This aircraft is Tora (Tiger) – 110, the mount of the CO of the 261 Kokutai. This aircraft features prominently in Thorpe’s classic Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings of WWII, being pictured on the cover, a photograph (below), and a color profile. Very attractive, but also problematic. The photograph shows a Type 21, with a dark finish on the forward fuselage and a lighter finish aft. Various people (all of whom know much more about this than me) have interpreted the difference in colors as two greens, discoloration due to primer, dirt or fading, or even as the aft fuselage being painted red matching the Hinomaru. Thorpe’s cover artwork depicts a Type 22 with the wing stripes and upper wing Hinomaru moved inward.
For my build I chose the primer interpretation and mixed the green a little lighter for the aft fuselage and sections of the upper wings, but I keep thinking it would look good in red. Fine Molds kit, all stripes are painted, tail codes are Hasegawa decals.
Hasegawa – While they do not have the detail nor refined engineering of the other two manufacturers, these are still good, solid kits. The main strength of the Hasegawa line is the variety of types offered – from the A6M1 to the A6M8, and everything in between. Weaknesses are the very basic cockpits and shallow wheelwells. Overall the shape looks good. The vertical fin is a little too broad in chord, but that is easily fixed. The cowling on their A6M2 is a bit small, which is noticeable when compared directly to the other manufacturers (see photo above, Hasegawa kit on the left). For many of the versions, a Hasegawa kit is still the best place to start.
Fine Molds – These are great kits, some of the best offered in our scale. Fine Molds kit the A6M2, A6M3 Type 32, and A6M5. They offer great detail and outstanding engineering. Their A6M2 kit has several options including open cowl claps, lowered landing flaps, open canopy, and wing tips which can be posed folded. The main drawbacks are price and their unique distribution method as bundles with two issues of Model Graphics magazine.
Tamiya – The Tamiya kits are every bit as nice as the Fine Molds kits, but in different ways. Asking which is best is like trying to figure out which Victoria’s Secret supermodel is the prettiest. The details are superb and the engineering allows the kits to just fall together. If I were looking to purchase new Zero kits today, the Tamiya A6M2 or A6M5s would be my first choices.
Aftermarket – I used three aftermarket parts on these builds. The Hasegawa kits all got True Details resin wheels, the Tamiya and Fine Molds wheels looked fine to me. All the kits received Eduard photoetch seatbelts, from set 73001. Eduard provides different style belts for the Mitsubishi and Nakajima-built aircraft – something I would not have caught otherwise. The center section of the canopies are all Squadron vacuforms, the other sections are kit parts. The front section of the Squadron canopies will not fit any of these three kits, even though they are intended to replace the Hasegawa parts. I also used the Eduard canopy mask set CX006, which saved a lot of time. Aviaeology supplied tailcode numerals, and Techmod supplied Hinomarus where needed.
This is a resurrected work-in-progress build log of a batch build comparison of seven kits from Hasegawa, Fine Molds, and Tamiya. For me the gains in efficiency from building in batches outweigh the burdens of repetitive construction. It also helps keep the number of kits in the stash down to reasonable levels. Thanks to a few “deals I could not refuse” at the shows I discovered I had managed to accumulate several Hasegawa Zeros. Added to a Fine Molds A6M2 and a couple more from Tamiya, there was a small pile of Zeros waiting to be built. This is also a good opportunity to compare the kits.
Shigetoshi Kudo was trained as a reconnaissance pilot and was assigned to the famous Tainan Kokutai in October 1941. When the Pacific War began he supported the Kokutai by performing reconnaissance and navigation duties over the Philippines and Dutch East Indies. The unit eventually moved to Rabaul, where Kudo was credited with his first aerial victories using air-to-air bombs. Kudo returned to Japan in the fall of 1942 where he trained to fly the Nakajima J1N1 Gekko (“Irving”) nightfighter.
The Tainan Kokutai was redesignated the 251st Kokutai in November 1942, Kudo rejoining the unit in May 1943. On strength were two J1N1 nightfighters which had been modified with the addition of oblique-firing 20mm cannon on the orders of the squadron commander, CDR Yasuna Kozono. These guns were angled to fire 30 degrees above and below the line of flight, similar to the Schräge Musik installation on German nightfighters. Kudo flew the J1N1 defending Rabaul against American B-17s, eventually claiming six plus an Australian Hudson and becoming the first nightfighter ace of the Pacific War. Japanese sources credited him with nine victories.
Kudo returned to Japan in February 1944 and was assigned to the Yokosuka Air Group. He was injured in a landing accident in May 1945. He survived the war but died in 1960.
The Japanese supplied a small number of Nakajima Ki-27 “Nates” to the Royal Thai Air Force during World War II. They were used to support the Thai army in its campaign in Burma, and late in the war fought in the defense of Bangkok against the USAAF, with limited success. This aircraft is from Foong Bin Khap Laia 16, based at Lampang Thailand in 1944. Markings are from Print Scale sheet 72-080.
Here is another ICM Nakajima Ki-27-II, this time in the markings of Captain Hyoe Yonaga, leader of the 2nd Chutai of the 24th Sentai stationed in the Philippines during December 1941 – January 1942. Yonaga was a 16-victory ace from the Nomonhan Incident but saw no combat in the Philippines. His aircraft is interesting because of the field applied camouflage, and unusual for a 24 Sentai machine in having five stripes on the rudder rather than the usual four.
This is the ICM Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” in the markings of the Imperial Japanese Army’s 11th Sentai. This particular aircraft was flown by the IJA’s leading ace, 2LT Hiromichi Shinohara during the Nomonhan Incident in May of 1939. Shinohara was a renowned marksman. He was credited with downing four Soviet I-16s in his first engagement on 27MAY39. On 27JUN39 he claimed 11 Soviet fighters in one day over Tamsagbulag. On 25JUL39 he claimed four victories, but his Ki-27 was hit in the wing tank and he was forced down behind Soviet lines. With enemy tanks closing in, Sgt Maj Koichi Iwase landed his fighter and rescued Shinohara. A month later, Shinohara was shot down over Lake Mororehi and killed. He was 26.
Hiromichi Shinohara was credited with 58 victories during the Nomonhan Incident, making him the Imperial Japanese Army’s leading scorer.