Monday 16 August 2021

Monday 9 August 2021

Envoy to Japan

A brief change of pace from warplanes to a civil aircraft. Airspeed was a remarkable company which began manufacturing aircraft in a former bus garage in York, shared with a tyre company. The name was suggested by the wife of one of the founders A Hessell Tiltman, B.Sc., F.R.Ae.S. Beginning with gliders the company soon began designing innovative light aircraft for passenger service, culminating in the Envoy, the first British passenger aircraft with a hydraulically operated retractable undercarriage,  which in turn begat the Oxford, more workhorse than plane of fame but none the less worthy for that. The modest Oxford, of wooden construction, reached a production total of 8,583 aircraft manufactured by six factories, including two of Airspeed's own facilities, served in the RAF, FAA, RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF and SAAF, was also operated by the air arms of 19 other countries and post-war was civil registered in the UK and 31 other countries as the Consul or A.S.10 Oxford. In RAF and FAA service the Oxford was operated by an astonishing 803 units, from flying schools to squadrons and an enormous number of flights engaged in a diversity of functions. The decent Frog kit is long gone so this aircraft is surely deserving of a modern mainstream kit with lots of variant options - come on Airfix

But back to the Envoy and its operation in Japan started with the sale of four Series 1 aircraft in July 1935 to Mitsubishi. The Series I Envoy had no flaps and seating for 6-8 passengers depending on whether a toilet was installed. Flown by a single pilot, passenger seats had to be sacrificed if a navigator and/or wireless operator or steward were to be carried. Envoy c/n 37 with Wolseley Aries AR.9 Mk.II 200hp nine-cylinder radials was first registered in UK as G-ADCB and then registered in Japan as J-BDDO for service with NKYKK (Nihon Koku Kabushiki Kaisha - Japan Air Transport Company Ltd.) from October 1935. In December 1938 most Envoys were incorporated into DNKKK (Greater Japan Airways Co., Ltd.). It was re-registered as J-DDDO for use in Formosa during 1940 and at some point re-engined with Armstrong Siddeley Lynx IVC 240hp seven-cylinder radials.  

The second Envoy c/n 38 registered in UK as G-ADCC was initially registered in Japan to NKYKK as J-BDAO but the registration was cancelled in September 1935 when the aircraft was transferred to Kwantung and re-registered as J-EDAO. On 12 December 1935 this aircraft crashed and was destroyed by fire at Shingishu airfield during a test flight. The third Envoy c/n 40 was registered in the UK as G-ADCE and commenced operations with NKYKK as J-BDEO in October 1935 (one of the subjects in the RS Models kit - see below). It was destroyed in a hangar fire at Seoul, Korea on 7 March 1936. Envoy c/n 43 went direct to Mitsubishi in Japan as J-BDCO without registration in the UK and then to NKYKK in September. It was re-registered in Kwantung as J-EDCO  and ultimately operated by DNKKK from December 1938. These three Envoys all had the Lynx engines.

Two more Envoys went to Japan in September and October 1935. Envoy c/n 42 was registered directly as J-BDBO by Mitsubishi for NKYKK but also went to Kwantung with re-registration J-EDBO on 18 September 1935. In 1940 it was used for structural testing. Envoy c/n 41 was registered by Mitsubishi as J-BEYG in October 1935 but the registration was cancelled on transfer to the Imperial Japanese Navy in June 1936. It was then re-registered as J-BAOH to NKYKK in September 1936 and ultimately operated by DNKKK from December 1938. Both these Envoys also had the Lynx engines. Envoy passenger services with NKYKK commenced in November 1935 with domestic flights. To re-cap the six Airspeed Envoys operated in Japan were registered as follows:-

  1. c/n 37 G-ADCB > J-BDDO > J-DDDO
  2. c/n 38 G-ADCC > J-BDAO > J-EDAO
  3. c/n 40 G-ADCE > J-BDEO 
  4. c/n 43 J-BDCO  > J-EDCO
  5. c/n 42 J-BDBO > J-EDBO
  6. c/n 41 J-BEYG > IJN > J-BAOH
Standard colour scheme was aluminium dope overall with natural metal cowlings and arrow headed red fuselage flash with 'Airspeed Envoy' in silver lettering. The appearance of J-BEYG in IJN service is unknown but Mitsubishi operated it in overall aluminium dope without the fuselage flash and with black registration letters in standard position. Photographs of Envoys in NKYKK service do not show the red fuselage flash apparent in the heading postcard image which might have been taken in the UK. 

