Tuesday 16 July 2024

New 1/72 Kits


Special Hobby have re-released their 1/72 scale Nakajima Ki-43-III Ko kit in a 'Fighter and Special Attack Units' edition as SH72488. The kit includes options for the Hiko Dai 204 Sentai fighter with '01' tail number as photographed at Matsuyama airfield on the island of Formosa (now Taiwan) in August 1945. The tail number has led to speculation that this aircraft was perhaps flown by 1st Chutai leader Lt Tatsukichi Nishimoto or even the Hikotai leader Capt Wataru Takahashi. Although no other obvious command markings are visible instructions were given during mid-1945 for formation leaders to avoid the display of garish identity markings which might lead to them being singled out in combat, instructions which were not always followed.

The 204th, which had been re-designated a Hiko Sentai from its previous Kyôdô (教導 - instructional) Hiko Sentai status in February 1944, lost all Ki-43-II aircraft sent to the Philippines campaign, with 17 pilots including all Chutai leaders being killed there. The surviving flying personnel returned to Mito, Japan, by transport plane in December 1944. At Mito the unit re-equipped with the III Ko before moving to Saigon, Indo-China in February 1945.  In April part of the unit moved to Formosa and was assigned to special attack duties as the Makoto (誠 - honesty or sincerity) 204 Sentai to participate in the Okinawa campaign and in July 1945 the main force of the unit joined it there. At the end of the war surviving  personnel of the unit still in Saigon were transferred into the 126th Airfield Battalion and Dai 64 Hiko Sentai. 

The kit includes three other decal options for III Ko aircraft flown by special attack units:- 

  • White '75' of 19 Shimbu-tai flown by Lt. Toru Shinomiya from Chofu airfield. Special attack III Ko aircraft of 19 had both guns and gunsight removed and reportedly a 250 kg bomb was carried under each wing (although a photograph shows the expected configuration of a drop tank carried under the starboard wing and a bomb carried under the port wing). '75' is the last two digits of the aircraft serial number 7475 manufactured by Tachikawa in October 1944.  The unit was formed from the 2nd Rensei Hikotai with 12 III Ko commanded by Lt Minoru Nakamura and consisting of two students from the 1st Special Training Class and nine students from the 13th Class of Boy Pilots. At first the unit was prepared to move to Singapore but in April 1945 it was moved to Chiran to participate in the Okinawa operations. The first sorties were made on 7 April led by Lt Nakamura and the following day Lt Isamu Someya with  Cpls Minoru Terada and Tokuryu Moriuchi sortied. On 18 April Cpls Kiichiro Oikawa and Sho Kamikawa sortied from Kikaijima followed on 25 May by Cpls Hiroshi Mashiko and Teruo Mino. Although the unit's III Ko aircraft were reportedly supplied new a photograph of one of them shows a white Homeland Defence band under the starboard wing, either an aircraft passed on by an air defence unit or perhaps a recognition marking applied during training sorties.   
  • White 'Ku' (ク)of 2 Hakko-tai 'Ichiu-tai', flown by 1/Lt Kyoichi Kurihara from Maewatari (Mito-Hagashi), Ibaraki, Japan. This was the first special attack unit formed with the Hitachi Training Air Division with 12 officer pilots led by 1/Lt Kurihara. The unit went to the Philippines (where  4th Air Army organised Hakkou-tai  (八絋隊) from 7 November 1944 to 13 January 1945. Hakkō ichiu (八紘一宇, 'eight crown cords, one roof', i.e the whole world under one roof was a Japanese political slogan meaning the divine right of the Empire of Japan to 'unify the eight corners of the world'. The slogan was presented from the Second Sino-Japanese War to World War II and was popularised in a speech by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe on January 8, 1940. Five aircraft of the unit were lost en route to the Phillipines but on 5 December two aircraft sortied against US vessels in the Surigao Straits and on 7 December two more against shipping in Ormoc Bay. On 13 December a single Oscar sortied against ships off Mindanao. The large blue arrow was  1/lt Kurihara's personal marking, following the Army Air protocol of leader and HQ command markings in blue colour (of which more anon).
  • Ki-43-III Ko of 53 Shimbu-Tai flown by Lt Mitsuo Chikama at Chiran airfield, Kagoshima Prefecture in May 1945. 53rd was one of 57 special attack units established at Hitachi from April 1945 also with 12 aircraft. on 18 May Lt Chikama led eight Hayabusa to attack US naval vessels west of Okinawa. The red lightning flash was Lt Chikama's personal marking and the tail emblem represented his name and a stylised '5' and '3'.  
Curiously the instructions suggest painting the special attack subjects in 'Olive Green' and the 204 Sentai example in 'Olive Drab'. If the special attackers were re-painted at all from the factory applied 'brown' of ohryoku 7 go shoku it was possibly in dark blue-green or dark grey. Good to see this kit re-released and with some interesting and worthwhile markings options. Special Hobby's III Ko was last released in 2010 with optional markings for 48 Sentai (T/Sgt Só Okabe, China) 64 Sentai (Capt Hideo Mayabe, Burma) and 65 Sentai (Metabari airfield, Japan) - again good choices. 

Also of possible interest one of the subjects in the recently released Kovozávody Prostêjov Morane Saulnier MS.A.1 'Other Services' 1/72 kit KPM72455 which includes an option for a Japanese flown example from 1922. Can't vouch for the suggested colour scheme though.


Also due for release from Kovozávody Prostêjov is 1/72 scale Avro 504K kit KPM0461 as  'Japanese Users' edition with three interesting schemes designed by Rising Decals.


Image credits: SH box art and photo © 2024 Special Hobby s.r.o; KP box art and images © 2024 Kovozávody Prostêjov

Monday 24 June 2024

50th Sentai Hayabusa Duo in 1/48 by Stéphane Sagols Part 2


The second of Stéphane Sagols 1/48 Ki-43-I Hayabusa models crafted from the Hasegawa kit, this one featuring 'Fubuki' as flown by the controversial ace Sgt Satoshi 'Lucky' Anabuki.


The same details for the previous model apply with regard to the interior and engine details as shown below. 


The models were made from Hasegawa kit 09425 Nakajima Ki-43-I Hayabusa (Oscar) '50th Flight Regiment' released in 2002 and which included markings options for all three 'Musketeers', Sasaki, Shimokawa and Anabuki.  Stéphane used the kit decals for the Kanji characters on the rudders but painted the lightning flashes, fuselage bands and hinomaru.


Satoshi Anabuki also forged his flying career over the Philippines in the Ki-27 as a 19-year old Corporal in Lt Kanamaru's shotai in the 50th's 3rd Chutai. He continued to fly over Burma in the 50th acquiring the nickname 'Momotaro of Burma' after a popular Japanese folk hero, a boy who battled demons. After flying both the I and II variants of the Hayabusa and claiming more victories he returned to Japan in February 1944. He was to claim further victories flying the Ki-84  and Ki-100 as a Sgt Maj flight instructor at Akeno.


'Fubuki' was an Aikoku-go machine donated by the Saitama Agricultural Society and Anabuki claimed 14 victories flying it until it was lost when being flown by the 3rd Chutai leader Lt Shigeru Nakazaki who failed to return from a sortie on 23 January 1943. The victory markings on the rudder represent Anabuki's first victory over the P-40 and two Hurricanes claimed on 18 January 1943. The remaining nine victory markings represent those claimed in this aircraft by Nakazaki.  Anabuki subsequently flew a second and similar 'Fubuki' in which he had amassed 200 hours by the time it was handed over to 16 Field Air Depot in Singapore on 7 June 1943. Anabuki then flew a mottled Ki-43-II with the name 'Kimikaze' said to reference his fiancee Kimiko whom he later married. This aircraft was ditched on 8 October 1943 by a wounded Anabuki who claimed he had shot down two P-38s and two B-24s then rammed a third B-24. For this Anabuki received a personal citation from the 3rd Air Army commander Lt Gen Hideyoshi Kawabe, unprecedented for a living pilot. There were no witnesses to these claims and they do not tally with any known Allied losses. Several of his previous claims also do not tally with  any reported Allied losses. Pilots of the 64th Sentai were sceptical of the truth of his claims and one of them commented to this author that the 50th Sentai's criteria for allowing claims were not as stringent as those of the 64th which required witnesses as well as evidence of fire or crashes. Anabuki's mottled Ki-43-II 'Kimikaze' has been variously depicted with dark green blotches over natural metal, blue-grey or khaki. 


Anabuki also survived the war to serve in the JASDF, also rising to the rank of Major. 


With special thanks to Stéphane for sharing these images and details of his two Hayabusa models with AoJ. 

Image credits: All model photos © 2024 Stéphane Sagols; Hasegawa box art © 2002 Hasegawa Corporation via Stéphane Sagols.

