Saturday 24 December 2022

With Very Best Wishes to All Aviation of Japan Readers for the Christmas Season and New Year

And with very special thanks to those who have very kindly shared images and details of their models (and for their patience!), those who have generously shared the fruits of their research and those who have taken the time to leave comments.

Due to a succession of personal issues blogging has been erratic and tardy this year and I apologise to those waiting patiently for their much appreciated contributions to be presented here.

Image credit: Mount Haruna in Snow, Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) 

Friday 23 December 2022

1/72 Shoki by Jason Brash

Another shiny Shoki in the divine scale to share. This excellent model is made from the venerable Hasegawa kit, 50 years old but still a viable contender, as demonstrated by Jason Brash. 

Jason chose a scheme for a 246th Sentai Shoki at Taisho, Japan in the winter of 1944. All markings are painted on as he did not want to use the kit decals. He was originally going to apply camouflage but couldn't bring himself to cover the splendid natural metal finish. He mentions that the exhausts are not that dark in reality but the reflection in the finish makes them look that way.

The build was mostly out of the box but Jason added tops to the longer side of the landing gear bays, replaced the pitot tube with a metal one and added seat harness to the cockpit although they can't be seen! The other detail that paid off was dipping the canopy in floor polish for clarity and brilliance. Otherwise the only problem facing him was deciding on a subject and colour scheme. The kit decals were in decent shape but didn't do it for him and he wanted to paint the markings anyway. Jason plans to make a suitable display base for the model in due course.

Hiko Dai 246 Sentai (Imperial Eagles No.19196) was established from Hiko Dai 13 Sentai at Kakogawa in August 1942 for air defence of the Osaka-Kobe area with Nakajima Ki-27 Type 97 fighters. As first established it was a two-Chutai unit embryonic to the 18th Air Brigade which had been augmented following the Doolittle raid in April of that year, to include a reconnaissance unit, intelligence unit, and signal unit incorporating air to ground radio and wired telephony for early warning. In April 1943 it re-equipped with the Ki-44 and in November, expanded to three Chutai, two of its Chutai moved to Taiwan to provide air defence of the Kaohsiang area in the south of the island. The unit re-grouped at Taisho in March 1944 and in August that year Maj Tsurayuki Ishikawa  assumed command and oversaw a period of intense training to operate the Ki-44 in the air defence role against the B-29, pilots passing through the 246th to other combat units. In June 1944 when raids against Kyushu began the 246th was transferred briefly to Ozuki in the Western District under the command of the 19th Air Brigade but in July returned to the 18th Air Brigade which was enlarged and strengthened with the 55th and 56th Sentai.

In October 1944 following US carrier raids against airfields on Taiwan the 246th was despatched south again to bolster air defence on the island. In November the unit was sent to the Philippines where it was reinforced with the detached 2nd Chutai of 29th Sentai under Lt FumihiroYabuta, operating from Zablan. The 246th lost the majority of its aircraft at Zablan on 14 December when it was caught returning from a long haul escort mission and low on fuel by a force of USN Hellcats. The surviving personnel returned to Japan and in early 1945, re-equipping with a mixture of Ki-44 and Ki-84 fighters, the unit resumed its air defence role over the Osaka, Kobe and Nagoya areas, claiming six B-29 kills on 26 June. The unit's last air defence sorties were on 14 August 1945 when a quartet of Shoki engaged a superior force of P-51s over Shiga, their leader WO Yoshito Yasuda claiming one P-51 shot down but Sgt Maj Kenji Fujimoto being shot down and killed in the engagement. In July 1945 the unit reported a strength of 18 Ki-44 as part of the 11th Air Division in the Permanently Stationed Air Defence Forces.

With special thanks to Jason for sharing these images and details of his build.

Image credits: All photos © 2022 Jason Brash

Monday 28 November 2022

Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu in 1/72

Continuing a short season of Japanese Army fighters regular AoJ correspondent Alex has shared these images of his 2021 build of the 1/72 Sword Nakajima Ki-44-II 'Shoki' 'Tojo'  kit released in 2011 (and in-box reviewed here). 'Shoki' is always a favourite here but the Sword kit is not seen so often in built model form.  

Alex chose one of the kit's subjects, a 40mm armed Ki-44-II Otsu white '20' of Hiko Dai 47 Sentai at Narimasu in late 1944, differing from Sword's instructions by depicting the leading edge IFF strips in red rather than yellow. 

The 47th's confusing Chutai identity colour sequence has been discussed here before so we won't go there today. Suffice it to say that Sword identify this particular bird as being from the 1st Chutai. In December 1943 the 2nd Chutai had been detached to Tokorozawa airfield where it had the opportunity to fly and test the Army Flight Test Centre's Focke-Wulf Fw-190 A5 against its Shoki thanks to the auspices of former unit commander and then test pilot at the centre Maj Susumu Jimbo.  In October 1944 the 47th was rated by Army Air HQ as the best unit in the 10th Air Division with many skilled pilots.  During this period the 10th Air Division commander had instructed that each of the Sentai within his command would be required to form special air-to-air ramming units in flights of three or four aircraft. In the 10th Air Division, these small flights of stripped and unarmed fighters, often garishly painted, became known as Shinten Siekutai or ‘Heaven Shaking Air Superiority Units’. In early 1945 the unit was transferred under direct command of the 6th Air Army and began to re-equip with the Ki-84 Hayate to serve in the bomber escort role against expected enemy carrier attacks. On 19 March 1945 the unit was again transferred, this time to the newly re-formed 30th Fighter Group for the 'Sei-Go' operation as part of the 'Mobile Air Defence Forces' which would take over from 6th Air Army in defending the Kanto region against invasion, being based at Miyakonojo West airfield. The 47th ended the war at Ozuki after transfer to the 12th Air Division in July 1945. 

The interior of the Sword kit is significantly more detailed than the Hasegawa kit of 1972 but little can be seen in the finished model if the cockpit side doors are not displayed in their open condition. Alex also photographed the final result for comparison besides an old Hasegawa Ki-44.

With special thanks to Alex for sharing these images of his excellent model and for his kind patience in waiting for them to be shown here. More Shoki delight to come.

Image credit: All © 2022 Alex

Saturday 26 November 2022

Francesco Borraccino's 1/72 Hayate - Yes, That One!

Francesco Borraccino has very kindly shared these images and details of his splendid build of the Arma Hobby Ki-84 Hayate in 1/72 scale, representing an aircraft of Hiko Dai 73 Sentai. 

Francesco deems the new Arma Hobby kit as beautiful and a really enjoyable, carefree build, maybe not to a Tamiya standard but really amazing. A negative for him were the landing gear covers - too thick! He found the kit relatively easy to build except for a couple of passages, firstly in the placing of the photo-etch engine spark plugs (a problem was also that the instructions were a bit confusing) and secondly the rear portion of the canopy that require some filing to fit on the fuselage depression. I would add to that the rather disappointingly chunky pilot seat which lacks detail.

Francesco opted for a representative Depot finish of blue-green paint over natural metal. He tried the new # 27 by Mr Paint, but in his opinion it lacks the blueish hue and is too olive, so he chose to mix Gunze H-59 IJN Green with AK RC332 Blue Green.

Francesco interpreted the tail number as yellow on a yellow outlined red panel and hand painted it together with the sentai insignia, adding a red painted spinner and aerial mast. The hinomaru are the Techmod decals provided. The only detail he added to the model was the antenna wire which was tricky. 

The 73rd (No. 18431) was formed at Kita-Ise airfield, a branch of the Akeno Flying Division, at Kamayama in Mie Prefecture in May 1944 and together with Hiko Dai 71 Sentai made up the 21st Air Brigade. The simple three line sentai insignia was designed by painter and unit member Tsuruoka Yamamoto. From September 1944 the unit was deployed briefly on Homeland Defence operations at Tokorozawa before being designated (with the rest of the Brigade) as the third phase reinforcement for Sho operation No.1 in the Philippines. The unit deployed to Mabalacat East Airfield, Luzon in December and together with other Hayate units was placed under command of the 30th Fighter Group which as losses mounted became the de facto Hayate unit in operations. The 73rd engaged in airfield and shipping attack operations as well as special attack escorts. The sentai commander Maj Teruo Misumi and the Hikotai leader Capt Hiromitsu Kajiwara were both killed in action during January 1945. In the same month a special attack unit was formed within the 30th Fighter Group and three 73rd Sentai flyers including the former Olympics swimmer Kiichi Yoshida volunteered and were subsequently lost in action. The surviving personnel, eventually without aircraft, joined the Japanese ground forces although 70 ground crew members of the 30th Fighter Group, considered essential, were evacuated. The unit was formally disbanded in Japan in March 1945.

Some detail images of the build:-

With special thanks to Francesco for sharing these images and details.

Image credit: All photos © 2022 Francesco Borraccino.