Hasegawa 1/32 Ki-44-II Otsu w/40mm cannon
|PRICE:||$45.00 SRP when new|
|NOTES:||Eduard Big Ed 3281 Ki-44 Shoki etched interior and exterior added|
The Ki-44 Shoki “Tojo” was the design platform for a home defense fighter. In 1938, Nakajima Aircraft of Japan received an order for a high speed air defense interceptor, that was known as the Imperial Army Type 2 Fighter, also called the Ki-44, almost simultaneously with an order for the Ki-43 Oscar. High speed and better climb rate were favored at the sacrifice of maneuverability. These requirements were met through the use of Japan's most powerful engine at the time, the HA-41 which was originally intended for bomber use. Tei Koyama had the chief responsibility for designing the Ki-44. He accepted the visibility restrictions creating an aircraft that was smaller than either the Ki.27 Nate or Ki.43 Oscar creating a small, thinly tapered fuselage with a large frontal surface. A two way radio and drop tank was also incorporated into his design. The Ki-44 featured Nakajima designed "butterfly" combat flaps (Fowler Flaps) to improve maneuverability. This greatly improved its ability to maneuver in combat as well as reduce landing roll and take off distance. It did however also have poor visibility at takeoff and landing due to the large cowling. Many pilots transitioning from the Ki-27 Nate realized this in addition to its instability during low speed flight. However, in a comparison test program it beat the Bf-109 and Ki-60 (forerunner of the Ki-61) in a series of trials. The Imperial Japanese Army adopted it in 1942 as the Type 2 Single Seat Fighter. During a comparison with the IJN Zero-sen the Tojo was found to climb to interception altitudes better than the Zero but despite a larger engine was not significantly faster.
It was nicknamed Shoki (Demon) and code named "Tojo" by the Allies. The type 2 Model II carried a more powerful engine, the HA-109, with its two-stage supercharger. There were three versions, the Koh, Otsu and Hei distinguished by visible external changes. A total of 1,227 Ki-44's were built between 1940 and 1944. For the new to the Ki-44 modelers like me this kit, the Ki-44-II Otsu release from Hasegawa in 1/32nd scale (# 08200), is for the second version of the Shoki. The two main characteristics that indicate which version you have are:
Ki-44-I has a telescopic gunsight which protrudes through the front windscreen in the initial version. Later versions used a reflector gunsight. The oil cooler was initially found in a copper ring inside the front of the engine cowl similar to the Ki-27. The second version, Ki-44 II, which is also the version provided with this kit (#8200), has a reflector gunsight and an external oil cooler (this change started with KI-44 serial # 1054) on the lower engine cowling. Initial armament was comprised of two 7.7mm (.30 cal) cowl guns and two 12.7mm (.50 cal) wing mounted guns. A few were armed with a pair of 40mm wing guns, and the cowl guns used the 12.7mm guns with the 12.7mm guns in the wings late in the war in the Ki-44-IIb variant. This bomber buster was made in the units with serial numbers 1356 to 1749. The 40mm guns, utilizing novel caseless rocket propulsion for the bullet was a disappointment due to low muzzle velocity. Thus, the armament was changed in later versions to four 12.7mm guns starting with airframe number # 1750 with two 12.7mm (.50 cal) cowl guns and two 12.7mm (.50 cal) wing mounted guns. Some early Ki-44-IIc units were equipped with the telescopic gunsight so as always it is best to model your kit using photo reference.
Hasegawa released kit # 08200, the Ki44-II Otsu SHOKI (TOJO) w/40mm CANNON in December 2009. It is a well moulded kit with very fine details. I usually build in 1/48th scale and have built several Hasegawa Ki-44 kits in 1/48th so I was looking forward to this kit. There is a minimal parts count and it goes together rather quickly unless you want to take some time to detail the cockpit interior. Even then, the cockpit is sparse and detailing it did not take very long primarily due to my use of Eduard painted etched metal parts. Due to the diminutive size of the actual aircraft it is not overly large in 1/32nd scale.
