Nakajima Ki-104-Ic "黒の尾/Kurono-o" (Candice)
Aircraft "2" of 3rd Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Headquarter Flight, May 1945 (Whif/Kitbashing), Scale: 1/72
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Nakajima Ki-104 was a further development of the Ki-87; the latter was a Japanese high-altitude fighter-interceptor of World War II, a single seat, exhaust-driven turbo-supercharged engined, low-wing monoplane with a conventional undercarriage.
The Ki-87 was one of several designs of various manufacturers developed in response to American B-29 Superfortress raids on the Home Islands. The Ki-87 followed up on earlier research by Nakajima and the Technical Division of Imperial Army Headquarters into boosting a large radial engine with an exhaust-driven turbo-supercharger, which had begun in 1942, well before the B-29 raids began.
The efforts of the Technical Division of Imperial Army Headquarters eventually culminated into the high-performance, tandem-engine Tachikawa Ki-94-I, while the Ki-87 under the lead of Kunihiro Aoki was developed as a fall-back project, using less stringent requirements.
Nakajima started in July 1943 with the construction of three prototypes, to be completed between November 1944 and January 1945, and seven pre-production aircraft, to be delivered by April 1945.
The Technical Division of Imperial Army Headquarters made itself felt during the development of the Ki-87 prototype when they insisted upon placing the turbo-supercharger in the rear-fuselage, and from the sixth prototype the Nakajima fighter was to have that arrangement. Construction was further delayed due to problems with the electrical undercarriage and the turbo-supercharger itself. As a consequence, the first Ki-87 prototype was not completed until February 1945; it first flew in April, but only five test flights were completed.
A further variant, the Ki-87-II, powered by a 3,000 hp Nakajima Ha217 (Ha-46) engine and with the turbo-supercharger in the same position as the P-47 Thunderbolt. Due to the long development period of the Ki-87, several major structural changes were made, too, that eventually changed the aircraft so much that it received a new, separate kitai number and became the Ki-104.
Kunihiro Aoki's new design was approved by the Koku Hombu, and an order was placed for one static test airframe, three prototypes, and eighteen pre-production aircraft. Only 2 prototypes were built in the event; the first was equipped with a single 1,895 kW (2,541 hp) Nakajima Ha219 [Ha-44] engine, driving a 4-blade, but the second one received the stronger Nakajima Ha217 (Ha-46) and a 6-blade propeller.
The pre-production machines (Ki-104-I or -Tei) were all produced with Ha217 engines, but featured various four-bladed propeller (-a, -b) designs as well as the new 6-blade propeller (-c). Compared to the prototypes, armament was beefed up from a pair of 20mm Ho-5 and a pair of 30mm Ho-155-I cannons in the wings to four of the new, more compact Ho-155-II cannons (originally designed for the unsuccessful Ki-102 assault aircraft and optimized for wing installation).
All pre-production Ki-104-Is were allocated to an independent IJA Headquarter Flight where they were tested alongside established fighters in the defence of the Tokyo region. Based on this 3rd Independent Flight's unit marking, a completely black tail with the unit's emblem, the Ki-104s were unofficially called Ic '黒の尾'/'Kurono-o', which literally means "Black Tail".
The first operational Ki-104s reached this unit in spring 1945 and saw limited use against the incoming streams of B-29 bombers (2 unconfirmed downings in the Tokyo region). After these initial contacts that left a serious impression the new type received the USAF code name "Candice", but the hostilities' soon end however stopped any further work and serial production. No Ki-104 survived the war.
Length: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)
Wingspan: 14 m (45 ft 11 in)
Height: 4.65 m (15 ft 3 in)
Wing area: 28 m² (301.388 ft²)
Airfoil: Tatsuo Hasegawa airfoil
Empty weight: 4,637 kg (10,337 lb)
Loaded weight: 6.450 kg (14.220 lb)
1× Nakajima Ha219 [Ha-44-12] 18-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 1,835 kW (2,461 hp)
Maximum speed: 712 km/h (385 kn, 443 mph)
Cruise speed: 440 km/h (237 kn, 273 mph)
Range: 2,100 km (1,305 mi)
Service ceiling: 14,680 m (48,170 ft)
Wing loading: 230.4 kg/m² (47.2 lb/ft²)
Power/mass: 0.28 kW/kg (0.17 hp/lb)
Climb to 5,000 m (16,400 ft): 5 min 9 sec;
Climb to 10,000 m (32,800 ft): 17 min 38 sec;
Climb to 13,000 m (42,640 ft): 21 min 03 sec
4× 30 mm (1.18 in) Ho-155-II cannons in the wings
Underwing hardpoints and centerline pylon for up to 3× 250 kg (551 lb) bombs
or a single 300l drop tank under the fuselage
The kit and its assembly:
This whif is the result of many ideas and occasions. First of all, I had a leftover six-blade propeller from a Hasegawa J7W Shinden in stock. Then I recently had an eye on kits of late Japanese high altitude fighters with turbosuperchargers, like the Ki-91-II or the Ki-106. These are available from RS Models, but rare and rather costly. And I wondered how a P-47 might look like without its deep belly? All this was finally thrown into a big idea stew, and the Ki-104 is the home-made hardware result!
