Hasegawa 1/32 J2M3 model 21 'Raiden'
KIT #: 08882
PRICE: 3680 yen at www.hlj.com (approx $47.00)
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: New tool kit

HISTORY

            The J2M “Raiden” (Thunderbolt) was a land-based interceptor designed by Jiro Horikoshi for the Imperial Japanese Navy.  It was the first fighter design for the Navy that emphasized speed, climb and dive capability over horizontal high-g maneuverability. 

             Design began in 1939, and the airplane was to be powered by a Kasei 1,820 hp Mitsubishi MK4R‑A Kasei 23a 14-cylinder engine buried deep in the cowling to improve streamlining.  First flight of the J2M1 prototype happened on March 20, 1942, and the type was ordered into production that December.  Trouble with the engine delayed production and led to extended development.

             The first J2M2 Model 11, armed with two 7.7mm machine guns in the cowling and two Type 99 Mark I 20mm cannon in the wings, was delivered to the 381st Kokutai in December 1943, but engine difficulties persisted.  Further development led to the J2M3 Model 21, which was produced alongside the J2M2.  The first production J2M3 rolled off the line in October 1943, with deliveries to combat units starting in February 1944.  The J2M3 dropped the machine gun armament, being equipped with two long-barreled Type 99 Mark 2 20mm cannon and two short-barreled Type 99 Mark I cannon in the wings.

             The Raiden made its combat debut with the invasion of the Marianas, with a small number of J2M2s being based at Agana, Guam.  The type also saw combat in defense of Formosa during the Third Fleet raids in the summer of 1944, and in the Philippines that fall.

            The J2M3 Model 21 was based primarily in the home islands for defense against the B-29s.  The lack of an adequate supercharger handicapped it at the operating altitude of the B-29s, but the four-cannon armament was effective in bringing down a bomber with only a few hits.  Assigned the Allied reporting name of “Jack,” the Raiden was fast with a top speed of 417 mph. The lack of maneuverability made the airplane a target for Hellcats and Corsairs, and particularly for P-51D Mustangs that began escorting the B-29s from Iwo Jima in the late Spring of 1945.

             A total of 621 Raidens of all models were produced, with the 307 J2M3s built by Mitsubishi and 128 by Koza KK being the most widely-produced and used version. The only J2M3 Raiden left in the world can be found at The Air Museum, Planes of Fame, in Chino, California.

THE KIT

            Hasegawa has basically owned the Raiden ever since they released a 1/72 kit in the early 1970s.  This had been originally designed by Mania, and introduced such revolutionary features as detailed parts that actually fit well and trailing edges to flying surfaces one could shave with.  The kit is still available and still makes up into a decent model.  Tamiya released a 1/48 J2M3 in the mid-1970s which is also still available, but the best kits of the airplane in this scale are those released by Hasegawa in the mid-1990s.

            Essentially, this 1/32 kit is the excellent 1/48 kit scaled up, with some additional detail, such as a very complete engine with cooling fans and exhausts.  The cockpit out of the box is nicely detailed, and a truly superb pilot figure with three different heads including one wearing an IJN oxygen mask, can be placed in the cockpit.  This figure is the equal of anything I have seen cast in resin.

             Decals are provided for the well-known J2M3 Model 21 Raiden flown by Lt(jg) Yoshihiro Aoki of the 352nd Naval Flying Group, with the distinctive lightning flashes on the fuselage below the cockpit, and a J2M3 flown by Lt. Susumu of the 302nd Naval Flying Group at Yokosuka. The decals are thick enough to need a final “kick” with something like Solvaset to settle them down.

CONSTRUCTION

            The model definitely shows its 1/48 ancestry in parts breakdown.  However, it does two interesting things that no other kit I know of has done: the complete cooling fan system and exhaust system is included in the engine assembly, most of which is not visible when completed, and the fuselage and wings have internal bracing that makes for a very sturdy model when finished.  Given the way the fuselage parts get molded, in 1/32 they will lose their strength and become too flexible without this.  This is only “fiddly” when it comes to mating the fuselage sub-assembly to the wing sub-assembly and getting the interlocking internal tabs to fit right.  You can tell they have when you hear a “click” and all of a sudden the wing is in position.

