Fine Molds Nakajima A6M2 Zero of CDR Taketora Ueda in 1/72 Scale

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.

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A6M Zero Aces Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

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A metal rod in the nose makes a good place to handle the model while painting and a convenient way to keep it off the bench while drying. The camo on all these Zeros utilize the same color palette which makes painting more efficient.

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For some reason I always feel “almost done” after the decals are on, but that’s not really the case, is it? Maybe it’s because you can finally start to see something which resembles the finished product developing from the mass of parts. The major sub-assemblies are all complete but there are several smaller parts still on the sprues.

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Decaling is completed here. Quite a few decals, actually. The Tamiya and Fine Molds kits both included extensive stenciling, the FM sheet especially. I purchased a few of the Hasegawa kits at shows, one of the decal sheets in those was ruined, a few more were the older type with the light reds and ivory whites. I used TechMod sheet 72116 for the Hinomaru and Aviaeology sheets for the tail codes to provide the needed replacements. Additional codes were made from an HO scale train sheet from the LHS.

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Here’s the underside of one of the Hasegawa Type 22s, showing the incorporation of the replacement wheelwells. Brake lines are 32-gauge beading wire, tow hooks are HO scale lifting pad eyes. The brake lines run down between the main gear leg and the covers, between the attachment points. The Tamiya covers are molded with a space between the points, the other covers were slotted with a razor saw. The Tamiya kits also came with parts for the U-shaped retraction arms for the inner doors, arms for the other kits were fabricated from wire.

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I used a “sludge wash” to bring out the panel lines, which is just thinned acrylic paint mixed with a small amount of dish soap. I generally like just enough contrast to get the panel lines to show up. A medium grey was used on the underside, but black was used on the uppers because the green is so dark.

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A group shot of all the kits together.

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SUMMARY:

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.

A6M Zero Aces Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

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These are the A6M2 kit engines from the three manufacturers – Hasegawa (upper left), Fine Molds (upper right), and Tamiya (lower). Push rods from 0.010″ round stock were added to the Hasegawa engines. The cases were painted RLM 65 blue-grey, the ignition ring is light gull grey. Ignition wires are roughed in with very fine Copper wire. The Hasegawa engine is definitely smaller when seen with the others, but looks the part inside it’s cowling.

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The Fine Molds kit comes with separate flaps, a nice option. I decided to drop the flaps on one of the Hasegawa A6M3s (top) and the Tamiya A6M5 (bottom) as well. The Tamiya A6M2 is engineered with the entire flap molded into the upper wing piece, while their A6M5 flap is split into halves with the upper & lower wing parts, so I went with the easier job of the two.

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The underside of the wings of the Hasegawa kits were cut out for the resin castings. A bit of a gap on this one, but nothing which can’t be filled and the wheelwells are much deeper now. I like the deep wells a lot better. In this picture you can also see the boattail where the wing underside joins the fuselage. The Hasegawa kits all had small gaps at this joint, and even the Fine Molds & Tamiya kits needed some smoothing there.

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A “conversion” from a Type 22 to a Type 32 – cut off the wingtips and reshape the ends to represent the aerodynamic fairing. I had managed to acquire three Type 22 kits but no 32s, easy enough to fix.

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Construction is almost complete, just have to add the canopies and mask. Now is a good time to mention some of the considerations involved in doing a batch build. The main advantages lie in the efficiencies gained in building kits of same construction and / or color pallet, but that can also lead to confusion in the detail differences between the individual models if you’re not careful. The key is establishing a system to account for the differences between the models. Organization is crucial, just come up with a system which makes sense to you, and stick to it. In this case, I have used the kit boxes as trays, and arranged the model variants in chronological order, from left to right. A post-it note also helps to remind me of the final markings for each kit. This is important, as details such as spinner colors and other painted markings often vary between aircraft. The airframes on the stand are arranged in the same order.

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Sub-assemblies and other parts prepared for painting are kept in front of their respective boxes. Where there are important variations in the camouflage or markings, good notes or pictures are very useful. Notice that the post-it for Tiger 110 says “Nakajima” – many of the colors on Nakajima-made Zero components are different than those manufactured by Mitsubishi.

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The small cards contain parts specific to each model, and are labeled with the pilot’s names like the post-its. They will be sprayed with Alclad lacquers and contain the parts which will be black, silver, or Aotake. The engines are in order on their card, left to right matching the sequence of the boxes. The drop tanks and landing gear covers all get the same color, four are identical parts from Hasegawa kits, the ones on the right of each group are Tamiya.

A6M Zero Aces Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

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.

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Fine Mold’s kit is spectacular. It is incredibly detailed, and includes options such as dropped flaps and folded wingtips. It comes molded in four colors approximating the finished colors of the different components. FM produced three variants, an A6M2, A6M3, and an A6M5. Each was distributed by bundling half the sprues with an issue of Model Graphics magazine. The magazines featured references, a gallery of finished Zeros, a build article, kit instructions, and even a cut-out for those wishing to make their own box! All in Japanese, of course, but still useful.

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Here is a comparison of the interior components of the three kits. At the top is Hasegawa. While not as detailed as the Fine Molds or Tamiya offerings, the older Hasegawa kits offer every Zero variant except the -K trainer, and are generally accurate in shape. The liabilities are typical for Hasegawa – Spartan cockpits and shallow wheelwells. The middle components in the green plastic are from Fine Molds, an outstanding kit in every respect. At the bottom Tamiya’s Zeros, are some of the best kits ever produced in 1/72 scale.

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The lower wing parts are finely engraved and feature recessed panel lines on all three kits. The Hasegawa offering at the top has shallow wheel wells molded into the part, the other two have deep wells which go all the way to the upper wing part. Note the cut-outs on the Fine Molds wing in the center which allow for variations.

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The lines of FM and Tamiya’s A6M2’s are a very close match, with just a few differences in engineering. Here is a shot of the FM (near) fuselage taped up with the Hasegawa. The vertical stabilizer is a bit too broad on the Hasegawa Zero, but this is easy enough to correct.

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To update the Hasegawa kits, I decided to substitute castings of superior components from the other two. Here are the wheelwells cut from the Fine Molds kit and prepared for casting.

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The borrowed components are ready for the pouring of RTV rubber molding material. The frames are made from Lego blocks, with masking tape underneath. The masking tape seals the bottom of the molds, and allows the masters to be fixed in place. I mainly used FM parts because the cockpit floors were slightly narrower than those in the Tamiya kit, which fit the Hasegawa fuselage better. The Tamiya kit parts would also work. The white assembly in the upper left corner is made from Evergreen stock, and will fit behind the horseshoe-shaped frame aft of the pilot’s seat. When the castings are completed I will have the parts needed to update the Hasegawa kits, and add a little more detail to the visible area behind the pilot’s seat on all the builds.

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Once the RTV molds have cured, the actual casting doesn’t take much time. Pour, wait, pop, repeat. In between pours, stringer detail and other details can be made from 0.010″ square Plastistruct and added. Here is a shot of the progress on a Hasegawa, Fine Molds, and Tamiya cockpits, from top to bottom. The Hasegawa kits will get a whole new cockpit, the others get a few enhancements.

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Here are the basic colors in place, which allows some of the detail to show. The interiors were first primed with Alclad black. The Aotake translucent protective coating could vary in shade from blues to greens, mine is a 50 / 50 mix of Alclad transparent green and transparent blue over Aluminum. I used Model Master Interior Green FS 34151 for the Mitsubishi cockpit green. This was misted down over the black primer to leave a shadow effect in the nooks and crannies. Two additional lighter mixes were sprayed from directly above to enhance the highlights.

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Here’s all seven cockpits in the basic colors, no washes or detail painting have been added at this point. These assemblies are about 1.25 inches long (32 mm), much smaller than shown in the picture. The cockpit in the upper left was painted with mixes of Model Master Interior Green, Light Gull Gray, and Radome Tan to represent the early Nakajima color. From above, the effect of misting the color layers on to leave the black shadowing is more subtle, but still provides the definition needed to show detail.

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I have added pads for the seats, painted as either canvas or leather. Seat belts are Eduard PE, and Eduard provides different style belts for each manufacturer. Most of the wire detail was added with 32 gauge beading wire from the craft store, levers are 0.010″ & 0.015″ Plastistruct rod. Instrument decals are from the kits and the spares box, Fine Molds provided the most comprehensive decal sheet of the three.

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This is a tub posed with the sidewalls from a Hasegawa kit. Everything was sealed with Future (Kleer), then given a wash of thin black enamel. Switches were drybrushed with silver to bring out details.

Shigetoshi Kudo, the First Nightfighter Ace of the Pacific War

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.

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Chief Petty Officer Shigetoshi Kudo poses with his Mitsubishi C5M “Babs” reconnaissance plane. On August 29, 1942 Kudo intercepted a formation of eight B-17s attacking Rabaul. He flew above the formation and dropped air-to-air bombs, reporting claims for one destroyed and one probable. American records did not show any losses.

 

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251 NAG commanding officer CDR Yasuna Kozono on the left, CPO Shigetoshi Kudo on the right at Rabaul. Kudo holds a presentation sword inscribed “For Conspicuous Military Valor”, Kozono ordered the modification of the J1N1 Gekko to carry the oblique cannons.

 

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A J1N1 Gekko “Irving” nightfighter showing the 20mm cannon installations above and below the fuselage. This aircraft carries an overall black or dark green finish and the tail codes of the Yokosuka Naval Air Group. The Gekko flown by Kudo over Rabaul was camouflaged in dark green over light gray-green and carried the tail codes UI-13.

 

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On May 21, 1943 Kudo claimed his first night victories in the J1N1, both B-17Es. The first was 41-9244 “Honi Kuu Okole”, the second an unnamed Fortress, 41-9011. Neither aircraft was seen to go down, the Americans attributing their losses to a mid-air collision. Only seven crewmen of the twenty carried by the two aircraft survived the crashes. Six were executed by the Japanese at Rabaul, bombardier Gordon Manual evaded capture with the help of natives and was eventually rescued by the submarine USS Gato (SS-212) eight months later. Honi Kuu Okole was originally requisitioned from a Royal Air Force order and was one of four Fortresses in the Pacific camouflaged in the RAF Temperate Sea scheme. Model of Honi Kuu Okole here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/10/08/airfix-boeing-b-17e-conversion-honi-kuu-okole-in-1-72-scale/

 

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B-17F “Georgia Peach” 41-24454 was downed by Kudo on June 13, 1943. One of eighteen B17s attacking the airfield at Vunakanau, her loss was attributed to anti-aircraft fire by the Americans. Two of her crew survived the crash, Navigator Philip Bek was executed at Rabaul, Bombardier Jack Wisener survived the war as a POW.

 

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Seen here taking off from Townville, Australia is B-17E “Naughty But Nice” serial number 41-2430. Kudo shot her down on June 26, 1943, her loss again being attributed by the Americans to flak. 41-2430 was finished in the Hawaiian Air Depot camouflage scheme.

 

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The nose art of “Naughty But Nice” is currently on display at the Kokopo War Museum at Rabaul, New Britain. The remains of the Fortress and her crew were discovered in 1982 by a team including the sole survivor of her crash, Navigator Jose Holguin, who returned the remains of his crewmates to the United States.

 

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Kudo’s second victim on the night of June 26, 1943 was B-17F “Taxpayers Pride”, serial number 41-24448. Waist gunner Joel Griffin was the sole survivor from the crew of ten, he survived the war as a POW. (Australian War Memorial photograph)

 

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B-17F “Pluto II” serial number 41-24543 was claimed by Kudo on June 30, 1943, his sixth Flying Fortress. All ten members of her crew were lost, including Australian William MacKay who was sent to operate a new radar set. Kudo also put in claims for a B-24 but American records only show one B-24 loss on that date, B-24D 42-40254 which was sent on a weather reconnaissance mission and never checked in. Other sources credit another J1N1 nightfighter pilot, LTJG Satoru Ono, with her destruction.
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Kudo’s final victory was a Lockheed Hudson of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No. 3 Squadron, NZ 2033 serial number 3856 operating from Guadalcanal. She was lost with all four of her crew on 13 July 1943 on flare dropping mission. Pictured is another No. 3 Squadron Hudson, NZ 2035.

Nakajima G8N Renzan 連山 (Mountain Range), Allied Reporting Name “Rita”

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The Nakajima G8N Renzan was developed in response to an Imperial Japanese Navy requirement for a long range land-based attack bomber.  The prototype first flew on 23OCT44 and was delivered to the IJN in January 1945.

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The specification called for a heavy defensive armament.  Six Type 99 20 mm cannon were mounted in powered turrets located in dorsal, ventral, and tail positions, augmented with four 13 mm Type 2 machine guns mounted  two in the nose and one in each beam position.

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The aircraft was powered by four Homare 24 radials rated at 2,000 hp each.  These were mounted behind gear-driven cooling fans to prevent over-heating.  The engines were turbocharged, but these were problematic and the Japanese struggled to develop reliable turbochargers during the war.

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Four prototypes were produced but the design never entered series production due to the deteriorating war situation.  Overall flight characteristics were reported to be good.  This is the second prototype seen after the war in a hanger at Yokosuka.

