Aichi B7A Ryusei 流星 “Grace” Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

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This is the old Fujimi B7A1 kit from 1984, several boxings have been released but the same tool was used for each.  Some boxings contained a small additional sprue with a torpedo and defensive gun for the rear position.  This one is meant to be in the overall orange-yellow scheme of the second (of nine) prototype aircraft and is molded in orange.  I picked it up at a model show a while ago, it was complete but had been started.  The wings and cockpit components had been glued together but I was able to separate them before beginning construction.
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The cockpit is very basic and quite crude.  Even though I intend to keep the canopy closed the transparency is large and features flat panels so much of the interior will be visible on the finished model.  I decided to install the basic equipment shapes shown in the excellent interior diagrams in Mikesh’s Monogram Guide.  This really doesn’t take that long once you get going.
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One thing that was a bit tricky was the decking under the rear gun position.  It finally struck me that the shape of one of my drafting pencils was pretty close but with the curve reversed.  I taped the pencil to the bench and plunge molded the shape into some scrap plastic.  This was cut out and installed into the back part of the cockpit.
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Here is the cockpit fit into the fuselage and base coated with black.  I make sure coverage is complete with this layer to represent shadows, and then spray thin layers of progressively lighter greens to pick up highlights.  The end result creates the visual effect of accentuating light and contrast, giving the cockpit depth.
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Here is the interior with the paint on.  The instrument panel and console faces are printed on photographic paper, as are the seat belts.  The belts are more three dimensional than PE, and easier to bend and pose for a “casual” effect.
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The Homare 12 engine is a resin replacement from Engines and Things, I added the ignition wires.  It fits, and is a big improvement over the kit part.
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The kit’s wheelwells were way too shallow for my tastes, so I pried the wing halves apart and ground out the shallow “roofs”.  I leave the landing gear leg attachment points in place to make life easier on future me, you can see the difference in depth by what remains.  The sidewalls are built back up using 0.005” Evergreen card.  The excess sticking out of the wing can be easily removed with the trusty Xacto knife and a sanding block. 
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The wheelwells were then detailed with Evergreen strip.  The narrow sections of the wells had three curved webbing structures, these were made with a Waldron punch set.  At the trailing edge of the wings you can see I’ve begun filling the gaps in the flaps.  Fujimi has a propensity for placing the seam lines right through the middle of the aileron fabric, which they have done on this kit and several others.  The seams can be filled if care is used, but this is an avoidable problem.

Dragon Northrop YF-23 Black Widow in 1/72 Scale

The YF-23 Black Widow was Northrop’s entry into the USAF Advanced Tactical Fighter competition, which was eventually won by the F-22 Raptor.  Dragon kitted the YF-23, the blended wing and fuselage configuration makes for a very simple model as everything is molded together as a large single top and large single bottom piece with very few other parts to add – mainly the landing gear and cockpit.  I decided to build mine as if it were from an operational unit.  Two Bobs excellent F-22 sheet provided replacement markings plus two to spare if I ever build a Raptor.  Markings are of the 325th TFW at Tyndall AFB in Florida, a possible appearance if the YF-23 had entered production instead of (or in addition to) the F-22. One of the two YF-23s completed is currently at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton.

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Aichi B7A Ryusei 流星 (Shooting Star) Grace

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The Aichi B7A (Allied reporting name Grace) was a large attack aircraft designed for the Imperial Japanese Navy but came too late and in too few numbers to have an impact on the Pacific War.  It was a successful design but is obscure and remains relatively unknown.
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The design was intended to replace both dive bomber and torpedo bomber types currently in IJN service.  Nine prototypes were built, the first of which flew for the first time in May 1942.  Teething problems with the new 1,800 hp Homare 11 engine delayed the program.  This is the seventh prototype, finished in a scheme of overall orange-yellow to make it easier to locate in case of a forced landing.
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A gull wing design was selected to provide sufficient clearance for the four-bladed propeller, a parallel to the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair design.  The Grace was much larger than the Corsair with a 47 foot (14.4 meter) wingspan.
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The wings of the B7A were equipped with a hydraulic folding mechanism just outboard of the landing gear.  With the wings folded the span was reduced to 26 feet (7.9 meters).  The ailerons could both deflect downwards up to ten degrees to function as additional landing flaps.
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The B7A was intended to be the primary attack aircraft on the Taiho and Shinano, but both aircraft carriers were sunk before the Grace could enter service.  The aircraft was too large to accommodate on the surviving Japanese carriers and so was obliged to operate entirely from shore bases.  The fighter component of the air wings were intended to be composed of N1K3 Shiden-Kai (George).  This is an aircraft of the Yokosuka Naval Air Group with a Type 91 torpedo, the dual horizontal tail stripes indicate a flight leader.
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The B7A could carry two 250 kg (551 pound) bombs in an internal bomb bay in the dive- or level bombing role, or one 800 kg (1,764 pound) torpedo mounted externally.  Two Type 99 cannon were mounted in the wings, along with a 7.9 mm or 13 mm machine gun mounted in the rear cockpit for defense.
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The Grace was fast and maneuverable, the specification required agility consistent with the famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter.  Maximum speed was 367 mph (592 kph) which was quite fast for an attack aircraft of the time and on par with several fighter types.  Handling was reported to be excellent.
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The only unit which was equipped solely with the B7A was the 752nd Kokutai which operated from Katori in Chiba from February 1945.  The unit was engaged in conventional attack missions and was eventually also utilized in Kamikaze attacks.
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Even after the design had been finalized, Japan’s deteriorating war situation prevented production on a meaningful scale.  The Aichi plant at Funakata produced only 89 examples (including prototypes) before it was destroyed by an earthquake in May 1945.  Another 25 were completed by the 21st Naval Air Arsenal at Omura.
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After the war the B7A was one of the types returned to the United States for evaluation.  One example survives today in unrestored condition at the National Air and Space Museum Storage Facility.  The survivor is one of the 25 examples produced at 21st Naval Air Arsenal at Omura.  This 752nd Kokutai aircraft is seen being wheeled out of a hanger by American personnel after the war.

1/72 UM BA-9 Soviet Armored Car

I find armored cars to be fascinating.  The Soviets fielded a wide range of designs during the Great Patriotic War, none of which could be considered to be particularly successful.  They did have their places as screening or reconnaissance vehicles, but generally they were too lightly armed and armored for the resources they used.  The BA-9 is an example of this, being armed with a 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm machine gun, it carried a crew of four and had a maximum speed of 35 mph (55 km/h).  UM has produced a nice little kit of this uncommon vehicle.  It has their vinyl tires again which I find problematic and is a little over-engineered, but it can be built up into an interesting model.

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Bounty Hunter 4/3 Book Review

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Bounty Hunter 4/3

By Jason Delgado with Chris Martin

Hardcover in dustjacket, 352 pages

Published by St. Martin’s Press October 2017

Language: English

ISBN 978-1-250-11200-2

Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches

Each Marine Battalion has a Scout Sniper Platoon which reports to the battalion’s Intelligence Officer.  The platoon consists of approximately twenty Marines who form two man teams.  Becoming a sniper is considered to be stepping up to an elite formation, volunteers are selected from with the battalion.  If a Marine is selected for the sniper platoon, he is taught the fine art of long-range marksmanship and concealment by the more senior members of the platoon and is transformed into a Professionally Instructed Gunman, or PIG.  The best PIGs are selected to attend the USMC Scout Sniper Basic Course, if they graduate they become HOGs – Hunters Of Gunmen.

Bounty Hunter 4/3 is Jason Delgado’s story.  He begins as a street kid growing up in the Bronx who joined the Marines.  He describes his progression from Boot Camp to an infantry battalion, and from there his selection into the sniper platoon.  His training within the platoon during a deployment to Okinawa prepared him for a slot at the Scout Sniper Basic Course, which he passed.  This narrative is the first third of the book.

Operation Desert Storm saw the Marines employ snipers in support of the thrust into Baghdad and the destruction of the Iraqi Army.  Delgado and the other snipers provided support and overwatch to their battalion during the assault through Iraq.  This was a conventional mechanized assault against an organized army.

Delgado’s second deployment to Iraq was to a small city on the Iraqi/Syrian border named Husaybah.  By this time the conflict in Iraq has devolved into an insurgency, with Jihadis infiltrating in from Syria.  This deployment is in marked contrast to Operation Desert Storm, a static occupation with guerrillas amongst the civilian population and all the complexities and rules of engagement which go along with that.

The final portion of the book concerns Delgado’s return to the United States and duty at Marine Special Operations Training Group, where he was a sniper instructor.  The Marines had kept their Force Recon out of the overall Special Operation Command, preferring to keep them under direct Marine control.  MARSOC was founded in 2005, dipping a Marine toe into SOC.  Delgado was ideally positioned the help train and equip that force.

This is a very “hands on” and personalized account of sniper’s role in Iraq in both conventional and counter-insurgency roles.  It was interesting to hear the descriptions of sniper training and employment.  I was surprised at the physical requirements of the Scout Sniper Basic Course, and that they had their own version of Hell Week and subsequent 60% attrition rate.  The similarities and differences between the two deployments are a good indication of the changes in the conflict in Iraq itself – fighting an army is not the same as fighting an insurgency.  This is good insight into one Marine’s journey through life and war, a recommended read.

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1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part VII

Finished!  This turned into a “just one more thing” build and seemed to drag on, but the first seven completions for 2020 are done and I’m generally happy with how they turned out.  The big pictures on the computer highlighted a few tweaks and touch ups which are needed but they’re mostly complete.  Here’s the list of modifications and details added, some kits required more of these than others:

  • Cockpits replaced and/or detailed.
  • Instrument panels, side consoles, and seatbelts printed on photographic paper.
  • Engines replaced and/or wired.
  • Wheelwells removed, deepened, and detailed.
  • Landing gear covers replaced with card stock.
  • Landing lights made from CD case plastic.
  • Gear down indicators made from bronze rod.
  • Vacuform or plunge molded canopies.
  • Pitot tubes made with metal tube and insect pins.
  • Beading wire brake lines.
  • Wheels replaced.
  • Turned brass cannon barrels from Master.
  • Various openings and trestle ports drilled out.
  • Trim tab actuators replaced with wire.
  • Radio aerials made from Uschi elastic line.
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One of the Hasegawa Shiden-Kai with several of the added details visible.  I am always really impressed with the Master gun barrels.  They are inexpensive, sturdy, and the proper thickness – an easy way to make a noticeable improvement.  Also visible are the gear down indicators, replacement landing gear covers, vacuform canopy, and a peek at the cockpit details.
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The Hasegawa Kyofu floatplanes are very nice kits.  Fit of the parts was excellent and only required a small bit of sanding to eliminate seams.  The boarding ladders and beaching gear are a nice touch.  I wanted to build the prototype because of the counter-rotating propellers.  Like everybody else, the Japanese were not able to work the bugs out of this system and they reverted to a standard three-bladed propeller for the production aircraft.
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This is the foundling, the MPM kit hiding along with another kit bought at the model show and forgotten.  This is a rather crude molding, but I was pleasantly surprised that it built up well with a lot of work and replacement parts.  Tail codes are from an Aviaeology sheet (try remembering how that one’s spelled!) and the Hinomaru are masked.
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The best kit of the batch is Tamiya’s N1K1.  It was easy to assemble and well detailed, typical Tamiya quality.  This was the only kit which had passable wheelwells, really all I added were surface details.  For the pedantic the only two things which could be corrected are the oil cooler support should be wider and the inner section of the wheel well should be open to the spar.  The N1K1 was the first version adapted from the Kyofu into a land-based fighter.
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The Aoshima Shiden are nice kits but are often overlooked.  This is the N1K1 with the redesigned wing incorporating all four Type 99 20 mm cannon internally.  The kit has shallow wheelwells but a passable cockpit.  The clear parts are a strong point and the canopy can be posed in the open position.  The gear doors do need replacing as they are thick and molded into the landing gear legs – an odd choice for such a nice kit.
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The Shiden-Kai saw the wings lowered from the middle to the bottom of the fuselage and resulted in the ultimate version of the design evolution.  These two are made from the 1977 Hasegawa kit, and have the typical Hasegawa shortcomings of their time – basic cockpit, crude engine, and laughably shallow wheelwells.  They also display a shape error concerning the width of the vertical fin, Kawanishi produced both a broad- and narrow-fin N1K2, Hasegawa’s kit splits the difference and so has to be modified to properly represent either version.  Still buildable kits with a little extra effort.

 

So, overall a fun build but one which took longer than anticipated.  I think the next batch will be something a little more current, hopefully one which doesn’t need as many modifications!

Hasegawa Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk in 1/72 Scale

Here is Hasegawa’s Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.  I think of these as being “modern”, but they’re already retired.  Hard to believe.  I’m old.   This is a relatively simple kit.  The plastic is harder than usual, must be to absorb radar energy better.  It’s also much bigger than I expected, I kept checking to make sure it was the proper scale.  Quite a lot can be seen even with the canopy closed due to the large flat panels.  I used the Eduard mask set which saved time with the sawtooth frames.  The fuselage seams needed filled on the underside, as do the wing joints. The clear sprue contains a solid nose weight.  This was barely enough to keep the nose down, the model will sit on its tail if positioned that way.  I’d add just a bit more weight just to be sure if building another.

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Kyushu J7W1 Shinden 震電 Magnificent Lightning

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A few Canard fighter aircraft were designed during the Second World War, but only the Japanese Kyushu J7W1 Shinden was ordered into production.  While a promising design, it was a case of too little, too late and only two prototypes were completed before the end of the war.
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The Shinden was intended to fulfill an Imperial Japanese Navy specification for a land based interceptor to oppose the American B-29s which were ravaging Japan.  While its range was relatively short, it carried four 30 mm Type 5 cannon in the nose, a considerable armament for the time.
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Power was provided by a turbocharged Mitsubishi Ha-43 eighteen cylinder radial engine which produced 2,130 hp.  The engine was mounted behind the pilot and drove a six bladed pusher propeller via an extension shaft.  Cooling air was introduced through a series of inlets along the sides of the aircraft.  The prototype experienced engine overheating while on the ground, and vibration due to the length of the shaft connecting the engine and the propeller.
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The Shinden flew for the first time on 03AUG45 with CAPT Tsuruno, head of the IJN design team, at the controls.  Even before the first flight the Navy had ordered the Shinden into production, a reflection of both the design’s promise and the desperation of Japan’s military situation.
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From the beginning the Shinden was intended to be adapted to jet propulsion using an Ne-130 tubojet.  This would have solved the cooling, vibration, and torque problems associated with the Ha-43 at a stroke, but the jet engine was not ready before the war ended.
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One of the Shinden prototypes was brought to America after the war for evaluation, although it does not appear to have been flown.  The U.S. Navy transferred the aircraft to the Smithsonian in 1960.  The forward fuselage is currently on display at NASM Udvar-Hazy with the rest of the components held in storage.  (NASM color photographs)
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Cockpit layout of the J7W1 prototype.  
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Starboard side, showing the seat adjustment lever and the American-installed fire suppression system.
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Port side showing the throttle.