The kit comes in a large box with a very attractive cover painting of a Ki44-II hunting a formation of B-29’s. It is a beautiful piece of artwork and quite useful in final painting details. The main sprues are bagged separately. Parts are included to build both versions of the Shoki, with an added sprue labeled “X” attached to the “V” sprue. Sprue “X” has two versions of the 40mm gun, one with the streamlined cover tip and the other an exposed barrel which needs to be joined to the same wing attachment base part.
Clear parts and a sprue of soft poly caps are in the same package. Unlike many Hasegawa kits, the very large decal sheet comes inside the instructions instead of with the clear parts (it won’t fit in the clear decal bag). The kit has 150 grey styrene parts, 13 clear styrene parts (most of the clear count is due to the optional clear formation lights), some poly caps and decals for two versions.
The kit moulding is excellent, with no flash and on close inspection I was impressed by the crisply detailed parts. The styrene is typical Hasegawa quality meaning hard yet easy to work with no sink marks. There were a few light ejector pin marks, but the kit designers did a superb job minimizing them. The surface finish is highly polished ideal for the NMF finish, with delicate and precise panel lines, well done rivets and fasteners, and a few raised panels. Fabric control surfaces feature rib stitching, but no ribs or giving a nice impression of well-maintained fabric surfaces.
Markings are provided for two NMF aircraft, one from the 1st Chutai, the second from the 2nd Chutai, both part of the 47th Hiko Sentai at Narimatsu Airfield, Japan. These were much more colorful than the versions found at Clark Airfield in the Philippines since they incorporate the white homeland defense ID bands with the hinomarus. The color box art also supplements the painting information in the kits building instructions. I honestly had a problem selecting which color scheme to use. Both versions are quite attractive and colorful. I opted for the box art version. The decals are well printed, and gloss finished. I sprayed them with Testors dull coating as a final finish before they were applied. They are very thin, the printing is crisp, small details such as stencils are clearly printed and are the pigments opaque and easy to work with. The white paint used in the decal was opaque enough and despite some reservations before applying them (since the alternative is masking and spraying the paint), I was very pleased with the end result. You might want to paint those areas around the hinomaru’s white before applying the kit decals. I liked the off white color of the kit decals white areas since it added to the subtle weathering and was a white rather than the cream or off- eggshell beige in earlier kits.
The kit cockpit is a very simple assembly consisting of four steps. I used the kit plastic for most cockpit parts and removed some of the plastic surface in order to attach the Eduard color etched. I was tempted to use the kit decals for the instruments to maintain the 3D qualities since the kit plastic is so finely moulded and accurate. I opted for Eduard color parts in the cockpit. Eduard etched was used for the restraining system and instrument panel. I chose not to use the etched metal parts indicated for most of the boxes such as the throttle quadrant since the plastic parts were nicely moulded, looked more robust, and had better 3D depth after a wash with thinned black paint. I replaced the kit seat with the Eduard part which I chose not to paint leaving it in a NMF. I liked the scale thickness and natural metal finish of the etched part. I decided to use a black wash on the seat which changed the color unfortunately since I liked the shiny realistic metallic of the seat as seen on the etched fret (I won’t do that next time). The combination of some Eduard and the better kit plastic parts for cockpit detailing added a lot to this kit. It did not take too long to add them and it added so much to the final appearance. Some of the Eduard etched was not used and had me wondering what they were thinking because I could not see any improvement in replacing some kit parts for etched metal or they were hidden after assembly. The parts I did use were superb.
