Friday 30 April 2021

Rob's Rufe

Last but by no means least of the trio of float fighters by Rob Ronconi is this striking model of a sun-bleached and well-worn Nakajima A6M2-N 'Rufe' built from the 1/72 scale Hasegawa kit out of the box with just the addition of antenna wire. The model represents a thunderbolt adorned float fighter from 934 Ku, attributed as the aircraft of unit ace PO2c Hidemori Matsunaga. 

934 Ku was originally formed as 36 Ku at Balikpapan in June 1942 and equipped with 'Jake' and 'Pete' floatplanes before being re-designated in November of that year. A float fighter unit joined 934 Ku from Yokosuka in March 1943 and in April floatplanes and float fighters from the unit were detached to Maikoor on Aru Island for air defence duties, soon engaging in combat. The float fighters also escorted 'Jake' floatplanes on reconnaissance sorties over north Australia tangling with RAAF Spitfires on at least one occasion. From early 1944 the unit moved to Halong seaplane base, a former PBY base on Ambon Island in the Moluccas where they also began operating the Kyofu 'Rex' float fighter in addition to their 'Rufe' float fighters. There from 4 to 7 March the unit was well recorded by official IJN photographer Tetsuo Abe including another thunderbolt adorned 'Rufe' with tail code 34-116. An earlier photo reveals that this was not the same aircraft as represented by the Hasegawa kit, the thunderbolt being of different size, shape and position. It is possible that the thunderbolts were applied to identify those aircraft credited with the destruction of enemy aircraft. The appearance of aircraft within a unit operating for more than 18 months was never static and a photograph taken at a single point in time is never proof of a singular appearance at all other times.

'Rufe' is a perennially popular modelling subject but in 1/72 scale the Hasegawa kit, first released in 1994, was the first serious contender, eclipsing the old LS kit in 1/75 scale from 1964 (still available from Arii) and the iconic Revell 1977 release of the Frog developed but never released kit F234 of 1976.  Some 25 test mouldings of the Frog kit are believed to have been made, together with a few proof decal sheets as well as thousands of Type H1 boxes with box art as later used by Revell. With very special thanks to Rob for sharing these excellently photographed images of another superb float fighter model.    

Image credit: All model photos © 2021 Rob Ronconi; AP153 box art © 1998 Hasegawa Corp.  

Thursday 29 April 2021

Rob's Kyofu Float Fighters ~ Part Two

Rob Ronconi also kindly shared these beautifully photographed images of his second float fighter model, this time built from the 1/72 scale Hasegawa kit of the prototype Kyofu with contra-rotating prop and finished in overall orange, again mixed from Tamiya paints. Some artistic licence was exercised with the tail markings which were applied to one of two Shiden-kai Model 32 (experimental Shiden-kai 3) prototypes.

The Kyofu prototype has been variously depicted in overall orange-yellow or overall silver (aluminium paint) and a more in-depth article on Kyofu colours, held over since 2010 (!) is planned. 

With very special thanks to Rob for kindly sharing these images of a stunning, sun-kissed Kyofu prototype. 

Image credit: All photos © 2021 Rob Ronconi

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Rob's Kyofu Float Fighters

Rob Ronconi has very kindly shared these images of one of a pair of splendid and excellently photographed Kyofu models which he built stock from the Hasegawa 1/72 scale kit with just the addition of antenna wire from Uschi. The exceptional photography gives the model a realistic 'presence' well beyond its scale which could easily be taken as larger.  

Rob's model represents Rex 022-121 of the 22nd Special Base Force unit discussed here but with a worn and faded rather than fresh appearance skilfully realised. The model was finished with Tamiya paints mixed to Rob's own recipes.

With very special thanks to Rob for sharing these images of a regal Rex. More of Rob's floatplanes to follow including a surprising wolf in sheep's clothing!

Image credit: All photos © 2021 Rob Ronconi

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Jake's Dimensions

Continuing the IJN floatplanes theme an interesting and thought provoking email was received from Griff Murphy in response to the blog on the Hasegawa E13A 'Jake' together with photos of his own splendid model made from the 1995 NP10 (51830) with catapult release of the kit and shared here with his kind permission. The model was painted with his own home brew of Testors 1/4 oz enamels and the decals are from Print Scale sheet 72026 to represent an aircraft from the heavy cruiser Chikuma piloted by Akira Ito whilst scouting Pearl Harbor prior to its attack.

