Saturday 30 October 2021

Alex Rodionov's 1/72 Nakajima B5N1 'Kate'

Hot on the heels of his 'Val', Alex Rodionov has also very kindly shared these images of his stunning build of the Airfix 1/72 Nakajima B5N1 'Kate' attacker in classic and colourful red-tailed configuration.

In lieu of conclusive information about the colour scheme Alex elected to represent a painted aluminium finish. The markings are from Rising Decals set RD72059 'Japanese Naval Carrier Bombers Pt.II' and represent an aircraft of a maintenance practicing unit with tail code SeiRen-377 (for Seibi Renshuu) at Yokosuka in 1941. The red fuselage stripe was promulgated in November 1940 to distinguish the aircraft of the 3rd Carrier Division. The stripes on the tail, although often described as aim-off assistance for the rear gunner, are for drift measurement, usually set 5 degrees apart from the centre line and used in conjunction with smoke floats or dye markers and a drift sight and plotter to assist in lining up a bearing from the drift sight to the indicator in order to calculate deviation in heading. 

The final image shows Alex's Airfix B5N1 lined up with an example of the B5N2 built from the earlier Mania/Hasegawa kit.

With very special thanks to Alex for sharing these images and more great models to come from him.

Image credit: All photos © 2021 Alex Rodionov 

Thursday 28 October 2021

Alex Rodionov's 1/72 Aichi D3A2 'Val'

Continuing a mini-theme of IJN attackers Alex Rodionov has very kindly shared these images of his model of the Aichi D3A2 dive bomber made from the 1/72 Fujimi kit, and delightful to see this later version of the iconic 'Val' presented and modelled so well. 

The main paints used to finish the model were Tamiya XF-11 J.N. Green and XF-76 Gray Green (IJN) with markings from Rising Decals Japanese Naval Dive Bombers Pt.II to represent an aircraft of 1081 Ku at Atsugi airbase in 1945. The unit is an interesting one, originally established at Atsugi as a carrier unit on 1 April 1944 but operated as a transport unit when consolidated with 1021 Ku on 15 July 1944. Duties included ferrying various aircraft to other frontline units but the operational history of this particular kanbaku with its replacement ailerons is obscure. 

Alex shared images of his excellent 1/72 A6M5 Zero here back in September 2019 and has also shared images of his 1/72 Nakajima B5N1 'Kate' made from the Airfix kit and to be shown separately.  

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

Image credit: All photos © 2021 Alex Rodionov

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Nakajima B6N 'Jill' in 1/48 by John Haas

In response to the blog about the Toltoys 'Jill' and Warren's request to keep 'old stuff' coming, John Haas (who has another forthcoming building treat in store) has very kindly submitted images of his own B6N model made from the Wings 1/48 scale vacform kit in 1982.  

John recalls that it was the arrival of UPC kits which introduced Japanese aircraft types he had previously known nothing about. He found that Wings made some fascinating 1/48 vacuform kits which became his first steps towards scratch building. John hopes that readers will enjoy the pictures of this model which still looks well after nearly 40 years.

With special thanks to John for another trip down memory lane and more evidence of his very fine modelling.

Image credit: All photos © 2021 John Haas

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Toltoys (N.Z.) Ltd., Panda Kitset B6N2 Tenzan Model 12

Back in June, 2020 reader G.T. Roche kindly shared details and images of the New Zealand based Toltoys 'Panda Kitset' re-issue of the Nitto 1/75th B5N2. Recently he very kindly provided details and images of another Toltoys re-issue he has encountered, this time of Nitto's Nakajima B6N2 Tenzan Model 12 'Jill'. Originally marketed by Nitto as being to 1/75 scale, with Burns giving a release date of 1964, the Toltoys packaging showed the scale as 1/72. The kit was also released by Air Flash in France with the original Nitto box art whereas the Toltoys box art appears to be unique and in their house style of a simple but attractive in-flight image of the aircraft against a plain white background.

According to Burns Nitto Kagaku, based in Tokyo, began producing plastic kits in 1962. Whilst most of the kits they issued were to scales of 1/75 and 1/77, a Douglas C-47 was issued in 1/100 scale and their two best known kits are perhaps the Yokosuka K5Y1 and K5Y2 'Willow' in 1/32 scale. Kit production ended in 1982 and some of the moulds were acquired by Doyusha in 1986.  

