Aoshima Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

The Aoshima Shiden series 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.  Markings are from a Kopro decal sheet and represent a Shiden of the Yokosuka Kokutai.















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Tamiya Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

Tamiya’s N1K1 is a little gem but is overlooked by most modelers.  It has the fit and finished we have come to expect from Tamiya and goes together without any issues.  I detailed the cockpit and replaced the cannon barrels with brass from Master, but this kit looks great right out of the box.  The markings represent an aircraft of the 341st Kokutai at Marcott in the Philippines in October 1944, by January the squadron had been wiped out.















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MPM Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

This is the limited run MPM Shiden kit from the 1990s.  It is rather crude by today’s standards and has been superseded by the excellent Tamiya offering.  Almost all of the smaller parts have been replaced on this build.  The cockpit was completely replaced and the wheelwells enclosed and detailed.  It can be built into a presentable model but requires a lot of work.

The aircraft carries the markings of Chief Petty Officer Tomeshiro Hiro of the Tsukuba Kokutai in February 1945.















See more Bates-isms on A Scale Canadian TV here:

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Hasegawa Kawanishi N1K Kyōfū 強風 Strong Wind “Rex” in 1/72 Scale

The Kyōfū was produced as a floatplane fighter in limited numbers.  Production examples dispensed with the counter-rotating propellers of the prototype and the pilots learned to deal with the engine torque on take-off.  The Kyōfū served operationally in Balilpapan, Borneo, and finished the war on Lake Biwa defending the Tokyo area.  This is the Hasegawa kit built as an example from the Sasebo Kōkūtai.  It is fitted with a more conventional engine arrangement and features individual exhaust stacks with a standard propeller spinner.



















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Hasegawa Kawanishi N1K Kyōfū 強風 Strong Wind “Rex” Prototype in 1/72 Scale

After a long delay, the weather finally cooperated and I was able to take some finished pictures outdoors of recent completions from January’s batch of Japanese aircraft.

This is the design which eventually was developed into the excellent Shiden-Kai fighter by the Imperial Japanese Navy, the prototype “Rex” floatplane fighter.  I wanted to build the prototype because of the counter-rotating propellers, and the IJN overall orange finish (used on prototypes and trainers) was a bonus.  Like most everyone else at the time, the Japanese were not able to work the bugs out of the counter-rotating propellers and they reverted to a standard three-bladed prop for the production aircraft.

The Hasegawa kit is nice and goes together without any surprises.  It comes with the beaching cart and boarding ladder, along with a plastic weight for the float.  I rebuilt the cockpit and wired the engine but the rest is pretty much out of the box.

















More N1K models here:

Yokosuka K5Y Akatombo 赤とんぼ (Red Dragonfly) “Willow” Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

The major subassemblies were left separate for painting and decals.  This is the AZ kit under primer.  Turns out the kits have two different float designs but both are correct.  The AZ floats have a single step, the LS floats have two and are more slender.
This is the LS kit with Hinomaru masked with Maketar masks.  I prefer the masks especially for simple insignia like these.
Later in the war the K5Y had their upper surfaces camouflaged in various degrees and patterns.  Here I have used Floquil Reefer Orange and Mr. Color 15.
The beaching gear was painted Sasebo Gray with dark brown blocks and weathered.  Colors are just a guess but plausible.
I used the AZ decals for the codes on both kits with no issues.  The floats and upper wing went on well, this one still needed a little refinement when the picture was taken.  I used Uschi elastic line for rigging but found it difficult to work with so I will likely go back to rigging with Nitenol wire on future biplanes.  Use the box art for a rigging diagram, the diagram in the AZ instructions reverses the tail rigging and misses the aileron wires.
Here are both finished models together.  They need a little TLC but either can be build up into attractive models.

More completed pictures here:

Yokosuka K5Y Akatombo 赤とんぼ (Red Dragonfly) “Willow” Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

The Yokosuka K5Y Akatombo was a primary trainer in service with the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1933 through the end of the Pacific War.  It was called Akatombo (Red Dragonfly) after a Japanese children’s poem of the time due to its bright overall orange-yellow paint scheme.  There were two variants in service, the wheeled K5Y1 land-based version and the K5Y2 floatplane.  The two versions differed in their landing gear and in the chord of the vertical stabilizer, that of the K5Y2 was more broad to compensate for the surface area of the floats.  A surprising bit of trivia – the last US warship lost to kamikaze attack was the destroyer USS Callaghan (DD-792), sunk by a K5Y on 29JUL45.

There are two moldings of the K5Y available to 1/72 scale modelers.  The LS molding was first released in 1973 and came in boxings with either wheels or floats, although both versions came with the small-chord vertical stabilizers.  The AZ molding was released in 2013 and includes resin details, PE instrument panels, and parts to build both the land-based and floatplane versions.
The LS kit is molded in the bright “trainer orange” scheme.  Surface detail is appropriately recessed, but most of the smaller parts are oversized and a little crude.  Cockpit detail is non-existent, consisting of two over-sized seats mounted to the fuselage sides to support pilot figures.  The inner plastic bag on my kit was still sealed but was missing the rudder and vertical fin.  This is not as bad as it may appear as the LS fin is the smaller chord and would require replacement in any case.
The AZ Model kit is more detailed as you would expect for a kit which is forty years newer.  Surface detail is finely engraved and even includes rivets on the floats.  Parts for both land-based and float versions are included, but neither kit contains beaching gear which is highly desirable for displaying the model.
A comparison of detail parts from both kits.  The LS engine at top is really not horrible considering the release date, but the AZ engine looks a lot better.  I decided to copy the AZ engine as I needed to mold a replacement for the LS vertical stabilizer in any case.  The seats are a comedy of extremes with the LS kit containing love seats and the AZ kit going to the other end of the spectrum with child safety seats.  Neither were used.
I scratched up some cockpit detail and replaced the seats.  Some modelers shy away from this sort of thing but it really goes quickly once you get started.  The only real obstacle is getting the floor width correct so the piece spans the opening without preventing the fuselage halves from closing.  Test fit until it’s right and then build up the details from there.
Here are the cockpits installed after painting and a wash.  I did the seatbelt and instrument panel trick of printing the appropriate layouts on photo paper and cutting them out.
The engines were shot with Alclad Aluminum and detailed with beading wire.
Here is the replacement fin on the LS kit, cast from the AZ part.  It turned out the AZ part had its own set of issues.  The cut-out above the horizontal stabilizer was missing and the bottom of the rudder has to be extended.  Not sure why, but Willow rudders give kit manufacturers problems!
On both kits the interplane struts fit into groves on the wings.  I attached the center ones here, but cut the slotted portion loose on the outer struts so I could better address the seams.
The missing beaching gear was constructed from Evergreen stock.  The wheels are castings from the Hasegawa Rex floatplane kits.  Photographs show the floats being steadied with “sawhorse” supports so I made some of these as well.  Famous Aircraft of the World 44 has a few nice photographs of Akatombo floatplanes ashore on the ramp but no clear shots of the beaching gear.  I extrapolated from what could be seen to build my carts, but I would be surprised if this is totally correct.

Part II here:

Mitsubishi J2M Raiden 雷電 Lightning Bolt “Jack” Build in 1/72

This is a re-boxing of the old Hasegawa Mitsubishi J2M Raiden tool from 1977.  All the Hasegawa kits use the same tool, it has the typical limitations of basic cockpit and shallow wheelwells like most of their kits of the era.  The engine on this one is hidden behind a forced cooling fan, similar to the FW 190.  This is another model show find, the box was a mess as it had gotten wet and the kit had been started.  The original builder had thrown in some spares from other kits and had detached many of this kit’s parts from the sprues so initially I was not even sure everything was there, but it was had for a give-away price and who doesn’t want spare parts?

One of the bits in the box was this nice sheet of Eduard PE.  I figured even if the kit was missing enough parts to be unbuildable this fret alone was worth what I paid.  Besides, if the main assemblies were all usable there are enough bits in my spare box to fill out the kit.

The kit cockpit was basic and without any form of detail so I set it aside and began building up a replacement.  The guts of this one are castings of the Tamiya Shiden cockpit modified to better represent what should be in a Raiden, along with an aftermarket resin seat.  The seat is probably the most visible item in a cockpit so getting that & the belts to look convincing goes a long way.

Here is the cockpit painted and glossed with a Tamiya wash to add depth.  Belts and console faces are printed from photographic paper.

I hate shallow wheelwells and usually re-build them when I can, even though they are obviously on the underside of the model and therefor hard for the casual viewer to see.  They were rebuilt with the Eduard photoetch fret and the seams filled with Perfect Plastic Putty.

Here is the model primed with Mr. Surfacer.  In spite of the kit’s age, Hasegawa did a fine job with the surface engraving and the fit is pretty good overall.  I have added gear down indicators from bronze rod and navigation lights using clear plastic from a CD case.

These are the wheelwells under primer.  The Raiden has the transparent blue primer finish in the wheelwells which unfortunately will obscure most of the fine relief etched into the PE.

One problem with modeling Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft is you wind up with the same basic scheme over and over.  Here is the Raiden with Mr. Color paints matched to the Iliad design paint chips.  Manufacturing was done at several different plants and the Japanese manufacturers each used their own paint mixes – if you wanted to devise a plan to perpetually confuse modelers that is an excellent way to go.  The Mr. Color Nakajima Dark Green was a great match for the Iliad Design Mitsubishi chip, but Raidens were produced by both Mitsubishi and Koza Air Arsenal so be skeptical if anyone claims to know the actual colors with certainty!

At this point everything began to go wrong and the build became “snake bit” as we say here in the U.S.  I used Print Scale decals for the lightning bolts and the tail codes, but the lightning bolts looked way too pale when on the model (the Print Scale Hinomaru were not used for the same reason).  In addition, the carrier film was laughably flimsy and the decals tended to fold and ball up given the slightest opportunity.  Even worse, I had a “senior moment” when I was removing the excess panel line wash and reached for the lacquer thinner instead of the much slower standard paint thinner which I use for that purpose.  The result is I stripped off the gloss coat and got down into the paint and the ink on the decals before I caught the error, as you can see on the port side of the fuselage.

The lightning bolts were the wrong color anyway, so I re-painted everything as best as I could with a fine brush.  It looks okay from a distance, but this one is now destined to skip the shows and go directly to the display case.  On top of all that, one of the Master replacement gun barrels pinged off into the quantum realm, never to be seen again.  Tubing is standing in until a another arrives from Hannants.  I’d still like to build a nice Raiden someday, so if I find another at a show maybe I’ll have another go!

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

With the wheelwells rebuilt and the wing seam filled it was time to prime.  The model received a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000 and any remaining flaws were addressed and re-primed.  The surface scribing is faint and shallow to begin with and priming and painting are not going to help that.  The panel lines have almost disappeared already!
I rescribed the panel lines with a UMM scriber and a straight edge.  For the most part there was enough molded panel line left to locate the correct placement.  The Hinomaru are painted and masked with Maketar kabuki masks, and also the wing identification panels have been applied at this point.  You can find a few photographs of B7A with white borders on the fuselage Hinomaru if you look hard enough, but the vast majority were finished without the borders.
A view down into the office before the transparency is added.  Seats and side consoles are generally more visible than instrument panels, but modelers and the aftermarket concentrate on instrument panels.
The canopy was masked with a Dead Design set.  This one fit pretty well, with only a few panels needing trimming.  The canopy itself had some fit issues, with gaps in the center non-sliding section being particularly egregious.  I filled around the canopy with Perfect Plastic Putty, the main advantage of PPP is that the excess can be wiped away with a wet cotton swab leaving behind only what is required to fill the gap.  Easy fix for a tricky problem.
I used Mr. Color enamels for the camouflage scheme, if you’re modeling a Ryusei your choices are this scheme or the overall prototype orange-yellow as seen on the box in the first post.  No issues with the paints, here the model is ready for decals and panel washes under a coat of Testors Glosscoat.
The torpedo is a spare from a Hasegawa kit.  The wheelwells are in the transparent blue primer used by the Japanese.  This is Alclad Transparent Blue over Alclad Aluminum.  I replaced the gear covers with plastic sheet.
Tail numbers and the numbers on the wheel covers are from Aviaeology.  Antenna wire is Uschi elastic line, cannon barrels are from Master.  Sword also makes a Grace in 1/72, but I had this old Fujimi kit in the stash.  Overall it builds up well but can use some detail improvements and help in the big three areas – cockpit, engine, and wheelwells.  Well worth building if you like the type!

More finished pictures here:

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

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 
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.

Part II here: