Tamiya 1/48 Ki-46-III 'Dinah'

KIT #: 61045
PRICE: $39.98  purchase price
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Jonathan Prestidge
NOTES: Eduard photo etched seat belts

HISTORY

During the Sino-Japanese conflict, prior to the onset of WWII, it became obvious to Japanese Army leaders that a new reconnaissance aircraft would be required to cover the vast distances then being encountered in China. Specifications for a high speed, long-range reconnaissance aircraft were submitted to the Mitsubishi Corporation in 1937 with a speed and range priority.  

Completed in 1939, the prototype had few teething problems; however, speed was some 10% less than hoped for, but still faster than allied fighter aircraft and even their own A6M2 Zero. Mitsubishi was working on an advanced version of their Ha-26 engine (Ha-102), so the Ki-46 was put into production as the Army Type 100 Model 1 Command Reconnaissance Plane.

In March 1941 the 1,080hp Ha-102 engine became available and the Ki-46 II went into production, and was assigned the allied code name “ Dinah” in 1942. The P-38F “Lightning” and F4U-1 “Corsair” were expected soon in the Pacific, and to counter this threat, Mitsubishi was told to increase performance by using two 1,500hp Ha-112-II engines. Ki-46 III testing began in December 1942, and the results were outstanding, with a top speed of 630 km/h at 6,000 m and a ceiling of 10,000m. Produced throughout the war, the aesthetically beautiful Ki-46 III flew almost unmolested until 1945 when allied fighters were finally able to intercept this high-flying reconnaissance speedster.

THE KIT

Released in 1996, Tamiya’s Ki-46 III was not the first 1/48 scale plastic kit of this plane (I think Nichimo did one back in the dark ages) but it remains the most accurate and available. When I saw this kit on the hobby store shelf in 1997 it instantly went to the top of my most wanted list. Back then, the $39.95 asking price was too rich for my modest modeling budget. A few years later the store was having a going out of business sale and I picked this kit up in a package deal for $15.00.

The kit is molded in light gray plastic with finely engraved panel lines. Two seated figures are included. For a twin-engine plane there are relatively few parts.  To be honest, the level of detail OOB is not up to today’s wonder kit standards. Instructions are excellent and even the paint callouts have the actual colors listed as well as the Tamiya brand paint numbers.

CONSTRUCTION

Given the asking price, I was a little surprised that the kit did not assemble itself when I opened the box and emptied the contents on the workbench! Joking aside, I started construction by painting the interior parts, wheel wells and inner fuselage parts in a light shade of interior green. Other bits in the interior were painted and assembled, given a wash to bring out detail, and dry brushed with Testors silver. I added two sets of Eduard’s pre-painted IJA seatbelts at this time. The ample greenhouse on this plane means that any time spent on detailing the interior pays off. The fit of the interior parts was great.

The only problem area I encountered with the kit was the main landing gear. The main gear had a prominent mold shift seam that was a pain to clean up without flat-siding the round legs. Also, the two-part gear bays have a prominent seam down the center that is impossible to get rid of. You see, the gear bay halves trap the main landing gear in place when glued together. The landing gear then blocks any attempt at seam cleanup (at least it is not readily visible). On the plus side, the gear is very sturdy.  

Next, I assembled, painted and detailed the engines. They are simple three-piece affairs (one of which is a nylon prop retainer) but they turned out nicely. It is a shame that they are nearly invisible on the finished model due to the design of the engine cowling. I did not glue the engines or exhausts on at this time since they are easier to install after the airframe is painted.

At this time I assembled the fuselage and the wing as separate assemblies. When each was dry, I test fit them. The fit of the wing to the fuselage was a little tight so I sanded the fuselage a bit at the wing roots and glued them together. The tail planes were added next and they fit perfectly. Finally, I used white glue to attach all the clear bits which fit nicely I might add. I only noticed one flaw on the exterior of the airframe - the upper right wing of my kit had some sink areas on the leading edge near the wingtip. 

On a plane with this many windows one might expect that masking them off was a pain. It was! On the real plane, it was not uncommon for the crew to suffer from anoxia (lack of oxygen) due to the extreme altitude at which they operated. While masking this beastie I suffered from anoxia due to the fact that I hold my breath while making each cut to trim the windows! Tamiya tape and several new #11 exacto blades later I was ready for paint.

COLORS & MARKINGS

I chose to use the kit markings for a plane flown by the Dokuritsu Hikotai, 55th Chutai. The upper color calls for Imperial Japanese Army green but I used IJA brown instead as it better matched the box art. I air brushed Poly Scale acrylics, first spraying interior color on the window framing, then spraying a lightened IJA gray on the underside of the plane. I masked of the underside and shot the upper side of the plane IJA brown as previously mentioned.

I then highlighted panel lines and exhaust stains using artists pastels applied with a closely cropped, dry paintbrush. I remove any excess pastel with a kneadable eraser. This tones down the effect to a more realistic level. I then clear coated the model with future floor polish and added the decals. Being lazy, I used the kit-supplied yellow wing ID decals. They did not completely conform to the wing and left a few wrinkles – Doh! The rest of the decals went down OK, being a little on the thick side.

Once the decals were dry, I gave my Ki-46 a final coat of almost flat clear. I used an oil based wash to further pick out detail and to add some surface staining to the airframe.

The landing gear wheels, engines, exhausts and other final bits were added at this time. I used Testors silver (oil-based) to simulate chipping around maintenance panels & scuffing on areas walked on by pilots and ground crew.

CONCLUSIONS

 This kit was an eye-opener. I expected perfection and instead got a nice kit. As far as overall detail, this kit is closer to an AMT A-20J (which I built at the same time) than it is to an Eduard Me 110. This is not all bad. The kit can be easily finished over several weekends and looks quite nice when complete. The low parts count, simple paint scheme and generally excellent fit mean that I can recommend this as a great first multi-engine build.

REFERENCES

Kit instructions

January 2010

Jonathan Prestidge

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