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


Saturday 14 November 2020

Jason Brash's 1/72 Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu

Jason Brash from Australia is another returnee modeller who has been busy building excellent models of Japanese Army and Navy aircraft in 1/72 scale and has very kindly shared images and details of his various builds. His Kawasaki Ki-45 Kai Ko (the Type 2 Two-seater Fighter  - Ni Shiki Fuku-za Sento-ki  - 二式複座戦闘機) is built from the splendid Hasegawa kit # 00810 released in 2006 and represents an aircraft of Hiko Dai 13 Sentai in Japan during the Autumn of 1942 prior to the unit departure to the New Guinea theatre.  In Jason's own words then:-

'I really enjoyed building Hasegawa's 1/72 Ki-45, everything just fell together and the lines of the kit look spot on. This Kai Koh was painted up to represent an aircraft of the 13th flight regiment based on the Japanese mainland, 1942.
'The build was for the most part completed out of the box. The only additions being the Eduard Kawasaki belts and a Yahu Instrument panel.Though the kit decal performed well, the only ones used were a few stencils and the tail unit markings. The majority were applied with the airbrush. 
'The paint used throughout is an Australian brand called SMS (The Scale Modeller Supply) which are Acrylic lacquers. They are airbrush ready, mix well and dry fast so these are my go to for pretty much any project these days. The other plus with these paints is the active community on Facebook who are happy to help with advise or tips and tricks. 

'For the interior & wheel wells Olive Drab was used, highlighted with light grey and washed with a black/brown mix of Tamiya panel liner.  The exterior was first sprayed black, then highlighted with white creating a marbled or mottled surface. A very thin brown was applied to certain areas to help warm up the tone prior to the Grey-Green being applied again in a marbled effect. I then thinned that colour with white, highlighted panels and finally blended it all with a thin coat of the Grey-Green over the top. 

'The smaller details were painted next, the control surfaces were painted with British silver grey, leading edge IFF strips with Trainer yellow and  Hinomaru  painted with Red. The chipping was hand  painted using an 0/5 brush & Vallejo silver, then panel lines were carefully picked out with a custom mix of Black & Brown Tamiya panel liner. A final coat of Satin clear varnish, some pigments for exhaust and dust staining and it was time to call it a day. 

'One of my very favourite aircraft that was both fun and enjoyable to build.'

With special thanks to Jason for sharing these images and details of his excellent Ki-45 model and others to follow. As an aside, for those who have not seen a scale model of Toryu relative to other twin-engined aircraft its small size always surprises. The Type 2 designation has in the past resulted in some confusion with the Type 2 single seater Ki-44 - Shoki - in books or unit and operations records.

Image credit: All photos © 2020 Jason Brash

Thursday 5 November 2020

Gone But Not Forgotten - Revell's Classic Donryu

The Revell Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu (Helen), the Type 100 Heavy Bomber (百式重爆撃機 - informally '100 shiki ju-baku')  was one of several iconic Japanese aircraft kits released in the early 1970s which provided the only mainstream injection game in town for type and scale for many years. It was well received when issued as kit H-102  in 1973 with the collaboration of Takara in Japan (?) but has suffered the fate of many a classic by tending to be increasingly dismissed by pundits, partly due to its supposed inaccuracies, its raised rivet detail (albeit which is commendably fine) and of course the release of the very fine Hasegawa Donryu in 1998.

Most examples of the original release appear to be in the stronger Revell Japan box with all instructions in Japanese but confirmation as to whether flimsier boxes with English language instructions ever existed would be welcome. According to a review of the kit in the March 1981 issue of Air International magazine only three of the quintet of Revell Japan kits were issued by Revell (UK), Toryu, Ginga and Gekko, with the Donryu only available from specialised dealers as a Japanese import. It was a quality product for the time with a separate leaflet of colour printed markings schemes as shown here (the scanning has rendered as light grey the original silver metallic ink used to represent natural metal) and a comprehensive decal sheet with insignia for no less than nine examples from eight units operating the type, including some multiple Chutai colour options as follows:-

