1:72 Mitsubishi J2M3 'Raiden' (Allied Codename 'Jack'); aircraft 'BI-02', operated by the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit - Southeast Asia (ATAIU-SEA); RAF Seletar (Singapore), Dec. 1945 (modified 1977 Hasegawa kit)
The Mitsubishi J2M Raiden (雷電, "Thunderbolt") was a single-engined land-based fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. The Allied reporting name was "Jack".
The J2M was designed by Jiro Horikoshi, creator of the A6M Zero, to meet the 14-Shi (14th year of the Showa reign, or 1939) official specification. It was to be a strictly local-defense interceptor, intended to counter the threat of high-altitude bomber raids, and thus relied on speed, climb performance, and armament at the expense of manoeuvrability. The J2M was a sleek, but stubby craft with its oversized Mitsubishi Kasei engine buried behind a long cowling, cooled by an intake fan and connected to the propeller with an extension shaft.
Teething development problems stemming from the Kasei engine cooling system, and the main undercarriage members led to a slowdown in production. The first few produced J2M2s were delivered to the development units in December 1942 but severe problems were encountered with the engines. Trials and improvements took almost a year and the first batch of the serial built J2M2 Model 11 was delivered to 381st Kōkūtai in December 1943. Parallel with the J2M2, production of the J2M3 Raiden Model 21 started. The first J2M3s appeared in October 1943 but deliveries to combat units started at the beginning of February 1944.
Primarily designed to defend against the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the type was handicapped at high altitude by the lack of a turbocharger. However, its four-cannon armament supplied effective firepower and the use of dive and zoom tactics allowed it to score occasionally. The Raiden made its combat debut in June 1944 during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Several J2Ms operated from Guam and Saipan and a small number of aircraft were deployed to the Philippines. Later, some J2Ms were based in Chosen airfields, Genzan (Wonsan), Ranan (Nanam), Funei (Nuren), Rashin (Najin) and Konan under Genzan Ku, for defence of these areas and fighting against Soviet Naval Aviation units. Insufficient numbers and the American switch to night bombing in March 1945 limited its effectiveness.
A continual set of modifications resulted in new variants being introduced with the ultimate high-altitude variant, the J2M4 Model 34 flying for the first time in August 1944. It had a 1,420 hp Kasei 23c engine equipped with a turbo supercharger (mounted in the side of the fuselage just behind the engine) that allowed the rated power to be maintained up to 9,100 m (29,900 ft). Two upward-aimed, oblique-firing (aimed at seventy degrees) 20 mm cannons, mounted in the German Schräge Musik style, were fitted behind the cockpit with the four wing cannons retained. Unresolved difficulties with the turbo supercharger caused the project to be terminated after only two experimental J2M4s were built.
A few J2Ms survived the war. Two Raiden of the 381 Kōkūtai were captured in flightworthy condition at Johore in British Malaya and tested by the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit - Southeast Asia (ATAIU-SEA for short), a joint RAF-USAAF intelligence unit in charge of investigating Japanese aircraft capabilities. Tests were conducted in Singapore at RAF Seletar air base in late 1945, right after the end of hostilities in the Pacific theatre. The machines were evaluated by Japanese naval aviators under close supervision of RAF officers, and for the trials they received RAF roundels and new tactical codes, “BI-01” and “BI-02”, respectively.
Two other captured J2Ms were examined by the U.S. Technical Air Intelligence Command (TAIC), using 92 octane fuel plus methanol. One machine, an early J2M2 (“Jack11”) achieved a speed of 655 km/h (407 mph) at 5,520 m (17,400 ft), and the other one, a J2M3 (“Jack21”) even reached a top speed of 671 km/h (417 mph) at 4,980 m (16,600 ft).
Crew: one, pilot
Length: 9.70 m (32 ft 8 in)
Wingspan: 10.80 m (35 ft 5 in)
Height: 3.81 m (13 ft 0 in)
Wing area: 20 m² (216 ft²)
Empty weight: 2,839 kg (6,259 lb)
Loaded weight: 3,211 kg (7,080 lb)
1× Mitsubishi MK4R-A Kasei 23a 14-cylinder two-row radial engine, 1,379 kW (1,850 hp)
Maximum speed: 596km/h (370 mph, 322kt)at 5.450m
Range: 1467 km (912 nmi, 795 mi)
Service ceiling: 11,430 m (37,500 ft)
Rate of climb: 1402 m/min (4,600 ft/min)
Wing loading: 174 kg/m² (35 lb/ft²)
Power/mass: 0.42 kW/kg (0.26 hp/lb)
2x Type 99-2 inboard wing-mounted 20x101mmRB cannon with 190 rpg
2x Type 99-1 outboard wing-mounted 20x72mmRB cannon with 210 rpg
2× 60 kg (132 lb) bombs or 2 × 200 L (53 US gal) drop tanks under the outer wings,
or a single, larger drop tank under the fuselage
The kit and its assembly:
The kit is the Hasegawa kit of the J2M3 from 1977, with some cosmetic updates, based on the more detailed Hasegawa 1:48 kit of the J2M3 and taken from that kit's English language instructions for additional information, primarily concerning painting details (see below).
