Friday 29 July 2022

Rising Decals Zero Pt.V

Another bumper Japanese subject decal set from Rising Decals in the form of RD72100, Part V in their series of 1/72 sheets for the Zero and offering no less than 24 markings options. This set includes the following subjects:-

  • A6M2 early Model 11 s/n 807 '3-112' of 12 Ku, China in 1941 - depicted in two-tone grey but the colours are not specified. This aircraft has an impressive tail fin scoreboard claiming 28 victories and was flown by various pilots
  • A6M2 early Model 11 '3-177' of 12 Ku, China, 1941 - depicted as above and said to be one of the first Zero fighters to arrive in China during July 1940
  • A6M2 early Model 11 '3-173' of 12 Ku, China, 1941 - depicted as above, and aircraft with 14 victory marks on the fin but without a fuselage band
  • A6M2 late Model 11 '3-143' of 12 Ku, China, 1941- depicted as above, an aircraft flown by 18 victory ace PO3c Masayuki Nakase and displaying three victory marks on the fin for his 26 May 1941 sortie against Nanning
  • A6M2 late Model 11 '3-141' of 12 Ku, China, 1941 - depicted as above and flown by Lt Minoru Suzuki on the 26 May sortie with two fuselage bands, either blue or red with both options included on the sheet
  • A6M2 mod-production Model 11 '3-138' (not 148) of 12 Ku, China, 1941, depicted as above with two victory marks on the fin representing the claims of 16 victory ace PO3c Kunimori Nakakariya during the 26 May sortie
The six subjects above provide a good representation for the Zero fighter's significant debut over China. The two-tone appearance is mentioned but a reason for it is not suggested. The question of red or blue fuselage bands is perennial and there is some belief that both colours were used to denote different Hikotai (or other sub-formations) within the Kokutai. Successive Japanese editions of Hata & Izawa's IJN Fighter Units and Aces have a cover painting by R Watanabe said to depict the 26 May 1941 mission against Nanning, and that 3-138 was being flown  by Kunimori Nakakariya whilst 3-143 was being flown by Masayuki Nakase. Nakakariya survived the war and was one of the sources consulted by Hata & Izawa. Those two aircraft, in the foreground, are depicted with blue fuselage bands, whilst a formation of Zeros flying further ahead in the background of the painting show red fuselage bands. That accords to some extent with testimony from Tetsuzo Iwamoto. He stated that at the time of the big raid on Hankow on 29 April 1938 in which he took part, the aircraft of 1st Hikotai had their fixed undercarriage covers painted red, while those of 2nd Hikotai were painted blue. Osamu Tagaya, to whom I am very grateful for an illuminating 2017 email discussion about this subject, suggested that although photo evidence shows that the practice of painting the undercarriage covers was later discontinued, that basic system of colour differentiation continued, and was revived in the form of fuselage bands at some point, and carried through into the A6M phase. He noted, however, that the then latest Japanese edition of H&I had colour profiles of Zeros 3-112, 3-141, 3-182 and 3-183, all with blue fuselage bands. He suggested that the colour of the bands may have depended on the number of aircraft available and whether only one or two Hikotai of aircraft were operational. The 26 May 1941 mission was flown with 20 aircraft with a No.1 Sentoki-tai (fighter unit) consisting of nine aircraft, and a No. 2 Sentoki-tai of 11 aircraft. Nakakariya is listed under No. 2 Sentoki-tai. This gives some credence to Watanabe's artwork depicting Nakakariya's Zero with a blue band and is also consistent with Iwamoto's testimony for the 29 April 1938 mission during the Type 96 Kansen period that 1st Hikotai had red undercarriages and 2nd Hikotai had blue. Watanabe's painting is a single picture that wraps around both front and back cover of the books, thus giving the impression that the blue-banded formation and the red-banded aircraft in the forward distance are part of one large group.  However the kodochosho records that the two formations flew separately in two waves, with No. 1 Sentoki-tai taking off at 1000 hrs and No. 2 sortying one hour later.

That red and blue digression aside, the decal options continue with:-

  • A6M2 Model 21 'AI-I06' of Kaga in April 1942  - depicted in overall light grey with twin red fuselage bands and Houkoku No.532 presentation legend
  • A6M2 Model 21 'II-II6' of 22 Koku Sentai Shireibu Fuzoku Sentokitai, Indo-China, 1941 - depicted in overall light grey with narrow blue and red fuselage bands and two white fin strips. An interesting choice and welcome provision to model an aircraft from this unit
  • A6M2 Model 21 'カ-103' (Ka-103) of Kasumigahara Ku - depicted in overall light grey with red leading edge IFF strips (not included). Another welcome choice, but FWIW I believe that this aircraft may have been re-painted overall yellow to comply with official requirements for training aircraft. Naval General Staff Order No.162 of 21 August 1942 ‘Army-Navy Agreement With Regard To Distinguishing Markings For Friendly Military Airplanes’ instructed that 'Trainers and experimental airplanes will be painted yellow colour (黄色 - ou-shoku)'. This continued the requirement of Directive 8777 of 29 December 1938 for the exterior painting of trainer aircraft which specified the colour as tou-ou-shoku (橙黄色) - literally orange yellow colour. Army trainers were yellow so whether the August 1942 instruction implied a change to align with those is unknown.   In September 1942 the Gunyoki Mikata Shikibetsu ni Kansuru Kai Rikugun Chuo Kyotei (‘Navy Army Central Accord Regarding Identification of Friendly Military Aircraft’) formalised this requirement to require aircraft to be painted overall yellow colour 'where feasable'.  Was Ka-103 a fighter trainer or being used for experimental purposes?
  • A6M3 Model 32 'タイ-180' (Tai-180) of Tainan Ku (II), Tainan, Formosa (Taiwan) in September 1944 - in dark green over grey with non standard camouflage demarcation and fuselage legend for 18 victory ace WO Takeo Tanimizu. The only 'Hamp' subject on this sheet but an interesting choice
  • A6M2 Model 21 '81-1183' of 381 Ku at Sorong in May 1944 - in dark green over grey with Houkoku 'Seram No.1' presentation legend. Noted as carrying two Type 99 bombs this Nakajima-built aircraft has a grey tail fin and wing tips which were theatre identification markings
  • A6M2 Model 21 'S-171' of Chitose Ku, Wake Island, April 1942 - in overall amber grey with Houkoku No.437 presentation legend. Flown by 16 victory ace PO3c Hideo Watanabe and another interesting choice   
  • A6M2 Model 21 '741-37' of 12 Koku Kantai HQ Fighter Unit at Matsuyama, Japan in March 1944 - in dark green over grey with red-tipped spinner, twin yellow fuselage bands and diagonal white bands on the upper and lower surfaces of wings. This Mitsubishi-built Zero is an intriguing and interesting choice
  • A6M2 Model 21 'X2-113' of 202 Ku at Kendari, Celebes, in May 1943 - in overall amber grey with red fuselage band. 
  • A6M2 Model 21 '43-179' of 343 Ku at Tinian, April 1944 - a Nakajima-built Zero in dark green over grey with two diagonal white fuselage bands.  
These nine subjects represent excellent and interesting choices to model Zeros operating in less well known areas and with some unusual unit identities. 

