Sunday 31 March 2013

Visitors - The Italian Connection

The very first international aviators to visit Japan were the four crew members of the two Italian Ansaldo SVA 9 aircraft who arrived in Yoyogi Parade Ground of Tokyo on May 31, 1920. They were Lt. Arturo Ferrarin with Gino Cappannini and Lt. Guido Masiero with Roberto Maretto.
An excellent article full of details about this flight can be found HERE, a really very good site about aviation pioneers from around the world.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Vintage magazine cover

The March 1942 issue of magazine "Seinen" (Youth) featured the dorsal machine gunner of an Army Type 93 Twin-engine Light Bomber or Mitsubishi Ki-2-I while a pair of Mitsubishi Ki-30 "Ann" were in the background. The machine gun is a Type 89 7.7 mm twin flexible. The colours chosen for the illustration are surprisingly accurate and a good indication of the early IJAAF 2 or 3-tone camouflage of the 30s; dark green and earth sometimes with sandy yellow separated by white lines.

Friday 29 March 2013

Mitsubishi A5M1 & A5M2a "Claude"

Although the tail markings are censored the photo most probably shows three "Claudes" belonging to the 13Kokutai around September 10, 1937 when the unit advanced to Kunda airfield in the suburbs of Shanghai. The aircraft on the left is a Type 96 Carrier Fighter Model 2-1 or Mitsubishi A5M2a sporting probably 2-tone brown and dark green black camouflage, while the one on the right is a Type 96 Model 1 or A5M1 without any camo, overall silver with a red tail. 
The tail marking of the unit at that time was "T-XXX" which changed to "4-XXX" a month later.

The red tail called "hoantosho" (lit: safety paint) was adopted by the IJNAF from June 5, 1933 as a measure to make the aircraft easily spotted when on water during emergency landings etc. It was gradually deleted on camouflaged combat aircraft during the Sino-Japanese War but was retained on aircraft serving on the mainland. It was officially abolished around March 1942 although it had been stopped to be applied as early as 1939. 

Thursday 28 March 2013

Avro 504K - Nippon Hiko Gakko

On August 17, 1927 a group of actresses of the Imperial Theatre visited the installations of "Nippon Hiko Gakko" (Japan Flying School) in Tachikawa. They were members of the 6th graduating class and each of them thoroughly enjoyed a 10-minute flight with the Avro 504K of the school. One of them commented "I would love to continue flying as far as Osaka."

The inscription on the fuselage side reads, top: NIPPON HIKO GAKKO, lower: TOKYO TACHIKAWA

The "Teikoku Gekijo" (Imperial Theatre) is still standing and is operational (Link1, Link2). Back then they had classes for actors and actresses that upon graduation were permanent members of the establishment.
"Nippon Hiko Gakko" was established in August 1916 in Haneda airfield and in 1936 the school fleet was made up of only six vintage aircraft among them an Avro 504K, a Salmson 2A2, a Nieuport 24 and the single Cauldron C-161 imported from Kawasaki. On January 12, 1923 a branch was established in Tachikawa airfield explicitly to train pilots.    

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Yokosuka R2Y "Keiun" - Modeling

The subject is the Fine Molds kit in 1:72, out-of-the-box, and I will also use the white metal after-market set also by Fine Molds that curiously includes a "wooden" cart. The building process will be featured on this posting alone.
C numbers correspond to Mr Color paints, X/XF numbers to Tamiya.

First I start with the cockpit instructions of the kit and the after-market set that explains how the belts are to be placed on the three seats.

Here are the parts for the cockpit. There is little flash here and there but nothing dramatic. Detail is also fairly good.

Below are the paint instructions for the belts and the after-market set.

The instructions say that the seat belts should be painted red brown (C-41, XF-64) and khaki (C-55, XF-49) with silver (C-8, X-11) buckles. They are really tiny but I'll do my best.

After experiencing some difficulties with the airbrush I managed to paint the cockpit. The instructions call for Nakajima Cockpit Color (Mr. Color C-127); no equivalent to Tamiya paints.
The cockpit has two hands of paint and I painted one hand a "Hayabusa" wing to show how the color looks straight on plastic. They are placed next to a "Federal Standard 595B Colors" deck. Considering the glossiness of the paint and the difference in the medium it is applied on (paper vs plastic), the closest I could find is FS14257 which is a bit darker than the Mr Color paint. Below are photos taken without flash and HERE is the link for the color chip from the FS site.

