Monday 19 July 2021

AVI Models 1/72 Asian Bird Dogs

AVI Models have recently released two 1/72 kits of the diminutive Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird Dog liaison and observation aircraft. The release is consistent with their theme of light aircraft models and kit # AVI72019 is presented as 'Asian Bird Dogs' with four colourful markings options. 

The four options (shown above) are provided for by an excellent decal sheet from Rising Decals and are as follows:-

  • O-1E s/n 63-12741 an overall ADC Gray aircraft of the Republic of Korea Navy in 1964
  • O-1G s/n 51-16973 an aircraft of the Royal Thai Navy in 1982 camouflaged Forest Green and Tan over Light Gray
  • L-19E-1 s/n 11213 an overall Signal Orange aircraft of the JASDF Aviation School in 1980   
  • L-19E-1 s/n 11366 an overall Dark Olive Drab aircraft of the JGSDF's 13th Aviation Squadron in 1980 

Stencilling is also included on the decal sheet. The variant designations are confusing as they changed over time and service but the AVI instructions include an old vs new designation table to help out. Fuji Heavy Industries also license built the type in Japan where it was named 'Soyokaze' (そよ風 - Zephyr). The only other injection moulded Bird Dog in 1/72 scale is the Airfix kit of 1973 vintage, a product typical of its time which hasn't been seen since 2008 and seems to command high prices second hand. 

The AVI Models kit consists of a single sprue frame neatly moulded in grey plastic with finely engraved panel detail and raised ribbing on the ailerons, flaps, tailplanes and rudder, especially well executed for the scale, a transparent sprue frame for the canopy parts, a brass photo-etch sheet and a faired ADF loop in resin. The instructions call for some parts not to be used. The cockpit interior plastic parts consist of a floor, rear bulkhead, instrument panel, plus seats and dual controls. The brass photo etch sheet provides instrument panels, rudder pedals, seat belts, internal canopy framing, various panels and grilles, optional control horns for the flaps and alternate parts for the seats, the near scale framework of which may prove challenging to assemble. 

Assembly is fairly conventional with two fuselage halves with moulded internal detail, a separate cowling with alternative propellers and single piece tailplane and fin/rudder which interlock together. The canopy is made up from five transparent parts - windscreen, two side panels, roof and rear - of box construction, which are exceptionally clear but will require care in assembly. The two single piece wings are to be joined with an underlocking tab to the canopy roof and again care will be needed.    Finally there are the wing struts, undercarriage legs, wheels and tail wheel. All in all a neat little kit of a popular type which will require care and nimble fingers to make the most of. 

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

Image credit:- All © 2021 AVI Models & Rising Decals

Friday 16 July 2021

1/72 Shiden-kai by Francesco Borraccino

Another Shiden-kai model to admire, this time built from the 1/72 Aoshima kit by Francesco Borraccino and representing A-343-37, a less modelled aircraft of 301 Hikotai of the famous 343 Ku. 

From his build Francesco assessed this kit as double-faced; with well moulded detail generally and especially for the cockpit and engine, but a challenging fit of parts to say the least.  

Francesco noted a poor fit of the wing and tailplane to fuselage joints with large gaps to fill, mostly on the underside, and a different level between the wings and fairings. Also an inexplicable upper fuselage joint where two bulges are formed resulting in a nightmare to fill and sand (see pics).  The pin for mounting the engine is too large and crooked requiring remedial work. 

In addition the undercarriage gear legs and doors are marred by ejector pin marks with the doors lacking the opening and closing mechanism which Francesco fabricated from plastic card and copper wire. He found the instructions for assembling the undercarriage parts were poor which contributed to an error in direction which required extra work to rectify. The undercarriage proved a loose fit so Francesco resorted to cyanoacrylic cement to achieve a strong bond.

The cockpit interior was finished with a mixture of AK Real Colors RC306 Mitsubishi Interior Green and RC330 Ohryoku Nana Go Shoku.

