Sunday 31 March 2024

Mitsubishi A6M2b by Matteo Reich

An exquisite baby Zero by Matteo Reich today. I absolutely love it!!! Note the subtle difference in the color of the control surfaces, exactly as it's supposed to be.
Matteo explained: Airfix A6M2b in 1/72nd scale. I used Tamiya Rubber Black for the anti-glare, as it's lighter than pure black and doesn't have bluish hues.

Saturday 30 March 2024

Mitsubishi A6M5c cowling question

While revisiting older postings of this blog on Facebook, we noticed something puzzling on the cowlings of Model 52 Hei or A6M5c Zeros.

From the Model 52 Ko (A6M5a) onwards it became standard practice to paint white stripes of 500mm length, 120~140mm on the port side of each machine gun trough to help with the synchronization of the guns.

In the Model 52 Otsu (A6M5b) a 13mm machine gun was installed on the starboard side of the cowling, and the synchronization white lines became as shown below.

But in the Model 52 Hei or's what Wikipedia says about the type:
"A6M5c, Model 52丙 (Hei, 52c) – Armament change: One 13.2 mm (.51 in) Type 3 machine gun was added in each wing outboard of the cannon, and the 7.7 mm gun on the left side of the cowl was deleted."
Francillon also mentions only "One 13.2 mm Type 3 machine-gun in the upper fuselage decking, two wing-mounted...".
ALL Japanese publications, without exception, agree with the above. The 7.7mm machine gun in the cowling was removed.
Nevertheless, in all the A6M5c photos in all Japanese publications, machine gun troughs can be seen on the starboard AND the port or "left" side of the cowling and, as we can see in the attached photos, they had rather long synchronization lines painted as well.
I could maybe understand using A6M5b cowlings but without having the machine gun trough faired over? And if there isn't a 7.7mm machine gun under the A6M5c cowling, why are there synchronization lines?
Did the A6M5c actually have two guns in the nose or one? Leave a comment if you know what's happening.

Sunday 10 March 2024

Jindřichův Hradec Rose 2024

Organized by Jindrichuv Hradec 9.3.2024, Czech Republic.  
Photos by Jan Kanov.  

Thursday 7 March 2024

Model Commentary #2f - Red IFFs & seeing color in monochrome photos.

The last time we posted a "Model Commentary" was many years ago, but since we currently revisit the subject on our Facebook page, here's a new one on a rather controversial subject.

All Japanese published sources agree that the official order to apply Identification Friendly or Foe (IFF) stripes on the wing leading edges of the Japanese aircraft, was given on October 5, 1942. The exact reason is not specified but I believe that the main motive was to make the aircraft easily identifiable when approaching head-on when the hinomaru were not clearly visible. Is that aircraft friendly and attempting to land on our airfield or aircraft carrier or is it enemy and has ill intent?
The official orders categorically state that camouflaged aircraft should have the IFF stripes in yellow and the aircraft without camouflage in yellow or RED. While the existence of red IFFs is a subject that is not put to debate in Japan, some non-Japanese aviation historians and researchers, completely ignoring the official regulations, have over the years insisted that no red IFF stripes were applied on Japanese aircraft; never, ever.
No color photos have ever surfaced that could provide concrete proof of the existence of red IFFs and therefore all researchers and historians are left with is the subjective analysis of monochrome photos.

Here are the points non-believers in red IFFs make and my answers:
1. there are very few aircraft whose IFFs could be interpreted as red. Why there aren't more?
Answer: As mentioned in the previous post, when the red paint was tested on the field it was quickly found out that it didn't stand out during nighttime. Furthermore, the vast majority of Japanese aircraft, especially IJAAF, had already received camouflage and in the case of IJNAF only a few months after the IFF order was given, from 1943, started receiving camouflage as well (the Zeros based in Rabaul for example. Nells, Bettys, Vals and Kates were already flying with camouflage from the beginning of the Pacific War). Only some units based in Japan, like aviation schools, were without.

2. If the IFFs look red in a photo then the film must be panchromatic.
Answer: The classic tired argument. To begin with, panchromatic films were relatively popular around the world until the mid-30s because they were cheaper than the newly developed orthochromatic. After that, orthochromatic films were priced similarly and became more common and the production of panchromatic was largely discontinued. According to one Japanese source, panchromatic films were never really popular in Japan but, even ignoring this last bit for a moment, and reversing argument#1, IF it was popular why aren't there many more photos of Japanese aircraft with dark IFF stripes that could be attributed to panchromatic film? As a matter of fact, personally, I know of NO photos of Japanese aircraft proven to have been taken with panchromatic film. In a nutshell, I could accept photos of weird-looking Japanese aircraft in the early 30s that could be attributed to panchromatic film being at play but, in my opinion, it is unlikely to see photos developed from panchromatic films in the 40s. 

3. Photography and weather conditions. "Maybe a small cloud was right above the IFF stripe when the photo was taken and therefore it looks darker".
Answer: This is actually a fairly valid argument (the weather conditions, not the small cloud part) as we will see, but it doesn't explain everything.

4. Photo process and publishing quality.
Answer: Yes, this is the only really valid argument, in my opinion.

5. But by far the most common explanation for the dark IFFs in photos is that “they were painted in a darker yellow”.
Answer: Setting aside my reservations and objections, the very latest publication "Kawasaki Ki-61-II Kai Hien 6117 Uncovered" includes the best copy of the “Japan Aircraft Standard No. 8609” a.k.a. Kariki 117. In it, three yellows are included: 
4.1 is the darkest and was “used for identification stripes in leading edges of Navy aircraft wings, as overall color on Navy training and experimental aircraft”.
4.2 is a mustardy yellow that was “used for handles on levers to open/close Navy aircraft radiation shutters and for painting markings”, and finally
4.3 is a brownish yellow that was “used for Army training aircraft”
There are no other yellow or orange colors. So, which is this “darker yellow” color? Either the Army planes had IFFs painted with the darker Navy color, if we were to believe such nonsense, or there was an unspecified different darker yellow paint not included in the Kariki. know, could they actually be red?
So, let's see what's going on. I will not tire you explaining the difficulties of trying to see color in black&white photos but keeping in mind official regulations and using color photos as valuable help, we can become pretty proficient in interpreting our subject of interest. For example, the official IJNAF regulations and widespread practice was to camouflage the top surfaces of most WWII IJNAF aircraft with green paint. So, when you see a b/w photo of a Model 52 Zero with dark top surfaces, the safest conclusion is that the actual color was green, not brown or purple. Nevertheless, depending on the angle the photo was taken or the weather conditions, variations and abnormalities are not uncommon. It is not rare hinomaru known to be definitely red to look almost white because, for example, the metal was shining under the bright sun. But even more important is to keep in mind the process the photo was put through until you come to see it in the book in your hands. From printing from the original film to reprinting to scanning to adjustment, and finally, to publishing to paper, variations are to be expected from one book to another, both featuring the same photo. In other words, in one publication the photo might look brighter and clearer, and in another, exactly the same photo, might look darker. This has nothing to do with orthochromatic or panchromatic films. Therefore it's very important to know the provenance of the photo. Is it a first print from an original film? When was the book published? Before the 80s with different technology than it's available today? And many more similar factors. Due to technology limitations, publishers before the age of computers and photoshop, often opted to publish bright photos with plenty of shadows and contrast to make them stand out in the books. Modelers with only a passing interest in Japanese aircraft, find a photo on the net, sometimes scanned from a book, often of very poor quality and spend hours trying to identify color in vain. There is also a strong desire to find unusual modeling subjects and some speculations and suggestions are uncritically accepted. On the other end of the spectrum, rigid conformity is accepted as the norm when in reality there wasn't actually one as testified by the numerous variations and exceptions. 
Even so, getting back to the IFFs and before we start seeing red IFFs everywhere, here's my thought process when analyzing b/w photos. In many photos, the cameraman is standing in front of the aircraft and the IFF part that's under the wing looks dark. First of all, if the top part of the IFF stripe is visible and is very bright, then there is a very high possibility that it's yellow. If there are more photos of the same aircraft from different angles, these would help a lot. Most importantly if there is a photo of an aircraft taken from above then we can have a very clear view of the IFFs and we can compare them with the hinomaru on the top surfaces. Then, I like to compare the same photo as it appears in different publications and especially dig into more current releases that feature high-quality, clearer versions of the photo. Next up, is trying to figure out when the photo was taken. As mentioned above the yellow or red options were settled to yellow when the red was deemed impractical. Therefore, if a “Hayabusa” photo was taken in 1944 or 45, it is unlikely that the IFF was red even though it may look darker. If the photo was taken in 1942 or early 43, around the time the official order was given, it's more plausible. And last but not least, I examine carefully who says that they are red. Is the author a trustworthy historian? Can I conclude from his writing that he has seen/handled the original photo or does he only have a copy of a copy and just repeats what others have said before?
In conclusion, my opinion is that a relatively very small number of uncamouflaged Japanese Army and Navy aircraft received red IFFs during the months after the order was given. Until maybe mid-1943. They are relatively rare and unique like so many other Japanese aircraft with unusual camouflage, hinomaru or personal markings. Without indisputable proof, the arguments and counter-arguments are only opinions that everyone is free to accept. So, build your specific Japanese aircraft model with yellow IFFs or choose red instead. And if anyone comes over preaching that they weren't really red, tell them to stick their panchromatic film up 
Below are some photos that showcase the above as well as some of the most well-known (and less so) photos of Japanese aircraft with purportedly red IFFS.

Let's start with a classic example of erroneous photo interpretation that has led to grossly inaccurate illustrations and models. The attached photo was first featured in the April 1944 issue of the Japanese magazine "Koku Asahi". I repeat the date: 1944.
Probably the availability of only this version of the photo led pioneer Japanese aviation historian Don Thorpe to mention in his classic "Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II" published in 1968, "As a quick identification feature, most aircraft assigned to Home or Area Defense duties carried white bands, or bandages, upon the fuselage, or around the wings, surmounted by the Hinomaru. Although these bands were usually white, occasionally yellow was used, particularly by cadre aircraft or instructor Chutais, denoting their primary duties as training aircraft."
This has led many illustrators and subsequently modelers to depict the "Shoki" of the 47th Sentai with yellow bands. (check Model Commentary #1 for more about these defense bands).

Various explanations have been put forward as to why the bands look darker in the previous photo. Here's another one. In the top photo from Dai Nippon Kaiga's "SHOKI FIGHTER GROUP (A Pictorial History of the 70th Sentai, the Tokyo's Defenders)", the band looks darker...
...but in the bottom photo featuring the same aircraft the band looks clearly white. It's because of the angle the first photo was taken that makes the white look darker when juxtapositioned to the metal of the aircraft. That is exactly why more and better photos need to be examined before coming to conclusions when we try to see color in b&w photos. 

Let's see now the photos featuring aircraft with "red" IFFs.
"Model Art#779 / Profile#5" by Model Art and other publications, feature photos of a "Shoki", s/n1125, that has crash-landed. 
All Japanese publications without exception mention that the IFFs are red, not yellow. Although the attached photo was taken in the spring of 1944, the tail marking indicating that it originally belonged to the 87 Sentai is partially gone. At the time of the accident, the unit was already in Sumatra so, in all probability, this was an aircraft left behind by the unit that was used for training purposes.