Some of Eduard’s etched were very impressive and actually fantastic additions. Parts such as a small color etched cap that goes on the top of the control column. There are two buttons on the top of the control column which are not the usual single button gun trigger found at the top of the control stick. There is an illustration in a Japanese language book (Model Art Profile # 5 page 11) where the buttons are painted yellow and red. The Ki-44 had the gun trigger on the engine throttle control lever similar to today’s F-16 HOTSA stick. The two buttons on the top of the control stick are #1 Fowler Flaps on, and #2 Fowler flaps retract. When you see this color etched size even in 1/32nd it is a work of art – you can’t paint something that small so precisely. Other etched parts such as the canopy opening grip (#28) and knob (#38), brake line clamps (# 15) for the hydraulic brake line, the air vent (#51) used on the port side in front of the cockpit and wing light inside which hides the plastic seam were notable examples of the value added by Eduard’s etched metal.
The fuselage halves closed in step 5
with no concerns coming from the cockpit area. I did not open the butterfly
flaps nor the cockpit access panel. I have never seen a photo of the
butterfly flaps deployed while the aircraft was on the ground.
Also, the cockpit access panel which
has a lot of Eduard etched on the fret is usually not opened except for some
specific ground maintenance tasks.
Steps 6 and 7 have you construct the upper and lower wings followed by attaching them to the fuselage. Note, the butterfly (AKA fowler flaps) combat maneuvering flaps trailing edges extend beyond the wing trailing edge – this is intentional – don’t sand them flush with the rear wing edge. The slotted tabs found on the parts for the horizontal tail were fantastic. I am often unsure of getting the horizontal tail right and the slotted tabs align them perfectly.
Steps 8, 9 and 10 have you assembling the engine and engine cowl. The engine is beautiful. With some aluminum paint and a black wash the crisp moulding pops out. I used some copper wire rather than the Eduard etched for the ignition cables. The etched looks too flat but has a nice, accurate representation of the wiring. It just looks too flat for my liking but you could benefit from them if you don’t like the tedious task of wiring each cylinder.
Steps 11 and 12 are easy. The landing gear goes together with no effort and is a superb moulding. I added some lead fly fishing wire for the brake lines rather than use the Eduard parts. I did use the Eduard brake line holding clips (parts 15) and strut linkage (part 11) for their exquisite detailing. I did use all the parts 14, 20/21, 22/23, 10, 36/37, 27/28 for the inside panels that go onto the landing gear struts. Under a coat of paint they disappeared and added no to improvement to the appearance. This is an example of wasted time and parts added to the etched sheet.
I choose not to add the drop tanks to this build. They are very nicely moulded and represent the late version only. I did assemble them to see how they looked. They are perfect in every way and went into the spares box.
Step 15, 16 and 17 complete the attachment of the landing gear, all other under fuselage parts, canopy and prop. I thought about cutting the gun scope tip in order to turn the cap on its side linking it to a piece of wire leading back inside the cockpit to represent how this part actually worked. I did not find any photos of Ki-44’s on the ground with them in this condition, nor with open a cockpit access panel so I left that idea for use on some other day.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The decals come on a well printed sheet with two options. I chose construction number (C/N) 1435, the markings for the 2nd Chutai aircraft featured on the box art. Before decaling I thought long and hard about the benefits of using a masking and paint approach versus use of the decals. If the decals did not work the kit would be trashed. If the decals did work, their crisp lines especially on the red scalloped portions would maybe look better than painted on markings. They are complex and some are on rounded surfaces which do not bode well for decal application. No problems were experienced applying the decals much to my surprise. I used warm water to soften them up slightly and it worked! Microsoft Super Sol decal solvent was also used when applying the decals. Using the decals also made it easier to apply some light weathering since they are easier to chip than paint. Alclad aluminum shades were used for the overall final finish. Tamiya X-11 chrome silver enamel (not acrylic) was used as a base coat and primer.
The cockpit and related parts were painted in “khaki green” a form of zinc chromate. I used Tamiya XF-71 cockpit green. According to Model Art Profile # 5, page 99 explains: “Before mid-1943 the interior of the Type 2 fighters including #1 prototype had been painted with general purpose anti-corrosion clear blue paint known as Aotake. Thereafter, only the cockpit interior was painted with Khaki Green and the rest of the parts were in principle left unpainted (Alclad). Only the Ki44-II Hei with c/n 1900 through 2000 seemed to have the lower part of the inside of the landing gear strut covers painted either in Aotake or Dark Grey.”
