The Oscars are complete, seven examples from four different manufacturers. I’ve always liked the look of the Ki-43, and there is no lack of colorful schemes. Arma Hobby has stated that more Japanese subjects are in their pipeline, here’s hoping that a new-tool state-of-the-art Oscar is next from them!
Here are the two Fujimi Ki-43-I. These are excellent kits and a real pleasure to build. No fit problems of any consequence. I added some Evergreen detail to the cockpits, wire brake lines, and pitot tubes from Albion stock and Nitenol (all seven kits got these). The erroneous landing light on the wing leading edge was filled. The gun gas vents on the upper nose are scribed too low, I drilled them out a bit higher. One commonly overlooked detail is the two rear canopy braces are inside the glazing, not external. These were made from 0.015″ Evergreen, painted RLM 66 gray, and fixed in place with LiquiTape. Gear down indicators were added from 0.01″ wire and painted red. Fine Molds has released a Ki-43-I which is said to be spectacular, but I have only ever seen one in person as it is ridiculously hard to find.
This is the Hasegawa Ki-43-II kit. This kit has raised panel lines, but otherwise stands up very well. Fit is excellent, no worries getting this one together. I beefed up the engine with another row of cylinders and wired it, plus added detail to the cockpit. The spinner shape is suspect, but I did not replace it on this build. Canopy is a Rob Taurus vacuform. Hasegawa gives you a choice of both styles of the single collected style exhaust types, which allows you to model all but the very last production run of the Ki-43-IIs. Painless kits to build.
Next are the Special Hobby kits, I built two -IIs and one -III. These got all the mods listed for the kits above. These are limited run kits, with all that goes along with that. Normally that means no locating pins, but the major components have pins here. Wish they didn’t though as they don’t line up well and must be removed if you want anything to fit. I had a lot of trouble getting the cowlings on these. There is a separate panel on each side and no positive location to the fuselage. I needed filler on the cowls on all three kits. Special Hobby omitted the cooling slots for the engine accessory section, and the gun gas vents are engraved one panel aft of their actual location. If you correct all this they can be built into nice models, but they are not straight forward builds. These were difficult to finish, but not the worst of the batch.
Last is the AML kit. This one is kitted as the last of the Ki-43-II production run which had individual exhaust stacks, but in a different pattern than seen on the Ki-43-III. Another limited run kit but even more crudely done than the SH offering, and with resin to fill in the gaps. I rarely give up on a model, but this one almost went into the dumpster. The aft fuselage proved to be beyond redemption, and the resin cowling has a different cross-section than the rest of the kit and wasn’t going to go on in any case. In desperation I turned it into a “FrankenOscar” and finished it as a -II, mating the after fuselage and nose from an old LS kit in the spares bin. I paid $5 for this kit at a show, which was about $30 too much. No kits are truly unbuildable but some are just not worth the trouble!
Part I here:
This is one of the three Special Hobby kits ready for paint. Some small details have been added, such as the antenna terminal and holes for the gear indicators. All the vents are opened up and partitioned. The main gear legs were installed to ensure a good bond and to keep it off the bench while drying. All seams were checked with Mr. Surfacer 1000 and refilled as needed, then the whole model was primed with Alclad grey primer.
Painting is underway. My preference for finishing Japanese aircraft is to show some chipping, but most modelers rely on photos taken of derelict aircraft for inspiration and therefore tend to overdo the damage to the paint. Having said that, one of my subjects was photographed (from both sides!) during maintenance wearing a very distressed layer of camo. Cool! A nice challenge, I had to give it a shot. First the model was primed in Alclad gray primer, then given a coat of Alclad Aluminum. Alclad is a lacquer, and if you’ve worked with it you know it bonds well and dries very hard. Both qualities are very important for this process to work. Next small amounts of Micro Mask were applied to areas where chipping was desired.
The model then received the topside color, in this case Model Master Russian Armor Green. I generally use lacquer thinner when airbrushing, but here I used regular enamel thinner as I wanted a weaker bond. The paint was applied in thin layers and built up slowly.
One way to replicate chipping is to actually produce chipping. This was done using regular household masking tape. Seat the tape firmly in a small area and the Micro Mask will help separate the top layer. Once started, the chipped areas can be expanded with repeated pressings of the tape. This is somewhat imprecise. The exact location and size of the chips can be influenced but not completely controlled.
Afterwards the model can be masked as normal to paint on the markings. Most of this masking is done with Yellow Frog Tape. This has a much lower tack than most other masking tapes so the chipped areas won’t be expanded. At least not much.
This is the AML / LS “FrankenOscar” masked off awaiting the markings. I decided to paint everything on this one, no decals were used. Many Japanese aircraft utilized geometric Sentai markings and stripes to identify formation leaders, so they lend themselves to this approach.
The yellow wing identifications are on, as are the Home Defense “bandages”. The Hinomaru are masked off with Maketar masks. These are made from Kabuki tape and several nationalities are represented in their catalog. I have had good luck with them and can recommend them.
Here’s the heavily-chipped model with the markings painted. The chipping has been modified to better represent what can be seen in the photographs. Additional fine chips can be applied using silver paint or pencil. Some of the larger Aluminum areas were “de-chipped” using the topside green and a sharpened sprue to better match what can be seen in the photographs.
I have tried to match the overall impression of the chipped areas from the photographs, but it would be impractical to match each and every individual chip. I’ll post the actual photographs for comparison with the finished model but this shot gives a good impression of the effect.