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The prototypes were finished in an overall orange scheme which was typical for Japanese prototypes and trainers.  Cowlings were black.  Note that the yellow wing leading edge identification panels were not applied to these aircraft.  Propellers were removed to comply with U.S. directives after the surrender.

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The starboard side shows blast damage to the rear fuselage.  The third prototype was destroyed on the ground by U.S. Navy aircraft.

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After the war the fourth prototype Renzan was selected to be removed to the U.S. for evaluation.  It was transported as deck cargo along with several other types aboard the escort carrier USS Bogue (CVE-9).

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Cockpit layout was conventional, the aircraft carried a crew of ten.  The design was modified to allow the Ohka special attack aircraft to be carried.

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This is not the best quality photograph, but interior pictures of the Renzan are rare.  This is the bomb bay.  Intended bomb load was two 1,000 kg bombs, 4,400 pounds total.

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This is the fourth prototype being reassembled in Newark, New Jersey for evaluation.

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Hasegawa issued a kit of the Renzan in 1968 in 1/72 scale and has reboxed it several times.  While not a bad kit for its time, it would need a lot of work to bring up to current standards.  It’s best described as a “rivet monster” as that was the surface detailing standard of the time, but surprisingly an aftermarket set of resin exhausts have recently been released by Quickboost.

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After evaluation, the aircraft brought to the United States was scrapped.  None of the Renzan survive today.

Mania Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” of the Royal Thai Air Force in 1/72 Scale

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.

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ICM Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” of Capt Hyoe Yonaga in 1/72nd Scale

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.

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ICM Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” of 2LT Hiromichi Shinohara in 1/72nd Scale

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.

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Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” Build in 1/72 Scale, Mania and ICM Kits Part III

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Two of the Nates I’m modeling were camouflaged.  Here I am using “poster putty” to mask off the tan segments of the upper surface camo.  The wing trailing edges and tail surfaces are protected using regular masking tape.  The wheels are also protected against overspray with tape.  Sharp-eyed readers will note that one of the wheels has broken off again.

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This Ki-27 is in Thai markings from Print Scale sheet 72-080.  The decals went on without any issues, but be ready as they separate from the backing sheet within a couple of seconds of touching the water.  There are markings for two different Thai Nates on the Print scale sheet.  There is a small error though, three of the elephants on the tail markings face to the left, only one faces to the right.  The elephants are always supposed to face forward on the aircraft, so you’ll need two of each if you want to use both sets of markings.  You can side-step the issue by doing a late war bird, the tail elephant markings were replaced with red-white-blue-white-red rudder stripes.

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Kit decals were used for the victory markings and lightning flash on this model, the Hinomaru and nose band are painted.  This is not the same aircraft as the box art but is from the same Sentai.  The wing walk area was masked after the rest of the model was painted and shot with Mr. Color tire black.

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I love the camouflage on this one, it was a field applied pattern.  The canopy frames remained in the light gray green factory paint.  These markings and Hinomaru are all from the ICM decal sheet, I didn’t use masks for the Hinomaru to ensure the reds were all the same tone.

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Here is the Mania kit completed.  I re-built the cockpit and added vacuform transparencies from Squadron.  The antenna mast, pitot tube, and gun sight are replacements, the kit parts were a bit clunky.  The cockpit opening is located too far to the rear, the horizontal tail planes are slightly too far forward.  The molding is not as refined and lacks the surface detail of the ICM offering, but it is easy to assemble.  I wouldn’t shy away from building another, but I would correct the cockpit opening position and the tail position the next time.

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This is one of the ICM kits.  I gave all the models a dark acrylic wash to bring out the surface details.  ICM replicates the rivet details on the surface, but these are so finely engraved that they are difficult to see even with a wash but they are there.  I like the texture, but I really doubt you could see rivets in 1/72 scale so the subtlety is accurate.  The shapes are superior to the older Mania kit, and the fuselage is more slender.  This is the better kit of the two and is more accurate.  BUT, ICM has made the kit more complex than it has to be.  There is lots of detail behind the engine which can never be seen, my advice is to simply leave it all out.  The interior structure for the tail skid also doesn’t fit and should be cut away.  The biggest problem with the kit is the landing gear, which are unnecessarily complicated and weak.

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Here is the second ICM kit.  The antenna wires are Uschi elastic line.  Since I did not use the kit’s engine exhaust parts I fabricated exhaust stubs from brass tubing flattened into ovals.  The seat has Eduard belts, but other than those additions it is all out of the box.