The old, 1:72 Hasegawa Raiden is primitive: the cockpit has only little detail (e. g. blank side walls, moulded side consoles without any surface detail, a single-piece canopy) and the landing gear is pretty basic, too (the wells are bleak, some struts are completely missing an part numbers were moulded into the inside of the covers!). But all these are just minor weaknesses, which were mended with improvisations through white glue, styrene bits and some thin wire - after all, much of this additional work cannot be seen inside of the finished kit.
Nevertheless, the overall fit of this old kit is surprisingly good and it features fine, recessed panel lines. Only little PSR work was necessary, it’s IMHO a very good model basis and basically a pleasant build.
Painting and markings:
The plan to build an ATAIU-SEA Raiden was settled from the start. The original plan was to re-create “BI-01”, but in the course of the build I eventually settled upon the less known “BI-02”, because the more information concerning its sister ships’ outer details I dug up from different sources, the more contradictive things became. Too much input is certainly not helpful!
“BI-01” is better known because it’s the machine you see in the foreground of the aircrafts’ most popular picture, showing both in flight in echelon formation (in B/W). Material for this machine in 1:72 scale is available to modelers through aftermarket decal sheets (PrintScale, MaxModels), and there’s even an OOB option in the form of a Hasegawa “Prisoners of War” kit (even though 1:48 scale), which lets you build “BI-01” or “BI-02” and also comes with the alternative decals for one of the American J2Ms in bare metal livery with “stars & bars”.
My build was based on the relatively new PrintScale decal sheet for the J2M which only allows to create “BI-01” – and a pair of wing roundels is completely missing! But, on the other side, the sheet is not pricey, and model kit building is much about DIY and creative solutions.
From this starting point, things went pretty straightforward, Since the captured aircraft retained its former IJN livery, things were relatively simple. But I wanted to create a worn and makeshift look, inspired by pictures of the ATAIU-SEA aircraft – they looked pretty shaggy!
The cockpit interior was painted in a guesstimate of Mitsubishi’s cockpit green, a mix of Humbrol 159 and 94. The landing gear wells became light grey – I did not use the ModelMaster IJN Grey used on the undersides (see below), but rather a very similar tone in order to create a subtle contrast.
The model’s painting process started with a primer coat of aluminum on the wings’ leading edges and on the fuselage. Next the uniform dark green was applied on the uppers surfaces. In order to come close to the IJN Green used by Mitsubishi, I used Modelmaster’s 2116 (IJN Green from the company’s Authentic line, a relatively dark tone), mixed a little FS 34092 (~3:1 ratio), for a brighter and less bluish hue. A
All paint was applied with a brush, and - on purpose - not 100% evenly, so that some of the aluminum below would still shine through. This effect was further enhanced and fine-tuned with thinner and careful “scrubbing” with a hard, flat brush in the fresh paint, trying to simulate chipped and worn areas. The anti glare panel was painted with a mix of Humbrol 33 and 77, for a dark blue-grey. On the lower surfaces, pure Modelmaster 2115 (IJN GREY) was used, but with less tuning effects.
Once the basic painting was done, I added overpainted hinomaru and other markings, done with RAF Dark Green on the upper and Sky on the lower surfaces – I am not certain whether the real aircraft were painted this way (again, information is corny), but I consider this practice to be plausible, since the ATAIU-SEA machines appear to have otherwise remained in their original colors?
At this stage the yellow ID bands on the wings’ leading edges were added – in a mix of paint (Revell 310, RAL 1028 a.k.a. Lufthansa Yellow, which comes IMHO close to the reddish original tone) and decal sheet.
In the next step, the surfaces received a thin black ink wash and a post-shading treatment through dry-brushing with lighter and uneven variations of the basic tones.
After some corrections and more fine-tuning the decals followed. Most of them came from the PrintScale sheet (beware, they have a VERY thin and have a wobbly carrier film that makes any handling hazardous!), and the missing RAF roundels under the wings came from the scrap box (they actually belong to a post-war Spitfire).
The tactical code was changed into “02 yellow” with more decal parts from the scrap box. This change of color is a courageous interpretation of the real aircrafts’ BW pics, which suggest that the individual aircraft numbers were painted in a slightly darker tone than the white “BI-“ in front of them. The PrintScale sheet suggests the same – and offers modelers the option to alternative use white or yellow numbers.
Once the decals were dry, some more dry-brushing with light grey and aluminum was done, and some panel lines across the markings added with a soft pencil.
Some details of the aircraft are speculative, though. This includes, for instance, the color of the spinner and the front of the propeller blades. The funny thing is that, after I finished the kit, I found photo footage of “BI-02” at Seletar, and it confirms my assumptions and guesses, e .g. the bare metal propeller blade front sides. The green spinner remains uncertain, though. ;-)
Towards the finish line some soot stains around the gun ports and the exhaust stubs were created with grinded graphite, and finally the kit was sealed with acrylic varnish (Italeri). I used a mix of matt and semi-gloss varnish in a roundabout 3:1 ratio, for a sheen finish. Some worn areas were treated with 100% matt varnish, though, adding to the worn look of the aircraft.
This POW J2M3 looks simple, but the painting process was a complex feat. But I am quite happy with the result and the impression the model leaves.