Monday 27 February 2023

Ki-43-III Ko in 1/48 by Francesco Borraccino

Francesco Borraccino has made this model of a Nakajima Ki-43-III Ko from the Fine Molds 1/48 scale kit, representing an aircraft of No. 39 Kyōiku Hikō-tai (教育 飛行隊 - Instructional Air Unit),  a fighter training unit based at Yokoshiba, Japan from the end of July, 1944. This unit was equipped with a variety of aircraft including the Ki-79 advanced trainer and Type 3 Ki-61 fighters.

Francesco describes the Fine Molds kit as not a 'shake and bake' experience but believes an average modeller should be able to build it without problems. He riveted the completed model using FAOW drawings for reference. Some details were scratch built such as copper wire spark plug cables to the engine, lead wire and stretched sprue for the landing gear hydraulic cables, but he also added aftermarket generic Eduard JAAF seat belts and a Yahu instrument panel.

He felt his real challenge was trying to nail the correct shade of paint for the Tachikawa factory finish to emphasise its brown tone. Eventually he settled on a mix of Gunze paints - H70 RLM 02 + H81 Khaki + H84 Mahogany + H421 RLM 81. For the under surface colour he mixed Tamiya paints XF52 Flat Earth + XF55 Deck Tan based on the description of Mr Noburo Shimoune in a 1968 Koku Joho magazine supplement, reported here in February 2009 as follows: 'I want to say that the underside colour was gray, but it was not Nezumi-iro (rat or mouse colour). Rather it was a colour similar to the top colour but lightened with white.' In 2004 an extant sample of this paint was compared as close to FS 36405 Gray. 

The prop and spinner were painted with a mix of Gunze H302 Green FS 34092 with a drop of H53 Neutral Gray but Francesco considers it a little bit lighter. He painted the cockpit grey green and added light weathering effects using oils, pigments and pastels with reference to photos.

All the markings were painted on using masks except the unit insignia decal which unfortunately broke up and had to be repaired at best endeavour. The insignia represented the numbers '3' and '9' said to be in the form of a swallow.  

Wheel wells were finished aotake. According to Mr Shimoune's description 'The landing gear wells were totally painted in blue anti-corrosive primer. The commercially available Humbrol metallic blue is a close colour.' although Francesco noted several models of this Hayabusa variant with aluminum painted or bare metal wells. Francesco used the new Mr Paint formula for aotake which he considered better than the old one, that being too dark and too blue.

Tachikawa had begun manufacture of the Ki-43-II in May 1943 and began manufacture of the Ki-43-III Ko in parallel from July 1944, based on Nakajima engineering, ceasing II production in September of that year and continuing III Ko production until August 1945 with a total of 1,727 produced. In 1944 Tachikawa Hikoki KK, founded in 1924, was responsible for the manufacture of about nine per cent of Japanese aircraft and operated plants at Tachikawa, Okayama and Kofu, the latter two being small assembly factories. Despite an air attack in February 1945 the Tachikawa plant was ordered to remain in production, only obtaining permission for dispersal arrangements in May 1945. As a result the building of two forest sheltered and semi-underground and underground plants at Ogose and Ninasaki resopectively were started but were not completed by August 1945 and dispersals were made to breweries, spinning mills and even private houses. The February 1945 attack by USN aircraft impacted Oscar production with 40% of the wing spar jigs, 90% of the welding equipment and 30% of the main wing assembly jigs destroyed, but even so 90 Oscars were manufactured that month, representing 85% of production the previous month, and the following month 155 aircraft were manufactured representing a  47% increase on the January total. B-29 attacks were made on 4 April, 24 April and 10 July 1945 with the 24 April attack being the most destructive and the 10 July attack causing negligible damage. Despite the attacks production continued with 70  Oscars manufactured during April, 120 in May, 93 in June, 80 in July and 35 in August.

Build Pics

With special thanks to Francesco for sharing these images and details with Aviation of Japan. 

Image credit: All © 2023 Francesco Borraccino


Michael Thurow said...

That's a model how I like it. Thorough research, commitment to detail and a nice finish. The wear and scratches look most authentic. I would just put a semi-gloss coat on the prop(blades), which would also darken the colour a bit. Great job Francesco!

Jim Anderson said...

Very nice model Francesco. I especially like the attention you gave to the coloring including the propeller. Your treatment of the scratches and chipped paint are convincing. A joy to look at, thank you Nick for putting this up for us to read about and enjoy.

Baronvonrob said...

Such a beautiful Hayabusa from Sig. Borraccino and fascinating footnotes about the cottage industry Tachikawa production line from Nick!... Thank you both

Alex said...

Very nice model and very useful information about Tachikawa's build Hayabusas. Much thanks Francesco and Nick.

Dan Salamone said...

Thanks so much for sharing this great build with us. I don't see many of the -III Fine Molds kits built, so it's a real treat.


WK said...

Excellent work, absolutely amazing. Am I to understand that Tachikawa had a darker version of IJA #7 (similar to the shade of certain Ki-84 of the 58 Shimbu tai)?


Kevin Bade said...

Excellent work Mr. Borraccino. My favorite Hayabusa the Mk.3. The depth of color work is masterful. Your weathering is also top notch. And a history of Tachikawa production..very enlightening Nick. Thanks to both of you.

Mark Smith said...

Such a great article - an inspiring model that seems to capture some unique colors well, and historical insight to frame its context. Beautifully done, Francesco, I've built the -II Fine Molds version, and you are right, it takes some work and filler. But a worthy choice for its shape, I think. The riveting and careful weathering bring the model alive.

The details provided regarding the struggle to keep these a/c in production against all odds are interesting - thanks Nick.