Griff measured his model with a 1/72 scale ruler and calculated a length of 11.89 metres from the front of the pontoons to the rear end of the fuselage. He cited full-size aircraft measurements from William Green's 'Warplanes of WWII' Vol.6 of a length of 12.13 metres and from a series called 'Century of Flight' and various internet sources of a length of 12.17 metres.  That would put the discrepancy in overall length of the assembled Hasegawa kit between 0.24 and 0.28 metres or only 3.33 mm to 3.88 mm in 1/72 scale.    

Francillon* gives a length of 11.3 metres whilst the plans in the Maru Mechanic monograph (No.12 of Sept 1978 edition) give 11.265 metres, the same length given by the plans in Model 565 'Imperial Japanese Navy Seaplanes' of 2000. Against those dimensions Griff's model as measured would be around 8 mm too long in scale. Where does all this leave us? Perplexed! In the meantime Griff's model demonstrates that the kit can be enjoyed for its own sake and result in a good looking model, but a little bird tells me that a new tool kit of Jake is planned. . .    

Hasegawa NP10 (51830) 1995

With special thanks to Griff for the photos of his model.

* 'Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War' by René J Francillon (Putnam 1979)

Image Credit: All photos © 2021 J Griffin Murphy; Box art © 1995 Hasegawa Corp. 

Monday 26 April 2021

302 Ku Collection from Rising

302 Ku was a distinguished IJN air defence unit formed in March 1944 at Kisarazu, trained at Yokosuka and setting up home at Atsugi, but despatching detachments to other airfields as and when its defensive posture required. Its primary mission was the interception of B-29 attacks at high altitude, modified by the development of those attacks, and it operated a variety of aircraft which are well and generously represented by no less than 19 subjects catered for on this recent Rising Decals bumper release. Sheet RD72094 offers the following subjects:-

  • A6M2 YoD-1101 - an aircraft of the 1st Hikotai (which operated Raidens and Zeros) in standard scheme but with a non-standard demarcation between upper and lower surfaces. The reference to the kill marking on the starboard fuselage side confuses as none is shown or apparent on the decal sheet?
  • A6M2 YoD-158 - in an overall grey finish the variant is speculative as only the rear of this aircraft appears in a photograph   
  • A6M5 Ko YoD-1132 - Nakajima-built Zero in standard finish with the forward part of the spinner painted yellow
  • A6M5 Ko YoD-126 - a well known Nakajima-built Zero in standard finish flown by the ace Sada-aki Akamatsu with six cherry blossom victory markings on the port fuselage side
  • A6M7 YoD-106 - another Nakajima-built Zero in standard finish flown by Lt Yutaka Morioka and distinguished with the forward part of the spinner painted red
  • D4Y1 YoD-12 - a Suisei 'Judy' used as a trainer during 1945 in standard finish
  • D4Y2-S YoD-228 - a 'Judy' nightfighter flown by CPO Yoshimitsu Naka and Ltjg Hisao Kanazawa in standard finish with an impressive victory score of nine emblazoned on the fin
  • D4Y2-S YoD-235 - a 'Judy' nightfighter photographed in battered and tattered condition. This aircraft has the shorter fin and rudder
  • D4Y3 YoD-253 - a nightfighter rarity modified from a Model 33 'Judy'
  • J2M3 YoD-1164 - a Raiden in standard finish as flown by PO1c Hitoshi Sarawa for a B-29 claim on 24 April 1945  
  • J2M3 YoD-1163 - a yellow-trimmed Raiden flown by Lt Susumu Ito. One of the most colourful schemes for 'Jack' with speculation that the yellow trim might have included the fuselage hinomaru borders and the panel behind the exhausts. Well it's your model! Yellow surround hinomaru are, alas, not included on the sheet.
  • J2M5 YoD-160 - a well-worn Raiden providing opportunities for weathering techniques
  • J2M3 YoD-1195 - a Raiden flown by Sada-aki Akamatsu with yellow fuselage band and two victory markings on the fin tip for claims against P-51s on 19 April 1945  
  • A6M2-K YoD-501 - a Zero trainer with orange-yellow under surfaces. One was operated by the unit from September 1944 to augment the K9W1s in use (see below) 
  • D3A2 YoD-208 - unusually a 'Val' depicted with yellow fin tip and removed spats used for practice bombing for a special operation 
  • K3M3 YoD-276 - another rarity, used for navigation training and small transport missions but a photograph of the starboard side of this aircraft shows YoD-726.
  • L3Y1 YoD-901 - a transport 'Nell' used for the long range movement of Kokutai personnel - you will need the Arii (ex-LS) for this one! 
  • C6N1 YoD-296 - an elegant Saiun 'Myrt' with a slanting tail code. Its stablemate YoD-295 had oblique armament
  • K9W1 YoD-703 - a bright yellow biplane, one of six used by the unit for pilot conversion training, courier and liaison flights 

Here is a very well chosen collection of subjects and schemes which ably demonstrate the diversity of aircraft flown by this unit with a mixture of the well-known and the rare. Only hinomaru for the Zero, Raiden, Suisei and Saiun subjects are included and the rest must come from the kits or generic sheets. A  night fighter Zero subject would have been welcome, but mainstream out of the box kits for the night fighting Zero in 1/72 scale (and A6M2-K trainer) are still awaited, although they have been released in 1/48 scale from Hasegawa. Studying the photo of YoD-208 reproduced in Koku-Fan Illustrated No. 96 does not convince that the fin tip was yellow as the trim tab, part of the lower fin and fillet show the same tone. The impression is possibly the result of variegated paint and/or re-painting. The small rectangular panel above the tailplane appears to be the same colour as the under surface. The photo caption also suggests that the tail code might be yellow although it appears white? 

With very special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the review sheet.  

Image credit: All © 2021 Rising Decals

Sunday 25 April 2021

Kyou Kuriosities from Rising

Another recent release from the prolific Rising Decals in their 'Unknown and Lesser Known Units of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy' mini-series is this interesting and intriguing sheet of aircraft found at Atsugi post-war, all bearing the character 'Kyou' as a tail code with various suffix numbers. Sheet RD72096 contains decals for four subjects as follows:- 

  • 教-511 - a P-40E depicted in original US finish of olive drab over neutral grey with over-painted stars still visible and the tail code in orange yellow. The Special Hobby kit is recommended but doubtless the decals could be adapted to other kits including the classic Hasegawa.
  • 教-241 - an Aichi D3A2 'Val' in standard finish with an over-painted previous tail code '213' speculatively depicted here as YoD-213 on the basis that aircraft from that unit were found at Atsugi. This aircraft had a replacement port aileron with remnants of a larger hinomaru catered for in the sheet. The Fujimi kit is recommended.
  • 教-1303 - a Mitsubishi G3M 'Nell' in unusual camouflage suggested to be dark green over brown. The tail code was presented on a dark band presumed to have covered a previous code, possibly belonging to a transport unit. Only the rear part of the aircraft is visible in the reference photo so the remaining painting of a model must be conjectural. No kit is recommended but the Hasegawa and Arii (former LS) kits are contenders.    
  • 教2-202 - A Mitsubishi G4M1 'Betty' in standard but well-worn finish. Again no kit is recommended but the venerable Hasegawa appears to be the only game in town, long overdue for a more detailed kitography here.   

Kyou (教) means teach, faith or doctrine and Rising speculate that it refers to Kyouiku (教育) meaning education, schooling, training or instruction, which seems a reasonable conclusion. Exactly what kind of teaching or training involved these aircraft is unknown and one possibility is the Sagami Ku engaged in aircraft maintenance training but the inclusion of a captured P-40 is interesting. Only hinomaru for the P-40 are included and national insignia for the D3A2, G3M2/3 and G4M1 must be sought elsewhere, either from the recommended kits or from generic hinomaru sheets. The decals are sharply printed with good colour saturation and there is provision for the over-painted but still visible markings which will make for interesting and unusual models - with plenty of scope for weathering techniques. 

Rising continue to produce useful and interesting decal sheets for both IJN and IJA aircraft subjects offering alternatives to the kit decal sheets and also suitable for dressing up older kits. Long may it continue. With very special thanks to Mirek for the review sheet.  

Image credit: All © 2021 Rising Decals

Thursday 22 April 2021

Gallant Ginga from Rising

Included in the recent bumper crop of new releases from Rising Decals is this splendid 1/72 scale sheet for the good looking IJN twin. The lineage of the units operating this fast bomber is almost as complex as that of the Army's Ki-46 units and Rising offer a selection of seven schemes for the P1Y1 in some of the better known units. Designed for the excellent Hasegawa kit the decals are no doubt adaptable to the older Revell-Takara kit, of which more here in due course. Of special note are the over painted and weathered hinomaru borders, very well represented on sheet RD72095 which offers the following subjects:-   

  • 鵬-71 (Ohtori-07) of 521 Ku - the first unit to operate Ginga following activation at Toyohashi on 20 Aug 1943, and as with all other subjects on this sheet depicted in dark green over natural metal finish. Originally 521 Ku consisted of 24 Ginga and 24 Suisei dive bombers but in November the Suisei were moved out to form 523 Ku and 521's official complement was first increased to 48 Ginga and then in Feb 1944 to 96 Ginga. The unit was under the command of Cdr Shigeki Negoro but the Hikotai leader was the notable Lt Cdr Takashige Egusa, 'God of Dive Bombing'. The unit worked up through various technical development issues and moved to Guam during April and May 1944 where training continued. After several losses in accidents and during search operations the unit was committed to offensive operations over the Marianas, with Lt Cdr Egusa killed in its first attack against USN vessels on 15 Jun 1944 when all eight participating Ginga were shot down. Capt Yoshio Kamei who had replaced Negoro as unit commander was also killed in action and the unit was disbanded on 10 July 1944, the surviving personnel and aircraft being incorporated into Hikotai K-406 (see below).  
  • 22-203 of 522 Ku -the second unit formed on Ginga, at Kisarazu on 15 Jun 1944 with an initial complement of 96 aircraft reduced to 48. The unit was engaged only in search sorties until disbandment on 10 Jul 1944.
  • 顕762-07 (Akira 762-07) of 501 Hikotai, 762 Ku at Oita, Japan in Feb 1945 - this aircraft is equipped with H-6 radar. The 501st were established within Yoko Ku on 10 Jul 1944 with a complement of 48 Ginga and from Sept were incorporated within 752 Ku for operations off Taiwan where it suffered heavy losses. From November it was incorporated in 762 Ku ( a former Rikko unit) and fought over the Philippines, with a detachment of special attack (suicide) aircraft formed as Shippu-tai, the first Ginga suicide unit (see also below). The unit operated against Saipan and Iwo Jima  from Katori and from Kanoya in late Jan 1945 before moving to Miyazaki with a detachment at Miho for sorties over Okinawa. During operations from Jul 1944 to Mar 1945 a succession of three Hikotai leaders were killed in action.    
  • 762-23 of 762 Ku at Atsugi, Japan, in Aug 1945 - this aircraft has a large white kanji character 'gaku' (學 meaning learning, knowledge or school) painted within the fuselage hinomaru, possibly representing an aircraft used for training of some type.
  • 763-62 of 763 Ku at Yontan, Okinawa post-war - this unit was formed at Izumi on 10 Oct 1944 from Hikotai K-405 (from 524 Ku and subsequently 762 Ku) and K-406 (organised with 44 aircraft and crew from the disbanded 522 Ku) . It fought mainly in the Philippines where it lost most of its strength. The surviving K-405 personnel were incorporated into a 'new' K-406 within 752 Ku in Nov 1944 and after transfer to 701 Ku in Jan 1945 the Hikotai was incorporated within 762 Ku, conducting operations from Izumi and Mito until disbandment on 5 Jun 1945.
  • 762-24 of the Asuza Tokubetsu Kougekitai, 762 Ku in March 1945 - the aircraft of suicide volunteer WO Masaru Ochiai who flew one of 24 Ginga in a long range, one-way sortie against the Ulithi anchorage on 11 Mar 1945, planned as Operation 'Tan'. Ochiai applied an epithet in kanji to the fuselage of his aircraft before embarking on the mission which is included on the decal sheet and clearly printed. The force was led by Lt Naoto Kuromaru, the youngest Hikotai leader from the dive-bombing buntai K-262 and included aircraft and crews from K-406. Each Ginga was armed with an 800kg bomb. Two flying boats were to provide navigation but eight Ginga and one of the flying boats turned back or had to force land due to encountering bad weather (as described on the decal sheet). The survivors reached Ulithi but only one flown by Lt Yukinobu Fukuda, was able to strike and damage a ship, the USS Randolph, which was repaired and back in operation from 8 April, whilst another Ginga crash dived onto an illuminated baseball pitch on the islet of Mog Mog. A total of 13 Ginga were lost, six badly damaged and eight out of the ten force-landed crew returned safely.
  • 05-221 of 405 Hikotai - see above