The "Shoki" publication by DNK, entitled "SHOKI FIGHTER GROUP 2 (The Brief History of Akeno Army Flying School)" features a most interesting photo never seen in other publications. A rather unusual "Shoki" is featured and the IFFs clearly look red. 
Not only the part seen under the wing but also on the top of the wing. Compare them with the red warning stripes on the propeller blades. Unfortunately, the publication confusingly claims that they are yellow because they were "developed to look like this" whatever this is supposed to mean. 

Here's yet another "Shoki" photo featured in various publications. The scan is from Maru Mechanic. 
The serial number of the aircraft is "1231" and all Japanese publications that mention them say that the IFFs are red. Note that the IFF on the port wing looks red not only on the undersides but also on the wheel cover that is directly lit by the sunlight. Also, compare the IFFs with the yellow warning stripes on the propeller blades. 

This leads us to this classic photo from the NASM archive. The well-known "Shoki" of ace 1Lt Wakamatsu of the 85th Sentai, photographed in China. Serial number of this aircraft is #1134.
While the NASM photo is rather dark, very high-quality versions of the photo are available in Japanese publications and I was fortunate last weekend to see in my own eyes a crystal-clear print of the same photo. Here is a scan from the ancient FAOW.
In all versions of the photo, the IFFs are very interesting. A close-up reveals that the part of the IFF on the very leading edges of the wing has peeled off indicating a quite old aircraft. The IFF part seen on the wing undersurfaces looks as dark as the hinomaru. But as if this was not enough, the part of the IFF on the wheel covers, exposed to direct sunlight, is also very dark. As with previous photos, compare the IFFs with the yellow bands on the propeller. On top of this, the serial number of this aircraft indicates that it was built at about the same time the previous "Shoki" with the red stripes was produced. To further support the red IFFs claim, this photo was taken in 1943, exact date unknown, when the unit was using this particular tail marking. From 1944 the unit used a different marking. 
Taking all into consideration, we have at least two "Shoki" fighters from the same unit, with the same tail marking with neighboring serial numbers with dark IFFs. An elderly Japanese researcher I talked to last Saturday, started mentioning "orthochromatic and panchromatic films" when I pointed out the IFFs that in my opinion look red. Well, what can you do... 

But red IFFs have been appearing even in earlier fighter types than Ki-44s. Attached is a photo from FAOW#29, featuring a Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" of the 244 Sentai with very thick red IFFS. 
This is not the only photo of 244 Sentai "Nates" with red IFFS.
Here are two more photos of a different 244 Sentai "Nate" having a mishap. Note the very early tail marking of the unit. Photos from the Arawasi collection. 

Not only fighters but other types of aircraft had red IFFS. Attached is a photo from the Arawasi collection that we present for the very first time, with a Tachikawa Ki-36 "Ida" (not Ki-55 trainer) with IFFs definitely darker and similar to the very unusual underwing hinomaru with a white surround. 

As for IJNAF aircraft, the most well-known is the controversial Kasumigaura Zero with the red IFFs we discussed here. Again note that this photo was taken from above and the IFFs are not in the shade.

I left for last the weirdest of all. This particular Kawanishi N1K "Shiden" has been puzzling researchers for ages. The top three photos are from various Japanese publications (FAOW#53 & Model Art#587), and the bottom is from the Arawasi Collection. 
Note the difference in the tonality of all the photos. At first glance, the top two photos look very dark and is easy to shout "panchromatic film!" But the bottom image, scanned from a first print of the photo (not from a book or a reprint of a reprint) looks definitely more tonally balanced.
Apart from the weird-looking cowling area, this particular aircraft looks like having red IFFs even though it has green top camouflage. Even more weird is the fact that the IFFs cover the front part of the wheel covers. As you probably remember in an earlier post, we showed that Kawanishi opted for very narrow IFFs that didn't reach the landing gear covers. One explanation for this bizarre aircraft is that it was originally uncamouflaged when it received the red IFFs and in these photos is seen sporting its newly-applied camo.