The instructions are quite comprehensive - a single sheet with a clear exploded view with numbered parts, a numbered and named list of parts and written guidance. Painting instructions are limited to following the box art. The decal sheet consists of hinomaru in six positions, all with white borders, yellow wing leading edge IFF strips and the white tail code '601-315'. The interior of the kit consists of a single piece inset with integrally moulded upper torsos and heads of the pilot and observer (probably quite effective if carefully painted under the less than crystal canopy transparency). Kit moving parts, a feature typical of the time. included revolving wheels, retractable undercarriage, moving ailerons and folding wings. 

In an era of modelling 'feeding frenzy' over ever increasing releases of super-authentic kits in larger scales it is easy to forget the humble pioneering efforts of companies like Nitto which in the 'early days' brought many interesting and relatively unknown Japanese aircraft types to the attention of Western modellers. Appearing crude by today's standards and indeed manufactured as 'toys' rather than serious scale models, the kits nevertheless made an important impact then as so often representing the 'only game in town' for a comprehensive collection of Japanese aircraft models. In those pre-internet days, and strange though it might seem now, Japanese aircraft like the B6N2 were far less well known or documented. The Fujimi 1/72 B6N1 and B6N2 kits did not appear until 1983 and 1984 respectively and were re-released by Hobby 2000 in 2019. 

With very special thanks to Mr Roche for kindly sharing these gems of kit trivia discovery.

Image credit: All photos of Toltoys B6N2 kit © 2021 G.T.Roche; Original Nitto box art via Scalemates  


Tuesday 5 October 2021

Kora Rikugun Ki-93 in 1/72

I'm grateful to Peter Zanella for alerting me to the release of this 1/72 Ki-93 kit from Kora, available in prototype (shown above) as kit KPK72133 and three projected variants. It is injection moulded rather than resin but comes at a 'resin price' of no less than €66. The Ki-93 was bigger than a DH Mosquito though, eight feet wider in wingspan and five and a half feet longer, and only slightly smaller than a Junkers 88. The parts layout shown below looks good but more anon. The three other projected variant kits are KPK72134 Ki-93-1a Heavy Fighter, KPK72135 Ki-93-1b Anti-Shipping Aircraft and KPK72136 Ki-93-1c Ground Attack Aircraft. 

The Ki-93 design is intriguing and over the years inconsistent descriptions of its intended purpose and development have varied by source. The May 1977 Air International article, reportedly drawn on Koku Fan data, positioned it in imitation of the Messerschmitt Bf 110, intended as a heavy escort fighter, but the designation in several early Japanese sources 陸軍航空(技研)工廠 キ-93  試作地土襲撃機 - is for a ground assault plane. That ties in with the official specification which called for an altitude rating of 8,000 metres (just over 26,000 ft) down to very low-level with 13mm armour plates positioned internally around the nose to protect the pilot from fire directed from below and ahead. The 1977 article describes the underslung main armament as the 57mm Ho-401 but the Japanese specification was for the Ho-402 being a long-barrelled 57mm anti-tank gun. Originally a 30-round magazine was proposed but centre of gravity and weight adjustments saw this reduced consecutively to 25 and ultimately 20 rounds. In addition to the main armament the Ki-93 also had a single Ho-5 20mm cannon in each wing root positioned close to the fuselage to fire free of the arc of the propellers. As the aircraft was considered vulnerable to attack from enemy fighters whilst performing its main role a flexible, rear firing Ho-104 13mm machine gun equipped a second crew member.  The ground attack or anti-tank role was reportedly conceived in response to Nomonhan and the perceived threat of Soviet tanks, making the design concept more akin to a beefed-up Henschel Hs129, although the imported Me 210/410 influenced the design. In its original form it is difficult to project a convincing high-altitude anti-B-29 role and the B-29 may have come into it only as a potential target on its airfields rather than in the air over Japan, with something perhaps lost in translation. The design concept was slightly re-purposed in November 1944 in response to the war situation for low-level attacks against seaborne landings and their supporting vessels. Installation of a 75mm cannon was considered but not pursued.  The multi-role concept involving B-29 interception is also put forward in 'Japanese Secret Projects' by Edwin M Dyer III (Midland, 2009) but is not evidenced by the original Japanese documentation.

