Hasegawa 1/32 P-40M/Kittyhawk III

KIT #: 08199
PRICE: 4600 yen   (about $70 MSRP)
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


      The P‑40M was similar to the preceding P‑40K series, with the primary visual difference being a cooling inlet on each side of the nose ahead of the exhaust stacks, and a radio antenna mast.  Like the late‑series P‑40K, it was powered by an Allison V‑1710‑81 engine.  The 600 P‑40Ms produced were almost all destined for Lend‑Lease, and the airplane was known in the RAF and the Commonwealth Air Forces with whom it served as the Kittyhawk III.

 The RNZAF and the Kittyhawk III.

      The RNZAF had its first contact with the Curtiss P‑40 when 80 P‑40E‑1 "Kittyhawk Is" were delivered in April and May 1942.  Number 14, 15, and 16 Squadrons were formed on the Kittyhawks and undertook training through the rest of the year.  Among the pilots assigned to the first squadron, 14 Squadron, was Flt. Lt. Geoff Fisken, a veteran of the fighting at the beginning of the war over Singapore, where he served with 243 Squadron and scored 6 victories flying the Brewster Buffalo before being wounded and evacuated in February 1942.

     15 Squadron was the first to enter combat on Guadalcanal, arriving at Henderson field on April 8, 1943, the day after the last great Japanese raid on the island, in which over 40 Japanese aircraft had been shot down by the Navy and Marine defenders.  15 Squadron undertook escorts of RNZAF Hudson reconnaissance flights in the Solomons, and scored their first success on May 6, when the squadron commander shot down an A6M‑2N during a rainstorm.

      The tour of duty for a fighter squadron in the Solomons was six weeks at a time, and 15 Squadron was relieved by 14 Squadron in early June. 15 Squadron had taken part in the great fighter air battle of June 7, when the Kiwis claimed four of the 23 Zeros shot down that day.  14 Squadron began its score on June 11, when 25 Zeros were shot down.  Of the six claims, two were by Flt. Lt. Geoff B. Fisken flying NZ3072 "Wairarapa Wildcat." Five days later, the largest of the three raids ‑ 100 Zeros and Vals from the "Junyo" air group ‑ were intercepted by 74 Allied fighters; the Kiwis scored five when they dove into a big dogfight over Savo Island involving 33 Zeros.

      With the invasion of New Georgia the following month, the New Zealanders had the opportunity to meet the Japanese on several occasions.  On July 4, Flt. Lt. Fisken claimed two Zeros and a Mitsubishi G4M2 "Betty," the only multi‑engine Japanese aircraft claimed by a New Zealand pilot in the Solomons.  This brought Fisken's Solomons score to 5, and with his 6 previous victories over Singapore, he became the top‑scoring Commonwealth fighter pilot in the Pacific War, with a total of 11 victories.

      As the Allied air forces moved into New Georgia and began the campaign that would end with the invasion of Bougainville in October, the RNZAF Kittyhawks became the favorites of the Dauntless and Avenger crews to whom they provided close escort on the Bougainville raids, and later on the missions against Rabaul once airfields were established on Bougainville in November.  Unfortunately, this role as close escort did not allow the Kiwi pilots much opportunity to score against the Japanese, who opposed nearly every mission.  When the Kiwis were released for fighter sweeps on two occasions during the Rabaul campaign, they demonstrated their reputation for toughness, scoring strongly against the Japanese fighters despite the fact they were mounted in the "inferior" P‑40.  Following the withdrawal of the IJN fighter units from Rabaul on February 28, 1944, the first Kittyhawk fighter‑bomber mission was flown with 500‑lb bombs on March 10, 1944. On March 21, 1944, the RNZAF Kittyhawk Wing began carrying 1,000‑lb bombs on missions to Rabaul. 

      The last RNZAF aerial claim of the war was in February 1944 over Rabaul, and the total score of the Kittyhawk Wing stood at 99.  That May, the first RNZAF squadron exchanged their Kittyhawks for F4U‑1A Corsairs, and the Kittyhawk left New Zealand service.

“The Wairarapa Wildcat” - the Most Famous Kiwi Kittyhawk:

            The “Kittyhawk IIIs ” flown by the RNZAF were actually USAAF P-40M-5s, which arrived by ship at Auckland, and were assembled and test flown at Hobsonville in March 1943. During the ferry flight to Guadalcanal, NZ3072  suffered minor damage at New Caledonia, where it was repaired by the local U.S. Army Air Service Command Corps unit, who “branded” the airplane with their unit emblem of a black tomcat on the cowling panels before returning the aircraft to the New Zealanders.  

            Upon arrival in New Caledonia, NZ3072 was assigned to Flt. Lt. Geoff Fisken, who decided to leave the tomcat markings on.  Since many of the pilots in 14 Squadron came from the Wairarapa area on the North Island of New Zealand, NZ3072 was named the “Wairarapa Wildcat.” \

            Originally, the tomcat had no outline, being only a black figure.  As with many “ace's airplanes,” NZ3072 finally had its day in front of the cameras in September 1943, when 14 Squadron was set to return to New Zealand and Fisken had been recognized as the leading Commonwealth ace in the Pacific Theater.  To aid the photographers, the cats were outlined with chalk, and thus ever since all decals of this famous airplane have been reproduced with the white outline it that was really only worn one day.

            NZ3072 remained at New Georgia after the personnel of 14 Squadron left, and flew operationally with several other squadrons during the Bougainville and Rabaul campaigns, during which it survived an landing encounter with a water tanker at Segi airfield.  After surviving its tours of duty, NZ3072 was returned to New Zealand in early 1944. And was assigned to the training role, first at Ardmore near Auckland, and later at Ohakea, where it survived a mid air collision.  Unfortunately, NZ3072, New Zealand's most famous P-40, was scrapped along with most other Lend-Lease aircraft in 1947.  In 2002, a P-40M was restored in New Zealand and flies today in these markings.


            This P-40M is the fourth release of Hasegawa's line of 1/32 P40s.  As with the others, it is a scale-up of the excellent 1/48 kits.  The kit differs from the earlier P-40N by having the parts for the earlier canopy, while utilizing the longer tail part included with the P-40N.  Decals provide markings for the famous Kittyhawk III “Wairarapa Wildcat” flown by RNZAF Flight Lt. Geoff Fisken, the top-scoring Commonwealth ace of the Pacific Theater, and a P-40M of the 44th fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group; both of these are aircraft used in combat in the Solomons campaign.


            These kits are the essence of simplicity.  I started by painting all the interior parts for the fuselage with Xtracrylix Interior Green.  While that was drying, I attached the left and right rear fuselage parts to the respective forward fuselage parts, as well as the exhaust panels. I then applied a thick coat of Tamiya's “Mr. Surfacer” to the fuselage joint.  When that was dry, I sanded it smooth and rescribed the panel lines and the rivet detail.  I also attached the horizontal stabilizers and rudder.

            I assembled the interior parts for the radiator, and then assembled the fuselage, including the aft canopy parts.  I applied Tamiya “Mr. Surfacer” to the centerline seam and to to the seam around the rear canopy glass.

            I then proceeded to assemble the wing.  The wheel wells were positioned and the wing upper halves and lower wing glued. Fortunately, this time the wing parts were not “short shot” over the internal structure of the flaps, so I did not have to fill in and sand those non-existant sink areas.  I attached the guns and applied Tamiya “Mr. Surfacer” to those joints. 

            While the fuselage and wing sub-assemblies were setting up, I assembled the cockpit.  I painted the various detail parts and used the kit-supplied decal for the instrument panel, but spiffed-up the overall look by use of the excellent Eduard photoetch seat belts.  The cockpit as supplied looks good enough, though there is a resin cockpit available now; for me, all that is needed is the seat belts.  My expert on all things Kiwi, Dave Lochead, pointed out to me that the RNZAF “Kittyhawks” were really USAAF P-40Ms until they were supplied to the RNZAF, and that they thus used American seat belts, not the RAF Sutton harness.

             I inserted the cockpit assembly, then attached the wing to the fuselage.  I needed to apply Tamiya “Mr. Surfacer” and some cyanoacrylate glue to the upper wing-fuselage joints.

             Once all was set up, I sanded all the seams smooth and then rescribed panel lines as necessary.



            Rather than use the decal ID stripes, I painted the area with Tamiya “Flat White,” then masked those off.  I painted the model overall Olive Drab on the upper surfaces and Neutral Grey on the lower surfaces after pre-shading the model along the panel lines.  For the upper color, I started with Tamiya “Olive Drab,” which is green-base like the early OD used by USAAF aircraft up through 1943, then went over the panels with Gunze-Sangyo “Olive Drab 2" which is the later “brown-base” OD, to start fading the colors.  I then added light grey and then white to the paint as I went back over the panels.  I ended by applying a very thinned coat of Gunze Sangyo “Olive Drab 2" overall to the model.  I then took some of the green-base OD and “edged” the ID stripes, since this is commonly considered to be the real color for the “edging” seen on “Wairarapa Wildcat,” which was the result of the masking tape applied during the ID stripe painting process.  This may not be that apparent in the photos, but it is there very subtly in person.  The result looked very close to the photos of the actual airplane that Dave Lochead pointed me to.  I finished off by painting the spinner white.  When all was dry, the stripes were unmasked and the model was given two coats of Xtracrylix Gloss varnish.


            The decals provide the personal insignia for “Wairarapa Wildcat” and the RNZAF national markings.  In actuality, the tomcat on the personal insignia was only “edged” in white with chalk for the one time the airplane was presented to the press just before Geoff Fisken returned to New Zealand, so - like many “aces' aircraft” - it is really only right for the one event, like “Marion Carl's Wildcat”, an F4F hangar queen with Japanese flag stickers on it - however, in this case Fisken really did fly “Wairarapa Wildcat” for two of his five Solomons victories.

            The decals were a bit thick, and it eventually took applying Solvaset and going over the panel lines with a #11 X-acto blade in order to get them to fully settle on the model.


            I gave the model several coats of Xtracrylix Flat varnish, then ‘dinged” it lightly with Tamiya Aluminum - photos of the airplane show it was not all that weathered by the time it got to the end of Fisken's tour.  The photos also show the grey exhaust stain that comes from running a lean fuel mixture, which I accomplished with some thinned Tamiya “Sky Grey” with Tamiya “Smoke” applied over, with the “Smoke” also applied to the lower surfaces for oil stains. 

            I finished off by attaching the landing gear and prop, and setting the canopy in the open position.


             It's a Hasegawa P-40 - what's not to like?  The kit is reasonably priced and simple enough in execution and so well-designed that it is virtually impossible not to get everything assembled with proper alignment, so that any modeler can attempt a project with it with the prospect of having a nice model as a result.  The kit markings are excellent and provide an opportunity to do an airplane that has not been “done to death” by the decal manufacturers, whichever markings option is chosen.  The result is a model that is a “big canvas” for a fun project.  Highly recommended. 

Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review copy.  Get yours at www.hlj.com

Tom Cleaver

December 2009

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