Weathering and Final Coat – some pastel chalk and black/brown pin wash was used. I did not use any overall sprayed on Future coat or Testors clear coating on the model. Normally I would use them during the initial decal application and after decaling was completed. In order to maintain the luster of the Alclad NMF finish I opted not to seal all of the decals and gave them a flat finish before they were applied. This required close cropping of the decals from the backing sheet.
The props had the correct decal stencil and yellow tip stripes seen in photographs and found on the kit decal sheet.
The very last steps were attaching the fuselage antenna mast and wires as well as the Eduard pilot entry pegs/steps (parts # 24). For the entry pegs I drilled a hole and glued in a metal pin. I then cut off the front of the Eduard etched peg part # 24 and slipped on the square perforated step onto the glued in pin. The next step was to attach the landing gear status pins and paint them. They are similar to those found on the Fw-190 and usually missing on most Ki-44 builds. Once you look for and see this part on historical period photos of the Ki-44 it makes sense to put them on the aircraft. While they were not an implicit part of the Eduard sheet found in its instructions I did use two pieces of unused etched from the etched metal sheet for this part.
I inserted a metal pin for the vertical tip to represent a small antenna tail mast because this is missing from the kit plastic. I used E-Z-Line for the antenna wire. The point of insertion for the drop down antenna wire into the fuselage, on the starboard side of the airframe, has a well moulded extension which was used to glue on the drop down portion of the antenna wire. I attached the exhausts after the cowl was painted and avoided repainting them. Testors exhaust metalizer was used on this part. I could do this out of sequence because Hasegawa provided a keyed attachment point for the exhaust to the fuselage mating.
The clear parts, the windscreen, canopy, telescopic gunsight and formation lights were added using Testors # 8876C white glue. I use this because of its long, tapered black plastic applicator that allows small amounts to be carefully placed. The clear wing tip and tail formation lights were painted Testors chrome silver on their underside and then painted clear green or red as required. They have small mounting nubs in the underside so you need to do some drilling in the center of the areas you filed down where the formation lights go on the wing surfaces and vertical tail. Before attachment I used Tamiya clear red and green over the transparent lights, glued them with Testors # 8876C white glue and the model was finished.
This kit went OOP in 2011 unfortunately and is becoming more difficult to find although there are still some out there on local hobby shop shelves including frequent appearances on eBay and Amazon sellers. It is getting more expensive to buy from its introductory MSRP of $45.00 with upward price pressures as it becomes harder to find. Given there are usually two 1/32nd scale Ki-44 releases available at all times from Hasegawa, the Wolfpack Designs resin 40mm guns let you convert the available kits into the 40mm version since all the other parts are there to build this version avoiding the prices of a hard to find kit.
The Hasegawa 40mm Shoki is a gem. I saw one built and displayed at a model show and knew I had to have one even though I am not a 1/32nd scale builder. The current releases of 1/32nd scale kits are fantastic but due to the room it takes to store and display 1/32nd scale models I have avoided them for the most part (i.e. except for the 1/32nd Tamiya Mustang and Corsair). The overall shape and dimensions of the kit are perfect and you can build a very nice model from this kit with minimal application of modeling skills. I encourage you to build one as a break from AMS since no aftermarket is required for a nice outcome. If you want additional detail as I did, the Eduard set fits in and provides some easy to work with enhancements.
Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki in Japanese Army air Force Service by Richard Bueschel – Shiffer Books 1996, original release by Osprey Publications in 1970.
Model Art Profile Number 5, Nakajima Ki44 Shoki, issued in 2009 with some English page translations in the rear of the book.
Famous Airplanes of the World No. 16 (1989-5) Army Type 2 Fighter “Shoki”
The Maru Mechanic No.9 (1978 – 3) Nakajima Ki44 Shoki.
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