50th Sentai Hayabusa Duo in 1/48 by Stéphane Sagols Part 1


In addition to continuing colour discussions and more on Babs kits a season of Army fighter models begins with this dynamic duo of Hiko Dai 50 Sentai Ki-43-I Hayabusa superbly realised from the Hasegawa 1/48 scale kits by Stéphane Sagols. Both are aircraft flown by notable pilots, Isamu Sasaki's Tobi (Black Kite) and the controversial Satoshi Anabuki's Fubuki  (Snowstorm). First up is Tobi.


Stéphane built the models from the box but added some AML photo-etched parts for the wheel wells and Eduard seat belts in the cockpits. He also added wiring in the cockpits and ignition wires to the engine.


Minor problems attended to were filling and reinforcing the wing to fuselage joint at the leading edge and filling joins on the aileron as the wing tips on this kit are separate mouldings. He also filled the landing light aperture as the Ki-43-I did not have a landing light in the wing leading edge. Finally he reduced the thickness of the interior canopy frame for a better fit to the fuselage.


The cockpit interiors, wheel wells and landing gear inner doors were painted with Mr Hobby H63 Metallic Blue Green to represent the aotake finish. AK Interactive 2264 (Air Series) Midori iro was applied to the exterior upper surfaces with white added for the fabric control surfaces. 


Under surfaces were finished with AK Interactive Xtreme Metal AK479 Aluminium with AK488 Matte Aluminium for fabric control surfaces. The anti glare panel was applied with AK Interactive AK2066 Anti-Glare Blue-Black. The 50th used a non-standard Chutai colour sequence with red for the 1st, yellow for the 2nd and white for the 3rd. The small hinomaru on the fuselage was part of the unit's lightning flash, applied before the fuselage hinomaru appeared on other Army fighters as a standard marking.

Sgt Isamu 'Skilled' Sasaki was one three aces in the 50th dubbed 'The Three Musketeers' with Anabuki and Yukio Shimakawa. Sasaki flew the Ki-27 and claimed his first victory over the Philippines in December 1941 subsequently serving with the 50th in Burma for more than two years, claiming 32 victories. He returned to Japan and the Army's Flight Test Centre in April 1944 but continued to fly on operational sorties against the B-29s, claiming six shot down and three damaged. He was promoted to Warrant Officer and awarded the Bukosho, surviving the war to serve in the Japanese Self Defence Air Force (JSDAF) and rising to the rank of Major.

Image credit: All photos © 2024 Stéphane Sagols.

Saturday 22 June 2024

Kariki 117 Colour I3 and 8609 Colour 3-3 Tsuchi iro


The colour I3 from the Tsuchi iro (Earth or clay) colour set on Kariki 117 was once mooted as both the Zero colour and the colour of Pearl Harbour era B5N2 'Kates' (97 Shiki Kanjo Kogeki-ki 九七式艦上攻撃機  or 97 KanKo - 九七艦攻). The late David Aiken described the 'Kate' colour as 'Grey Poupon', alluding to the appearance of French mustard, but it was also described as 'khaki'. The degree of grey, green or yellowishness perceived in the colour has varied according to different visual comparisons but the 3-3 swatch from the February 1945 8609 colour standard has been deemed identical to the I3 which it directly succeeded. The Japanese Aeronautic Association measured L*a*b* values of the 3-3 swatch are shown below, unsurprisingly 'brown', together with visual comparisons made previously by Japanese researchers. 


The Ryôichi Watanabe comparison to FS 20318 seems anomalous and he described Kariki 117's I3 somewhat enigmatically in an article in Arawasi magazine (Issue 9, Apr-Jun 2008) as 'used as a second coat on Zero fighters and other aircraft, but there are several people who wrongly believe that I3 is ameiro (a light brown or amber colour)'. Did he mean a second coat as between the red oxide primer and 'grey' topcoat or as the topcoat itself?  The comparison to FS 34201 by Owaki-san takes us into Zero 'olive grey' territory.  

The question of natural metal finish (nmf) under surfaces on some Pearl Harbor 'Kates' has run long and in its 1/48 scale kits Hasegawa has variously depicted grey green or 'silver'. The late Jim Lansdale was of the opinion that the finish varied as the result of production chronology and that he had examined KanKo artefacts where the dark green was painted over nmf and others where it was painted over the 'olive grey' finish. He estimated that the last 200-300 KanKo produced by Nakajima up to August 1941 were probably in a factory applied overall olive grey scheme, implying that older aircraft already in service may have been camouflaged dark green on upper surfaces but retained nmf under surfaces. His extant sample of metal from the so-called 'Hospital Kate' did not have any primer and he had seen no evidence of any primer on the olive grey painted aircraft. Does that imply that they were possibly IJN Depot rather than factory painted after the olive grey paint was adopted for the Zero? In any event the olive grey appears to have been the warmer. more yellowish Nakajima colour. It was possibly patches of that paint showing through the dark green camouflage paint that gave rise to the idea of PH KanKo sporting 'brown' blotches on the green camouflage.  

Fuchida described the Kates as being camouflaged very roughly and hastily in green and brown (茶褐色 chakasshoku) with his own aircraft remaining 'bright' underneath, which is a little ambiguous but might suggest the aircraft was unpainted prior to camouflaging and that the under surface retained a natural metal finish. The problem with Japanese descriptions of 'brown' has been discussed before but chakasshoku appears to cover colours from dark reddish brown to yellowish brown or tawny.  The box art on the Nichimo Kate was based on his description but depicts a very dark brown. FWIW the paint on the 'Hospital' Kate is a slightly variegated Munsell 7.5 Y 5-6/2 which puts it into that familiar slightly lighter than FS 34201/16350 territory. Therefore the difference between I3 and the Zero-type olive grey is probably unimportant. One detail that is easily overlooked is that the amber/olive-grey paint was glossy whilst the dark green camouflage was duller or flat. 

A fabric sample from the 'Southeast Loch Kanko' had a layer of red oxide, a layer of aluminium and a top coating of olive grey. A piece of the rudder fabric had bright red over the olive grey layer. Jim Lansdale noted that according to Bob Mikesh the under surface fabric of a B5N amongst the approximate 50 manufactured by No. 11 Kokusho during 1939-40 was doped a blue-grey colour approximating Munsell 5 PB 6/1. That would be approximate to FS 36320, so possibly not the more neutral, dove grey of J3.  The pigments in 36320 as might be expected for a low saturated 'purple blue'  are rutile (non chalking) titanium dioxide (white), green shade phthalo blue, quinacridone red and blue shade carbon black. But in addition to the manufactured aircraft the No.11 Kokusho may have reconditioned or modified many B5N airframes from 1942 until March 1944 applying an unknown variety of paints. The B5N was also manufactured by Aichi from June 1942 to September 1943 with a run of approximately 200. Probably one of the most common pitfalls for modellers is to assume that extant paint examples from one aircraft represent all the others unvaryingly. Generally speaking Japanese modellers are much more relaxed and pragmatic about this.

The heading photo is from film footage of a Midway-era KanKo taking off and the lighter outer wings are intriguing. Is the lighter colour on this bird olive grey (or 'grey poupon'!) and was the darker green (?) camouflage applied on board the carrier with the wings folded?

Make of it what you will . . . 

Image credit: B5N photo web; Colour schematic © 2024 Aviation of Japan

Friday 21 June 2024

A Bad Attitude of Mind


I've been toying with the idea of making this blog membership and sign-in only to deter abusers. But that would not be fair on those kind souls who share images and details of their builds and, judging by the fate of the private Amair4RAF blog, it would just sink without trace instead of floating along below the surface, the content being more ignored than it is now. Recently, when looking for something else, I came across one of those forum 'celebrity' big scale builds. In one of the posts the builder had included a schematic taken from this site without permission. It was attributed to 'Aviation of Japan' but without a link.  But more importantly it was posted without any context from the original blog article, to the point of being a misleading presentation. The chips were not measured values from actual paint but represented subjective visual comparisons attributed to actual paint seen in the interiors of later variants of the subject aircraft.  I wonder how this person might feel if I showed part of his build here, acknowledging the forum it was taken from but without the courtesy of a link and not bothering to include any context? 'Found this, make of it what you will'. The object, interior colour, elicited the usual gormless opinionation of 'I don't know, but' or 'I once saw . . .' as well as the usual 'paint it how you want, no one can prove . . . ' (curiously missing from discussions of Luftwaffe colours), etc. 

On another forum one chap had lifted information wholesale from this blog and then presented it as if it were the product of his own research and he was coming down from the mountain with tablets of stone. Ok, again he included a link to this blog but that was ignored and he got fawning praise and gratitude from his forumite audience for his 'research'. 

I've come to the conclusion that most extant IJN interior paint represents the applied and variable paints of different manufacturers, plus photo-chemical and other colour shift distortions from thermal and other degradations, to the single colour standard of Kariki 117's M1, as was specified and required. Here care is necessary and the usual caveat that a colour standard and applied paints are not identical beasts. Different paints for different purposes can be manufactured to match a single colour standard, but with different formulae to suit those purposes. And indeed different manufacturers can make paint match a single colour standard using different pigments and constituents. All of which can create and does create variables, especially over time. Paint protected from light and exposure will often become darker and browner, think old decals. A cool green will often become a more olive green in appearance, a bright pale blue become more turquoise in appearance. Too often the consequences are presumed to represent the original. Extant samples of paint from aircraft manufactured over 80 years ago are seductive but should not be presumed to represent a colour standard or be representative of all the aircraft of that type manufactured. In the case of the IJN fitted components were often finished in a darker green than the integral cockpit grey green, so where, exactly did the sample come from? And was it original or re-fitted? 