J-BEYG may have been used as a pattern aircraft by Mitsubishi in their licence manufacture of the type but the process is murky as the licence rights were acquired in June 1935. Mikesh and Abe* assert that two aircraft were imported for evaluation, one by NKYKK and the other by the IJN under the designation LXM1 (possibly J-BEYG). One of the Mitsubishi-built aircraft, which were designated Hinazuru-type Passenger Transport, incorporated flaps and new Gasuden Jimpû 5A 240 hp engines. Possibly registered J-BAOX it was reportedly first flown in November 1936 but tested until 27 October 1937 when it crashed during take-off at Kagamigahara, seriously injuring the pilot and killing an engineer on board. The crash was reported to be from a stall caused by the enlarged cowlings designed to accommodate the Japanese engines which had disrupted airflow over the wings.

However, the first Hinazuru (雛鶴 - Young Crane) received its Certificate of Airworthiness in September 1936 which suggests that the flight testing referred to above was part of a development process and not prototype testing. Most Hinazuru appear to have had licence-built Lynx or Aries engines and no flaps although a photo of J-BAOX appears to show the lengthened engine nacelles associated with the Gasuden engines. The mystery is compounded by the fact that J-BAOX crashed at Seran airfield, Formosa, on 24 June 1938 killing the pilot and four passengers. It seems possible therefore that the aircraft tested by Mitsubishi during 1937 was one of the original Airspeed imports which had been modified. Additional information or comments about this are welcome. The 11 Hinazuru registrations are as follows:-

  1. J-BACO
  2. J-BAOF
  3. J-BAOK
  4. J-BAOL > J-DAOL
  5. J-BAOP 
  6. J-BAOQ > J-DAOQ  
  7. J-BAOR
  8. J-BAOS > J-DAOS
  9. J-BAOV
  10. J-BAOW
  11. J-BAOX > J-DAOX
All the J-B registers were operated by NKYKK whilst the J-D re-registers were operated in Formosa by its successor DNKKK. Most Hinazuru had been withdrawn from use by the end of 1941. J-DAOL crashed into Qixing (Seven Star) Mountain in Formosa on 7 March 1940 killing the two crew members and six passengers. The type had a longer service life than the 1936 termination suggested in R E G Davies 'Airlines of Asia since 1920'**.  

In 1/72 scale there is a neat mixed media kit of the Envoy by RS Models with injection moulded plastic parts augmented by resin nacelles, engines and cowlings plus a photo-etched sheet. Released in several versions the Lynx-engined kit # 92102 (box art and parts shown above) contains registration markings for J-BDEO but sadly not the NKYKK logo carried on the nose. There were also resin kits of the Envoy released by RugRatResins in the 1980s and by Lüdemann-Modellbau.  The Hinazuru differed from the Envoy in its fuselage window arrangements, having four smaller windows instead of the Envoy's two large ones. 

I'm grateful to correspondent Kevin Bade for alerting me to another resin kit of the Envoy in 1/72 scale by RVHP, shown above, date of release unknown. The box describes it as an Airspeed AS-6 Envoy whilst the instructions refer to the Mitsubishi Hinazuru-Type. However the kit, which looks very nice, has the two larger side windows of the imported Envoy rather than the four smaller windows of the Mitsubishi-built aircraft. Decals consist only of Hinomaru, perhaps to represent the brief IJN use of the aircraft. 

