The Tamiya Hien Tei kits in 1/48 and 1/72 are deservedly popular, reflecting a general popularity amongst modellers for the Japanese Army's only inline engined fighter. There was a scattering of disappointment at the outset that the chosen Tei variant offered less choice of schemes than other variants but that seems to have abated. In fact production of the Tei straddled both the factory finish natural metal (with or without depot applied solid and mottled camouflage schemes) and yellow green No.7 eras. Louis Gardner has kindly shared his observations about Tamiya's 1/48 kit together with his report of building the fine 244th Sentai example shown above. In his own words then:
"This is a model that I completed a couple of months or so ago. It also happens to be my favourite Japanese fighter from the war, it is so elegant and streamlined. The Tamiya new tool Ki-61 kit # 61115, fit together perfectly, the engineering being so clever and precise that I didn’t feel the need to glue several parts in place. However I still used glue throughout the build however just to be safe.
"I wanted to build an example of the “long nosed” Tei variant Tony - and something besides the usual ones you normally see with the red tail that is commonly associated with the 244th Sentai. I had a set of older Aero Master decals dating back to 1995 which included an option for a long nosed Tony with tail markings from the 244th Sentai. The plan was coming together and fortunately for me the old decals worked flawlessly. I discovered that Lifelike also produced a more recent set of decals for this same aircraft and the markings appeared identical to Aero Master's, so I felt better knowing this, as Lifelike does considerable research on their subjects.
"Some time ago I had done an online in box review of the Tamiya kit shortly after it was released. Ever since then I had been wanting to build it as I was so very impressed with the contents of the box. I finally said “to heck with it” and simply opened the box and got busy. Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest thing to do. I still have a set of decals for a 68th Sentai example and will eventually build one using the older (but still highly acceptable) 1/48 Hasegawa kit. In order to build that model I will have to use the “short nosed” variant, in combat earlier and more often encountered in the skies.
"The Japanese were very proficient at using camouflage. It varied from using freshly cut vegetation from the nearby jungles to conceal the planes, to spraying on various squiggly lines and shapes over the natural bare metal finish that most Tonys were delivered in. This was often done using as little paint as possible, since it was in short supply. The ground crews often applied just enough to knock down the “shine” of the bare metal. Sometimes this camouflage paint was applied using a brush, while at other times it was sprayed on. The application methods and styles varied considerably, even between aircraft of the same unit. I tried to replicate the look on my model by doing the same thing. If you look closely, you can see that the stencils are still readable. In the image below you can see just how effective this camouflage process actually was. On one side I left the plane in a highly polished finish that was created using Bare Metal Foil. On the other side I simply sprayed on a light coat of green squiggly lines of various intensity.
"I wished to make this plane look as if it was flown, but not “war weary”, so I added some exhaust stains using Tamiya weathering decks to create the exhaust patterns. You can see this darker streaking in the lower portion of the image immediately above. You can also see how the area around the canopy was left in a natural metal finish. I also tried to recreate a few very small scratches into the green sprayed on paint. If you look closely you can see a few where the pilot would have made them as he entered the cockpit.
"Tamiya has captured the cockpit very nicely. This is exactly how it looks right from the box. No aftermarket parts were added. However, if I were to build this one again, I would add a different seat harness.
"The other pictures here show the plane as it looks from directly overhead, and from various angles. From this vantage point you can see just how effective the green paint was at reducing the shine. No other coatings were used on the top side of the model other than a very light coat of green. The shine of the bare metal was highly reduced with a minimal effort. Initially I tried using a semi-gloss Testor's Dull Coat spray coating directly from the can to knock down the shine somewhat. This helped, and was a step in the right direction, but it needed more to achieve the appearance I wanted. So I went back a second time, and lightly applied another very light coat using Testor’s Dull Coat right from the spray can. This gave me the result I was after - the light was still reflected from the foil, but now it had a more oxidized appearance. If you look closely at the images you should be able to see what I’m talking about but for the best and most natural look it has to be seen in person and in natural sunlight. It really pops !
"The following photos show the kit during the construction phase and you can see how shiny the finish was by using the three different shades of Bare Metal Foil. I used Ultra Bright Chrome on some panels, Chrome on others and Matt Aluminum for the remaining areas that had to be covered. I tried to mix things up and not have two panels located next to each other in the same color, to give the illusion that each panel was a separate sheet of aluminum as it was on the actual plane.
"You can see the decals as they were applied but believe me it was hard to start spraying on the green over this beautiful foil. A part of me wanted to leave it alone, since I really like this look, but I wanted it to look more authentic, so I decided to start covering this beauty with some green. Now I’m happy that I did…
"The kit comes supplied with a single clear side fuselage half. I didn’t use it for obvious reasons. The nice thing about this is that with a little effort, Tamiya should be able to release a new tool “short nosed” Hien or even possibly a Ki-100, since the rest of the airframe was almost identical.
"I hope that you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed the building and research process. Tamiya hit a home run with this baby and anyone who tells you different needs their head examined! It’s the best Ki-61 in this scale that I have built so far. Now don’t get me wrong, the older Hasegawa kit is still very acceptable and I’m not bashing it by any means. It still looks good when completed, but it is also a product of the early 1990’s and has been eclipsed by this newer offering from Tamiya. Go out and get yourself one of these - you’ll be happy that you did. Now if they would release that earlier variant of the Hien with the shorter nose, or even a Ki-100, using this kit as the basis, that would be perfect and I'd happily purchase several of each!"
With special thanks to Louis for sharing these images of his splendid Hien model and the write-up about the kit and build.
Continuing the retrospective of RAF Flying Review articles on Japanese aviation here is IJN Commander Hajime Sudo's accountof his clandestine photo-reconnaissance flights in the Mitsubishi G3M2 'Nell' prior to Peal Harbor as published in the October 1959 issue of the magazine (Vol.XV, No.2). Also included in that issue was a handy cut out and keep Pictorial History of 'Nell' schematic illustrating and describing G3M variants.
The official designation of 'Nell' was the Type 96 Land-based Attack Aircraft - Kyu Roku Shiki Rikujoh Kohgeki-ki - 九六式陸上攻撃機, usually abbreviated to Kyu Roku Rikkoh - 九六陸攻. The type began very long range strategic bombing raids against China from Taiwan in August 1937 and continued to serve in the front line role throughout 1942 despite the intriduction of the G4M 'Betty'.
Commander Sudo's account includes his observation that the clandestine aircraft had a 'slightly different grey finish to that normally applied to these aircraft', which is intriguing as grey is not a colour usually associated with the type, the depictions of which often present natural metal, either overall or as the under surfaces on camouflaged aircraft. But note the Hasegawa box art for the Kanoya Ku 1944 example カヤ-455 in the heading image which appears to represent the under surfaces in typical IJN amber tinted grey rather well (the instructions suggest Mr Color 128 [IJA] Gray-Green which is not quite right in appearance). Was Commander Sudo noticing the difference between standard J3 and the J3 'leaning slightly towards ameiro' introduced with the Zero?
The RAF Flying Review article preceded the appearance of the venerable LS series of G3M kits by seven years, but those ground breaking kits are still available 53 years later under the Arii Microace brand. Although superceded in detail and finesse by the Hasegawa G3M2 kit released in 1997 (and subsequently intermittently re-released in various colour schemes and markings), the LS/Arii kit is still a decent proposition and makes up into a good looking model, being both quick and easy to build as well as inexpensive.
Zegeye's (Zbyszek Malicki) splendid A5M4-K built from the 1/72 Choroszy Modelbud resin kit has already been shown at Britmodeller but he very kindly offered to share these images of the stages of his build and the finished model with Aviation of Japan.
It is evident from these that considerable work went into enhancing the interior and engine, as well as into construction and painting.
The model represents an aircraft of the Oita Kokutai. Production of the A5M4 fighter series had terminated in 1940 but development of a two-seat trainer version from the A5M4 airframe was initiated at the 21st Naval Air Technical Station at Omura. The cockpit was moved forward with adjustments to the engine mounting and firewall, making space for a second cockpit behind it. A rollover pylon was added between the cockpits and spin stabilisor strakes were fitted to both sides of the rear fuselage. Spats were removed or replaced by an abbreviated form (as shown on the model). A total of 103 A5M4-K were manufactured.
