Saturday, 24 September 2022

ICM 1/72 Mitsubishi Ki-21-1 Otsu 'Sally'

With gratitude to Ken Glass for alerting me to these images of their forthcoming 1/72 Ki-21 kit from Ukrainian company ICM due in October.  Will there be a 'feeding frenzy' with examples of long stashed and venerable Revell and Revell-Takara kits appearing on eBay? No doubt there will be a deluge of aftermarket improvements, various resin parts exactly similar to the plastic kit parts but which have to be sawn from their moulding stubs wearing a face mask to avoid the toxic dust and then attached with super glue. Just joking! ;-)

Not sure about the reference to two defensive weaponry options but it is unlikely to mean the two types of dorsal turret. Multiple variants presented as different releases rather than optional parts all in one kit like the aforesaid Revell classic being more 2022. The four markings options are not revealed. The narrower fuselage of the ICM is apparent. 

The interior looks simple but adequate for the scale and hopefully requiring a less challenging fit experience than some recently over-engineered kit interiors. "It can't be seen but I know it's there" is often the mantra which tempts a response "Well save yourself time and just imagine it being there then"! The ICM interior reminds of Mania kits like the Ki-48 and Ki-51 - nothing wrong with that.

Looks like a very good start. No hint as to price yet. but hopefully closer to £20 than £40! 

Image credit: All © 2022 ICM

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Kobayashi's Other Hien by Michael Thurow

Another Terrific Tony from Michael with his personal nostalgia for the Revell box art from 1963 which is shared. Over to Michael then:-

Kobayashi's other Hien
Ki-61-I Hei Otaki 1/48 by Michael Thurow


'This is Revell's box art that sparked my life-long passion for Japanese aeroplanes. Acquired in 1967 from my meagre pocket money it was my second 1/72 scale model - the first one was the Revell P-51D - and those earliest subjects are still my favourites (proof of how deeply childhood impressions engrave on a person).


'I couldn't resist and replicated Brian Knight's impressive illustration, which in spite of some artistic licence, might well represent c/n 3295, the 'other' Hien used by Major Teruhiko Kobayashi, Sentai-cho of the 244th Hiko Sentai. With this Ki-61-I Hei he undertook his ramming attack against a B-29 on 27 January 1945 and bailed out successfully to fly again the next day.


'20 years after my childhood romance with the Hien, meanwhile a staunch 1/48 convert, I returned to build this Otaki kit, then the only Ki-61 available in quarter scale. Last year I finally refurbished it with several upgrades.


'The venerable model received a new cockpit (from my previous Hasegawa build here), an after-market canopy (Squadron SQ 9561), ailerons and elevators (Dead Design Models DDM 48004), exhausts (MasterCasters MST 48013 for 'Judy'), landing gear (Fine Molds FM AC-5), wheels (Eduard ED 648317) and covers (Eduard ED 49822).


'A surplus Aires engine hood, replacing the original part, improved the nose contour. I covered the gun troughs as seen on the familiar photograph of c/n 3295 above. Apparently Kobayashi had the nose armament removed by that time to save weight. It's not clear if the wing guns were also gone (together with the gun sight and the venturi tube) in preparation of the ramming attack. For my model I assumed that he eliminated only the 12.7 mm Ho-103 guns, which didn't synchronise well (Mikesh 2004), in favour of the much acclaimed Mauser MG 151/20 wing cannon.


'Those acquainted with the Otaki/Arii kit* may detect some more modifications on the next picture. The lower surface and extremities are actually the only section of the model that was completely refurbished.


'Even with this all-out restoration I kept my original camouflage, replenishing some blotches here and there. All decals and markings were renewed, however. I'm happy that this treasured model can now hold its own against my more recent creations and thus build a bridge back to 1967 when it all began.


'* Otaki/Arii kits can be a very entertaining experience. Most provide surprisingly correct dimensions and contours (better than on some modern kits) but the cockpit and other detail is generally very poor. As I still own a couple of new boxes and several models that need restoration I developed an inexplicable affection for them and enjoy their upgrading. In regard to detail obsession I'd like to share a little anecdote: The Ki-61 has a small canopy stopper on the port side behind the rear window, often overlooked by modellers. When I checked drawings and photos for its exact location I detected a very small recessed circle on the model at exactly the right position - hail Otaki's dedication!'


References

JAPANESE COCKPIT INTERIORS PART 1, MONOGRAM CLOSE-UP 14, ROBERT C. MIKESH, BOYLSTON, 1976 ARMY TYPE 3 FIGHTER “HIEN“, FAMOUS AIRPLANES OF THE WORLD NO.17, TOKYO, 1989
KAWASAKI KI-61 / KI-100, MODELPRES 4, MIROSLAV BILY, PRAHA, 1992
KAWASAKI ARMY TYPE 3 "HIEN" & TYPE 5 FIGHTER, MECHANIC OF WORLD AIRCRAFT 2, JAPAN, 1994
I.J. ARMY KAWASAKI TYPE 3 & 5 FIGHTER, MODEL ART NO.428, TOKYO, 1994
JAPANESE AIRCRAFT EQUIPMENT 1940-1945, ROBERT C. MIKESH, SCHIFFER PUBLISHING LTD., ATGLEN, 2004 HIEN FIGHTER GROUP - A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE 244TH SENTAI, TAKASHI SAHURAI, TOKYO, 2004 JAPANESE ARMY FIGHTERS, DESIGN WITH PRECISION 10, MATSUBA MINORU, TOKYO, 2006
KAWASAKI KI-61 HIEN / KI-100, KAGERO MONOGRAPH 18, LESZEK A. WIELICZKO, LUBLIN, 2014
KI-61 AND KI-100 ACES, NICHOLAS MILLMAN, OXFORD, 2015

With very special thanks to Michael for sharing these images and details of his renovation, as well as the memory of that box art for his inspiration.  The in-flight shots are splendid! 

Image credit: All © 2022 Michael Thurow


Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Those Type 94 Kits

In the recent review of the Avi Models E7K1 and E7K2 kits it was stated that the E7K2 variant had not been kitted before in plastic. Wrong!  In fact a 1/100 scale injection moulded kit of the E7K2 was issued by YMC (Yamada Mokei Company) as the Type 94 水偵 (Sui tei - lit.water spy) in 1961. The kit (box art shown above) was one of a series of IJA and IJA biplane types from this manufacturer, which had begun their business with solid wooden, semi-finished aeroplane models and offered 'solid plastic' models from circa 1956. The nine kits in the series were considered advanced for their time in terms of research and technology, with the instruction sheets presenting three-view drawings by Kikuo Hashimoto. The other kits in this series, all to 1/100 scale, were as follows:-

  • Kawasaki Type 88 (shown below)
  • Kawasaki Ki-10 Type 95 fighter
  • Mitsubishi B2M1 Type 89 (shown below)
  • Mitsubishi 1MT1N Type10 (shown below)
  • Mitsubishi B1M3 Type 13
  • Mitsubishi 1MF1 Type 10 fighter
  • Aichi D1A2 
  • Yokosho Igo-ko Training Seaplane



YMC also offered other kits in a variety of other 'odd' scales, mostly of then contemporary types but including a Mitsubishi G4M1 'Betty' to 1/125 scale, a K5Y1 Willow to 1/63 scale and a Kawanishi Type 97 H6K2 'Mavis' to 1/202 scale (shown below). Note the dark red keel of the hull and floats in the box art depiction. 


YMC's wooden kits were presented similarly to the Ki-44 shown below. A Japanese webpage about the company and illustrating some of their adverts may be found here.