* Japanese Aircraft 1910-1941 by Robert C Mikesh and Shorzoe Abe (Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990) p.196 (the accompanying photograph is of an Envoy rather than Hinazuru)
** Airlines of Asia since 1920 by R E G Davies (Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1997) p.438 (an accompanying photo shows J-EDCO at Fukuoka)


Airspeed The Company and its Aeroplanes by D H Middleton (Terence Dalton Ltd., 1982)
The Oxford, Consul & Envoy File by John F Hamlin (Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 2001)
Airlines of Asia since 1920 by R E G Davies (Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1997)
Japanese Aircraft 1910-1941 by Robert C Mikesh and Shorzoe Abe (Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990)

Image credit: Japan Air Transport Co., Ltd. postcards author's collection; box art and kit parts views © 2012 RS Models  and © 2021 Kevin Bade 

Friday 6 August 2021

Maj Toshio Sakagawa's China Front Hayabusa by Dario Risso

Dario Risso has very kindly shared these images and details of his fine representation of the Ki-43-II Hayabusa flown by Hiko Dai 25 Sentai commander Maj Toshio Sakegawa in China during 1943-44 and made from the classic 1/48 scale Otaki kit of 1972 (now available from Arii).  

Dario added some detail to the cockpit, cutting away part of the main instrument panel and adding a more accurate replacement made from styrene sheet. He also added instruments decals and photo-etch bezels. A new seat was made using styrene sheet with seat belts represented by masking tape.

The kit's gunsight was modified too, cutting some parts and adding a pair of clear acetate rectangles for the glass reflectors. Following observations on this blog and the box art, Dario removed the pilot's headrest and drilled some 0.3 mm holes to simulate its fastening points.

The engine was detailed by adding copper wires (heated with a lighter to make it softer and less duller) to simulate the ignition wires. Other details added were the pitot tube made from hypodermic needle, a landing light on the port wing, starter lug on the spinner, hydraulic lines on the landing gear from 0.3 mm soldering wire, a metal screen inside the oil filter, filler caps on the droptanks and a pair of styrene sheet discs to cover the wheel rims. Dario also inserted a tiny loop of copper wire on top of the fin and then added aerial rigging.

To complete the model Dario airbrushed on a black acrylic primer coat followed by a coat of Vallejo Model Air Aluminium. He decided to paint the aircraft as depicted on the Otaki box art by Rikyû Watanabe with a dense green mottle over natural metal and airbrushed Tamiya XF-13 J.A. Green diluted 50/50 with IPA, then applied the white bands on the rear fuselage and fin. After two coats of Blem floor polish (equivalent to Future/Pledge) he applied the kit decals with Gunze Mr Setter, avoiding using Mr Softener as the decals were so old. Some of the hinomaru wrinkled, so he added more setter and pressed down with a flat brush until to get an acceptable finish. After applying the decals he airbrushed two more coats of floor polish, allowed that to dry for a day and then applied Testors Satin coat overall. The paint chipping was represented with a silver Prismacolor pencil and some sponge-applied Vallejo Aluminium acrylic.

Maj Sakagawa was a 43rd intake graduate from the Army Air Academy in 1931 and after Chutai commands in the 11th Rentai and 24th Sentai, as well as a brief period serving as a flying instructor at Akeno, was promoted to Major in August 1941 at the age of 31. He was then given command of the 47th Independent Flying Squadron when it took the pre-production Ki-44 into combat at the beginning of the Pacific War. He was known in the 25th for personally leading missions, claiming the bombing leader of a B-24 formation over Hankow on 21 August 1943 and three P-51s on 6 May 1944. On 17 July 1944 he went to the Akeno Flying School to become the deputy commander of the 200th Sentai for service in the Philippines from October of that year and on 1 December he took command of the 22nd Sentai there, to inspire a unit which had suffered badly in casualties and morale. He was killed on 19 December 1944 during a night take-off when the transport plane he and other Sentai personnel were being evacuated back to Japan in crashed.  

