Hasegawa 1/48 Ki-44-II Hei Shoki (Tojo)

KIT #:

9136 (Jt36)




Two options


Andrew Garcia


Eduard Zoom FE163




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 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 first Ki-44 release from Hasegawa in 1/48th scale (#9136), 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. It also has the oil cooler in a copper ring inside the front of the engine cowl similar to the Ki-27. The second version, Ki-44 II, which is the version provided with this kit (#9136), 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 a novel caseless rocket propulsion for the bullet was a disappointment due to low muzzle velocity. Thus, the armament was changed 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. This model, the Ki-44-IIc was built from March 1944 through January 1945 with 427 units produced. 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. I was about to use a beautiful Eagle Strike decal on this build and determined the color profile in the instructions did not match a photo reference due to differing gun sights.


The 40mm equipped Shoki’s never really proved of value during the Philippines campaign. Most of them were destroyed on the ground. When Clark airfield was overrun some examples were captured giving us a good photo opportunity using TAIU photographers to photograph a Ki-44-IIb serial number 1747 and a Ki-44-IIc, serial number 2068 for posterity. TAUI numbered the captured aircraft serial number 2068 as “S-11” which was an aircraft from the last production run. By then the decision to stop Ki-44 production, it was by then a five year old design for the newer Ki-84, was the order of the day.


Nakajima only assembled two major models of the Ki-44, the Ki-44-I and the Ki-44-II. Errors were made in categorizing the Ki-44-II in many publications because the time honored tradition of later models having the large or heavier weapons did not hold truth with Shoki production. A final prototype, the Ki-44-III was built but never progressed due to the war’s end. Some Ki-44’s soldiered on for the Nationalist Chinese Army in Nanking and also by the communist forces as part of the Red Army of China. None were reported used in combat but some photos exist. No news of the final disposition of those aircraft has surfaced yet.


For a very nice graphic catalog of the airframe differences the reference text, Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki by Martin Ferkl, Revi books # II-4005, published in 2009 has profiles on pages 14-15 that visually depict the changes. This is a highly recommended book since it is in English and very complete as a reference.




Hasegawa’s announcement of a new mold 1/48 Ki-44-II Hei Shoki in June of 1995 was eagerly anticipated by Hasegawa WWII Japanese aircraft subject fans like me.  Many folks wondered if it would improve much over the nice Otaki/Arii kit. In my opinion, yes, it did improve on the Arii/Otaki kit, especially in the cockpit area.


I did not find any areas that I needed to fix errors which is a good thing. It is a well moulded kit with fine details. There is a minimal parts count and it goes together rather quickly unless you want to take some time to detail the cockpit interior.

It is a small kit and quite attractive when completed even if you make some errors in building it. What I really enjoyed is placing it next to other contemporary aircraft to visually see the diminutive size of this aircraft.




I used my Panavise PVJr. (Combo Model 201) with the rubber Cake and Pastry Decorators Matt glued to its jaws as the most helpful tool in this and most of my projects. I use it on small parts such as when wiring radial engines and to hold entire completed aircraft once assemblies are complete. This tool holds them at the needed angle and frees up one hand which comes in handy all the time. Also, when applying decals for example, you can rotate the aircraft into any position you feel you need in order to provide the perfect position for placing that tricky decal. I have to profusely thank Steven Budd from Croydon, U.K. who gave me the tip and went far beyond that in helping me to get this tool up and working. Needless to say it has greatly enhanced my model building and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this up front in the “construction” section. I have included a picture of the vise so you can visualize it. The magic comes from attaching the cake decorating rubber non-slip pad. “Shazam” – a perfect nonslip, non-impact, non-marking, holder for your delicate models when under construction. It is also most helpful when decal application time comes around. I found it to be a must have tool. I bought the Panavise from Amazon and thanks to Steve Budd for the rubber matt.


Because I intend to build several examples of the Ki-44 Shoki a few early building problems, self induced, led me to decide on building this kit as a reference model. That is, I wanted to build an almost OOB kit to see what construction snags there were and where I might be able to improve on the final kit in future builds. This freed me from “AMS” and working up a kit to the almost finished point then tiring of it and relegating it to the unfinished kit “shelf of doom” because it was not  flawless. This approach let me gloss over mistakes or parts breakages of which I had two big ones, the antenna mast and rear landing wheel were early build problems, without sweating the loss of a contest quality model. In summary – it was a for fun build and it was a fun kit to build that does not look bad once finished despite some problems I contributed during construction.


I was in a quandary regarding the correct color to use for the cockpit interior. I used a mixture of Tamiya X-13 Metallic Blue with some Tamiya X-25 Clear Green added. I use this for the cockpit interior, landing gear wells and inside the cowl. While reading up on this subject and looking at some web based builds it looks like some modelers have opened up the emergency side hatch as if this door was like the exit door on a Spitfire which can be seen open with its distinctive pry bar on the inside. Apparently the door was dropped only during ground maintenance to get access to some hard to reach areas and only in the event of an emergency exit, never for the normal in and out movement of the pilot. So, I kept it closed despite the obvious improvement in looking inside the small cockpit with the enhanced open area of having this portion opened.