  Image credit: © 1960s Yamada Mokei Company

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Michael Thurow's 1/48 Kawasaki Ki-61- I Tei

Michael Thurow kindly contributed these images and article summarising the build of his splendidly smart looking Hien model from the Hasegawa 1/48 scale kit quite some time ago and he has been patient for its appearance, the delay being entirely my responsibility. In my opinion it is a very good thing which has been worth waiting for and as they say 'better late than never' which must, I'm afraid, pertain to some other kind contributions sent in during the Covid.  Over to Michael then:- 

Michael Thurow's Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei of the 56th Sentai 
Hasegawa 1/48

Long projected, 2021 is finally going to be my 'Kawasaki' year, and the Ki-61-I Tei is the frontrunner and the first one I have completed. This pleasant Hasegawa kit has idled in my stash for a deplorably drawn-out period of 25 years.


I was looking for an alternative to Kobayashi's popular 4424 but found it difficult to locate a nice example in pure natural metal, the simplicity of which befits the Hien's shape perfectly. Eventually I detected a 56th Hiko Sentai machine in the background on this photo which, as a far as I'm aware, has not been presented in profile yet.


All relevant markings appear to be distinguishable - a red command stripe (compare with the hinomaru), a coloured spinner tip that I took for yellow (white and silver seemed less likely to me), and the number 693 (red in my opinion). Adorned like this it might have been the mount of the 3rd Chutai-cho, whose name I couldn't establish.


Over time I had acquired a considerable stack of after-market items to enhance this model (and the other Ki-61 & Ki-100 that I work on in parallel). Most parts, though intended for the later Tamiya product, go surprisingly well with the Hasegawa kit, which speaks for its accuracy.
  • Aires 4017 resin cockpit and machine gun deck (for Hasegawa)
  • – Aires 4714 resin engine set (for Tamiya)
  • Brengun 48083 PE model accessories (for Tamiya)
  • Eduard 49822 PE upgrade set (for Tamiya)
  • Eduard Brassin 648433 resin fuel tanks and shackles (for Tamiya)
  • – Eduard Brassin 648317 wheels (for T amiya)
  • – Eduard Brassin 648321 resin gun barrels (for Tamiya)
  • FineMolds AC48 metal pitot tube
  • Quickboost 48311 undercarriage covers (for Hasegawa)
  • Squadron 9561 vacform canopy (for Hasegawa - only sliding portion)


After clearing the kit's side walls the Aires cockpit and front deck fitted with no problem. Some Eduard PE parts and scratch-building enhance the detail. I followed Nick's suggestion of grey-green (as opposed to olive-brown) for the interior of silver-coloured models. Photos in 'Pacific War Eagles in Original Color' as well as many monochrome prints confirm this choice.


The engine top cover is conveniently molded as a separate part on the Hasegawa kit, but I was a bit frightened of cutting the lower panel to expose the bottom section of the fine Aires engine, particularly as I wanted the model to be presentable with open and with closed engine compartment. In the end, not only did the motor with bearers slide into the assembled fuselage after only slight adjustment, I also found a workable solution for the covers by combining and adapting pieces from three different sets.


I used supplementary 20 mm Ho-5 cannon barrels from Brassin because I affixed the Aires ones to the hood. The trick was necessary as the internal barrels wouldn't reach through the gun ports. Finally I added a clutter of pipes and wires to make the open area look busy.


Another modification concerned the external tanks. While the Brassin parts are excellent - especially the superbly detailed pylons (though appr. 1 mm too long) - I had to treat the smooth tanks with streaks of surfacer. Drop tanks of the late-war period were made of bamboo and paper creating a somewhat uneven skin. The tanks are detachable in preparation for different diorama postures.


The aluminium finish didn't cause any particular complication, nor did the markings. I made use of the DDM (Dead Design Models) inspection cover masks that I had purchased to test this product. I won't use any in future because the forms can also be cut from standard masking tape, and the DDM adhesive is too strong so that the layered silver tends to get pulled off. Mr Color # 8 Silver from the rattle can made up the first coat and Tamiya TS17 Gloss Aluminium the second one which was wet-sanded with micro- finishing cloth 2400, then polished and sealed with semi-gloss acrylic.