More progress during the weekend and the past couple days after struggling with the tiny seatbelts.

I used soot, gun metal and silver from two Tamiya Weathering Master sets, and the brown from an old eye-shadow compact kit my wife didn't use any more to weather the cockpit and bring out the details. The result is most satisfying. I hope you like what I have done so far.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Yokosuka R2Y "Keiun" - Kits

In 1:72 the Fine Molds kit is the best around and available.
It has been released in two different boxes, the older suggesting gray for the lower surfaces.

The one released in 2001, code FP23, recommended prototype orange for the lower surfaces and is available through our on-line store.

Other more exotic kits were the one released by CMK which was resin and home-made. Didn't include any decals and the resin (with the occasional bubble) was so soft it melted with the summer heat.

And finally the Eagles vacform which had a pretty accurate shape but it gave only seats for the interior and no decals.

In 1:48 the only known kit was the resin released by Raccoon Models, code MPRCC4843. Extremely rare as all Raccoon Model kits are.

In 1:700 Pit Road has released two sets of metal planes. One called "Nihon Kaigun Tokushu Kogekiki" (IJNAF Special Attackers) code SP-53 which includes four Nakajima "Kikka" and two "Keiun".

And the set named "Nihon Kaigun Keikakuki Seto" (Japanese Navy Experimental Plane set), code MP-62, which includes two "Keiun", three "Kikka" and three "Shusui".

In 1:144 the ANiGRAND resin kit of Nakajima G5N1/2 "Shinzan" (Liz), code AA-4037, includes one Kawasaki Ki-78, one "Zuiun" and one "Keiun". 

Yokosuka R2Y "Keiun" - Photos

A set of photos from the July 1953 issue of the discontinued magazine "Sekai no Kokuki" (The world's aircraft) showing the "Keiun" remains found near Kisarazu airfield, Chiba prefecture after the end of the War. As far as we know these photos have never been featured again in any other publication.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Yokosuka R2Y "Keiun" - Translations


*Short for "Koku Gijutsu-sho" (Aviation Technical Arsenal). The "Yokosuka Kaigun Ko-sho" (Yokosuka Naval Arsenal) was known by various acronyms depending on the names the Arsenal received at various times of its history. "Yokosho" is one, but there were also "Kusho" (Kaigun Koku-sho), "Kugisho" (Kaigun Koku Gijutsu-sho) and "Ichi-Gisho" (Dai-Ichi Kaigun Gijutsu-sho). "Yokosuka" is the most "popular" name but early pre-WWII aircraft types are commonly referred to as "Yokosho" in Japanese literature. Later types like the "Suisei" or "Ginga" are usually referred as "Kugisho". In the Western literature (ex. Francillon) they are all called "Yokosuka".

** Not "Beautiful Cloud" as in Francillon. Japanese give names to clouds depending on their shape, from proverbs and other things. For example, the cloud known as "Cirrocumulus" in Japanese is called "Urokogumo" ("Cloud with the shape of a fish scale"; Uroko=fish scale, Kumo=cloud). Another example, "Cumulonimbus" in Japanese is "Nyudogumo" ("Cloud with the shape of a Buddhist monk's shaven head"). The rare and beautiful phenomenon called Cloud Iridescence was always seen by the Japanese as an exceptional event and the clouds were called by a variety of names like "SAIUN", "ZUIUN", "SHIUN", "KEIUN" and more (note that all are IJNAF aircraft type names). According to Buddhism, Amida Nyorai appears on the deathbed of a person on a 5-color cloud to take the deceased to heaven (see Japanese painting called Raigo). So the Cloud Iridescence phenomenon where the clouds seem to take various colors like a rainbow reminded the Japanese of the 5-color cloud and the paintings of Buddhist tradition and therefore gave the iridescent clouds such names as "Shiun" which was considered to be a sign of auspicious events or "Keiun" a chance to celebrate, a happy event. 
Therefore, it is understandably extremely difficult to translate some aircraft names into English and Western aviation authors had to cut many corners.

