Monday 9 August 2021
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:-
- c/n 37 G-ADCB > J-BDDO > J-DDDO
- c/n 38 G-ADCC > J-BDAO > J-EDAO
- c/n 40 G-ADCE > J-BDEO
- c/n 43 J-BDCO > J-EDCO
- c/n 42 J-BDBO > J-EDBO
- c/n 41 J-BEYG > IJN > J-BAOH
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:-
- J-BAOL > J-DAOL
- J-BAOQ > J-DAOQ
- J-BAOS > J-DAOS
- J-BAOX > J-DAOX
Friday 6 August 2021
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
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
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!
- Re-building the engine rear firewall for proper alignment and positioning
- Adding further details to cockpit.
- Cutting out landing lights on both wings, and adding bulb detail and vacuformed clear lens covers.
- Scratch-building a new pitot tube and antennae.
- Painting all markings (including Hinomaru) using stencils with Signiagraph dry transfers, including the numerals on the tail.
Monday 2 August 2021
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.
- 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.