M1 (the standard) is similar to the RAF's Aircraft Grey Green, still contained in BS381c as # 283 under the same designation . In applied paints it can appear more olive now because the paint binder has become yellowed and darker. Tamiya offer an XF-71 Cockpit Green and assert that 'This shade of green captures the color used in the cockpit of IJN aircraft such as the Zero'.  It is lighter and brighter than the olive green that many choose to paint model Zero cockpits - FS 34151 - Interior green, TT-P-1757 and ANA 611, which is not Japanese. XF-71 is similar to the extant interior paint in the H8K Emily. I once tried their enamel version in the small Pactra-like glass bottle but it proved a greasy thing that preferred to stay wet and re-join itself rather than cover the plastic with a smooth, thin, opaque film applied by brush. That ideal of brush painting was abandoned decades ago and now manufacturers can take advantage of the almost universal use of the airbrush to stint on (expensive) pigments. Golden era Humbrol or Pactra it is not and I got the impression (!) that it was slightly lighter and brighter than the acrylic version.

M1 was succeeded by 1-4 in the Feb 1945 8609 document but remained exactly similar. The Japanese Aeronautic Association Aviation Heritage Archive (JAA AHA) spectrophotometer measured L*a*b* values of the 1-4 swatch (shown below) in the 8609 Standard presents a slightly duller, deeper colour, almost certainly the result of age related degradation. It is a very slightly yellowed grey green and the original should be envisaged as just a little lighter and cooler. It can be the starting point for the cockpit colour of any IJN aircraft. JAA AHA describe it as the IJN anti-glare colour for cockpits and known as 'Pale Green'. Actually Kariki 117 has it designated as 'Hairyokushoku' (ash green colour, e.g, grey green). The late David Aiken always insisted that M1 was the exterior colour of early Zeros. It wasn't, because the Zero camouflage trials which were recorded in early 1942 in the Yoko 0266 report included one Zero (Yo-151) experimentally painted overall in M1. If all Zeros had already been M1 that would not have been necessary and the report would have described the contemporary colour of Zeros as M1 or Hairyokushoku rather than 'J3 Hai iro (ash colour) leaning slightly towards ameiro (candy or amber colour)'. David also liked to present Tamiya XF-76 as M1 based mainly on the appearance of Tamiya's online advertising imagery. It isn't and anyone who has actually applied XF-76 knows it doesn't look like that. If it did Tamiya would not need to sell XF-71. The difference between how Tamiya market the appearance of the paint colour and how it actually looks when applied is a puzzle.

The 8609 swatches sent by the Koku Fan editor Toda-san to US researchers in the 1970s resulted in the 1-4 swatch being compared then to Munsell 7.5 GY 4/2 and FS 34159, which are also shown in comparison to the other colours below.  There is an extant D3A Val ammunition magazine which though variegated across its surfaces, shows the variations of the grey green, including a brighter, paler green. As with many such relics it is difficult to identify the original paint surface from the degraded paint surfaces. A  similar grey green colour is associated with Aichi Jake interiors. And not to forget that paint inside a model cockpit, especially in the smaller scales, will look darker, even with the canopy modelled open.

Make of it what you will! ;-)

Image credit: All © 2024 Aviation of Japan  

Friday 17 May 2024

Babs Kitography - 1/72 scale Part 2 Hasegawa


Hasegawa re-released the Mania Ki-15-I kit as A31 in the 'red flash' box shown above, titled in English 'Mitsubishi BABS Ki-15-I Japanese Reconnaissance Plane'. There is a block of small Japanese text  about the aircraft which mentions the counter sunk rivets followed by a Japanese title 'Type 97 Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft Type 1 - Japanese Army Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft'.


Scalemates gives the year as 1977 whilst Burns* lists 1978 to 1980 which seems more probable. The box does not display a copyright date. The Mania box art was reprised by Shigeo Koike for the Hasegawa release with a closer look at the anonymous kumogata camouflaged Babs, this time being chased by sharkmouth P-40Es in Chinese markings. An anachronism as the aircraft is again identified as being from the Aoki Butai in 1938. Two other options are provided on the decal sheet, both overall light grey, an aircraft of Hiko Dai 28 Sentai's 1st Chutai and an aircraft of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 17 Chutai, illustrated on the side of the box with a colour profile. The instruction sheet shows a photograph of the model (below) with the red fuselage flash of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai, but this is not presented as a markings option. It also reveals the curious canopy framing of the Mania kit.


The green and brown kumogata camouflage is referenced to Gunze Mr Color # 16 IJA Green described as 'dark green' and the brown a mixture of # 7 Brown and # 33 Flat Black but no proportions are given.  Under surface, described as 'light grey', is referenced to # 56 IJA Gray - # 56 is now IJN Grey Green (Nakajima)! Colour call outs for the interior were given in the instructions, also referenced to Gunze Sangyo paint numbers of the time. Note that the colours of joystick and bulkheads are not cited but the fuselage half interior is cited as 'blue bamboo colour' - aotake. More about Babs colours in due course.



The Ki-15-I kit was re-released from 1982 to 1988 in a new box as B3 with blue flash, shown above, but the box art and contents were unchanged.


In 1989 the kit was re-issued in a plain box of flecked pale green card with inset monochrome box art and numbers 51511 and SP11:600, shown above. The reasoning behind this style of box, also used for other kits such as the Ki-48 'Lily', is uncertain but might have been inspired by the plainer brown 'cardboard' boxes in which Nitto and others were marketing the Maschinen Krieger SF3D armoured fighting suit kits in the mid-1980s. For the first time the box displayed prominent Japanese script for 97 Shi-tei (九七司偵). The instructions and decal options were unchanged from A31 and B3.


In 1995 the kit box reverted to colour with new art by Shigeo Koike, shown above, reflecting the development of his artistic style since 1978. This edition boasted the inclusion of a sheet of Aeromaster decals for a camouflaged  Ki-15-I of 'Flight Company 18th Squadron, 1939-41' with tiger motif as depicted on the box art, and an overall gray aircraft of 'Flight Company 50th Squadron, 1941-42'. The kit itself was unchanged and a photograph of a completed model on the side of the box again showed the strange canopy framing. There were revised suggestions for interior painting with Gunze 126 Cockpit Color (Mitsubishi) for the sidewalls and bulkheads, but continuing with 43 Wood Brown for the cockpit floor and 41Red Brown for the pilot's seat.

The 18th's distinctive tiger insignia was first adopted by Captain Yoshitsugu Aramaki in April 1939, painted in the Chinese style on the rear fuselage. In 1942 a member of the ground staff Mamoru Tanaka painted an enlarged version of the tiger on the tail of the aircraft as a 'tiger running in the skies', alluding to a Chinese myth where the tiger could roam 1,000 miles in a day and return home. Later the tigers were painted by artist Hidekuni Takagi, who was living in Hankow at the time and was the son of Major General Shigeru Takagi.  Each tiger was slightly different and although usually associated with the Ki-46 aircraft operated by the unit a photograph (below) shows Takagi painting the tiger on the tail of an elaborately camouflaged Ki-15 - a dark painted aircraft with darker 'rings' of mottle similar to the 'smoke rings' of Italian camouflage and possibly with a lighter colour in the centre of each ring.



Following that release another 12 years passed before the kit was again issued by Hasegawa in 2007, this time in a two kit combo as Mitsubishi Karigane Type 1 Communication-Plane 'Kamikaze & Asakaze' to commemorate the 1937 flight of 'Kamikaze' from Tokyo to London, as shown above. Two versions of markings for J-BAAI were included plus markings for 'Asakaze' J-BAAL at Nanyûan airfield, Peking in August 1937. Suggested interior colours were unchanged from the previous release.


The most recent re-release of the kit from Hasegawa in 2017 was another two kit combo boxed together with a Ki-46-II/III  and featuring aircraft of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai, reprising the red flashed 'first generation' Ki-15-I shown on the original instruction sheet. An alternative Ki-15 subject  from the Kumagaya Army Flying School was also provided on the decal sheet, both aircraft depicted in overall grey green with black cowlings. Will we see it again? If we do let's hope, probably vainly, that Hasegawa will rectify that canopy!

With special thanks to Keishiro Nagao of Lifelike Decals for his kind assistance in interpreting old Japanese script characters.