Part IV here:
This is the Fujimi Ki-43-I assembled. No surprises here, fit was good throughout and it went together without any drama. I adjusted the fit of the cockpit assembly by removing the top of the forward locating tab and sliding everything forward a bit. If you don’t, the pilot’s seat lines up inside the fuselage instead of under the opening. The landing light cover in the wing leading edge is incorrect for a -I and was filled with a block of Evergreen, the Ki-43-I used a magnesium candle under the wing instead. The electric light was not installed until well into the -II series. If you look carefully this one was short-shot at the leading edge of the wing, fortunately an easy fix with some superglue.
This is the Hasegawa Ki-43-II. Again, a nice easy assembly with good fit. Hasegawa provides optional headrests and exhausts for early- and mid-production -IIs. They also provide the very early ventral scoop design, but those -IIs also had a slightly squared-off cowl shape. One thing to correct is the Hayabusa had a smooth spine so the canopy recess behind the cockpit should be filled. Shapes are good, if you don’t mind the raised panel lines.
The Special Hobby kit has nice surface detail, but fit is problematic. There are very fine locating pins for the major components, but these do not line up well. Likewise, the horizontal tail pieces have locating studs which interfere with assembly. Cut them all off. I went zero for three in getting the three-piece cowls on cleanly, no tabs there. The seams on the cowls were filled with superglue and filed back to shape, the photo is at the roughest stage during the filing process. The cooling slot at the rear of the engine accessories section is only represented by engraved panel lines. This is odd as the other three manufacturers all mold slots here. In the picture I have opened up the slot with a razor saw, but haven’t yet inserted the dividing tabs.
This photo is from the end of the fit battle with the Special Hobby kits. A lot of filling and sanding, and I still have to clean up the cooling slots and open up the shell ejector holes on the fuselage.
The AML kit turned out to be a bear to assemble. Fit is poor overall, and the resin parts don’t fit with the plastic. The plastic is “soapy”, which doesn’t help matters. The resin wheelwell does not fit into the wing even with filing, which throws off the fit at the wing roots.
The biggest issue is the tail. As you can see in the pictures, things just don’t line up. The fit here is poor, and the seam turns out at the joint. As I mentioned earlier, the entire aft fuselage is also about 1 mm too deep.
From behind, you can see the horizontal tail pieces are mounted at different heights, and the right fuselage half is thicker than the left with a slight curve to the piece. At the opposite end, the resin cowl does not have the same cross-section as the fuselage and also has no positive attachment points. I quickly went from building the model to trying to salvage the build.
In the end I raided the spares box where I found the remains of one of the LS Oscars from my high school days. The thickness of the AML fuselage was filed down to match the LS tail assembly, which solved a load of problems there.
The LS cowl went on the front, and was blended with superglue. The AML kit also has a recess for the canopy. This was filled with superglue, as were the steps at the wingroots and wing leading edges caused by the wheelwell insert. Sanded down and re-scribed, it looks passable at this point, we’ll see how it looks under primer. I’ll now finish this one as a late Ki-43-II, but not the intended final -II version with the oddly-grouped thruster exhausts. Fortunately, there are several attractive schemes for the -II to choose from.
Part III here:
This is a batch of 1/72 scale Ki-43 Hayabusa kits, Allied reporting name “Oscar”, I built these back in 2015. The Ki-43 was the mainstay of the Japanese Army Air Force during the Pacific War, and served throughout the conflict. 5,919 were produced. There is no shortage of kits, but a modern new-tool kit is needed and overdue. I built seven Oscars together in this batch. Fujimi introduced a very nice kit of the -I version in 1994. Hasegawa has a -II from 1982 with fine raised panel lines. Special Hobby’s kits came out in 2009 but are limited run efforts. The 2006 AML kit is also a limited run, unknown to me when I picked it up at a show for $5.
There are a number of Hayabusa references in English, and many more in Japanese. In my opinion the most useful single book for modelers is the Aero Detail volume. If you are planning to model several Japanese subjects Mikesh’s Japanese Aircraft Interiors is a must-have, but it is difficult to find at a reasonable price. Most of the others were valuable for their profiles and histories.
A comparison of the wing underside sections, Fujimi – Hasegawa – Special Hobby – AML from top to bottom. Wheelwells are simple on the Ki-43 and are easy to mold. Fujimi has the nicest surface detail of the four, very fine and crisp. The AML detail is rather clunky, and there is an unevenness to the surfaces, the texture is similar to a thick coat of paint which didn’t settle smoothly. The wheelwell on the AML kit is provided as a resin insert.
Fuselage sides, again F-H-SH-AML top to bottom. I saw no indications that any of the manufacturers were “inspired” by the others, all appear to be independently researched and molded. The major components matched well to the Kagero Top Drawings, with the exception of the AML fuselage which was about 1mm too thick right before the tail. The Special Hobby kits (third from top) lack the prominent cooling slot for the engine accessory section seen on all the other kits, a strange omission.
Engines are molded as basic flat disks except for AML (lower left), which provides both rows nicely detailed. The extra engine in the lower right is a spare from the undersized Italeri Ju 88. Many years ago I built five LS kits of the Ki-43 and used a spare Italeri engine as my first attempt at an open cowl with an “aftermarket” engine. Not going to open any cowls here, but the Italeri parts will give the engine faces some depth. A bit of nostalgia for me.
Cockpit details were added with Evergreen, here are modifications to the Fujimi kit on the left and Special Hobby on the right. The Fujimi engine looked good hidden behind its oil cooler, the others have the Italeri row sandwiched between the crankcase and the kit part.
The interiors were painted with Alclad Transparent Green over Aluminum, to match the picture in the Aero Detail book. Sorry but this does not photograph well at all. Belts are Eduard PE. Cockpit openings are small so all of this will be difficult to see on the finished models but it is visible if you make the effort to look.
Part II here: