Monday 29 April 2024

Book Review - Mitsubishi Babs vol.II by Giuseppe Picarella


The second volume of Mitsubishi Babs - The world's first high-speed strategic reconnaissance aircraft - by Giuseppe 'Joe' Picarella MRAeS, published by Stratus s.j., (Poland) as MMP Books in 2023, continues his superlative analysis of the Ki-15 - Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Plane (Kyu-Nana Shiki Shireibu Teisatsu-ki -九七式司令部偵察機 or Kyu-Nana Shi-tei -九七司偵) from the first volume reviewed here in August 2022. It is a technical tour de force. That might sound dry. It isn't, thanks to the author's distinct and impressive presentation of informative text, vintage photographs and new colour schematics, including his superlative and meticulous cutaways. 

Vol.II is a hard cover book of 246 pages (the first volume has 192 pages) with printed board covers and no separate dust jacket. The paper is of a quality which benefits the photographs, clear and to a useful size. The contents are as follows:-

  • Introduction and Acknowledgements
  • Notes (this covers aircraft nomenclature, aircrew terminology and addenda for Vol.1)
  • Chapter 1: Brothers in arms (detailed coverage of IJN procurement, development and deployment, including earlier types)
  • Chapter 2: Western intelligence reports
  • Chapter 3: Soviet intelligence reports
  • Chapter 4: Technical description:
      • Mitsubishi Ki-15-I, 
      • Kamikaze
      • Karigane-I 
      • Ki-15-II
      • Karigane-II
      • C5M1
      • C5M2
      • Ki-15-III
  • Chapter 5: Pilot's operating manual
  • Chapter 6: Dimensions and Performance figures
  • Chapter 7: Production figures and construction numbers
  • Chapter 8: Models, memorabilia and memorials

This second volume explores the aircraft in unparalleled detail for the first time, with more than 140 photographs, 77 original full-colour artworks in 1/72, 1/48, and 1/32 scales, including 38 full-page illustrations, five cutaways and 55 original blueprints, spread across the eight chapters. These cover the history of the C5M within 19 operational units and higher organisations of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), an especially interesting exposition given its deployment by the IJN as an air-to-air bomber; the inaccurate and confusing coverage by Allied intelligence and the Western press; the unique and overlooked Soviet field report with photographs of a captured Ki-15-I airframe; highly detailed technical description of each variant's complete structure, powerplants, systems and cockpit layouts; a complete pilot’s operating manual and cockpit layout;  reappraisal of actual dimensions and performance figures, correcting and expanding upon the basic performance capabilities of this ground breaking aircraft; a detailed overview of production figures and construction numbers, which reveals new production totals; a short overview of post-war Babs models, kits, memorabilia and memorials. All the very attractively presented artwork is new, based on the original engineering drawings, dimensions and cross-referenced against every known photograph. These two volumes should become the only source needed for historians or modellers, whether they are investigating a specific unit, researching performance details for war gaming or air combat flight simulations, or building models. 

The author spent almost a decade researching, reviewing and correcting every detail of this aircraft, and in doing so challenging every aspect, from the general layout to the smallest items. He has essentially reverse engineered the whole aircraft based on all surviving engineering drawings, manuals, documents and photos. From the modelling point of view, panel line layouts on many post-war drawings were found to be incorrect, especially on the wing, and even the wingspan was found to be previously quoted incorrectly as demonstrated in Chapter 6.  This means that all of the existing kits fall short in accuracy  to one extent or another, including the recent and much heralded 1/48 scale kits by Fine Molds - in wingtip panel details of all Babs variants, the sliding canopy details and support structure, roll-over pylon on the C5M2, etc., plus many other items. All of the engineering details in the book which correct those errors are supported by new drawings of exceptional fidelity, photographs and original engineering drawings. The performance details are also expanded upon for the first time, with actual data on range, etc. Babs production is also clarified, including a revised production total, all of which is supported by carefully documented evidence in Chapter 7.  


The author was motivated in this exacting depth of analysis because historically this aircraft has been lost to history, largely forgotten because of the amazing aircraft that followed such as the Ki-46 'Dinah' and A6M Zero. Babs really deserves more popular recognition, as many of its aerodynamic refinements and structural details were later adopted for the Mitsubishi aircraft which followed it. This book will allow modellers to modify, correct and complete Babs models with cockpit fitting details, antenna layouts and even which construction numbers (c/n) series decals should be applied to which specific sub-variant.  The information is seminal and as far as I know no Maru Mechanic, FAOW or other monograph has ever been published on the type, which means this two volume set in the English language is even more commendable and valuable.  The extensive data should facilitate the manufacture of kits in the larger scales of 1/32 and 1/24 - or even 1/35 - let's hope so and for something more varied than the perennial Pearl Harbor trio!


A review like this cannot do full justice to the wealth of information and illustration in this book which has to be in possession to be appreciated and is therefore very highly recommended. Vol.II has a RRP of  £40 but can be purchased from Amazon for £30.91 - and is exceptional value for money at both prices. With special thanks to the author for kindly providing the sample pages and for his permission to show them here. Also for arranging a review copy of the book from Stratus/MMP Books which has proven such a delight to both browse through and read in detail. I hope that both kit and decal manufacturers will take full advantage of the data therein and that Babs might become elevated in modelling circles to something more deserving of its fascinating development and place in history. Now where are those Mania/Hasegawa and LS/Arii kits! An AoJ kitography of 1/72 scale Kamikaze and Babs kits is to follow shortly. 

Image credit: All © 2023 Giuseppe 'Joe' Picarella MRAeS and Stratus s.j., as MMP Books

6 comments:

Michael Thurow said...

I've got it since a couple of months, and I bought it just to own it! Both volumes are a must-have because like so many excellent books on Japanese airplanes they might disappear from the market after a few years. I don't have a Babs in my stash - perhaps time to get one since from now on even the FineMolds is no OOB anymore as Nick describes. Thank you!

Sergio L. de H. Teixeira said...

Splendid! I already have vol.1, can't wait to take vol.2!

Mark Smith said...

Wonderful review, Nick! Like the book, comprehensive. Thanks.

Baronvonrob said...

Great News indeed! I have just ordered Vol 2

Thanks to both Giuseppe and Nick !!

R. Vieira said...

What a great review, Nick! I got 1st volume last year and received the Vol. 2 just a few weeks ago, making me a very happy man (I suffered while waiting for Vol. 2 to be released). Giuseppe did a wonderful job.
I can't wait to see his Ki-46 book(s)!
Thanks!

MDriskill said...

Wonderful review Nick!

I have to say these two volumes comprise simply the best aircraft monograph I've ever seen. In light of Mr. Picarella's previous titles, my expectations were high...and hugely exceeded! The finely written history, and fantastic level of detail - all rendered in color, and in modeling scales - is something I'm still studying weeks later.

And to think this was a sidelignt to his Dinah research...! Already saving my pennies for THOSE books!