Of particular note on this model is the excellent effect of subtle surface wear and weathering with the original orange-yellow paintwork showing through the dark green camouflage. Beautifully achieved.
With special thanks to Zbyszek for sharing these images of his excellent model.
Another 'lost and found' RAF Flying Review articlein this occasional series, this time from the March 1959 (Vol.XIV No.7) issue and featuring an interesting account of the Yokosuka (Kugisho) R2Y Keiun (景雲 - 'Auspicious Cloud') experimental reconnaissance aircraft by Mr Ichiro Naito, translated by Mr Takeshi Hattori and published therein by courtesy of the Japanese magazine Aireview.
English language data on Keiun is sparse so Mr Naito's first person account is especially welcome for its details even if 60 years old! A Model 2 (R2Y2) variant of the type was planned to be powered by a Mitsubishi Ne-330 turbo-jet engine fitted to each wing (as shown above in the article's side-view plan).
Fine Molds Keiun 1995
Fine Molds Keiun 2001
Fortunately for those modellers interested in Japanese experimental types there is a decent 1/72 kit of the fascinating Keiun by Fine Molds. First released in 1995 it was re-released in 2001 with new box art depicting orange-yellow under surfaces. The kit is currently in stock at HLJ for a very reasonable £11.91 (US$15.91) and there is a photo-etch details accessory set AA-17 available separately at £7.74 (US$9.92). A 1/72 resin model of the turbo-jet powered R2Y2 was announced for release this month by International Resin Modelersbut comes with a hefty price tag of US$100 for non-members.
A splendid model of Keiun built from the Fine Molds kit is shown here (above and below) courtesy of the builder Mr Hiroyuki Kato via Mr Hiromichi Taguchi, the editor of the excellent Japanese monthly web magazine Web-modelers. Mr Taguchi's web magazine should be of special interest to those who enjoy seeing older kits as well as recent releases carefully built and painted. The magazine also features nostalgic articles about Japanese aviation and modelling history, including past times Japanese model shops and modelling magazines. All the back issues of the magazine can be browsed at the website.
With special thanks to Mr Hiroyuki Kato and Mr Hiromichi Taguchi for their kind permission to share the images of Mr Kato's Keiun model with Aviation of Japan. The RAF Flying Review article is from the author's own collection of the magazine. Please credit and link to Aviation of Japan if referencing this article or its contents, including Wiki updates, thank you.
Jan Hajicek has very kindly shared these images and his build report of the Fine Molds 1/72 IJN 9-shi Experimental Fighter (Mitsubishi Ka-14 Improved Prototype) at Kagamigahara airfield, Japan in the Spring of 1935. In Jan's own words then:
"The Type 96 kansen is one of my favourite IJN types where I’d like to build the whole genealogy. I have already built a 1/72 scale A5M4 and 1/48 scale A5M2b Early and since Fine Molds released the 9-shi Experimental Fighter (Mitsubishi Ka-14 Improved Prototype) last year I was happy to get it because the first prototype released as a Model Graphics magazine issue was hard to obtain (although I do already have one). The kit is much better that even expected revealing finely recessed panel lines with excellent cockpit and engine details.
"The kit was built almost straight form the box. I added some wiring to the cockpit and engine and a seat harness from photo-etch. That was my idea to finish the kit quickly. It was an enhanced prototype and should look like new – shiny and almost clean.
"During the process I found that the exhaust stacks protruding from the cowling would be evident and I could not live with the fact they were not hollow. As the exhausts are in the form of tubes that were diagonally cut off I wondered how I should recreate them without spending too much time. This is a common catch that usually stops my progress. But this time an idea quickly came. I used thin aluminium foil from which I formed tubes over an Evergreen plastic rod, glued the mating line and then cut the desired angle. Then I slipped them off the plastic rod and attached them to the already adjusted, shortened kit part. The result looks much better than solid plastic.
"The construction of this kit was easy and delightful. Every part mated with the other as it should and the only trouble I encountered was in mating the cowling assembly to the fuselage. That was mostly due to the thick colour coat I had sprayed since I painted the cowling assembly and fuselage separately and assembled them afterwards.
"When Hasegawa released the 1/48 E8N Dave in 2015 featuring overdone fabric and ports I wondered how this could be revised. At that time an idea arose of a mask that after spraying would create an optical illusion. It took time to realise that idea (in the meantime a fellow modeller from CZ had started to produce such masks for 1/72 scale kits) and I first used it on this kit, even though I used a similar method on my Fujimi 1/72 scale Type 96 Model 4 Kansen. I must admit I have not mastered this method yet but the result is good for a 1/72 scale kit. Unfortunately the oil wash almost ruined my work as it absorbed into the clear coat making the overall appearance faded.
"Mask used – canopy both sides, all markings and control surfaces Optical Illusion Mask. Colours - Gunze overall, Vallejo for the small parts. Weathering – MiG and Artist chalks."
With special thanks to Jan for sharing these photos of his excellent model and the details about his build. If anyone is interested in the masks for this kit please .
The new 1/72 A5M2b 'Canopied' Claude from Clear Prop! appears to be available but is rather pricey at about £23 (and over £43 at HLJ which might be something to do with exchange rates or customs duties). Even with a photo-etch sheet and decal options for a camouflaged bird and three natural metal machines it seems expensive, but perhaps that is just an outdated perception of prices on my part. There appear to be a large number of small detail parts for cockpit and engine which is consistent with the previous Gloster E28/39 Pioneer kit and an innovative method of sprue attachments which reduces the possibility of damage to the external airframe parts. Hat tip to Clear Prop! for the Hemp (sic) under surface colour ;-), although natural metal might be more likely for this one. And more to follow on this as the 'canopied' Claude is a favourite.
Tamiya have recently released a silver-plated version of their superb 1/72 Ki-61-1 Tei Hien 'Tony' kit. This seems to have attracted some sniffy reviews which seems a little unfair. Many modelers find it difficult to achieve convincing natural metal finishes and the silver-plating in this case is about on a par but a little brighter and shinier than an airbrushed Humbrol Metalcote Polished Aluminium rather than the excessively 'chromed' finish on early silver-plated kits. The upside is a smooth and consistent shiny aluminium finish ready for the mottle camouflage decals which are included in the kit (approximately # 21 green) or for painting in other camouflage finishes such as the # 27 blue green mottle, or # 7 solid with wear and tear - or leaving as is. I guess also that the finish could be lightly scoured with graphite dust to represent a more weathered and oxidised aluminium appearance. The downside is that the plating covers every single kit part and will have to be carefully removed from mating edges by scraping to facilitate gluing. Tamiya cite their X-11 Chrome Silver paint for touch ups but I reckon you could get away with the aforementioned Humbreol Metalcote too. In addition to the mottle camouflage decals the kit comes with the same three decal options as the original kit with the blue or red fuselage stripes to suit preference or prejudice. There is a comprehensive history of the type in English, the usual very clear instructions (from the original kit) and a nice touch - a sheet of 'Tech Tips' for modelling tools, how to use them and for painting - English included (Fine Molds take note!). Box art is new and more inspiring than the original ground-bound image. The kit retails for about £14 at HLJ which seems reasonable. In conclusion, nice one Tamiya!
Jim Anderson has very kindly shared these images of his 1/72 Hasegawa Nakajima A6M2-N Rufe juxtaposed with his Antares Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk from 1995 in the same scale. The Seahawk was not a floatplane fighter as such, despite armament of two wing-mounted .5 machine guns, but a multi-role floatplane used for scouting, plotting naval gunfire, anti-submarine warfare and air sea rescue work. It was a larger aircraft than online images of models suggest and as these comparison images with Rufe reveal.
Unusually and unlike previous USN scout floatplanes it was a sprightly single seater with provision to carry a rescued person in the rear fuselage and also the options of carrying an external radar pod or a 500lb bomb or rescue pod under each wing. In addition the main float originally had two internal bomb bays for bombs, depth charges or additional fuel tankage. Curtiss built the Seahawks with a fixed undercarriage and they were then flown to Naval Air Stations for the fitting of the Edo floats. 556 SC-1s were manufactured and from October 1944 22 saw wartime service on seven ships, mainly battle cruisers and battleships. They continued in operation post-war until 1949 but the last catapult launch from a ship, the USS Missouri, was in February 1948.
The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) concept of a float-equipped fighter to support operations in the absence of carriers or airfields originated in 1940 in the planning for the expected offensive across the islands of the East Indies and South-West Pacific area (SWPA). The Kawanishi N1K Kyofu (Strong Wind) was the outcome of the intended design but delays in that project required an interim solution and it was decided that the A6M2 would be modified to fulfill the urgently needed role. The requirement specification for conversion as the Mk.1 Fighter Seaplane was given to Nakajima who were preparing to commence A6M2 production. Between December 1941 and July 1943 Nakajima produced a total of 254 A6M2-N floatplane fighters which were deployed predominantly in the East Indies, SWPA and Aleutians islands campaigns.
In terms of performance comparisons (always fraught with danger!) Seahawk maximum speed is reported as 210 knots at sea level (approx. 242 mph) compared to 235 knots (approx. 270 mph) for Rufe at 5,000 ft. Seahawk rate of climb 2,500 fpm compared to 2,440 fpm for Rufe. And operating range 645 miles for Seahawk and 1,107 miles for Rufe.
The Antares kit was reissued by Smer from 2006. Jim found that the original Antares kit was decent except for a horribly thick canopy which he had to take a grinder bit to "and sand, sand, sand away on"! The Smer canopy although still rather thick seems to be an improvement in terms of clarity. Jim gave his Seahawk some personal nose art and a 'kill' flag as a neat touch, although there is no apparent evidence of a Seahawk claiming an air-to-air victory.
With special thanks to Jim for sharing these pictures of a dogfight double that never was (?) and highlighting one of the lesser known floatplanes of the Pacific War.
Following on from the last Aviation of Japan update on his project Tetsuya Inoue has shared these photos of his continuing superlative model engineering work. Tetsuya calls this a work-in-regression rather than a work-in-progress thanks to new information in the KHI book 'The Resoration Records of Ki-61' which required him remake some parts to make them more precise.
The full progress report can be found at Tetsuya's blog here. Please follow it to enjoy all the painstaking work and astonishing detail that Tetsuya has put into this project. Previous Aviation of Japan progress updates may be found at this blog for October 2018, March 2018 and June 2017.
With special thanks to Tetsuya for this update and for sharing these photos of his remarkable model engineering project. In 1/24 or 1/32 scale this work would be impressive but in 1/48 scale it is nothing short of absolutely outstanding.
Several correspondents including Iskender Mailibayev and Li Yen-choo have kindly provided heads ups about this new Fine Molds double kit in 1/72 scale due for release in July this year to commemorate 80 years since the Mitsubishi Zero first flight. The kit features parts and markings for the 12-Shi second prototype (A6M1) and an A6M2 Model 11 as flown by Lt Minoru Suzuki of 12 Ku from Hankow, China in May 1941. Thank goodness it is not a special magazine issue. Price of this two-kit combo is shown as US$36/£27.84 at HLJ.
Sprue shots suggest relief mouldings for the A6M1 engine (per the recent Ki-43-I kit) whilst the A6M2 is perhaps a re-iteration of the previous superlative special magazine issue kit. Various airframe configurations for the A6M1 prototypes have been depicted and here is a new one with the artwork appearing to show it painted in RAF Sky, presumably meant to represent designer Jiro Horikoshi's "dimly shining ash green". The A6M2 is depicted in grey (or maybe aluminium?), presumably Gunze Mr Color 35 which is in fact a bright blue-grey rather than the plain, neutral grey currently being peddled in some quarters.
With thanks to all who have written in with news and images of this kit.
Hat tip to Vedran for alerting AoJ to this forthcoming injection moulded release in1/48 scale by A.B.&K of Ukraine - sprue shots and other details may be found at Britmodeller. A good scale for this type and a fitting IJN rival to Fine Molds excellent Ki-10.
From the box art decal options will be for aircraft from the carriers Kaga and Ryujo.