Toshio Sakegawa's Camouflage and Markings

Both the markings and camouflage of this aircraft have been variously depicted over the years, with the rear half of the spinner depicted as both red and brown. A single diagonal tail band in Chutai colours was introduced as the Sentai insignia when the unit began operating the Ki-43-II from May 1943, chosen from a design submitted by Cpl Kennosuke Seshimo. The best photographs of Maj Sakagawa's Ki-43-II do suggest a two-tone mottle camouflage, although that might just be the effect of overspray and/or re-spray. Rikyû Watanabe illustrated two versions of box art for the Otaki kit, both shown above, as well as a splendid fold-out profile for an illuminating article on the 25th Sentai by Dr Yasuho Izawa in a 1973 issue of Aireview magazine. 

In the article Dr Izawa stated that :- 'Sakagawa's plane had broader (white) band on the rear fuselage and the Sentai mark of 3 different colours'. However all three illustrations by Watanabe-san depict white and blue tail bands (blue being the typical colour distinction for aircraft flown by Sentai HQ flights) whilst his Aireview profile depicts a very dense, almost solid, two-tone green mottle. The fold-out profile is too large to scan so only a portion is shown above. An interesting detail on this profile is the masked around c/n 5640 - a Ki-43-II manufactured in July 1943, whilst Sakagawa commanded the Sentai from November 1942 to July 1944, so undoubtedly flew other aircraft.

More recently the mottle has been depicted as green and tan with tail bands in white, red and yellow from front to rear. But even Model Art No.395* appeared undecided on the camouflage as the profile in the book shown above depicts a dense green mottle over brown (or vice versa) whilst the caption to a photograph of the actual aircraft on page 83 states:-

'Renowned as the leader of the cream of the Army fighter squadrons, Toshio Sakagawa of the 25th is shown here ready for take-off at Hankow airfield in the spring of 1944, sitting in his II Otsu '00'. The main body is differently camouflaged from normal; on top of green and brown dense speckling, even darker green fine spots have been added  This is seen well on the covers of the wheel legs. The hinomaru white border is slightly ragged due to the overlapping of the camouflage. The spinner is white in front, brown behind and the recognition band at the rear of the fuselage is white with a fine red border. The squadron marking from fore to after is white, red and gold (yellow) with the aircraft number 00 stencilled on. The underwing racks are retained but the pilot's rollover pylon has been removed.' 

If the overpainting was true then it is quite possible the aircraft went through a succession of camouflage appearances during its service life and more than one aircraft might have been flown by the commander. Prolific Japanese artist Fuku illustrated the white and blue tail band colours of Maj Sakagawa whilst depicting a heavy green mottle over natural metal, as shown above. The solid, medium green finishes of other Ki-43-II aircraft delivered to the Sentai were quite possibly modified or added to when worn or in order to better suit local conditions in China as with other fighter Sentai, but a mix of solid and mottled aircraft were flown, the mottled '15' of Sgt Kyushiro Ohtake of 2nd Chutai being well known. 1st Chutai 19-victory ace 2Lt Moritsugu Kanai flew Ki-43-II '05' c/n 6925 (manufactured in March 1944) with a solid dark green upper surface and the original white senchi hiyoshiki so-called 'combat stripe' painted over, reportedly in brown. The variance of solid and mottled finishes was not chronological but related more to the urgency of replacement and the resources of time and paint available at Army depots.   

The LS 1/72 Ki-43-II kit's 1983 box art by Kihachiro Ueda also depicts white and blue tail bands with an apparently solid medium green upper surface scheme, but the Arii release of the kit with the same box art now includes white, red and yellow tail band decals with a frank and refreshing note on the instruction sheet schematic (above) about the uncertainty of colours - 'Note: 8, 9 and 10 stripes can be confirmed in photographs, etc., but since there are many unclear points such as colours, I made this for the time being. If anyone knows about this stripe, please let us know.'  

From the photograph there is the merest hint of the mottle camouflage continuing up between the first and third band, suggesting that perhaps there were only two bands as depicted by Watanabe-san, and the tone of the central part does not seem quite as dark as the border of the fuselage band (which also seems to have a lighter border next to the red (?).  Can a firm conclusion be drawn? Probably not. Which leaves the subject open to an enjoyable interpretation based on personal belief or preference. Any one of the various depictions might inspire the completion of a model from one of the several Hayabusa kits available and both versions of the tail markings are splendid, so let it be so. 

With very special thanks to Dario for sharing his excellent modelling here. It is a delight to see and show another classic kit so skilfully improved and presented. 

* 'Camouflage & Markings of type 1 fighter HAYABUSA', Model Art No.395 (Model Art Co. Ltd., 1992)

Image credit: All model photos © 2021 Dario Risso; Otaki box art © 1973 & 1975 Otaki Model Toy Mfg Co.; Aireview profile © 1973 Rikyû Watanabe & Aireview magazine; Model Art profile and photo detail © 1992 Model Art Co., Ltd; Fuku profile © 2020 Fuku; LS box art © 1983 L&S Co.,Ltd.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

Sally at Yontan by Harvey Low

It is a great pleasure and a privilege to be able to share here this article and images by Harvey Low of his 'Sally at Yontan' superbly modelled from the 1/72 MPM kit. In December 1998 Harvey published a very fine cut out and keep paint guide Special for Japanese Army Air Force aircraft for the 'Color and Camouflage' series in the magazine FineScale Modeler, with valuable tips and colour photos of some of his excellent models. I cut mine out and keep it, still. Over to Harvey then:-

The Kit

One of the lesser known and shown models on the scale model tables is the Japanese Army Ki-21 'Sally' bomber. The reason for this obscurity is simply the lack of an available and reasonably priced kit as of 2021, with the first being released nearly 50 years ago! The only kits of the Ki-21 are the 1/48 vacuform kit from Sanger (you should become 'religious' to tackle that one) and the 1/72 kits from MPM and Revell-Takara Japan. All three are rare, difficult and costly to acquire. There are smaller offerings in 1/144 from Hasegawa (a reasonable kit), as well as more toy-like offerings from F-Toys and Cafereo. Finally Kora makes a conversion set to backdate the MPM and Revell kits from a late to early model (with noticeably smaller engine nacelles). However after attempting this conversion myself, I was highly disappointed as after installation the engine nacelle resin parts are at an odd angle that does not match any photos of how the real aircraft looked like (too high of an angle resulting in the propellers pointing upwards and very difficult to correct without significant wing modifications).   

This model is the 1/72 MPM offering released in 2001. It appears to be a copy of the Revell-Japan kit that was released way back in 1975 and re-released in the 1980’s by Revell-Takara. That kit has not seen any release since, with a rumour that the original molds were lost or damaged. The Revell kit was and still is a jewel to build with fit like a modern Tamiya kit, and well ahead of its time when released with fine recessed rivets and beautiful surface detail. Just ditch the original kit decals. I have built three! Two versions can be built from both the Revell and MPM kits – dorsal turret vs dorsal greenhouse with a unique interchangeable dorsal spine part to allow choice between both options. However the MPM release is not a good kit and much less stellar than the Revell offering. It replicates the errors of the Revell kit but is more difficult to build as it is/was a limited-production regardless release 25 years after that kit. For example there are no locating pins or positioning spars to assist in parts alignment including the cockpit floor. Of note, MPM released two box-art versions showing clearly both early and late engine variants. However, both kits are of the late 'IIb' version! The only redeeming features of the MPM kit is the beautiful resin cockpit, decals by Propagteam, and some releases including an Eduard canopy mask. These features persuaded me to try the MPM kit for this model. Both the MPM and Revell-Japan kits however, suffer accuracy issues from a shallow canopy, to slight shape problems with the wings. Nonetheless, they are acceptable representations of the 'Sally' until we get a big manufacturer to produce an accurate kit to fill this last huge gap in important JAAF bombers!

Photo Source: Mark Felton Productions

The Aircraft and Mission
This model represents special attack aircraft Kitai 21-IIb 'Sally' # 546 (shown above) from the 3rd Dokuritsu Chutai carrying paratroop commandos of the Giretsu Kuuteitai (Heroism Airborne Unit). References confirm tail codes of other aircraft were '156' and '138' in the same style markings. The aircraft was specially modified to carry ten commando suicide troops. In the planned attack on 24 May 1945 to destroy B-29s on US airfields on Okinawa, this specific aircraft “546” was only one of eight bombers to successfully crash-land wheels-up on Yontan Airfield, unloading ten Giretsu commandos, who  subsequently destroyed several US aircraft and a fuel tank. All commandos on this raid were killed – whilst only three US soldiers were killed. The ultimate fate of this aircraft is unknown, although brief film footage clearly shows it being hauled away by US troops. Mark Felton Productions does a short but exceptional video about this mission.

The Model

First, I chose to paint the interior a blue-grey, by mixing Tamiya XF-80 Light Gray with XF-23 Light Blue in more or less equal amounts. Realising that these interior colours were eventually transitioned out to more olive drab interiors by 1943-44, I assumed that the sacrifice of such aircraft perhaps left their original colours in place but that is my assumption only lacking any references I had at the time. 

Inspection of existing photos and film of this aircraft show a typical olive/dark green camouflage over what I interpret as all natural metal finish. The NMF was achieved by spraying on various shades of aluminium by Alclad - White Aluminium (ALC106), Polished Aluminium (ALC105), and Dull Aluminium (ACL117). While no clear photos exist of the topsides of this aircraft and thus the exact camo pattern, I interpreted it as a multitude of different patterns (perhaps applied by different aircrew at different times). The technique is to use different shades of paint, applying different spray patterns, and using the hairspray-technique to “stress” the paint in certain areas to simulate flaking and worn paint.

Of interest in the photos and the Felton video, is the appearance (or lack thereof) of the dorsal greenhouse on the aircraft carrying the commandos, with only an opening corresponding to the exact shape of the greenhouse canopy. I assume this to be modified to permit the commandos to exit the aircraft quickly(?). I have not found any clear photos or references to confirm this, and only period photos and less clear film stock showing some sort of cover over the top as it was inspected by US troops. I assume it was either a crude aluminum cover of some kind (not fitting well) or possibly a quick field modification consisting of a tarpaulin. Either way, the cover seen in old footage was clearly not the same colour as the rest of the camouflage. 

Therefore the rear greenhouse/gunner deck was removed and replaced with a styrene part covered with tissue paper and textured with Mr Surfacer 500, then painted to simulate some sort of canvas cover of my own interpretation. Light washes of Windsor-Newton 554 Raw Umber, were applied. The tail markings appear to be red stripes (again my interpretation) with white outlines. Photos of  # 546 show the red has been torn away showing only the white bands, but photos of these aircraft prior to departure clearly show the coloured red bands in place. Finally references note and show clearly that all armament was removed from these 'commando' aircraft to save weight in order to accommodate the Giretsu troops, so none are included on my model.  Other modifications to the MPM kit include:
  1. Re-building the engine rear firewall for proper alignment and positioning
  2. Adding further details to cockpit.
  3. Cutting out landing lights on both wings, and adding bulb detail and vacuformed clear lens covers.
  4. Scratch-building a new pitot tube and antennae.
  5. Painting all markings (including Hinomaru) using stencils with Signiagraph dry transfers, including the numerals on the tail.

With very special thanks to Harvey for sharing these images and details of his evocative and excellently crafted model, the first of many it is to be hoped. 

Image credit: Box art © 2002 MPM via Harvey Low; Photo © Mark Felton Productions via Harvey Low; All model photos © 2021 Harvey Low

Monday 2 August 2021

Burma Sentai Duo from Rising Decals

Recent Rising Decals sheets include these two very welcome sets of markings for a selection of fighters operated by Hiko Dai 50 and 64 Sentai, which performed long and distinguished service during the Burma air campaign, ultimately in the face of increasing odds. Both sheets include each type of fighter operated by the units, including captured Allied aircraft.

Starting with RD72098 for the 50th Sentai the instruction sheet erroneously states that this was the first IJAAF unit to operate the Type 1 Fighter Hayabusa. In fact Hiko Dai 59 Sentai was the first unit to operate the Hayabusa from June 1941, followed by the 64th Sentai in September of that year, those being the only two units to take the new fighter  into combat when the Pacific War began. All other Army fighter units were still equipped with the Type 97 (Ki-27 or 'Nate'). The 50th converted to the Hayabusa in Japan, from April 1942, after fighting over the Philippines and Burma with the Type 97. This sheet offers markings for the following 11 subjects :-

  • Ki-43-I 1st Chutai, as flown by 38 victory claims ace Sgt Isamu Sasaki, Burma, 1942.
  • Ki-43-I, 2nd Chutai as flown by 16 victory claims ace Sgt Yukio Shimokawa, Burma 1942. Shimokawa and Sasaki, together with the other well-known 50th Sentai ace Satoshi Anabuki were known in the unit as the '6th Term Sergeant Three Birds'
  • Ki-43-I, s/n 389, 3rd Chutai, Tokorozawa airbase, June 1942. This subject represents an aircraft during the unit's transition to the Hayabusa in Japan and is marked with the last two digits of the serial number, perhaps in chalk, on the rudder. 
  • Ki-43-I, 1st Chutai in weathered green over natural metal, grey-green or light blueish grey.  
  • Ki-43-II late production type (Ki-43-IIb), 3rd Chutai, Burma in green mottle over natural metal.
  • Ki-43-II s/n 5869 late production type (Ki-43-IIb), 3rd Chutai, Akyab airbase, Burma in an unusual four tone scheme 
  • Ki-84 Ko, HQ Chutai, Maj Koki Kawamoto, Phnom Penh, Indochina, April 1945. The factory applied finish of this Hayate is based on intelligence documents and combat reports. The 50th withdrew to Saigon in August 1944 to re-equip with the Ki-84 but were prevented from working up to full strength due to various defects and engineering issues. At the end of December they launched a successful full strength raid with 14 Ki-84 and 4 Ki-43 against Allied transport concentrations near Shwebo, Burma, claiming tanks and 150 trucks destroyed. By this time they were operating over Burma by staging into Hmawbi from Indo-China via Thailand. By the middle of 1945 their resources had dwindled to the point that their remaining pilots and aircraft were amalgamated with those of the 13th Sentai to form the 'Ko' fighter unit by 'repairing and maintaining the remaining Type 4 fighters' of both those units. 
  • Ki-61 Otsu, 2nd Chutai, Heho airbase, Burma, March 1944. Recently depicted on another decal sheet with a red lightning flash, presumably by someone who believes that the 50th used a 'standard' Chutai colour sequence.    
  • P-40E, Rangoon, Burma, 1943. This aircraft is depicted as retaining its US colour scheme with a conjectural 2nd Chutai lightning bolt.
  • Ki-44-II Hei, Meiktila, Burma. 50th Sentai operation of this type in Burma is shadowy but supported by a photo long identified as the remains of a Ki-43. The colour of the lightning bolt is conjectural and could be faded red, blue or even green.  
  • Ki-27 Otsu, 1st Chutai, Burma, February 1942. Aircraft in overall grey green. At this time the small fuselage hinomaru was part of the unit insignia.
  • Ki-27 Otsu, 1st Chutai, Mingaladon, Burma, March 1942, Aircraft with green painted upper surfaces. Possibly the aircraft of the 1st Chutai leader Capt Masao Monikawa

The first four subjects on the sheet are depicted in solid green over natural metal, grey green or light blueish grey. A recent Japanese reference book has stated that the under surfaces of all these aircraft were unpainted although in the past a thinly sprayed coating of grey has been suggested, whilst RAF crash and combat reports describe both natural metal and grey painted under surfaces. This densely packed sheet offers an impressive selection of schemes for the different types of aircraft operated by the 50th and is beautifully printed with excellent register and saturation; the cobalt blue and orange yellow markings being stronger than suggested by the website images shown here.

