Friday, 23 October 2020

Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" - modelling options #4 - 83 Sentai or 89 Dokuritsu Chutai

Another quite well known "Sonia" is the one below. Photo from here.
You can see at the same link a number of photos of the same aircraft from the AWM collection.
The aircraft was found in the airfield of Keningau, North Borneo, and had green surrender crosses applied next to the hinomaru as well as the letters "QE?" on the starboard side of the tail only.

As often is the case, there is some controversy regarding the unit the aircraft belonged to. Some sources say 83 Sentai, others say 89 Dokuritsu Chutai. So let's try to figure out what's going on.

The 83rd Sentai was organized on March 1, 1941, with two chutai equipped with "Mary" and "Ann" and one chutai, probably the sentai hq, equipped with "Ida", all from the 10th Sentai. Between July and August 1941, the two "Mary" and "Ann" chutai changed their aircraft to "Sonias". In the end of June the unit re-organized its chutai to the 83 Dokuritsu Hikotai Headquarters, the 71 Dokuritsu Chutai, the 73 Dokuritsu Chutai and the 89 Dokuritsu Chutai which occasionaly returned to the main unit but most times operated independently.  
In November 1941, the 71 and the 73 Dokuritsu Chutai had nine "Sonias" each, the 89 Dokuritsu Chutai had 12 "Ida".
They were very active in the south Pacific areas, against Singapore and in the Burma operations.
Around September 1943, the 89 Dokuritsu Chutai changed their "Idas" to "Sonias".
On March 31, 1944, the 83 Sentai was reorganized for one last time, and included the 83 Dokuritsu Hikotai Headquarters, the 91 Dokuritsu Chutai as its 1st Chutai and the 89 Dokuritsu Chutai as its 2nd Chutai. At that time the 89 Dokuritsu Chutai ceased to exist as independent chutai.
After this re-organization the 83rd Sentai was assigned to Borneo in ship escort missions. When in the begining of June the Allies launched Operation Oboe Six, the unit was ordered to relocate to Keningau from where it launched attacks against the Allied forces until the end of the war.

When the 83 Sentai included all three chutai, the 71 Dokuritsu Chutai had the unit marking in white...

...the 73 Dokuritsu Chutai in red...

...and the 89 Dokuritsu Chutai in yellow.

When the 91 Dokuritsu Chutai joined them it had the tail marking in "cobalt" blue.
All artwork Nohara Shigeru, Koku Fan Illustrated #64.
The "Sonia" in question seems to have her tail marking in a color darker than the white of the surrender cross, therefore it is speculated that it was yellow. If that's the case, the aircraft was originally flown by the 89 Dokuritsu Chutai but at the time it was captured it was under the 83 Sentai. The fuselage band seems to me to be the same color with the white of the surrender cross.

As we saw in an earlier post the second Wingsy kit includes decals for an "83 Independent Chutai" "Sonia", but has the tail marking in white with a yellow fuselage band. In my opinion, both are incorrect. Not necessarily wrong because not many photos of the unit(s) have survived to know how every individual aircraft was finished, but if the Wingsy option is supposed to represent the aircraft in Keningau before it was captured, then the colors of the markings are wrong.
Rising Decals offers decals for this aircraft in their 48-029 "Guntei" Japanese Army Assault/Reconnaissance Aircraft Ki-51 "Sonia" in 1/48.
And Hasegawa includes decals in 1/72 in this kit.
But gives the tail marking and the fuselage band in yellow like the Rising Decals. My suggestion is to swap the fuselage band with a white one from the other two aircraft.


Danilo said...

A very interesting series of articles! I only have an objection concerning the white painted wings. It seems to me the demarcation line between the hairyokushoku painted areas and the white areas is too sharp -hence this should actually be a white painted area. This area looks like an anticipation of the white home defence bands adopted later on during the war. One explanation might be the japanese pilots' need to spot friendly aircraft at a glance while in action or something like that.

Anonymous said...

This is some great info!

But I have seen another marking for the 83rd - This is from the "Wings Palette" site. It says it is the "83rd dokuritsu chutai Circa 1941".

The image is taken from "Fighters Between the Wars 1919-1939 - Included Attack and Training Aircraft" by Kenneth Munson, The Pocket Encyclopaedia of World Aircraft in Colour, Blandford Colour Series, Blandford Press Ltd, 1970.

The artwork is by John W. Wood

Here is the direct link to the image:

Could you take a look at and tell me what you think?
Is it correct for the 83rd Sentai in 1941 with the 2 original chutais?
Or for the 83rd Dokuritsu Hikotai Headquarters?
Or is it totally wrong for any form of the 83rd?

Wind Swords

Arawasi said...

Wind Swords, the marking is of the 83 Dokuritsu Chutai, no connection with the 83 Sentai or the 83 Dokuritsu Hikotai. For more information about the unit check our Eagle Eye publication.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. It seems odd that they used the same number for BOTH a sentai and an independent chutai. It could be confusing I would think. I wonder if their are other sentai/chutai numbers that are the same (not including those like the 47th that started as one and became the other).

Wind Swords