The first prototype was damaged in a landing accident and subsequently destroyed in its hangar during a B-29 raid on the Army Air Arsenal at Tachikawa on 19 May 1945 (US Strategic Bombing Survey* report states the raid was on 9 June 1945). A total of 29 B-29s from 313th BW, 6th BG targeted the facility, 18 bombing visually and 11 by radar (according to US Strategic Bombing Survey - but  a mission listing states 30 up and 25 bombed**). Damage was light but included two of its four aircraft hangars including that containing the repaired Ki-93. Tachikawa was also the location of the Tachikawa Hikoki K K factory as well as the Army Air Arsenal and the Army's Technical Research Institute, the proximity of all three causing some confusion for writers describing the Ki-93 (and other developments). The Army Air Arsenal had been manufacturing the Ki-51 'Sonia' at the rate of about 22 a month during 1944 and had also produced 49 Ki-43 'Oscars' as well as a single Ki-67 'Peggy', production being curbed by the transfer of personnel to Mitsubishi and plans for dispersal against the threat of bombing raids. It had also been busy producing aircraft engines for the Ki-45 'Nick' and the Ki-84 'Frank'. 

The second prototype Ki-93 was moved to Takahagi where it fell into US hands intact during the occupation. That machine was given the designation FE-152, later T2-152, and transported to the USA where it was recorded at Middletown Air Depot on 10 March 1946. No photographs seem to exist or have surfaced and although recorded as being restored during September 1946 for inclusion at the proposed Air Museum at Park Ridge sadly it disappeared from the record after 1949.  

The original colour scheme is uncertain. Kora opt for orange on the box art whilst other depictions include a grey green or light green finish. Monochrome photographs suggest an overall mid-toned colour scheme with the wing leading edge IFF strips showing lighter against it, and a distinctive, darker colour swept around the cockpit and over the nose. The tone of the main airframe is similar to that seen in some photographs of the Ki-46 interceptor variant so could possibly be a khaki colour. If that darker segment was intended as anti-glare it did not extend to the engine cowlings. Tonally the dark area on the nose appears similar to the spinners and prop blades. There is no hint of a lighter under surface colour but recently two contemporaneous reports were encountered describing Army aircraft in an overall blue grey finish but with a lighter tone on the under surfaces. Whether that was deliberate or simply resulted from a darkening of the more exposed upper surfaces contrary to conventional wisdom about paint fading is unknown. If the design had proceeded into service it would probably have been finished in the late war # 7 olive brown colour or the blackish-brown # 43 earth colour. A modeller has plenty of leeway in deciding colours.    

* USSBS Army Air Arsenal and Navy Air Depots, Report No.XIX Airframes and Engines

** 'The B-29 Superfortress - A Comprehensive Registry of the Planes and Their Missions' by Robert A Mann (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2004)

Image credits: Box art and sprue frame layout © 2021 Kora/LF Models 

Friday 1 October 2021

Airfix Val Rides Again!

Airfix have announced the re-issue of their venerable 56 years old 1/72 Aichi D3A1 'Val' kit this autumn, presumably to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The other two aircraft deployed in the attack, the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero and Nakajima B5N2 'Kate', have both been released by Airfix in new tool versions but the price of the Val kit suggests it will be the original moulding perhaps, hopefully, with some cleaning up. The pre-order price of £9.99 is modest by currently ever increasing standards for kits but even so a far cry from the 3/-6 (three shillings and sixpence = 17.5p) of 1965.

The Airfix website shows the original Roy Cross artwork (above) but whether the kit is presented in that same guise or offers any new identity or warpaint remains to be seen. Despite its supposedly fatal flaws I have always rather liked this simple kit. The number available on eBay suggest that I am in a minority about that. Various improvements, including sanding off the rivet matrix, are easily accomplished and excellent replacement ordinance is now available via Ushi. Going the whole hog might include re-setting the angle of the undercart and replacing the crude interior of pegs and chairs with scratch-built plastic card, but with the canopy closed up very little can be seen. There is no doubt that a new tool Val in this scale would be welcome as the Fujimi alternative (cloned in poor imitation by ZTS Plastyk) is now in the hard to find category, also rather dated compared to current technologies, whilst the Dragon/Cyber Hobby kit (also released by Platz) is both flawed and expensive, costing even more than the superior Hasegawa 1/48 scale kit.  

Image credit: Box art © 2021 Airfix & Hornby Hobbies Ltd