Sheet RD72097 features aircraft of Hiko Dai 64 Sentai, offering markings for the following 12 subjects:-
  • Ki-43-I, 2nd Chutai, Malaya 1942 in two-tone green kumogata camouflage over grey green or light blueish grey. Often depicted as green and brown the two-tone green scheme was confirmed by two veteran pilots of this Sentai
  • Ki-43-I, 3rd Chutai, Fussa airbase, Autumn, 1941. In overall natural metal prior to the application of dark green 'ordinary paint' to the upper surfaces prior to the start of hostilities.
  • Ki-43-II early production type, 1st Chutai. In green over natural metal. The red fuselage stripe  suggests the 2nd Shotai leader but the yellow spinner is unusual, the different colours being apparent in the photograph on which the markings are based. 
  • Ki-43-II early production type, 1st Chutai. In worn green over natural metal. 
  • Ki-43-II mid-production type (Ki-43-IIa), s/n 5852, 1st Chutai. In green mottle over natural metal. The colour of the fuselage bands is conjectural and the system/colour sequence for them is obscure. There are several unusual examples for this unit included in crash and intelligence reports, including green bands and bands bordered in various colours.  
  • Ki-43-II late production type (Ki-43-IIb), 3rd Chutai. In green mottle over natural metal.
  • Ki-43-II final production type (Ki-43-II Kai), 1st Chutai, Sgt Toshimi Ikezawa, Meiktila airbase, Burma, November 1944. In olive brown or green over natural metal. Despite the terminology the Nakajima-built 'II Kai' variant was known as the 'III' in the unit and some aircraft had the methanol injection system associated with the Tachikawa-built III Ko.  
  • Ki-43-II mid-production type (Ki-43-IIa), 3rd Chutai. This aircraft features interesting two-tone green and light brown mottled camouflage as seen in colour film but the variant is unconfirmed.
  • Ki-27 Ko, Maj Tateo Kato, Kwantung, China, May 1941. In overall grey green. Alternative arrow decals are provided as the only known photograph does not show the tail.  
  • Ki-27 Otsu, 2nd Chutai, Canton, China, spring 1941. In overall grey green and as flown by Capt Iwori Sakai the Chutai leader.
  • Ki-44-II Ko, 4th Chutai, Lt Shiro Suzuki, Rangoon, Burma, Late 1943. In green mottle over natural metal. Although the tail marking is shown as blue operation by a 4th Chutai is known so a green marking is possible. The only photograph is inconclusive as to colour.  
  • Hurricane Mk.IIB/Trop, 3rd Chutai, Chieng Mai, Thailand, 1942. In RAF camouflage with original markings over painted. Each Chutai planned to operate one of three abandoned Hurricanes captured at Palembang and repaired but 2Lt Aito Kikuchi an experienced pilot of the 2nd Chutai was killed on 10 March 1942 when the Hurricane he was flight testing immediately stalled and crashed on take-off. The cause of the accident was unknown. Another captured Hurricane was escorted to Chieng Mai, Thailand via Sungei Patani and Bangkok by the 3rd Chutai but was strafed and burnt there during an attack by the AVG on 24 March 1942. 

This is another excellent and well printed sheet ripe for personal interpretation in the completion of some of the very interesting but not fully documented subjects. The sheet also includes a bonus white arrow insignia outlined in blue for the Sentai HQ flight. The hinomaru on both sheets could perhaps be a brighter red but frankly that would probably be considered incorrect by a majority of modellers.

With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the review sheets and not least for continuing to produce such high quality and interesting Japanese markings decals to augment or replace those included with kits. 

Image credit: All © 2021 Rising Decals