There are many suitable after-market decals for the Hien. I favour the Techmod series from which I took all stencils. The hinomaru are Hasegawa originals while the 56th Sentai symbols were printed on clear decal sheet and applied in two layers (front) and one layer (rear).


The many special features made this a time-consuming project although it was fairly straight-forward, and I had a lot of fun with it. I hope this is visible in my model.

Thank you for your interest, Michael

References
JAPANESE COCKPIT INTERIORS PART 1, MONOGRAM CLOSE-UP 14, ROBERT C. MIKESH, BOYLSTON, 1976 
ARMY TYPE 3 FIGHTER “HIEN“, FAMOUS AIRPLANES OF THE WORLD NO.17, TOKYO, 1989
KAWASAKI KI-61 / KI-100, MODELPRES 4, MIROSLAV BILY, PRAHA, 1992
KAWASAKI ARMY TYPE 3 "HIEN" & TYPE 5 FIGHTER, MECHANIC OF WORLD AIRCRAFT 2, JAPAN, 1994
I.J. ARMY KAWASAKI TYPE 3 & 5 FIGHTER, MODEL ART NO.428, TOKYO, 1994
PACIFIC WAR EAGLES IN ORIGINAL COLOR, JEFFREY L. ETHELL / WARREN M. BODIE, AFTON, 1997
HIEN FIGHTER GROUP - A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE 244TH SENTAI, TAKASHI SAHURAI, TOKYO, 2004
JAPANESE ARMY FIGHTERS, DESIGN WITH PRECISION 10, MATSUBA MINORU, TOKYO, 2006
KAWASAKI KI-61 HIEN / KI-100, KAGERO MONOGRAPH 18, LESZEK A. WIELICZKO, LUBLIN, 2014
IMPERIAL JAPANESE ARMY AIR SERVICE ILLUSTRATED - FIGHTERS EDITION, YUKINOBU NISHIKAWA, TOKYO, 2015 
KI-61 AND KI-100 ACES, NICHOLAS MILLMAN, OXFORD, 2015

With very special thanks to Michael for sharing the images and details of his superbly realised Hien model in an excellently presented article, and not least for his patience in waiting for it to appear here.

Image credit:- All © 2022 Michael Thurow




Saturday, 17 September 2022

Hien in Burma


With a focus on Hien to follow I am very grateful to  Jordan Rich for very kindly giving permission to share these images of a Hien found at Hmawbi, Burma at war's end and photographed by his grandfather William "Bill" H P J Rich who served as an LAC (1222102) in RAF SEAC (South East Asia Command) from March 1942 until March 1946, an impressive four years of service in a challenging environment. From February 1945 he was part of 124 Repair and Salvage Unit which eventually became 56 Forward Repair Unit (Rangoon) in the closing weeks of the war. 124 RSU moved to Hmawbi in August 1945 to support 132 RSU (his previous unit) which had been on site for just over 2 months and Jordan believes the photographs were taken there. 

The Hien appears to be in the late war factory finish with solid painted upper surfaces, a finish also applied by Army depots following the decision to instigate factory painting of aircraft after June 1944. They all display the senchi hiyoshiki 'war front sign' of a white band around the fuselage forward of the tail and the wing leading edges appear to have rather deep IFF strips. The aircraft above appears to have the number '09' on the fuselage between the hinomaru and fuselage band, perhaps the 'last two' of the uncoded construction number. 

I am also very grateful for the kind permission of author Simon Gifford to share another image (above) of a Hien at Hmawbi from his book 'Rapid Rundown' published by Fonthill Media in 2014. This does not appear to be the same aircraft as in Jordan's photos as the 'number' (?) between hinomaru and fuselage band is applied in a slightly different position. Simon also provided another image of a Hien taken at Changi airfield, Singapore (shown below). 