  • Hiko Dai 62 Sentai - insignia included for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chutai in overall light greyish-white with dark green mottle on upper surfaces as box art
  • Hiko Dai 12 Sentai - insignia for 1st Chutai in natural metal with dark green mottle on upper surfaces
  • Hiko Dai 95 Sentai - insignia for 3rd Chutai with options for a solid dark green upper surfaces over light greyish-white under surfaces or in overall light greyish-white with a dark green 'tiger stripe' camouflage pattern on upper surfaces
  • Hamamatsu Army Flying School - school insignia in yellow with three horizontal bands across fin and rudder or in red with a single red rear fuselage band, both in overall natural metal finish
  • Hiko Dai 7 Sentai - in overall light greyish-white with dark green mottle on upper surfaces
  • Hiko Dai 74 Sentai - insignia for 2nd and 3rd Chutai in overall natural metal with dark green mottle on upper surfaces
  • Hiko Dai 61 Sentai - insignia for 3rd Chutai in a design usually associated only with the unit's Ki-67 aircraft in solid dark green upper surfaces over light greyish-white under surfaces

Unused decal sheets in unbuilt kits have often yellowed or become stained and in some cases marred by craquelure with the risk of breaking up when softened in water. For that reason aftermarket alternatives are particularly welcome and hopefully there will be more!

The kit itself is neatly moulded in silver plastic with a fairly detailed interior for the time, consisting of floor, bulkheads, seats, control columns and instrument panel. The configuration is not accurate as the tunnel to the nose position is central with a full span instrument panel and dual control sticks rather than the actual arrangement of the tunnel on the right with a truncated instrument panel and the co-pilot's control yoke on an extension from the pilot's control stick. The floor incorporates a bomb bay with four separate bombs but the bomb bay doors are moulded as a single piece. The nose interior has a prominent central seat, incorrect to the actual configuration of a folding seat on the right side, and  incorporates a bomb sight and machine gun. Additional machine guns for the ventral, waist and tail positions are included with a 20mm mounting for the dorsal position. The weapon was mounted to the right of the gunner as on the Hiryu but rather than a fully revolving turret the canopy had to be opened for the mounting to revolve and the weapon to fire. The ventral position is actually better defined than in the Hasegawa kit. Engine rows are separate parts, the cowlings are finely moulded with the flaps as a separate piece and the larger under cowling oil cooler intakes are included with a note to omit them to represent the earlier Ki-49-I. The props and spinners are single piece mouldings with the broader blades of the II.  The undercarriage components are well represented. 

On the version differences the production development of the II series has as usual become confused with the Ko, Otsu, Hei suffix sequence, the terms being attributed to airframe and ancillary differences rather than armament as intended. The II Otsu had improved armament of Ho-103 (Army Type 1) 12.7mm machine cannon in nose, waist, ventral and tail positions with a Ho-1 20mm machine cannon in the dorsal position. The II Hei was equipped with Dempa Keikaki radar as special equipment. 

There was a point by point comparison of the Revell and Hasegawa Donryu kits by Peter Fearis in Issue 2, Volume 5 of JAS Jottings (the quarterly magazine of the IPMS UK Japanese Aviation Special Interest Group. The unsurprising conclusion was to leave the Revell kit to collectors and to build the Hasegawa one. The above mentioned Air International review was less dismissive and summarised the original Revell release as follows:-

'The Donryu kit consists of 84 component parts, including 12 transparencies, and all fit together well. The interior is well reproduced, with a floor extending from the nose to the ventral gun position on which are mounted seven seats and other features. The transparencies are extensive and very clear. Both cylinder banks of each engine are separately formed and the undercarriage is nicely in scale proportion. The decal sheet which offers the correct shade of red for the hinomaru, offers markings for nine  different aircraft in a variety of finishes, each aircraft being illustrated in full colour in a four page leaflet which supplements the all-Japanese instruction sheet. The lack of an English translation is of no importance as the diagrams render everything abundantly clear. Commendably accurate, this kit is well worth obtaining, although we can offer no details of price or current availability.'    

In 1980 the Donryu kit was re-released in a flimsier box as S35 (although retaining H-102 as a sub-designation) with new artwork as shown above, instructions and decal options, the parts being moulded in light grey plastic but otherwise unchanged. The instructions, again in Japanese only, included a reference to Takara, inviting purchasers to contact their service centre with any questions, providing a Tokyo address and telephone number.  Colour call outs were for Revell (Japan) paints which share catalogue numbers with the subsequent Gunze Sangyo paint range.   

The colour schemes and markings offered in the kit were significantly reduced from the original to only three options with illustrations printed in monochrome and as follows:-

  • Hiko Dai 95 Sentai - insignia for 3rd Chutai in overal light greyish-white with dark green 'tiger stripe' camouflage on upper surfaces as box art
  • Army Air Communications School, Mitominami (Mito South) - in overall natural metal finish
  • Unknown Army unit - no insignia in dark green and brown kumogata camouflage on upper surfaces over light greyish-white under surfaces. Paint colour # 16 IJA Green was cited for the dark green whilst the brown - given as dākuburaun (dark brown) in Katakana - was to be mixed from # 43 Wood Brown plus # 7 Brown but no ratio was suggested. Paint # 56 IJA Gray Green (Nakajima) was cited for the  light greyish-white. 
Joyful Revelldom - Donryu from the 1976 Revell Japan catalogue

Notes on Donryu Camouflage

Whilst the modelling consensus is to usually depict Army mottles on predominantly natural metal finishes the evidence is that they were also applied to solid grey green or in some cases light blue or light brown base coats. And the solid base coats were not always applied as an overall finish but sometimes limited to the upper surfaces only with natural metal retained on the under surfaces. The reason for this variance, even for aircraft within the same unit, is obscure but probably expedient and related to the availability of paint and/or the urgency required in preparing replacement aircraft for operational use. Monochrome photographs tend to obscure these nuances but even some colour photographs have been misinterpreted as a result of conventional beliefs. 

Pioneer colour researcher Donald W Thorpe* recorded Donryu schemes inconsistently, summarising N (overall natural metal), O1 (Overall A9 Light Grey), B1 (A1 Dark Green mottle over overall A9 Light Grey), S3 (A1 Dark Green upper surfaces over natural metal) and C3 (Alternate segments of A1 Dark Green, A3 Green and A12 Brown upper surfaces over A5 Light Grey Green lower surfaces. However the colour profile captions in the book additionally suggested B2 (A1 Dark Green mottle over overall A10 Light Blue Grey), B3 (A1 Dark Green or A2 Olive Green mottle over natural metal), B4 (A1 Dark Green mottle over overall A5 Light Grey Green) and S2 (A1 Dark Green over A9 Light Grey lower surfaces) as probable schemes. With some points of reconciliation these eclectic combinations now appear viable for Donryu together with his C4 (A1 Dark Green and A12 Brown kumogata over A9 Light Grey lower surfaces). 

Model Art No.329 'Camouflage & Markings of the I.J.A. Bombers' published in Japan in 1999 does not materially challenge those suggestions. For those not familiar with the appearance of the Thorpe alpha-numeric categorisations a colour chart with sRGB chips rendered from his original Munsell notations and additional notes is available on request as a PDF from this author.

Light greyish-white (明灰白色 - mei hai (or kai) haku shoku) is a long standing Japanese convention often used to describe both Army grey-green and Navy grey in kits and reference books, unfortunately persisting to this day as it is not characteristic of the original appearance of either colour. 

What's In A Name?

Donryu is commonly translated as 'Storm Dragon' in English, but the origin of that interpretation is obscure. In his 1997 Schiffer monograph on the type Richard M Bueschel named it 'Dragon Swallower'. However the characters 呑龍 mean 'Gulping Dragon'. Although Donryu was developed in 1940, the Imperial dynasty year 2600, it was officially adopted by the IJAAF in 1941 which should have resulted in its designation as the Type 1 Heavy Bomber. But as 1940 was a memorial year of national celebration, the IJAAF assigned it instead to 2600 and designated it the Type 100 Heavy Bomber. 'Gulping Dragon' sounds bold but in fact was taken from a very gentle monk 'Donryu' of Joudo-shu (a branch of Buddhism) who took care of and educated poor children during the Edo era. The Type 100 was named after the 'Daikou-in' temple, commonly known as the child-raising Donryu shrine in Ohta City, Gunma Prefecture, where the Nakajima factory was located. With very special thanks to Keishiro Nagao of Lifelike Decals for his kind insight to this aspect of the aircraft.

Ki-49 English Language References

Scale Modeler Vo.9. No.7 July 1974 - eight page review of the Revell kit including type history, 3-view plan (no scale) and eight monochrome profiles

Air Forces International January 1980 - three page article with 1/72 scale plans and three colour profiles; list of FS 595a equivalents to Japanese Army Air Force colours

Air International Vol.20 No.3 March 1981 - review of Revell kit with six colour profiles by John Weal

Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu in Japanese Army Air Force Service by Richard M Bueschel, Schiffer, 1997 - 59 page type monograph with photos and tables

JAS Jottings Vol.7 No.1 February 2001 - seven page type history with 3-view plan (no scale) and five monochrome profiles

Arawasi International Issue 9 Apr-Jun 2008 - 14 page type history with colour and b/w photos, six colour profiles and two colour plan views by Mark Rolfe, colour cockpit layout schematic and several tables


* Thorpe, Donald W., Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II, Aero Publishers Inc., 1968.

Image credit: All © 1973 & 1980 Revell (Japan)