            I painted everything before commencing assembly.  The cockpit is easy, since just about everything is either Mitsubishi Interior Green or Mitsubishi Exterior Green, with some semi-gloss black.  I used Tamiya’s “Japanese Cockpit Colo” with is Mitsubishi Interior Green, and “IJN Green 2" which is Mitsubishi Exterior Green (FYI, the original Tamiya “IJN Green” is “Nakajima Green”).  Decals were used for the instrument panel and they look just fine once they settle in.  The decals are a bit thick and needed two applications of Micro-Sol and a final lick of Solvaset after being “sliced” to get them down without silvering.  I had to do the same with the external decals, too.

            I still needed to use Tamiya Surfacer for the centerline seam and the big rear seam of where the lower wing and fuselage come together.  I also had to use Surfacer to sand down the plugs for the cowling weapon openings (Yes, they will be making a J2M2 from the parts breakdown) to get a smooth surface.

            The kit provides two different types of prop blades, and the instructions do not indicate which should be used for which airplane.  However, an advertisement included in the kit shows a photo of Lt(jg) Aoki’s airplane, equipped with what the kit instructions call “high performance” prop blades, so these were used.  I didn’t attach the drop tank because all the photos I have found of this airplane show that not used.

COLORS & MARKINGS

             I masked off the canopy and painted it black along with the pre-shading of the model, since that is the interior color for IJN canopies.  I then mixed some Tamiya “Royal Blue” with Tamiya “Semi-gloss Black” to get the very dark blue “cowling color” used on Mitsubishi airplanes.  That was then masked off.  I painted the wing leading edges Tamiya “Flat Yellow” with a drop of Tamiya “orange” then masked that off.  The lower surfaces were painted Tamiya “IJN Grey” and the upper surfaces were painted Tamiya “IJN Green 2", with both areas being post-shaded with lightened colors.  The prop blades were painted Tamiya “NATO Brown.”  The wheel wells and gear door interiors were painted Tamiya Aluminum, with a thin coat of Tamiya “Clear Blue.”  I finished off by applying a coat of Future.

             The kit decals were used to do the colorful Raiden flown by Lt(jg) Aoki of the 352nd NAG.  While both yellow and white rudder markings are provided, the photo of the actual airplane shows these dark enough in comparison with the white surround for the hinomaru that they could only be yellow.  As I have said above, the decals are thick, and needed several applications of Micro-Sol and a final heavy application of Solvaset to settle down.  The Solvaset and Future didn’t like each other, and some large white areas appeared.  Once things were dry, a second application of a thick coat of Future over these areas cleared them back up.  The model was then given an overall coat of Xtracrylix Flat varnish, which left a slight sheen, which is what photos of Lt(jg) Aoki’s airplane show the finish was like.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

            The three photos I found of this airplane show it to have been pretty clean for a Japanese fighter, likely because it was new at the time.  I only “dinged” the area of the wing and fuselage where the pilot and crew would have mounted it.

            I unmasked the canopy and left the sliding section closed for now, because opening it destroys the clean lines of the airplane and because the canopy is clear enough to see all the detail within.  I assembled the landing gear and attached it, and attached the prop. I then attached the cannon barrels and the pitot tube.

CONCLUSIONS

             An excellent, simple kit that makes up into a good-looking model that will look good sitting next to all the other Hasegawa Japanese fighters in this scale.  The kit is definitely superior to the ancient Revell 1/32 kit.  Highly recommended to those who like Japanese subjects.  I intend to use that great figure in a Hasegawa Oscar, where the wonderful figure will hide the lack of overall interior cockpit detail.

Highly recommended.

Tom Cleaver

Se[ptember 2011

Review kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan. 

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