Saturday 27 May 2023

Kit Trivia - Revell's Ginga Part 2

The Revell Ginga kit H-103 was subsequently (?) marketed by Revell (GB) in the UK in a flimsier box with different box art but by the same artist Kihachiro Ueda, as shown above, depicting a radar equipped Ginga ヨ-233 (Yo-233) of the Yokosuka Ku with a flight of Zeros escorting and Mt Fuji in the background. This box has a small yellow '1/72' imprint at lower left. Neither the box nor the instruction sheet, the latter an English translation of the previous sheet on cheaper paper and without the phiotograph, show any copyright date. The instruction sheet (shown below) states that it was printed in England for Revell (GB) Ltd.

However there is a little mystery here as Kevin Bade has kindly provided details of a kit in his own collection with identical box art but in the sturdier 'Japanese' type box, with the addition of 'Revell 1/72 Scale Series' and the Japanese JTA Safety Toy imprints on the lid, copyright dated 1972, as shown below. The ST marking and compliance was established by the Japanese Toy Association in 1971 so doesn't help in establishing the chronology of these releases. The release featured in Part 1 does not have the mark suggesting perhaps that it is an earlier issue than the box shown below. There is also an insert advertising this kit and the Catalina as 'Fashionable '72 Twin Engine Series' but otherwise in Japanese. The Scalemates website suggests that this was possibly the first release but the chronology remains confusing and further confirmation is welcome.

Decal subjects are the same but somewhat surprisingly ヨ-233 as depicted on the box art is not one of them. All parts are moulded in dark green plastic and sealed in polybags marked in red and yellow with 'Revell Authentic Scale Model'.  

Ginga began in 1940 as a project for a land based attacker under the designation Y-20 to replace the G4M, the 15-shi Rikujou Bakugekiki specification calling for a fast, twin-engined aircraft capable of dive bombing at 60°, conventional level flight bombing and dropping torpedoes at low altitude. The design, which incorporated the concept of a significantly smaller crew of only three compared to the G4M, was undertaken by the Kaigun Koku Gijutsu-sho (Kugisho), the Navy Air Technical Arsenal at Yokosuka but the gestation period was long, the first prototype not taking to the air until the summer of 1942, piloted by Lt Hatsuo Tabuchi of the Flight Test Division of Kugisho. Follow up tests were flown by Lt Cdr Susumu Takaoka who had returned to Japan from operational service on the southern front. The top speed attained during these tests was 341 mph with dive speed limited to 405 mph and an operational range of 2,900 nautical miles. The aircraft handled well and 'like a fighter', being capable of looping, spinning and rolling. Plans were put in place for series production at the Nakajima Koizumi plant to replace the G3M, the production of which was to terminate at the beginning of 1943. 

However, production and acceptance were delayed by numerous problems related to the Homare engine which had a complex oil pressure system requiring highly skilled maintenance. Issues with vibration and adverse heat effect on the pistons were eventually accepted without resolution. Lt Cdr Takaoka had to make between over 20 forced landings during test flights due to engine trouble, including on one occasion having to ditch in the sea when both engines failed. There were continuous design and engineering revisions during testing and production with only 10 series aircraft produced from August to October 1943, 10 in November and 25 in December for a total of 45 that year. In 1944 591 Ginga were produced at an average of 49 aircraft per month and in 1945 366 aircraft for a grand total of 1,002. That total does not include the Kawanishi built Kyokkô (Aurora) night fighter variant which will be discussed further in Part 3. 

The first unit to be equipped with the new Ginga was 521 Ku (Ohtori - a mythical bird) with a complement of 48, later raised to 96 with 24 aircraft as reserve/spares. A radio operator joining the unit in February 1944 recalled engine overheating accidents and hydraulic system failures. Deployment was delayed and when the unit finally staged to Guam during April and May a total of 14 aircrew were lost in fatal accidents. Working up to operational status was slow as the unit's aircrew, mostly former G4M pilots  or cadets straight from flying training, both found the aircraft's snappy and fighter-like flight characteristics difficult to master. 

On 15 June 1944 after a brief period of participating in operational sea search missions, 521 Ku finally sortied from Yap on its first strike mission with 10 torpedo armed Ginga under the command of Hikotai leader Lt Cdr Takashige Egusa, the 'god of dive bombing', against US ships off Saipan. At about 1740 hrs eight Ginga engaged US ships located between Rota and Tinian but all were shot down during their attacks, releasing only 4 to 5 torpedoes with just two running close to the USS Lexington but missing it. Their fate was not so much due to any shortcoming on the part of the aircraft or crews but more about the small number sortied versus the effectiveness of US fleet air defence. 

The next release of Revell's Ginga kit was under the Revell-Takara label in 1980 as S-36 (H-103 -1200) with a different box and box art as shown above depicting 522-212 of 522 Ku in flight over a somewhat ambiguous cloud or sea scape. There appear to be two variants of this box, the first with the right hand sidebar in green and a second issue with the sidebar in brown. Instructions were once again all in Japanese but the decal options had changed slightly as follows:-   

  • ヨ-233 (Yo-233) a radar equipped Type 11 of Yokosuka Ku with yellow and white diagonal tailfin stripe
  • 761-25  a Type 11 of 761 Ku 
  • 22 over 203 a Type 11 of 522 Ku
  • 轟-576  (Todoro-576) a Type 11 of 522 Ku (轟部隊 - Todoro - 'Roaring'/'Thunder' - Butai)
  • 763-84 a Type 11 of 763 Ku
  • 522-212 a radar equipped Type 16 of 522 Ku
In addition the tail code コ-PI-3 (Ko-PI-3) in black is included, representing the third prototype Y-20 as modified to carry the Ouka-yô (Ohka - Cherry Blossom) jet engine test bed (shown bottom left in the lower of the two schematics from the instruction sheet below). This aircraft is depicted as overall orange and in addition to adding the jet engine test bed pannier it must be modified with single exhaust outlets on the cowlings and by adding dihedral to the tailplanes. Tailwheel is retractable.

The final release of Revell's Ginga kit was by A. Kikoler of Brazil under the Revell (Industria Brasileira) logo with the same box art as the Revell-Takara kit but displaying a yellow sidebar. Kevin Bade has also kindly shared images of this box and its contents from his own collection as shown below. The kit was attractively moulded in light grey plastic and offered the same decal options as the previous Revell-Takara releases, but note that コ-PI-3 is suggested to be in overall olive green rather than orange.

Published aircraft monographs which include surveys of kits, and there are now several contemporary series, tend to disparage older kits, usually on grounds of accuracy or lack of detail, often with the clichéd statement of them being 'suitable for collectors only'. Modern kits are indeed highly detailed, often with an astonishing number of parts and of excellent moulding fidelity, but the idea that older and less detailed kits are not worth building is gently disputed. Many can be built quite enjoyably and simply as they were intended, with any additional detail and/or corrections a matter of choice and skill for the builder. Building Revell's 'obsolete' Ginga out of the box is to create the model in the context of its own art form rather than a scale representation of the original aircraft. Therefore 'this is a model of the Revell Ginga' (warts and all) rather than 'this is a model of Ginga'. For 23 years the Revell kit was the only game in town for building Ginga in 1/72 scale and it still retains a charm in both its presentation and its possibilities. If there is one in the stash then go for it. 
Part 3, a supplement, will discuss the Ginga and Kyokkô night fighters with reference to the various Hasegawa kits. 


Baronvonrob said...

A "Fashionable '72 Twin Engine Series" without a doubt!

So very well said, "building obsolete aircraft out of the box is to create the model in the context of its own art form rather than a scale representation of the original aircraft".

Thanks and gratitude to Nick and Kevin for his wonderful vintage Revell models

Mark Smith said...


Thanks for this one. This interested me on two levels - the Revell model itself and its iterations of course; but especially in learning of the the many teething difficulties faced which had to be solved to get such an advanced aircraft in series production and to operational readiness.

This information touches on the question I posed in a Comment after the Part 1 post, and reminds me that production figures often belied practical availability, especially as inherent problems required address at unit (or depot?) levels before units could work up to readiness.

Inthe same general time period an American twin, the P-38, was finally refined into a potent and versatile weapon ready to contribute right off the production lines; but such capability was years in coming, even in wartime, and required much liaison and input between Lockheed, USAAF brass, and units to finally accomplish, and this in a production environment safe from bombing.

Like Raiden, Reppu, Keiun, Seiran and others, Ginga seemed an airplane of great potential never realized. The lack of *reliable* cutting-edge engines like the P&W R-2800 must have been keenly felt by Japanese designers.

Thanks again for this excellent post, Nick.

Kevin Bade said...

Thanks Nick I love the old kit trivia blogs. Mania and Revell especially. Glad I could contribute and just pulling these old kits out of the stash to check dates, manufacturer, color of plastic ect. is rejuvenating. The memories bring back the days of "is there a kit of this plane?" And searching and finding that kit however bloody awful it might be. Example- Aoshima C6N1. And then acquiring the Revell/ Japan 1/72 series. These were kits made for hobbyist, not kids, and they were cutting edge and highly desired. I have built Hasegawas Ginga and it goes together great and has decent detail but it was made to Hasegawas excellent but safe method which I highly regard. We have to remember the plastic model a/c market in 1972 and a lot of the big manufacturers were near the brink and the risk Revell took to produce these twin engine ,five of them, Japanese a/c is not inconsiderable. Both kits are now old, if Revells was antique in 1995 then Hasegawas at 28 is also in need of replacement. I think that either, properly built are nearly interchangeable. They both have the shape of the J1N but Revells has more character. These kits were groundbreaking.Looking forward to part 3.

Kevin Bade said...

And in agreement with Mark it is fortunate that Japan could not develope a reliable engine of the R-2800 class. Imagine the result of Reppu, Frank and Frances with engines of this class. Though fuel of high octane would have been difficult which was one of the US's biggest benefactors.

Sergio L. de H. Teixeira said...

Another great article, Nick. I had the one from Revell/Kikoler many moons with everything I had when I was a kid, it was lost...

WD said...

Thanks again for another great article Nick. I can only reiterate what has been said previously in the other posts regarding the history of the aircraft, the history of the kit in its various iterations, etc. Well said gentlemen!

I can remember wanting this kit quite badly, along with some of the other Japanese twins. When I was twelve, I got on a PTO/Japanese aircraft kick, and the closest I ever got to one was the line drawings in the old Squadron catalog in the early 70's. I have no memory of one at my hobby shop during that time, but I'm sure that's my failing memory of fifty years ago.

WK said...

I really appreciate these posts on older kits as I'm too young to have known about them, it's nice to see how our our hobby ( well specifically Japanese models) had grown over time.


MDriskill said...

Thanks much for this interesting article!

As others have noted, it has much about the aircraft's development I did not know, and the continuation of the boxing and release history is fascinating too. I have a couple of these kits in the stash and will have to correllate their provenance.