Thursday 16 January 2020

Zegeye's 1/72 Kyofu 'Rex' Floatplane-Fighter

These kindly shared images of Zegeye's (Zbyszek Malicki) very impressive 1/72 Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu (強風 - Strong Wind), Allied code name 'Rex', built from the excellent Hasegawa kit of 1995 vintage, are a reminder that the third intended part of the Shiden-kai, Shiden & Kyofu Colours series of articles (from 2010!), concerned with the exterior colours of this floatplane fighter, was never posted. An omission to be rectified. . .

The model was built straight from the box and Zegeye chose Kawanish Green from the now defunct Aeromaster paints range for the upper surface and Gunze IJN Gray from their 'C' range for the under surface. The kit decals were used, representing an 'early type' aircraft of some distinction from the 22nd Special Base Force (特別根拠地隊 - Tokubetsu-konkyo-chitai) at Balikpapan, Borneo in 1945 (although the kit instructions state Surabaya, Java) with its distinctive blue tail code. The 22nd Special Base Force was part of the 2nd Southern Expeditionary Fleet and consisted mainly of sub-chasers and patrol boats with a guard force and port affairs department. Special Base Forces assigned to Guard Districts and Fleets were similar to IJN Base Forces but were primarily tactical rather than administrative in function, usually located at Fleet HQs or in forward areas.  The commander of the 22nd Lt Masaharu Nishiwaki was a floatplane pilot himself and in early January 1945 he arranged to obtain and operate Kyofu aircraft left behind at Surabaya by 934 Ku when it was disbanded in March 1944. 934 Ku originally had nine of the type on strength (in addition to the A6M2-N) and three serviceable examples were collected and used by the 22nd from Balikpapan on patrol and interception duties. 

 The Kyofus engaged Allied bombers on several occasions, claiming damage but without confirmation of any 'kills'. Two of the aircraft were subsequently destroyed by Allied strafing and the survivor 022-121, the subject of Zegeye's model and the Hasegawa kit, was then converted at the Surabaya depot into a two-seater for use on liaison duties between the two locations. After the evacuation of Balikpapan the 22nd air echelon moved to Jakarta and in July 1945 was consolidated with 936 Ku. From there the two seat Kyofu survivor was used to fly medical supplies to beleagured units still in Borneo, Flyer 1/C Tokujo Nakanishi earning an individual citation for successfully completing this sortie in stages, landing on a river in the dark and overcoming engine problems on the return flight.  It is possible that this particular aircraft survived to be photographed post-war at Surabaya (?) in Indonesian markings.

The Hasegawa Kyofu kit was also released in separate 'late type' (Sasebo Ku) with individual exhaust outlets and 'prototype' versions in 1996, with an added 'Aquarama' water display base in 1997 (which is a rare gem), as a 'combo' kit with the Nakajima A6M2-N 'Rufe' in 2012 (Sasebo Ku and prototype), in an 'early/late type' combo in 2013 (Otsu and Sasebo Ku) and as another Rufe combo for 934 Ku in 2015.    

With special thanks to Zbyszek for kindly sharing these images of his model with Aviation of Japan.

Image credit: All © 2020 Zbyszek Malicki



Ken Glass said...

Thanks for sharing Zegeye & Nick.

Dan Salamone said...

Great story about the aircraft and exploits. Thanks for sharing,


WD said...

Great info, and beautiful build. Thank you both!


Alex said...

Very interesting history of this plane. Thanks for sharing.
Interesting thing. N1K1s didn't have yellow IFF stripes.

Michael Thurow said...

Fine model! This kit always attracted me - unfortunately too many kits attract me... I'm happy to see one built so superbly.
Thanks for the operational information, Nick, always very interesting to read.

Mark Smith said...

Great build Zbyszek! I visited a beautifully restored Kyofu at what was then the Nimitz Museum at Fredericksburg, Texas, USA (now called The Museum of the Pacific War, I think). Greg Springer had documented its original paint carefully, as did David Aiken, to guide its re-paint, before it was repainted, and your model really rings that bell. Sadly both those men are gone now.

Thanks for the rare background on the operational use of the type, very interesting with many details new to me. A great post.