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 


Kevin Bade said...

Oh boy thanks for the heads up Nick I cannot wait to get hands on these. Superbly executed and researched decals.

Baronvonrob said...

Another winner from the Rising team!

Very interesting notes on the captured of Hurricanes and the mysterious fatal flight test

Thanks to Mirek & Nick!

WK said...

This is the first time I have seen a 50th Sentai Ki-61. Were many assigned to the 50th, or was this more of a commander's aircraft?

Straggler 脱走兵 said...


The 50th evaluated the Ki-61 as a possible replacement for the Ki-43 during March and April 1944. 1Lt Takami Fukui, 2nd Chutai leader, collected the first example from Singapore and in keeping with Sentai practice it was given the name 'Masa' (昌 - Prosperous, bright, clear) but it was destroyed on the ground at Aungban on 4 April 1944. A second Hien was received and some maintenance personnel had instruction on the type but ultimately it was considered unsuitable for Burma and the Sentai was scheduled for re-equipping with the Type 4 Hayate - Ki-84 'Frank' instead.


Mark Smith said...

Thanks for the information, Nick, both on the decals and that unusual Hien. Do you know whether these have appeared / will appear in 1/48? Great post, and beautiful work as usual, Mirek.

WK said...

Thanks for the explanation, Nick.

Ken Glass said...

Thanks for the notice on these decals, Mirik & Nick.