This is an excellent, well conceived and well crafted sheet which will enable a number of interesting and important Ginga subjects to be represented.  Paints suggested include Gunze 15 IJN Green (Nakajima) for the upper surface of all subjects. The jury is out on whether all Ginga had natural metal under surfaces as Japanese references, older and more recent, vary, with some depicting and describing grey. The NASM example s/n 8923 has a natural aluminium under surface but was manufactured by Nakajima in June 1945 and is configured as a night fighter. The Hasegawa kits major on silver under surfaces throughout. The upper surface green on the NASM survivor was also matched by Robert C Mikesh* to Munsell 5 G 3/1 or Thorpe's N2 (thus closer to IJN D2). In Model Art 458 aircraft 762-15 is depicted in overall dark green. Spinners were usually painted aluminium or dark brown. Interior cockpit colours of the NASM example are varied green hues, from a lighter greyish green, through olive green to the darker black green of some components - not something to sweat about, especially if the canopy of the model is closed up. 

With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the review sheet. Data included in this review on the various Ginga units is drawn from Dr Yasuho Izawa's seminal 'Rikko & Ginga' with acknowledgement and thanks. Bunrindo Co., Ltd., released a 144-page Special Edition FAOW title on the 'Navy Bomber (Ginga)' in 2000 which is well worth seeking out and should help unravel the various airframe and engine configurations of Ginga..

* 'Japanese Aircraft Colors at NASM' by Robert C Mikesh, Asahi Journal Vol.3 No.1 (undated)

Image credit: All © 2021 Rising Decals

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Rex from Rising

Appropriate to the continuing IJN floatplanes theme this recent release from Rising Decals, one of four new decal sheets, features Kyofu with three markings options in 1/72 scale for the Hasegawa kit.  All are early production versions, as follows:-

  • A1-105 of 936 Ku in the East Indies in 1945 as seen in the Kyofus at Surabaya featured here in February 2020  
  • YoG-101 s/n 514 said to be of 903 Ku at Tateyama in 1945 and currently in store at the NASM
  • 951-12 of 951 Ku, Sasebo detachment, at Sasebo in September 1945

There seems to have been some mix up in the wording of captions on this sheet between the second and third subjects. All the subjects are in dark green over grey schemes with YoG-101 distinguished by a red spinner. Hinomaru sufficient for one aircraft are included and warning bands/stripes will need to be provided from the kit decals or by the modeller. The sheet is well printed with the correct orange yellow hue for the tail codes rather than the lemon yellow printed on some decal sheets. 

The surviving post-war Rex was stripped of paint and re-painted with USN blue paint, perhaps giving rise to a long running perception of a distinctly blueish green applied by Kawanishi. In fact when Robert C Mikesh* examined the original paint on the NASM example (protected by the tailplane fillet) he found it equated to Munsell 3.2 G 3.0/0.9, nearest 'standard' Munsell 5 G 3/1,  or to Thorpe's N2 Dark Green. Likewise when the extant Emily flying boat was restored in Japan the original paint was found to be the standard IJN black green.

Thorpe's N2 is Munsell 10 G 3/2 but the closest FS 595 value is 34058 at 3.99, significantly more blueish and perhaps inspiring the brighter blue-green attributed as 'Kawanishi Green' in several hobby paint ranges. The colour values cited by Mikesh suggest the paint on Rex was applied to the IJN D2 standard. Further details of Rex colours with chips to be published here in due course. Rising suggest a mix of 90% Gunze 124 Dark Green Mitsubishi with 10% 65 Bright Blue which reflects the Hasegawa kit instructions for 'Kawanishi Green', together with Gunze 35 IJN Gray (Mitsubishi) for the under surfaces. Mikesh found the original grey paint preserved on the masked-off data plate matched Munsell 7.2 YR 5.4/1.1 (a light greyish brown) but thought the thinly applied grey might have been influenced by the red-brown primer layer beneath it. Even so all indications are that the under surface paint was a warm amber grey rather than the cooler, brighter, whiteish light grey so long attributed in Japanese instruction sheets. This paint typically chalked to a lighter, slightly blueish grey in service, so all is not lost!    

With special thanks to Rising Decals for the review sheet, recommended as an alternative and improvement to the kit sheets.   

* In 'Japanese Aircraft Colours at NASM', Asahi Journal Vol.3 No.1 (undated)  

Image credit: All © 2021 Rising Decals