Wednesday 30 September 2020

Iskender Mailibayev's 1/72 Hasegawa J2M3 Raiden

Iskender Mailibayev
has kindly shared these images and details of his exacting build of the venerable Hasegawa J2M3 Raiden 'Jack' in 1/72 scale, using the 2004 '302nd Flying Group' re-release.

To begin with Iskender compared the 1977 kit parts with several sets of plans and photographs of the actual aircraft, concluding that the plans in the Model Art profile most closely represented the original.  He found that the kit fuselage appeared 2mm too short in the tail section so lengthened it by inserting Evergreen plastic spacers in cuts carefully aligned to preserve the tapering shape of the airframe. Iskender also re-built the under cowling oil cooler intake as the kit version was found to be undersized and incorrect in shape.

Iskender further enhanced his model by using the excellent Resin Art aftermarket set, together with Master Model Type 99 brass gun barrels, CMK landing lights and MYK Design decals.  The cockpit interior was finished using AK Real Color RC306 IJN Mitsubishi Interior Green.  

For finishing the model Iskender used a mixture of Tamiya and Mr Color paints - Mr Color C124 Dark Green (Mitsubishi) for the upper surfaces, Tamiya XF-76 Gray Green (IJN) for the under surfaces and the leading edge IFF strips in Mr Color 58 Orange Yellow IJN /IJA Aircraft.

Iskender found the build complex, involving a lot of aftermarket additions and scratchbuilding techniques, but ultimately satisfying. A fully detailed and step-by-step build report with many more images may be found at the Scalemodels.Ru forum here .

With very special thanks to Iskender for sharing these images and details of his excellent Raiden model built from a 43 year old kit 'still going strong'! 


Image credits: All model photos © 2020 Iskender Mailibayev; Box art © 2004 Hasegawa Corporation

Saturday 19 September 2020

Donryu Decals from Rising in 1/72


In addition to the new Hiko Dai 47 Sentai sets Rising Decals have released a set for the Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu bomber (Type 100 Heavy Bomber - Hyaku Shiki Juh Bakugeki-ki - 百式重爆撃機) in 1/72 scale. Set RD72089 offers markings for nine different schemes for the Hasegawa kit although they could probably be applied to the older Revell/Takara kit by those who have those in the stash.  Donryu has tended to be dismissed in most accounts but its operational history is quite interesting and some details are included here, courtesy of Dr Yasuho Izawa's seminal Nihongun Juubaki-tai (Japanese Army Heavy Bomber Units).


The subjects included are as follows:-

  • Ki-49-IIb of an unknown unit - in green mottle over natural metal. This is an Aikoku presentation aircraft with the legend Aikoku no.123 Hiroshima Denki painted in large white characters and numbers on the rear fuselage
  • Ki-49-IIb of 74th Sentai at Obihiro, Hokkaido in spring 1944 - in a tri-colour camouflage scheme of yellow ochre, brown and green
  • Ki-49-IIb of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 20 Chutai at Hollandia, New Guinea, 1943-44 - in a dense green mottle on the upper surfaces over overall grey green. Although it has been depicted with a solid upper finish a colour photograph of this aircraft reveals both the dense mottle pattern and the underlying solid grey green finish. 
  • Ki-49-IIa of an unknown unit suggested to possibly be from Kokusogon Shireibu Hikohan (Air General Army HQ Section) at Kalidjati, Java in August 1945 - in a brown and green kumogata pattern over natural metal. This unit used the tail insignia of a hinomaru but viewing the original photo the position appears too low and it seems probable that it is an overpainted previous insignia of similar style to that displayed by subject six below in which case the small hinomaru included on the sheet should be painted over to match the band. 
  • Ki-49-IIb of 95th Sentai at Luzon, Philippines in February 1945 - in a 'mesh' pattern of green on the upper surfaces over an overall finish of grey green or natural metal.
  • Ki-49-IIb of an unknown unit at Marang, Malaya in August 1945 - in solid green over natural metal. The location should probably be Malang, Indonesia (East Java). Although the tail insignia is suggested as possibly that of 161 Yuso Hikotai it has been depicted in artwork byKaiho Hideichi in Japan as the 16th Kyoiku Hikotai  (教育 飛行隊 Training [Development] Air Unit) but with the marking in white rather than yellow.
  • Ki-49-IIc of 74th Sentai's 2nd Chutai during October 1944 - in solid green over natural metal and equipped with Taki 1 radar for anti-submarine and anti-shipping patrols. 
  • Ki-49-IIb of 51st Kyoiku Hikoshidan at Nielson Field, Philippines in 1944 - in hastily applied green over natural metal. The lightning bolt should be red rather than yellow (for which an alternative decal is provided) and a cherry blossom design is visible behind the top angle of the bolt (not provided). The 51st Air Training Division usually operated from Gifu, Japan. This marking and the location suggest that the aircraft was one of those flown into the Philippines and intended for Tokko (suicide) attacks.    
  • Ki-49-IIb of Hamamatsu Rikugun Hiko Gakko (Army Flying School) in August 1945 - in patchy green over natural metal. This aircraft displays an unusual solid nose with painted on transparencies. It is possibly an aircraft of the Hamamatsu Kyodo Hikoshidan Kyodo Hikotai (Instructer Air Group) established at the school on 20 June 1944, with a special mission squadron, three attack squadrons and a search-and-contact squadron. The nose may have been used to house specialist wireless monitoring equipment and operators of which more details in due course.   

This is a useful set of decals offering several interesting and intriguing examples of Donryu, an aircraft type which seems to be seldom modelled. Photographs of completed Donryu models, whether old Revell/Takara or  Hasegawa, are therefore especially welcome. Please note that on the third sheet shown above the lightning bolt is printed in the same orange-yellow as the other markings - the scanning having distorted the colour value in the image.  

Donryu and the 5th Hikodan

The 74th and 95th Sentai formed the 5th Hikodan, together with the 38th Sentai with Ki-46, to participate in the second phase of the Sho operation no.1 in the Philippines campaign. From June to August 1944 the Donryu units had trained hard for the forthcoming Philippines battle, practicing skip-bombing tactics to attack enemy vessels accurately at low level using IJN bombs which had been modified for Army racks and operation.  

The 95th Sentai was originally established as a Kyodo (air instruction) regiment in Manchuria during 1941 as part of the Paichengtzu Instruction(al) Air Brigade/school (which included the 204th fighter and 208th light bomber regiments). It was retitled to operational Sentai status in January 1944 within the 5th Hikodan (with 74th Sentai and 38th Sentai with Ki-46).  In March 1944 the unit moved to Obihiro on Hokkaido.

The 74th Sentai had joined the 5th Hikodan at Paichengtzu in Manchuria during 1943 and in the spring of 1944 moved to Japan in response to the developing war situation and was stationed in Hokkaido with detachments at Kita-chishima to continue training. The 74th flew into Del Carmen airfield in the Philippines on 17 November 1944, despite the grave misgivings of the Brigade commander Col Kojiro Ogawa who thought the airfield was too vulnerable to attack. The aircraft had their fuel tanks drained as a precaution against fire and were camouflaged with foliage. On 19 November Lt Eiichi Sasaki ominously failed to return from a pre-dawn patrol in one of the radar equipped aircraft and during that day the unit lost 26 of its 28 aircraft in attacks by VF-11 and VF-20 Hellcats. The 95th Sentai flew into Clark Field South on the same evening with 27 aircraft together with two replacement aircraft for the 74th. 

From 23 November and despite their anti-shipping training the two Donryu units began conventional night bombing attacks against airfields on Leyte, dropping 50kg bombs from altitudes of 10-13,000 ft with flame dampers attached to their exhausts   On 25 November the 95th sortied six aircraft to attack Tacloban airfield at low-level, carrying additional volunteer gunners for strafing. This operation was repeated the following night but three aircraft became lost on the return trip and had to make forced landings at sea with the loss of two crews. The Donryu units continued their night bombing attacks until 6 December when 17 aircraft participated in the attempt to capture Buri airfield, 13 of them dropping smoke canisters to assist the paratroop operation and four aircraft making deliberate forced landings on the Dulag and Tacloban airfields to disrupt operations there.  The 10 personnel in the four sacrificed bombers were awarded special attack citations and posthumously promoted two grades.

On 8 December the two units sortied to make their only low-level skip bombing attack of the campaign when they attempted to attack enemy vessels in Ormoc Bay. Of the seven aircraft sent out two turned back, one after becoming separated and damaged in a chance encounter with a B-24 and another due to bad weather. Four aircraft failed to return but Capt Sueo Yamamato claimed hits with two 250kg bombs on a transport ship. 

On 13 December and against the wishes of Col Ogawa the 4th Air Army commander General Tominaga ordered the 5th Hikodan to expend all surviving Donryu in suicide attacks as a Tokko unit. The following day nine Donryu under Capt Yoshimasa Maruyama sortied as a Kikusui tai but failed to rendezvous with escorting fighters and were caught by P-47s over Panay Bay with all of them being shot down. After this the remaining aircraft reverted to conventional night bombing attacks against San Jose airfield on Mindoro, with one or two aircraft sortied every night from 20 to 26 December. From 2 to 14 January the Brigade began withdrawing to Taiwan, making repeated return flights to evacuate all personnel. Col Ogawa described the Brigade's experience in the Philippines as "like meeting a flood in an isolated house on a sand bank in the middle of a river and being swept away". After the Philippines campaign the 95th was disbanded and its surviving personnel absorbed by the 74th Sentai.   

Whether Revell-Takara or Hasegawa, Donryu is worthy of modelling in tribute to some very brave men.  

With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for kindly providing  the review set and to Dr Yasuho Izawa for his kind translation of Nihongun Juubaki-tai.

Image credit: All © 2020 Rising Decals.


Tuesday 15 September 2020

The 15th September 1940

A digression from blog focus if not from the subject of aviation to commemorate today as Battle of Britain Day (in the UK) and the 80th anniversary of the great battle in the skies over south-east England from July to October 1940 which culminated on the 15th of September. The scale of public commemoration has diminished in recent years but I shall always believe it to be a true turning point in the fortunes of the Second World War when RAF Fighter Command defeated the Luftwaffe attempt to secure aerial supremacy over this island and a vital haven and springboard to the subsequent liberation of Europe was protected and preserved. 

The RAF officially records 2,937 pilots as having fought in the Battle, average age just 20 years, and they came together from 16 nations including the Commonwealth. This is not to forget all those men and women who contributed so much to the Luftwaffe defeat, from the ever-toiling RAF groundcrew to the civilian boffins who pioneered the radar network, from the observers on the ground to the personnel in the plotting stations and control rooms, and many, many more.

The victorious RAF pilots came from:-
  • The United Kingdom
  • Poland
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia)
  • Belgium
  • Australia
  • South Africa
  • France
  • Ireland
  • United States of America
  • Southern and Northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
  • Barbados
  • Jamaica
  • Newfoundland

522 RAF pilots were killed during the battle and many more were injured, disfigured with burns or permanently disabled. Today they are all remembered and commemorated on behalf of this nation with gratitude and respect for their effort, endurance and sacrifice. 

Monday 14 September 2020

Yet More Shoki! ~ Rising Decals 47th Hiko Sentai

The latest Rising Decals sets feature aircraft of Hiko Dai 47 Sentai in 1/72 and 1/48 scales. RD72093 contains markings for six natural metal finish Ki-44 'Shoki' and three factory camouflaged  Ki-84 'Hayate' in 1/72 scale.

The individual subjects are as follows:-

  • Ki-44-II Otsu s/n 1435 at Narimatsu airfield during 1944 with a blue fuselage band and bold red blaze from the cowling and along the forward fuselage. As a Shintent Seikutai 'escort' this aircraft may have displayed a small winged 'Yamada' drum emblem on the left side of the fuselage beneath the cockpit. It is identified as a Ko in the recent FAOW pictorial history but that does not tally with the serial number.   
  • Ki-44-II Ko s/n 1120 with a white fuselage band. Captioned as a Fuji squadron (2nd hikotai) aircraft flown by 1Lt Yasuro Masaki the spinner is depicted red but the photo of this aircraft suggests a light painted spinner, possibly yellow (see heading image above).  
  • Ki-44-II Hei s/n 1862 flown by Capt Yasuro Masaki. The tail insignia, fin tip and forward half of the spinner are depicted as light blue. Unusually the wheel fairings bear a three digit number indicating another '62' serial numbered aircraft on strength. This aircraft carries Ta-dan air-to-air bomb containers beneath each wing. Training and trials with this weapon were conducted from March to May 1944 and Capt Masaki (promoted in March) was the first to use the weapon in combat. The FAOW pictorial history identifies this aircraft as Sakura squadron (3rd hikotai) which reportedly displayed squadron markings in yellow but Masaki was the Fuji squadron leader.
  • Ki-44-II Otsu '71' at Chofu in late 1944. Captioned as flown by the Sentai commander Maj Noburo Okuda it has a yellow painted spinner and yellow tail insignia. The red tail fin tip possibly identifies the Shotai (flight) and it has a white stripe bordered in red beneath the cowling. The gunsight is of the reflector type rather than optical.     
  • Ki-44-II Otsu '35' of the Shinten Seikutai in January 1945. Captioned as a former Asahi squadron (1st hikotai) aircraft with blue tail insignia and flown by M/Sgt Isamu Sakamoto of the Shinten Seikutai for a ramming attack against a B-29 on 27 January 1945. Sakamoto was thrown from the cockpit but survived to be awared the Bukosho 2nd Class. Previously depicted with an all red tail this aircraft is the subject of Ronnie Olsthoorn's corrected profile.
  • Ki-44-II Hei of the Sakura squadron with large 'bomb' insignia painted on the fuselage. According to the FAOW pictorial history this aircraft was flown by Capt Tei-ichi Hatano the Sakura squadron leader. The 'bomb' insignia has been previously depicted in kit box art as red and without the 'fins'.   
  • Ki-84 Ko '69' of Sakura squadron. Captioned as flown by Capt Tei-ich Hatano the squadron leader it is depicted with two blue fuselage bands in accordance with a profile in the FAOW pictorial history. The photos in the book suggest that badly worn paintwork has been interpreted as an incomplete forward band. 
  • Ki-84 Ko '16' of Asahi squadron with red spinner and blue tail insignia. 
  • Ki-84 Ko '45' of Sakura squadron with two yellow fuselage bands, tail insignia and forward half of spinner. 

    A splendidly colourful sheet of markings to suit the Hasegawa or Sword Ki-44 and Ki-84 kits in 1/72 scale. The convention for the hikotai colour sequence of this unit is usually blue (1st Asahi ), red (2nd Fuji) and yellow (3rd Sakura). but some references depict aircraft with white insignia bordered in blue, whilst HIS* states the sequence as white, red and yellow. Unfortunately the tonal appearance of the markings of aircraft in photos with their attributed squadron identity are sometimes inconsistent. Tonal interpretation is fraught with uncertainty and it might be that very dark blues, very faded blues and/or distinctly orange or faded reds were being photographed. Then there is the pundit's delight of film type and filters! Fortunately the provision of the tail insignia in this set should allow modellers to make changes to suit their own preferences or favourite gurus.

      RD48031 (shown above) appears to be a similar sheet in 1/48 scale with a reduced number of identical Ki-44 subjects as shown, but to be confirmed.

      With special thanks to Mirek Kárník of Rising Decals for providing the review sample of RD72093.

      * 'Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units and their Aces 1931-1945' by Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa and Christopher Shores (Grub Street 2002)

      Tuesday 8 September 2020

      More Shoki! A Big Scale Ki-44 by Kevin Burke

      Kevin Burke has very kindly shared these images and build details of his impressive Nakajima Ki-44-I 'Shoki' model built from the Hasegawa 1/32 scale kit and representing a well-used fighter-trainer in classic Akeno Army Flying School scheme. This is Kevin's first model after a 30 year absence from modelling!  Over to Kevin then:-

      'Beautiful clean, flash free hard plastic moldings secured on bagged trees. This model had the telescopic sight so the front windscreen would be unique to this model. Straight forward construction was enhanced with the Eduard interior and exterior sets for the Ki-44. These are beautiful and the interior kit is worth the cost just for the pilot seat itself.

      'Vallejo paints were used for the interior colours and exterior mottling. I added the shoulder harness from the Eduard interior set, some say the IJA did not have shoulder harness, I say, why not, and added it anyway. Seat is very accurate and in scale. Most interior parts were broken into sub-assemblies and added in time. Engine was constructed and wiring was added from Eduard, after closing the fuselage up, it is not viewable.

      'Both side entry doors were sawn open and Eduard parts added and painted, but the doors left off until all painting was completed. I decided to open the radio compartment and add radio detail. I cut the opening but really ruined the hatch so I heated up sheet plastic and draped it over the fuselage area involved, trimmed to the proper shape for the hatch and added panel detail. Radio information was gathered on line and a  scale transmitter/receiver was scratch-built from plastic bits and a Waldron Punch-set.. The interior was painted and cockpit components added along with radio, wiring and frame work. The mating of the fuselage to the wing section was amazing, almost not needing any cement as it was so accurately tight.

      'Very little putty was needed  on the exterior of the model. Once most parts were attached and smoothed out a primer coat was applied. I used, believe it or not, Model Master 'non buffing' aluminum out of their spray can and found it an excellent cover. Why use this?  I knew it would set up hard and allow me to lift paint chips off the model, retaining the aluminum base. Following the painting instructions mottling was added. This took several tries with my older Paasche H single stage airbrush. Old doesn’t mean bad - just old.

      'Once painting was complete, (Micro-Gloss, decaling),  I chipped the model using painting tape and applying it then lifting off, forming actual removal of paint chips. That was the reason for the Model Master lacquer base and it worked. Scrapes and muddy boot prints were added to the wing areas. Hand/foot grabs added along with canopy handles. Aerials were stretched sprue with white glue insulators. Micro-Flat sprayed overall. Exhaust was black Tamiya, diluted with white and then a light gray overspray. Chalks were brushed on.

      'Aber wing machine guns were added and residue brushed on. Oil and panel lines were Tamiya panel line accent.  Much enjoyment in those boxes. The only problem I encountered was the weak tail wheel breaking twice - my fault - and that crazy two-piece telescopic sight through the windscreen. My first kit after 30 years but it won’t be my last. Hasegawa has made an excellent kit!'

      With very special thanks to Kevin for sharing these images and details of his stunning Shoki model.

      Image credit: All model photos © 2020 Kevin Burke; radio photograph via Kevin Burke

      Thursday 3 September 2020

      Shoki # 32 Hiko Dai 47 Sentai

      Aviation Artist Ronnie Olsthoorn has recently updated Profile # 22 In Osprey's Aircraft of the Aces 100 on the Ki-44 'Tojo' Aces of World War 2 in light of a newly revealed reference and very kindly shares the revised illustration above. For many years this aircraft, attributed to the Shinten Seikutai (Heaven Shaking Air Superiority Unit) air-to-air ramming flight of Hiko Dai 47 Sentai, was depicted in profiles and on box art with an all red tail based on a single and inconclusive photograph. However a photograph published in Bunrindo's Famous Aircraft of the World Special Edition Vol.8 'Pictorial History of Japanese Army 47th Flying-Sentai' reveals the full right hand side of this aircraft revealing a dark painted rudder with the lighter sentai insignia still apparent. The aircraft is captioned as belonging to the Asahi (1st) Chutai and therefore the insignia colours are presumed blue - or 'cobalt blue' as often described. 
      With special thanks to Ronnie for providing the revised profile. And worry not - decals for this aircraft and other 47th Sentai 'spectaculars' will shortly be available! 

      Image credit: © 2020 Ronnie Olsthoorn.

      Wednesday 2 September 2020

      Roberto Zambon's IJN Floatplane Trio in 1/48 Scale ~ # 3 Nakajima A6M2-N 'Rufe'

      Roberto Zambon's third and last floatplane model completed during lockdown is the Nakajima A6M2-N 'Rufe' built from the classic Tamiya kit and representing an aircraft in the post-war hands of the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit - ATAIU - with the original Japanese hinomaru crudely over-painted with RAF roundels. 

      The antecedence of this particular Rufe is variously reported as being either a former 934 Ku aircraft found at Surabaya and flown to Singapore or an aircraft of 381 Hikotai found at Seletar, Singapore. From there it journeyed to Tebrau in Malaya for evaluation as part of a large collection of former Japanese aircraft intended for shipment to Britain as war booty. However Admiral Mountbatten interceded and refused permission for the aircraft to take up returning ship cargo space and most were destroyed. The Rufe was reportedly flown to Cat Lai seaplane base near Saigon in Indo-China and handed over to the French to be operated by 8S Escadrille. It crashed on 19 February 1942 near Rach Ba Sang on its first sortie.

      With special thanks to Roberto for sharing images of his lockdown floatplane trio. 

      Image credit: All photos © 20209 Roberto Zambon