The tail marking on the upturned Hien is indistinct but bears a resemblance to that of 37 Kyoiku Hikotai (教育 飛行隊 - Training [Development] Air Unit), an operational training unit for Hien. The unit is not usually associated with Burma but in 1979 Minoru Akimoto recorded its presence in Bandung, Java from 1944, engaging in combat operations, and with a part of the unit - a detachment - in Malaya at war's end. Another possibility is 7 Rensei Hikotai (練成 飛行隊 - Training Transformation Air Unit) which was based at Don Muang in Thailand but operated briefly over southern Burma during the period from September 1944 to May 1945 . That unit is reported to have been equipped with the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa 'Oscar' but Rensei Hikotai often operated multiple types of fighter. As far as I know the unit insignia of 7 Rensei Hikotai is unknown*. On 11 February 1945 six Hiens reportedly from the 8th Rensei Hikotai based at Rangoon intercepted a large formation of B-24 Liberator bombers escorted by RAF Thunderbolts and US P-38s. One of the Japanese fighters was shot down by the B-24 gunners and the pilot seen to bail out. Sqn Ldr N Cameron, CO of 258 Sqn flying one of the escorting Thunderbolts made a head on pass at a Ki-61, probably the same aircraft as it went down and was awarded a half share of the claim. Another Hien was claimed by Capt H E Boggs of the 459th FS as he approached the target, identified as a 'Jill' but gun camera film reveals it was a 'Tony'. This aircraft exploded in the air but a corresponding Japanese fatality was not recorded. The 8th Rensei Hikotai is recorded in Japanese sources as a Ki-84 equipped unit based in Saigon and its insignia is known.   


Hien is not much associated with Burma and although the 50th Sentai brought at least two examples into theatre for evaluation preparatory to potential re-equipment (as recounted in my Ki-61/Ki-100 Aces published by Osprey) the unit identity of these Hien at Hmawbi is uncertain.  Although the airfield at Hmawbi, north-west of Rangoon (now Yangon) is usually recorded as a singular entity it was in fact a complex of airfields comprising Hmawbi East and West, Wanetchaung where the 4th Air Brigade HQ  was based, Letpodaung North and Central, plus four nearby dispersal landing grounds. Under Japanese control Hmawbi had no permanent Sentai occupation (from late 1944 until early 1945 the 8th and 50th Sentai staged into it from Indo-China) but was administered by 17 Hikojo Chutai (Airfield Company) consisting of a Chutai HQ with integral Shikihan or administration section. The Shikihan had a staff of about 30 personnel with a WO in command. Other sub-units were the Seibi Shotai responsible for the refuelling and general first line maintenance of aircraft using the airfield, including overseeing the construction and repair of runways by locally requisitioned workers. Its establishment was four NCOs and 45 enlisted personnel, commanded by a Lieutenant. The Keibi Shotai was responsible for guarding the airfield, fuel and ammunition dumps, as well as motor transport, and consisted of about 30 personnel commanded by a Lieutenant. Finally the Zairyohan was responsible for the storage and issue of tools and other equipment, staffed by two NCOs and seven enlisted personnel under the command of a Lieutenant. The independent staffing of airfields with multiple satellite dispersals, together with the rapid staging of Sentai in Burma, was one of the main reasons that the IJAAF, significantly outnumbered in the theatre and subject to constant Allied interdiction, was able to maintain a presence there almost to the end, often staging in from more permanent bases in Thailand and Indo-China for specific operations as well as staging to forward airfields from airfields in the rear.

With very special thanks to Jordan Rich and Simon Gifford for their kind permission to share these intriguing photographs with Aviation of Japan, and to Woody Kubacki and Ronnie Olsthoorn for alerting me to them.  

* Correction. In 'Imperial Japanese Army Air Service Illustrated (Fighters Edition)' (Tokyo, 2015) artist Yukinobu Nishikawa depicts a stylised '7' placed diagonally across the fin and rudder of a natural metal finish Ki-61-I captioned as being 7th Rensei Hikotai at Palembang in April 1945. The basis for this depiction is unknown. 

Image credit: Photographs © 2022 Jordan Rich and Simon Gifford; tail marking schematic © 1979 Minoru Akimoto via Koku-Fan magazine.