As a side note: the Ki-104 was a real IJA project, AFAIK based/related to the Tachikawa Ki-94-I twin-boom/push-pull high altitude fighter, a re-worked, more conventional design. Information is sparse and it never reached any hardware stage and remained a paper project as the Rikugun Kogiken Ki-104; I just "revived" the number for my whif, but maybe the real Ki-104 could have looked like it... ;-)
The kit is a bashing of various parts and pieces:
- Fuselage and wing roots from an Academy P-47-25
- Wings from an Ark Model Supermarine Attacker (ex Novo)
- Tail fin is a modified part of a Matchbox Ju 188 stabilizer
- The stabilizers are outer sections from a Matchbox Douglas F3D Skyknight
- Cowling comes from an ART Model Grumman F8F Bearcat, the engine was scratched
- Propeller from a Hasegawa J7W Shinden
- Main wheels from a Matchbox F6F Hellcat
My choice fell onto the Academy Thunderbolt because it has engraved panel lines, offers the bubble canopy as well as good fit and detail. The belly duct had simply been sliced off, and the opening later faired over with styrene sheet and putty.
The Bearcat cowling was chosen because it had very good fitting width in order to match with the P-47 fuselage, and it turned out to be a very good choice - even though I had to add a dorsal connection, a simple styrene wedge, to create a good profile.
Inside, the engine consists of a reversed Hobby Boss F6F engine, with a fan dummy that covers any view on non-existent interior details... A styrene tube was added, into which a metal axis can be inserted. The latter holds the propeller, so that it can spin with little hindrance.
The Attacker wings were chosen because of their "modern" laminar profile - the Novo kit is horrible, but acceptable for donations. And the risen panel lines and rivets should later do great work during the weathering process... OOB, the Attacker wings had too little span for the big P-47, so I decided to mount the Thunderbolt's OOB wings and cut them at a suitable point: maybe 0.5", just where the large wheel fairings for the main landing gear ends.
The intersection with the Attacker wings is almost perfect in depth and width, relatively little putty work was necessary. I just had to cut out new landing gear well parts.
With the new wing shape, the tail surfaces had to be changed accordingly, with parts from a Matchbox Skyknight and a highly modified piece from a Matchbox Ju 188 stabilizer.
The OOB cockpit and landing gear was retained, I just replaced the main wheels with slightly more delicate alternatives from a Matchbox F6F Hellcat.
Once the basic bodywork was done I added the exhaust arrangement under the fuselage; the outlets are oil cooler parts from a Fw 190A, the air scoop once belonged to a Martin Marauder and the long ducts are actually HO scale roof rails. The oil cooler under the engine comes from a Hobby Boss La-7.
Pretty wild mix, but it works surprisingly well!
Painting and markings:
Even though this was supposed to become a late WWII IJA fighter, I did neither want the stereotype NMF look nor the classic green/grey livery or a respective mottled scheme. What I finally settled upon, though, took a long while to manifest, and it looks ...odd.
I wanted a camouflage scheme, but none of the more exotic real world options was fine for me; there had been fighters with black upper surfaces, bright blue ones, or blue mottle on top of NMF. But all this did not convince me, and I eventually created an experimental scheme. And the paint was supposed to look heavily worn, as if the paint had been applied directly onto the bare metal, without primer, so that it chips and flakes off easily.
The tones were supposed to be suitable for high altitudes, but not the classic IJA colors - nothing even close. eventually I came up with an all-around turquoise green (ModelMaster Fulcrum Grey Green) plus a pale grey-green (ModelMaster RAF Dark Slate Grey) as contrast for the upper sides. Sick combination, yes, esp. with the Aluminum shining through, which was applied first as a kind of acrylic primer. The camouflage paint was carefully brushed on top of that, with panel-wise strokes from back to front. Tedious, but effective.
The black tail was applied similarly, it is a free interpretation of real IJA markings; for instance, the 244th Sentai aircraft bore all-red tail sections. Black is an uncommon color, but since I wanted to create fictional squadron markings, too, this was a suitable concept. And it looks cool and mysterious...
The cockpit interior was painted with Aodake Iro (Modelmaster), the section behind the pilot's seat and where the sliding canopy moves on the outside, were painted with IJA Dark Green - just an odd idea. In front of the cockpit a black anti glare panel was added. The landing gear and the respective wells were painted with Steel Metallizer (just to set them apart from the lighter Aluminum all around). The propeller was painted in reddish brown tones, the spinner in Humbrol 160 and the blades in 173.
After this basic painting the kit received a black ink wash, and decals were applied. These were taken from various aftermarket sheets, including generic, white and yellow sheet for the Home Defence markings on wings and fuselage, the white fuselage trim or the yellow ID markings on the wings' leading edges.
As next step the complete kit was carefully wet-sanded, primarily from front to back, so that more of the aluminum primer showed through, the decals (esp. the Hinomaru) were worn out and the camouflage paint on top lost some of its hard edges.
The sanding residues had to be cleaned away thoroughly (with a soft toothbrush and lots of water), and then, repairs, e .g. where the bare plastic came through, as well as extra effects with dry-painted, lighter camouflage tones were done. Final cosmetics also include oil and dirt stains with Tamiya"Smoke", also applied by brush.
Once everything was dry and clean (despite the kit's look), everything was sealed under a coat of varnish - a 3:1 mix of matt and gloss Revell Acrylics.
A complex and lengthy painting process, but I think the effort paid out because the procedure mimics the structure and look of a worn paint job instead of trying to look like it when you paint a cammo scheme and add metal effects "on top". This works for small chips, but not for the flaked look I had been looking for.
"DIZZYFUGU" - Germany