 model. The two splendid Ki-48 models by Rob and Kevin Bade featured here should inspire some rummaging through the stash to build this excellent and unsurpassed kit, whether in Mania or Hasegawa boxes, and there are plenty of aftermarket decals available for it.

Image credit: All photos © 2020 Rob Ronconi


Monday 28 December 2020

Otaki 1/48 A6M5 Zero by John Haas

This model could not be included in the recently featured collection of John Haas' vintage Zero models due to a heavy landing accident following its sortie from his display cabinet and resulting in damage to the undercarriage and antenna. John has effected repairs and photographed it anew for Aviation of Japan. 

Built from the 1/48 scale Otaki A6M5c kit but modified to represent an A6M5 Otsu with wing mounted drop tanks operated by 407 Hikotai of 221 Ku, the 'Z' under the tail code denoting a fighter-bomber with central bomb rack for long range anti-shipping attack missions. The model also features over-painted white borders on the wing upper surface and fuselage hinomaru.  

Originally released in 1971 this kit was also issued by AMT/ERTL in 1990 and was afterwards available under the Arii label with 1973 box art by Rikyu Watanabe

With special thanks to John for kindly sharing these images of another vintage Zero.

Image credit: All model photos © 2020 John Haas; Box art © 1991 Arii

Thursday 24 December 2020

Season's Greetings

With Very Best Wishes to All Aviation of Japan Readers for the Christmas Season and New Year

And with very special thanks to those who have very kindly shared images and details of their models, those who have generously shared the fruits of their research and those who have taken the time to leave comments.

Image credit:- Uragawa Hiroshige Snow on New Year’s Day at Susaki, 1831-32, from the series Famous Places in the Eastern Capital.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Kevin Bade's 1/72 Kawasaki Ki-48

Still on the theme of Army twins Kevin Bade has very kindly shared these images of his excellent 1/72 scale Kawasaki Ki-48 'Lily' model, built from the classic Hasegawa (ex-Mania) kit.

Kevin built the model about ten years ago from the 1995 Hasegawa special edition release with 1-1 missile and commends the kit as a joy to build and truly a fine example of Mania's then cutting edge technology with fine panel lines, a wonderful fit and a really well detailed interior for the 1970s. An Eduard photo-etch set was used to augment the interior but little can be seen even with the kit canopies carefully cut and positioned open. Eduard masks were indispensable for painting the canopy frames.

Aeromaster paints from Kevin's stock were used as he finds those the best airbrushing paints he has ever used, grey for the overall colour with dark green camouflage blotching. The hinomaru are kit decals whilst the tail insignia came from an unknown aftermarket sheet representing the 1st Shotai leader's aircraft from the 2nd Chutai of Hiko Dai 8 Sentai, a mixed reconnaissance and light bomber regiment.

With very special thanks to Kevin for sharing these images of an excellent model made from a classic and not yet surpassed kit of this widely used Japanese light bomber. 

Image credit: All photos © 2020 Kevin Bade

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Rob Ronconi's Hasegawa Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu 'Peggy'

Continuing the Army twins theme here are images of Rob Ronconi's stunning Hiryu model built from the fine Hasegawa kit in 1/72 scale and photographed outside in the magic hour of the 'last light' he so skillfully exploits to achieve such clarity and realism.

Rob began modelling as a small child but had a long hiatus away from the hobby before getting back into it seriously about six years ago. He loves all of the new techniques - masks, improved airbrushes, even photo-etched parts, etc., and it has all been quite a lot of fun for him. This torpedo-toting Ki-67 was built from the box with only the addition of Eduard canopy masks - a must for that nose glazing alone. The build was very straightforward as Rob found the kit so well-engineered that it just fell together. The model was painted with Tamiya paints.

Rob's model represents an aircraft of the Dokuritsu Dai 2 Hikotai (2nd Independent Flying Unit) formed at Hamamatsu heavy bomber flight training division in July 1944 to conduct attacks against B-29 bases. In December 1944 it was absorbed into Hiko Dai 110 Sentai which engaged in anti-shipping attacks in the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns. 

With special thanks to Rob for sharing these images of his very fine model. 

 Image credit: All © 2020 Rob Ronconi 

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Kevin Bade's Revell Mitsubishi Ki-21 'Sally'

Like buses you wait ages for a Revell Ki-21 'Sally' to come along and then two arrive close together.  Fortuitously the Revell Ki-21 model that Kevin Bade has very kindly shared images of is the turreted late version so now a very fine full set of both kit options is displayed here. And Kevin's model depicts dark green snake weave camouflage applied on overall grey green to compliment rather than duplicate schemes for a perfect demonstration duo. What a splendid kit and splendid models. Let's not have a word said against it until a mainstream new mould comes along (for which we have been waiting ages!). 

Kevin built the model about 20 years ago and recalls it fitting together 'pretty well' except for the glass. He displayed it with open bomb bay and lethal looking ordnance as shown. 