For a faster build I relied on the Hasegawa instrument panel decal. It looks fine but the next build I will use the even better Eduard Zoom set for this aircraft.


I placed two small silver dots to represent the two buttons on the top of the control column. I have also seen an illustration in a Japanese book where the buttons are painted yellow and red. The Ki-44 had the guns buttons over on the engine controls similar to today’s F-16 HOTSA stick. The two buttons are #1 Fowler Flaps on, and #2 Fowler flaps retract.


The tires have noticeable ejector pin marks so that needed to be fixed before painting. The rest of the construction was based on just following Hasegawa’s instruction sheet.




I used the kit decals, subject number 2. When I started the build I was going to use a very colorful scheme from an Eagle Strike # 48172 decal sheet. Once some mistakes were made during the build I chose to use the kit decal – all of them including the IFF wing edges and large “bandage” wing decals and save the aftermarket sheet for the next build. I actually used a kit decal scheme that I did not care for since this was a “reference build”.  I used one that I thought looked plain and simple on the build. Now that it is finished I like it. The decal represents a Ki-44-II Hei from the 3rd Chutai, 47th Hiko Sentai based at Narimasu airfield in 1944. I hope you, by seeing it on the kit, appreciate it as well.


Due to some mistakes in the construction phase I opted to use a 15 year old bottle of SNJ which had a white wax like plug form above the aluminum pigment powder and below the thinner instead of my new Alclad paints. I stirred it thoroughly with a stick but should have run it through a mesh material before trying to apply it. This resulted in more problems such as a clogged up airbrush. I also used Xylene as an additional solvent thinner hoping to dissolve the waxy residue. Unfortunately this had a harsh effect on the plastic leaving a less than smooth finish. Lesson learned – never use old paint that looks unusable because it is. Why I had such an old bottle of original SNJ laying around is because I build very few NMF aircraft. I need to build more of these NMF aircraft in the future using Alclad or newer stocks of SNJ.  


Weathering and Final Coat


Aside from the engine exhaust area, I did no weathering of plane and I did not spray on a gloss coat to seal in all the decals. I was tempted to use a flat coat on the decals but the gloss finish looked OK.




I put a black wash on the intake screen of the oil cooler and on the engine cylinders. I also used flat black on the inside of the air intake at the top of the engine cowl as one of the final steps..


The Ki-44 has landing gear indicator pins that pop up when the gear is down based on using the reference photos from FAOW # 16 #5-1989 page 30. I omitted adding these on this build to keep it simple. I will add them to the next build.  I also added brake lines using the reference photos from FAOW # 16 #5-1989 pages 4-5 and pages 32-33. If you want to detail the fuel tank a fine photo of this is found on page 53 FAOW # 16.


The Ki-44 has a retractable boarding step based on using the reference photos from FAOW # 16 #5-1989 pages 40-41, page 68 and on the two page color foldout which is essentially page 1. I omitted adding these on this build to keep it simple. It is not a component that comes with the kit. I was surprised Hasegawa omitted this since they do provide it on their FW-190 kits.


I had a problem with the SNJ not adhering to areas affected by handling. The paint essentially wore off. I replaced these areas with some candy bar aluminum foil glued on using Microscale foil glue.




I am very pleased with this kit. It is a very easy build and I am surprised how much I now enjoy and appreciate its lines since I understand the design philosophy of form and function that were applied to this aircraft. I also now see the genealogy from the K-43 to Ki-44 through to the Ki-84 much better having built this kit. Hasegawa has done a fine job with their plastic moulding and you will have an enjoyable time building this model. There are lots of color schemes and aftermarket decals for the Ki-44 Shoki from Aeromaster, Eagle Strike, etc. Now there is a superb multi decal set released by Lifelike decals (48-36, 37, 38) for the Ki-44. The Lifelike decal features many unique and attractive color schemes for your Tojo. I must admit years ago I disliked the Tojo thinking it was a terrible looking design. I did not like the almost forward swept wings, stubby body, for example, thinking any aircraft that was not a P-51, Bf-109, FW-190 or a Spitfire had poor looks. I am past that thinking and now appreciate the Ki-44 in all its variants as an attractive and interesting little fighter. Since the kit, 09136, is once again available on a limited run from Hasegawa, I encourage you to grab one for the stash because you will enjoy building it. It can be found frequently on eBay as well which indicates most folks do not get around to building this kit. This won’t be my last Shoki from Hasegawa. I have a few other versions already in the initial pre-painting stage as a result of my great enjoyment building and learning all about the Hasegawa 1/48th scale Ki-44 during this build. I even bought a 1/32nd scale Hasegawa Shoki just by looking at the kit in the box. I have resisted going the 1/32nd scale route (it takes up too much space) but I am making an exception for the Tamiya P-51 and Hasegawa Ki-44.


Finally, if you need a good reference, I highly recommend you get the Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki by Martin Ferkl from Revi books for your library to enhance your build.




Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki by Martin Ferkl, Revi books # II-4005, published in 2009

Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki in Japanese Army air Force Service by Richard Bueschel – Shiffer Books 1996, original release by Osprey Publications in 1970.

Andrew Garcia

November 2012

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