After final assembly Francesco finished the model with a variety of paints. For the natural metal under surface he applied AK Xtreme Metals with Matt Aluminium as a base coat, and panels of different shades such as Dark Aluminium, Polished Aluminium,  etc. Without a clear reference to the under surface Francesco represented the panels arbitrarily. The upper surfaces and spinner were painted with AK Real Colors RC304 D1 Deep Green Black, whilst the prop was finished with a mix of Gunze H-462 Black Brown, H-463 Red Brown and H-84 Mahogany. 

Francesco painted the upper and lower wing hinomaru but had problems with masking so for the fuselage applied Techmod decals. He chose '37' rather than the usual '15' or '03' but had to hand paint the numeral on the fuselage and the tail code using Winsor & Newton yellow gouache, not perfect but he hopes acceptable. Undercarriage gear legs were painted dull aluminium with the inside faces of the main doors satin black. The drop tank was painted with Real Colors RC302 J3 Hai iro. 

Finally weathering was accomplished with an oil wash and some fading using oils, pastels and pigments, bearing in mind that photographs suggest the aircraft were not so worn and had a relatively short operational life.   

Shiden-kai 343-37 was flown by WO Shoji Shibata, leading the 1st Kutai of the 1st Chutai's 2nd Shotai during the 12 April 1945 intercept mission; by WO Isamu Miyazaki leading the 2nd Kutai of the 3rd Chutai's 2nd Shotai on the 16 April sortie; by PO2/c Ken Okimoto of the 3rd Kutai of the 3rd Chutai's 1st Shotai on the 21 April sortie; and finally by Lt Masaji Matsumura leading the 2nd Kutai of the 1st Chutai's 2nd Shotai for an aborted sortie against B-29s on 22 April. In the 343rd the term Kutai referred to a Division of four aircraft deployed in pairs for which the English term 'pair' was used. A Shotai consisted of one to three Kutai from four to 12 aircraft. A Chutai was a tactical formation of usually two Shotai. The purpose of the numbers painted within the hinomaru, whether for training or maintenance, are disputed even by former members of the unit, and it is uncertain whether they were removed by all squadrons before combat operations began. Former 301 maintenance PO Wakashige Kondo stated that they were applied "with a solution of lime and water with a little amount of adhesive agent so that they could be easily erased" and that they were ordered to be removed after combat on 19 March 1945.*

With very special thanks to Francesco for kindly sharing these images and details of his excellent build, and for his patience in waiting for them to appear here.

*'Genda's Blade - Japan's Squadron of Aces 343 Kokutai' by Henry Sakaida and Koji Takaki (Classic Publications, 2003)

Image credit: All photographs © 2021 Francesco Borraccino

Saturday 3 July 2021

Dennis McCone's 1/32 Shiden-kai

With this splendid Shiden-kai built from the 1/32 Hasegawa kit Dennis McCone has completed and kindly shared here an impressive trio of large scale Japanese aircraft including his very fine Frank in 2019 and resplendent  Raiden in 2020.

Describing Hasegawa's N1K2-J as a finely engineered and easy to build kit which was a pleasure to work on, Dennis constructed it mainly from the box with the exception of the RB Productions fantastic but difficult to assemble seat belts and Montex masks for painting on the markings instead of applying decals. The masks had Dennis scratching his head a few times to work out the correct order for applying paint.

As usual Dennis applied all enamel paints to the model - Humbrol for the details with Xtracolor and Sovereign Colourcoats for the main finish and painted markings.   

Dennis' model represents an aircraft of the redoubtable Hikotai 301 Shinsen-Gumi of 343 Ku as flown by several notable pilots including CPO Shoichi Sugita, Lt Masaji Matsumura and Lt Naoshi Kanno the Hikotai commander when his own personal aircraft 343-15 was undergoing maintenance. The victory markings were said to be applied as a morale boosting exercise.    

With very special thanks to Dennis for sharing these images of a superb model and for his patience in waiting for them to appear here.  

Image credit: All © 2021 Dennis McCone