Tail insignia on Kevin's model is that of the nomadic Hiko Dai 14 Sentai which originated from the 14th Flying Rentai in August 1938 with three Chutai of heavy bombers. At the start of the Pacific War the 14th moved to Chaozhou (Chosho) on southern Taiwan with a strength of 18 Ki-21-I bombers and conducted attacks against northern Luzon in the Philippines. In late January 1942 it moved to Don Muang, Thailand to participate in the air offensive against Burma. After returning to Japan to re-equip with the Ki-21-II and increasing its strength to 27 bombers the unit moved into Burma in October 1942 and continued operations there until the end of the year. It then moved to the New Guinea theatre, flying into Rabaul by stages in March 1943. There the unit engaged in both bombing and transport sorties until November 1943 when it withdrew to Namlea and began engaging in convoy patrol and anti-submarine work around western New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. After further anti-submarine patrol duties from the Philippines and Taiwan it reverted to night bombing sorties from the Philippines against Leyte, then from the Celebes against Morotai from October to December 1944. The unit finally returned to Japan in February 1945, slated to operate the Ki-74 but instead re-equipping with the Ki-67 Hiryu.  

With very specials thanks to Kevin for sharing these images and for completing the presentation of a very fine duo of models made from a venerable classic of a kit. 

Image credit: All © 2020 Kevin Bade

Friday 11 December 2020

Rob Ronconi's Revell Mitsubishi Ki-21 'Sally'

Back in March 2012 the classic 1975 Revell 1/72 kit of the Mitsubishi Ki-21 'Sally' was featured in a brief kitography. Now a rare kit with a persistent question mark as to why a new mould kit of this important Japanese Army bomber has so far not been released by Hasegawa or some other manufacturer. MPM released a short run kit in 2001 with revised releases in 2002 and 2003, but those seem almost as rare as the Revell kit and they are not straightforward or particularly enjoyable builds. Following the Revell Donryu retrospective Rob Ronconi has kindly shared these images of his own superbly photographed Revell 'Sally' model, builds of which also seem surprisingly scarce. 

Rob exercised artistic licence with a colour scheme more typical for the dorsal turreted Ki-21-II and with tail insignia borrowed from another decal sheet. The kit went together well and the scheme, chosen to conceal any defects, is a splendid realisation. The tail insignia is that for Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 55 Chutai, an independent recce squadron recorded as operating Ki-15 and Ki-46 types which together with 50th and 51st independent squadrons formed the 15th Independent Air Unit (Hikotai), referenced as Hiko Dai 15 Sentai in some sources, which was transferred from the Southern Army to 2nd Air Army Headquarters in  Manchuria on 20 March 1942, less the 55th which remained at Bangkok. There is some doubt as to whether the 55th returned to Manchuria before being transferred into China towards the end of August 1942 where it was based at Kongmoon landing ground (Jiangmen) near Canton to undertake aerial photography of the Chinese interior. In early 1943 part of the unit moved from south China to the Wu-Han area and from April four Ki-46 aircraft provided a 350 km patrol line from Lishui to Putien along the coast of Fukien province to provide early warning of any attempts to bomb Japan from the Chinese interior. In China the main force of the 55th formed part of the 1st Air Brigade at Canton together with 85th Sentai (Ki-44) and 90th Sentai (Ki-48). From January 1944 the 55th came under direct command of the newly designated 5th Air Army HQ at Hankow. In May 1944 it had an authorised strength of four officer and six WO/NCO pilots but an actual strength of five officers and eight WO/NCOs with five serviceable Ki-46 aircraft.  Their main tasks became reconnaissance of enemy airfields in preparation for night attacks and the reconnaissance and photographing of roads in support of ground operations. At the end of October 1944 the 55th were incorporated into Hiko Dai 82 Sentai. Did they ever operate a 'Sally' in a hack or transport role - who knows? The absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence.       

With very special thanks to Rob for sharing these images of a great classic of Japanese aircraft modelling.

Image credit: All © 2020 Rob Ronconi

Thursday 10 December 2020

A Luftwaffe Zero

In response to correspondent Mark Smith's request in the comments made to Mark's A Whiter Shade of Pale article, Ernest Pazmany has very kindly shared these images of his superbly realised flight of fancy in presenting the classic Tamiya A6M2 in what-if Luftwaffe guise. Included here in addition is his imaginary and imaginative back story to the model. This theme was also the subject of an intriguing 2007 novel by Joh Sasaki  - 'Zero Over Berlin', (Vertical Inc.) telling the tall tale of an epic and secret overland flight of the Mitsubishi fighter from Japan to Germany. A cartoon depicting a Luftwaffe Zero puzzling a Spitfire pilot also appeared in the October, 1978 issue of Koku-Fan magazine. 

Ernest used all Floquil paints to finish the Zero, built in 2000; Old Concrete as the base coat and military colours RLM 02, 74, 75 and 71 for the 'experimental' camouflage. The decals came from old Microscale and Aeromaster sheets.  

It is interesting to speculate how operation of the Zero might have changed Luftwaffe fortunes during the Battle of Britain, certainly providing longer combat time over Southern England and an ability to range further inland. Would a cadre of experienced Japanese naval pilot volunteers have also made a difference? 

With very special thanks to Ernest for sharing these images of his model and his 'coffee stained, spurious' history of the 'Reisen in Luftwaffe Service'. Brilliant stuff!

Image credit: All model photos and service history © 2020 Ernest Pazmany; book cover © 2007 Joh Sasaki and Vertical Inc.,; Cartoon © 1978 Koku-Fan magazine.

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