The remaining nine subjects are all A6M5 Model 52 subjects as follows:- 

  • A6M5c Model 52c '252-166' of 304 Hikotai, 252 Ku at Koriyama, Japan, August 1945 - in dark green over grey - a Nakajima-built Zero flown by Lt Saburo Abe who made one of the last IJN victory claims on 14 August 1945. Despite the caption this was Abe's regular aircraft by his own account, but it was unserviceable on that day and so he was flying the aircraft of Lt Yutake Morioka instead
  • A6M5b Model 52b 嵐-37 (Arashi-37) of 221 Ku, Kasanohara, Japan, January 1944 - a Nakajima-built Zero in dark green over grey. The tail marking Arashi (Storm, tempest, hullabaloo, uproar, winds of change) was used only for a brief period but offers an attractive alternative to the all numeral tailcodes
  • A6M5a Model 52 a s/n 4685 '43-118' of 343 Ku, Guam, June 1945 - a Mitsubishi-built Zero in dark green over grey with a light coloured replacement (?) starboard wing tip
  • A6M5 Model 52 '163-62' of 163 Hikotai, 634 Ku, Tokushima, Japan, September 1944 - a Nakajima-built Zero in dark green over grey. 
  • A6M5b Model 52b '中-132' (Chuu-132) of Chushi Ku, Shanghai, China, January 1945 - a Nakajima-built Zero in dark green over grey. Chushi Ku operated various models of Zero and Raiden 
  • A6M5c Model 52c '03-79' of 203 Ku, Omura, Japan August 1945 - in dark green over grey. A Nakajima-built Zero with evidence of previous ownership beneath the tail code. Both tail codes are included 
  • A6M5 Model 52 of 407 Hikotai, 361 Ku, Kagoshima, Japan, April 1944 - in dark green over grey. A Nakajima-built Zero with the character Akira (晃) probably the pilot's name - on the tail fin and no unit code.
  • A6M5a Model 52a '653-141' of 165 Hikotai, 653 Ku, Oita, Japan, October 1944 - a Mitsubishi-built Zero in dark green over grey. 165 Hikotai was a fighter-bomber unit
  • A6M5 Model 52 'B1-26' of 381 Ku, Singapore, August 1945 - in dark green over grey with non standard camouflage demarcation and lower undercarriage leg cover removed

This a most interesting and useful super set for 1/72 scale Zero modellers featuring a number of more unusual subjects. The inclusion of alternative decals for the blue or red fuselage bands is a nice touch and there are several additional and very welcome captions providing general information about colour schemes.  Rising Decals sets are out of stock quite quickly so apologies for any frustration this late review may cause. Hopefully Rising will offer second editions of some of the more popular sets. As with the Shiden and Shiden-kai set this one is remarkable value. As well as covering some of the recent Zero kits in this scale the sheet will be applicable to older kits, especially where the kit decals have not survived. It is highly recommended. 

With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the review set and to Osamu Tagaya for his valuable comments regarding the question of 12 Ku fuselage band colour.

Image credit: All images © 2022 Rising Decals


Unknown said...

Wow !!!.. I suppose we all need to now get our Zeros moved up on the production queue !

Well Done! Mirek, Nick, and the honorable Mr.Tagayasan

WD said...

Thanks so much for posting this Nick. I don't see them in stock anywhere yet, but I'm definitely keeping my eyes peeled for these.


Mark Smith said...

Great selections here, and many intriguing ones off the beaten path. Thanks for the heads up, Nick, and for images themselves posted in such high quality.

WD said...

These are in stock at Hannant's now, and yes I ordered a set. :)


Kevin Bade said...

This decal set is outstanding. Mirek, with the help of a certain Japanese aviation guru, has produced a plethora of unusual and interesting schemes. My Airfix A6M2 is getting the 381 Ku markings with the underwing bombs. Kudos to Rising Decals.

Ken Glass said...

Thanks for this notice & sharing your research notes, Nick.

Sergio L. de H. Teixeira said...

Hi Nick. I recently got this great set! I'm right now assembling a Fine Moulds kit of an early production A6M2 and I would like to make Ka-103. Because Mitsubishi built A6M2s have the landing gear bays painted in airframe color, is it feasible to paint them yellow orange too? My doubts came by the fact Ka-103 (like Ka-101) are ex-frontline planes, so they came from the factory in 'ame-iro', then repainted in yellow orange for their new role. What's your thoughts? Thanks in advance!

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hello Sergio

I'm not sure as the colour of this aircraft remains contentious. If it had been re-painted yellow then I think the wheel wells would have been left in the original paint as you suggest.

Good luck with your project whatever you choose to do.