"Keiun" was an aircraft with an eccentric outward appearance but the design was obviously a failure.

From the outbreak of war in the Pacific, the lack of a land-based reconnaissance aircraft with cutting-edge performance that could cover such a vast theater was keenly felt by the Navy. Since the prototype for the 13-Shi twin engine fighter (Made by Mitsubishi, mentioned in Francillon, page 547) requirement was rejected, this mission was diverted to the Type 2 field Reconnaissance aircraft or Nakajima J1N(Irving). But both their numbers and their performance were limited, and in order to augment their service, the JNAF made arrangements with the Army to "borrow" a few of their Type 100 Command Reconnaissance or Mitsubishi Ki-46 (Dinah) aircraft.
By 1943, a solution seemed near, as Kugisho started to test- produce the 18-Shi Field Reconnaissance Aircraft, purposely designed to JNAF requirements and assigned the name "Keiun".
Early in its design stages, a fateful decision was made for the in-line installation of two German DB601 liquid-cooled engines, produced domestically in Japan as "Atsuta" (Type 30), in what was termed a "twin-type" mounting, with the two powerplants buried front-and-back in the fuselage. The engines were connected, to each other and to the propeller, via a long extension shaft. It was a bold technique by which to meet a longstanding problem of insufficient horsepower; but with mediocre results.
By this stage of the war, severe attrition in air combat and Allied ground attacks meant an urgent need for the development of additional aircraft of all types, so in retrospect it's difficult to understand why such an eccentric design was allocated so much time and funding.  But once both had been invested, apparently the Navy found it hard to admit defeat, though eventually few Navy insiders backed the project; objections to its further development mounted, and in June 1944, it was decided to halt the test-production of Keiun “temporarily.”  
Plans had already been drawn up, however, to equip the type with jet engines and produce it as an attack bomber,  that would be called "Keiun Kai".  Thus the development of a "Keiun" to be used as a research plane for that program began, with one airplane being finished by the end of April, 1945. 
But the reckless engine arrangement often caused problems and the test flights conducted until the end of the war, were not satisfactory. The plane was just a waste of valuable labor and materials during the war.

Artist’s impression of the proposed "Keiun Kai".
The "Keiun Kai" was to be based on the "Keiun", equipped with two "Ne-330" turbojet engines, installed side-by-side inside the rear section of the fuselage, with an air intake arrangement at the tip of the nose.  But since the "Ne-330" never came to fruition as a viable aircraft engine, and the earlier model of "Keiun" was of unreliable and disappointing performance, it is doubtful that the "Keiun Kai" would have seen mass production even if the war had continued.

From Koku Fan Illustrated No.99
P. 104-105:
The text follows Francillon's (pages 472-475) more detailed history of the plane. Only differences or extras are the following: The test flights of the plane were conducted on May 27 and 29 (Note that Francillon mentions May 8 with pilot's name, not mentioned in Koku Fan). In the first test flight, it just took off and in the second, flew until altitude 600 m. but had engine overheating (fire occurred) problems. Flying time was about 10 min and although handling problems didn't occur, it had the same problems with the He119. (Nothing is mentioned about the changing of the engine or it's final fate as in Francillon).
In the "Keiun Kai", the twin jet engine's exhausts, would be positioned close to the tail, so the horizontal tail surfaces were to be positioned higher. (Note this detail in the design in the X-planes).

Aircraft Data
From "Nihon Riku-Kaigun Shisaku / Keikakuki":
Wing Span: 14.0m
Full Length: 13.05m
Full Height: 4.24m
Weight: 6,015kg
Fully Equipped: 8,100kg
Engine: Aichi "HA 70" 01 Type water cooled (?) V type twin-type 24 cylinders 3,400hp X 1
Max. Speed: 783km/h (estimated)
Range: 1,269km (estimated)
Crew: 2.

From Koku Fan Illustrated No.99:
same as above plus:
Wing Area: 34.0 m2
Max. Weight: 9,400kg
Crew: 2-3
Propeller: VDM constant speed 6 blade, diameter: 3.800m
Fuel: 1,556 l. + 1,764 l.
Max. Speed: 741km/h (at 10,000m)
Cruising Speed: 463km/h (at 4,000m)
Landing Speed: 166km/h
Min. to 10,000m: 21
Practical High Altitude: 11,700m
Flying Range: 3,6km
Armament: None

Data for "Keiun Kai":
Wing Span: 14.00m
Full Length: 9.250m
Wing Area: 34.00 sqm
Weight: 5,700kg
Fully Equipped: 8,850kg
Max: 9,950kg
Crew: 2-3
Fuel: 5,000 l.
Performance (estimated):
Max. Speed: 783-796km/h (at 6,000m),
Landing Speed: 159km/h,
Climb to 10,000m: 7 min.
Practical Altitude: 10,500m
Range: 1,269km
Armament: Torpedo (!!!!?????) or 800kg bomb.
Note the inconsistency between the weight/fuel capacity of "Keiun" and "Keiun Kai".

Friday 22 March 2013

Japanese X-plane Library #2

Title: "Rikugun Shisaku Sentoki - Army Experimental Fighters"
Author: Various
Published by: Bunrindo 1990 p/b, In print
Pages: 96, Size: 18X26cm, Photos: 138 b/w, Illustrations: b/w drawings for each type.

An important publication for all the IJAAF X-fighters of the usual practical and light Bunrindo size, in low price. It combines material from the previously published FAOW#76 & #94 and is highly recommended for the photographic material. 

Types covered: Kawasaki Ki-5, Nakajima Ki-8, Nakajima Ki-11, Nakajima Ki-12, Mitsubishi Ki-18, Kawasaki Ki-28, Mitsubishi Ki-33, Kawasaki Ki-60, Kawasaki Ki-64, Mitsubishi Ki-83, Nakajima Ki-87, Tachikawa Ki-94, Kawasaki Ki-96, Kawasaki Ki-102 and Kawasaki Ki-108.

Also the following articles:
1. "Army Experimental Fighters Ki-8~Ki-94" - various authors
2. "From Ki-96 to Ki-102" - Nemoto Tsuyoshi (or Takeshi) (Former Kawasaki engineer)
3. "Ki-108/Ki-108Kai high altitude fighter" - Doi Takeo (introduction not necessary)
4. "Army Experimental Fighters that remained plans" - Akimoto Minoru
5. "Army Experimental Fighters from the notes of a test department member" - Kimura Noboru (Member of the Army Test Department with the rank of Major)
6. Data for each type
7. Drawings by Nohara Shigeru

The book is all in Japanese and highly recommended to all Japanese X-plane fans.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

NEW! - Hasegawa - Experimental "Shoki"

Hasegawa has just released a most interesting Nakajima Ki-44-I "Shoki" with contra-rotating propellers!!!
Scale is 1:48, "Limited Edition", Kit number: 07331.
Excellent choice Hasegawa!

The props are metal and there are options for two aircraft; the one with the contra-rotating props and an early production Ki-44-II Ko with one 3-blade prop. 
Marking & Painting instructions of the kit.
Only one "Shoki" was fitted and tested with the contra-rotating props and there is only photo of the aircraft is below. Unfortunately the tail is not visible but it doesn't seem to have any tail marking. If it had it could be just a katakana

The second "Shoki", c/n 1308, is seen in the photo below tested in Fussa, Tokyo by "Rikugun Koku Shinsa-bu" (Army Aviation Test Department). Note the oil cooler shape on both aircraft. These are provided in the kit. 

Limited numbers of the kit are available through our on-line store. Our price is: $US42.00 including postage by Air. Email us if interested.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Library - 53rd Sentai - Kill marking

One of the least known books about the Kawasaki Ki-45 "Toryu" (Nick) is a pocket publication by Watanabe Yoji, published by Sankei Shupan, December 1983 entitled simply "ARMY FIGHTER Ki45-Kai", number #96 in their "Dai Niji Sekai Taishen Books" series.
The back cover features a very interesting photo never reproduced in any other publication; a Ki-45 with four B-29 kill markings painted on the fuselage side behind the observer. Note also that nobody has ever created artwork of this plane. According to the caption the photo was taken in Matsudo airfield in 1945 and the Ki-45 Hei belonged to the 53rd Sentai. It is the only "Toryu" we know of with that many kill markings and on this specific position but unfortunately there is no further information regarding the identity of the crew or the hikotai to deduce a tail marking.
The leading ace of the 53rd Sentai was M. Sgt Negishi Nobuji and his radio man T. Sgt Torizuka Moriyoshi, both recipients of the "Bukosho". The pilot in the photo does not look like Nobuji though and we were unable to find any other 53rd Sentai pilot with more than three B-29 claims. Your suggestions are welcomed.

Monday 18 March 2013

Vintage magazine cover - Kill marking

Cover of magazine "Asahi Graph", February 21, 1945 issue. Photo taken by reporter Sano.
The caption says: "Azayakana gekitsui no shirushi aiki ni notte kurai yoru sutsugekki suru waga seikutai yushi.  -  Hondo seikutai OO kichi ni te". [A "beloved*" airplane with a clear victory marking with one of our braves (in the controls) getting ready to take-off for another attack in the dark night.  -  At the XX base of mainland "seikutai"."

The aircraft is a Kawasaki Ki-45 "Toryu" (Nick) and the mention of the word "seikutai" in the caption indicates that it probably belonged to the 53rd Sentai which had a B-29 ramming unit called "Shinten Seikutai" (Heaven-Shaking Air Superiority Unit). Ramming Ki-45s were unarmed, had explosives in the rear pilot's seat and very often had the radio mast cut shorter. The also never operated at night. So the existence of the killing marking and the long radio mast suggest that this particular pilot and the aircraft were previous members of the ramming unit and were diverted to the "normal" fighting unit. This was the case with various members of the "Shinten Seikutai" unit. Originally assigned to a ramming unit they were diverted back to their fighter unit when B-29s started bombing at night.
From the available 53rd Sentai photos we can make out only two Ki-45s with the single color top camouflage, described as either dark green top, haryokushoku bottom or dark brown top, hairyokushoku bottom; all the other Ki-45s of the unit have blotches or squiggles. One such Ki-45 belonged to the flight leader (name unknown) of the 3rd Hikotai within the unit without the distinctive arrow of the seikutai unit and a white "59" on the tail. The second belonged to Sgt Aoyama Toshiaki who was a member of the seikutai unit and his Ki-45 has the arrow and a white "33" on the tail. Unfortunately the only photo of his airplane (FAOW 21, p. 85) is shot from the rear, the spinners are not visible and we have no further information about the pilot at the moment. Therefore our suggestion (based only on the caption) cannot be presently confirmed.

*A few years back I had an argument with a Japanese aircraft expert from the US regarding the correct translation of the Japanese word "aiki" which is how very often Japanese pilots called their personal aircraft. The word "ai" in Japanese means "love" and "ki" is part of "hikoki" which means airplane. Therefore, according to our opinion, the word "aiki" can be translated as "beloved plane" (synonyms for the word "beloved" are: darling, dear, precious, adored, cherished, treasured and valued; all very suitable. In Greek the word "αγαπημένο" describes perfectly the meaning without the need of synonyms.) although we feel that the word "precious" is much closer.
The US researcher insisted that since all aircraft belonged to the Emperor they could not belong to a certain pilot, therefore the proper translation of the word "aiki" is simply "his aircraft". Ignoring the contradiction created by the fact that the possessive "his" automatically cancels this opinion, we find it especially dry and impersonal, without a hint of the emotional bond Japanese pilots (and from all over the world indeed) created with a certain aircraft that brought them back home safely. Time and again during our discussions with Japanese veterans the word "aiki" is used by them with such strong emotions that even the world "darling", usually reserved for spouses, could describe. I hope you will allow us to use the translation "precious aircraft" or other synonyms in this blog.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Kawasaki Ki-48 "Lily" - 75th Sentai Tokkotai units

In April 1944 the 75th Sentai, a unit equipped exclusively with Type 99 Twin-engined Light Bomber or Kawasaki Ki-48 "99 shokei" (Lily) was ordered to relocate to the Philippines together with other Papua/New Guinea units. From October 23, 1944 the unit with whatever aircraft left was based in Lipa airfield near Manila (Lipa city) where it received further orders to pull back to Japan to be re-equipped with new aircraft and replenish the losses in personnel. The order was not urgently enforced though since there was no other light bomber unit.
From December 8, 1944, preparations begun for Operation LOVE III, the invasion of Mindoro Island by US Forces. Exactly that same day a tokko (special attack) unit with 12 (or 10 according to other sources) members from the 75th Sentai and three members of the 208th Sentai was organised and was named "Kyoko-tai" (Morning Sunlight) with 2nd LT Naga Mikyo as commander.
One week later a second tokko unit was organised with five 75th Sentai members, this time called "Wakazakura-tai" (Young Cherry Blossoms) commanded by 2nd LT Tsumura Masao. Both units were equipped with specially modified Ki-48s.
Although originally the aircraft carried one unjetisonable Navy 800kg bomb and had three 3-meter long rods with contact fuses on their tips, the Aviation Arsenal in Manila modified a number of aircraft for such missions with jetisonable bombs and only one rod through the nose.

Both tokko units were especially active during the efforts to stop the Mindoro invasion force. On December 13 the "Kyoko-tai" first took-off and headed towards Mindoro island but failed to spot the US Forces. Two days later one Kyoko-tai "Lily" escorted by fighters hit a US ship, south of Mindoro. One more aircraft attacked the US Forces near Mindoro the next day but with unknown results.
On December 20 one Ki-48 from the "Wakazakura-tai", one from another Ki-48 tokko unit called "Banda-tai" and two Nakajima Ki-84 belonging to the "Seika-tai" escorted by three fighters took-off at 15:00 from Manila and attacked ships in Lingayen Gulf, Luzon singing one transport. The "Wakazakura-tai" Ki-48 was piloted by Corp Yomura Goro and was named "Hakone" (Hakone). It was the personal aircraft of the 75th CO Doi Tsutomu and was equipped with a 500kg bomb.
On December 21 one aircraft from the "Kyoko-tai" took-off from Bacolod airfield in the Negros island attacking the US Forces while another did the same on the 29th in the area south of Mindoro.
From January 6, 1945 until the 12th the remaining pilots of the "Kyoko-tai" perished attacking enemy ships in the Lingayen Gulf area while the remaining four pilots of the "Wakazakura-tai" took-off from Caloocan airfield of Manila the next day and gave their lives attacking ships in the same area.
The rest of the 75th Sentai reached Japan by March via Taiwan.

The memory of the two tokko units from the 75th Sentai is preserved in short films taken by IJAAF reporters. The scenes are ofcourse edited and we cannot be sure the exact dates they were filmed but we estimate that they were taken during the actions of December 13 and December 20.
Below are a few stills.

The three stills above were possibly taken on December 13. Note "Lily" with number "2" on the tail and the half open bomb bay housing probably a too big 800kg bomb. Note also the luck of contact rod in the nose.

The stills below were probably taken on December 20.

Commander of the 4th Air Army LT General Tominaga Kyoji was there to give last farewells to the pilots. He is seen in the middle holding his katana high, surrounded by other IJAAF officers.

The first aircraft to take-off in the sequel has what looks to be a white number "7" on the tail and a contact rod on the nose.

 The second aircraft has a white "6" on the tail. Note the heavy camouflage.

Finally the same Ki-48 with the "2" on the tail is taking-off.

Sources for all the above:
1. "Rikugun Tokubetsu Kogekitai" DVD by Nihon Eiga Shinsha
2. Model Art #451 "Rikugun Tokubetsu Kogekitai"
3. "Senshi Sosho #48: Philippine & Se-go Rikugun Koku Sakusen"
4. "Waga Ozora No Kessen" by Doi Tsutomu, Kojinsha     

Monday 11 March 2013

Pete resting on the beach...WIP #4 by Panagiotis Koubetsos

Hi! Here are some photos of the finished Hasegawa 1/48 Mitsubishi F1M2 "Pete" model. The build was OOB, something against my preferences. The seaplane will be part of a big diorama set in Satawan Atoll, in 1943.
-Panagiotis Koubetsos-
Panagiotis says he had some difficulty with the wash. How do you like the result? 

Check HERE & HERE for previous posts.