* In Plastic WW2 Aircraft Kits by John W Burns (Kit Collector's Clearinghouse, 1993)

Image credit: All box art, instructions sheet images, etc., © 1978-2017 Hasegawa Corporation; Photograph via net 

Monday 13 May 2024

Sabre Kits Tupolev Tu-2 Post-War Service


Of some relevance to this blog Sabre Kits have just released the 1/72  ICM Tupolev Tu-2 in a limited edition of 100 kits featuring post-war decals for China's PLAAF in 1952, an Indonesian example from the early 1960s and a North Korean aircraft from the 1950s. The kit retails at £22.50 from Hannant's in the UK and contains a 3D printed four bladed propeller for the Chinese and Indonesian subjects.


In 1949 the Soviet Union had supplied China with 40 Tu-2 bombers, sending 120 personnel to each bomber school. In 1958 the PLAAF requested an additional 198 Tu-2 bombers. The Tu-2 saw service during China's intervention in the Korean War equipping two bomber division. The PLAAF 10th Division were trained in night flying by a RoCAF B-24 pilot Liu Shanben who had defected to the communists in 1946. But it was the 8th Division which embarked on the first daylight bombing raid on Taehwa-do Island on 6 November 1951 when six Tu-2's sortied from Yuhongtun led by Han Ming-yang and escorted by 16 La-11 fighters with 24  MiG-15s conducting covering sorties to prevent UN interceptions from the south. The raid was successful, destroying command posts and stores, including ammunition and the only opposition was anti-aircraft fire. There were no losses which encouraged the PLAAF to continue the attacks. However the second daylight raid on the island by the 8th Division, led by Gao Yue-ming on 30 November with nine Tu-2's, proved disastrous. Reaching the rendezvous location too early and missing the planned MiG-15 cover, they ran into 24 F-86's of the 4th FW, prepped for a repeat performance by the PLAAF. After losing two aircraft in the rearmost vee of his formation Gao continued towards the target, pulling it in a tighter formation and relying on his gunners and the close escort of 16 La-11s. They were harried by the F-86's all the way, with the La-11s engaged in attempted defence too. La-11 pilot Wang Tian-bao claimed the destruction of an F-86 in the slashing dogfights between jet and piston and although no Sabres were reported lost a 335th aircraft did return with severe damage to its left wing and rear fuselage from Wang's La-11, with a cannon shell striking the pilot's headrest rendering him temporarily unconscious and putting the Sabre into a spin which Wang believed to be fatal. Despite five of the remaining Tu-2 bombers being damaged during the F-86 attacks Gao pressed on and his formation dropped their bombs on Taehwa-do, albeit prematurely and without results. Four Tu-2's were lost on the mission with only a single navigator surviving from those, but the F-86 pilots claimed eight bombers destroyed from a reported formation of 12. Gao survived but the PLAAF mounted no more daylight bombing raids. 

Details of the PLAAF Tu-2 raids in November 1951 are from  'Red Wings Over The Yalu - China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea' by Xiaoming Zhang, published by Texas A & M University Press in 2002, a fascinating, detailed account and highly recommended.

Image credit: © 2024 Sabre Kits via Hannant's.   

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Babs Kitography - 1/72 scale Part 1 Mania


The Mania 1/72 kits of 'Kamikaze' and the Ki-15-I were released in the same year, recorded as 1973 by Burns*. The Scalemates website lists the 'Kamikaze' kit as issued in 1974 and the Ki-15-I kit in 1977, with the combo kit containing both 'Kamikaze' and the Ki-15-I also released in 1974. That is surely incorrect as it was the combo kit which was released in 1977, after the two separate kits and in the same year that Mania was reportedly taken over by Hasegawa.

The 'Kamikaze' kit  (AT-NO C-3001) had beautiful artwork on the box top, without any text or logo, as shown in the heading image. The Ki-15-I kit (AT-NO R-2001) was similarly presented, depicting an anonymous Babs in green and brown kumogata camouflage being approached by a Chinese Curtiss Hawk 75 amongst sunlit clouds, shown above. Although the box top artist is not identified both kits contain cards with four-view colour schematics attributed to Rikyû Watanabe as shown below and the style of the box art is certainly similar to his work. The 'Kamikaze' card is entitled Mitsubishi Ki-15-I Asahi Shimbun ‘Kamikaze’. On the Ki-15-I card, entitled Mitsubishi Ki-15-I Army Type 97 Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft, the aircraft is speculatively attributed to the 'Aoki Butai' (for its leader Capt Takeo Aoki) operating from central China in 1938. However the camouflage pattern as depicted on the card does not match those shown for 'Kamikaze' or 'Azikaze' in Joe Picarella's first Babs volume and is perhaps meant to represent the early production aircraft c/n 106? Rather plain as a subject without insignia or even the white senchi hiyoshiki war front fuselage band, but undoubtedly historic.


Well known for his aircraft profiles and kit box art Rikyû Watanabe was born in Osaka in 1927. In 1943 at age 16 he enrolled in the Army air 'boy airman' training programme as a technical student, later serving as a signaller and ending the war with an army unit in China. After returning to Japan he majored in painting at the Bunka Gakuin vocational school (文化学院), graduating in 1950. From 1966 he began specialising in aviation art with first hand knowledge of the appearance of wartime Army aircraft.

The 'Kamikaze' kit includes decals for the eponymous subject as well as for 'Asakaze' c/n 1503 J-BAAL, the latter with both delivery and post-military service legends, although there are no indications for placement. The Ki-15-I kit decal sheet includes insignia for the following units, although they are not referred to or shown in the instructions.  

  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai (red fuselage flash)
  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai (kikusui emblem - not usually attributed to the Ki-15-I)
  • Dai 17 Hikodan Shireibu Teisatsu Chutai (Divisional Headquarters Reconnaissance Squadron)
  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 18 Chutai (tiger)
  • Hiko Dai 28 Sentai, 1st Chutai
  • Hiko Dai 29 Sentai, 1st Chutai (reportedly representing the characters for a stylised '29')
The 29 Sentai insignia is reported as being painted in 'gold' but that may just mean a golden yellow colour. The Mania decal is printed in yellow. 

The two kits are identical and moulded in a light grey plastic of similar hue to the Army grey-green colour. They feature detailed interiors for the time, with floor, instrument panel, joystick, pilot seat, camera and bulkheads together with some sidewall detail such as the throttle quadrant and an equipment panel. Also included are separate compasses for pilot and observer and spurious RDF loops to be mounted on the coamings under the canopy. There is no provision for the observer operated armament  and no suggestions for interior colour(s).  A shortcoming of the kit is the curious single piece canopy with overly deep lower frames which rather spoil the appearance of the finished model. Some modellers sand out the frames and re-paint them correctly - not always an easy proposition. But not to worry, vacform replacements aside, the LS/Arii Ki-15-I kit, which will be examined later, includes  early and late pattern canopies which both fit the Mania/Hasegawa kit almost perfectly so the spare can be used.  The Mania kit has step by step instructions together with an exploded view where all parts are numbered and named, shown below.



The 1977 combo kit (No. 04-800) shown above repeats the original Ki-15-I box art but with the image re-angled to permit title and logo with the scale shown and a red flash boasting '2 types in one!'. In this kit 'Kamikaze' is moulded in silver plastic. The instruction sheet has the front and back in colour, repeating the box art and with additional profiles for aircraft of Hiko Dai 28 Sentai, Dai 17 Hikodan Shireibu Teisatsu Chutai, and Hiko Dai 29 Sentai, all in overall grey as shown below, but again not all the insignia included on the decal sheet is depicted. Note that whilst the Hiko Dai 28 Sentai insignia on the decal sheet is for the 1st Chutai the insignia depicted on the instruction sheet profile is for the 2nd Chutai!

The combo kit decals sheets shown above are identical to those in the earlier separate kits

Mania was a relatively short lived company, in business in Tokyo from circa 1970 to 1977, which is a pity as their six 1/72 kits and single 1/48 kit were of exceptional quality for their time. There is a suspicion that the Hasegawa 1/72 Ki-44 and Ki-61 kits may have somehow benefited from Mania expertise, perhaps planned and even produced from moulds begun before Hasegawa took over. The better detailed Ki-61 interior is not typical of the contemporary and crude Hasegawa-type 'bathtub' in the Ki-44 kit but both have delicate surface detail similar to the Mania type. However those kits were released by Hasegawa in 1972 and 1973 respectively, years before their takeover of Mania. Mania's planned but not produced 1/48 Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden-kai 'George' kit was released by Hasegawa in 1981 as kit no. U002 from the unused Mania mould, but their planned Mitsubishi A5M4 'Claude' in the same scale was never produced  It is fortunate that Hasegawa have continued to re-release the complete range of Mania 1/72 kits, together with the 1/48 Ki-27 'Nate'. That kit and the 1/72 Ki-48 'Lily' light bomber kit are still not surpassed. 

Part 2 will examine the Hasegawa re-releases of the Mania Babs kit from 1977 to 2007 together with exploring interior colours.

* In Plastic WW2 Aircraft Kits by John W Burns (Kit Collector's Clearinghouse, 1993)

Image credit: All © 1973-1977 Mania Co.Ltd. All scans from kits in author's collection.