Models & More 1/48 Yokosuka MXY7 'Ohka' Model 22

KIT #: MM 02
PRICE: $40.00 MSRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Larry Cherniak
NOTES: Short run resin kit with white metal detail parts, 2 vac canopies, and decals. Visit models-n-more.com for availability.

HISTORY

"Life is as the weight of one feather compared to one's duty"

Such was, ostensibly, the attitude of the Kamikaze pilots of Japan. Named after a famous typhoon which swept an invading Mongolian fleet out to sea to their destruction in 1280 AD, the "Divine Wind"  "special attack" corps accepted the concept that their lives were tiny things compared to the cause for which they fought.

By 1944 little could be done to stop the advance of the American carriers, and so the bomb-laden suicide aircraft came. By ones and twos at first, they desperately jinked their way through the Combat Air Patrols of Hellcats and Corsairs flown by well-trained, experienced and aggressive pilots. Against defenses directed in by good shipborne radar, few got through and they did little physical damage. The psychological effect- the horror of, and anger at, another man so fanatical that he would willingly fly an aircraft into you- was disproportionately higher though, as I think we can all now understand.

The Franklin and Belleau Wood were hit. Off Iwo Jima, the Saratoga took four Kamikazes and two bombs and was forced to retire to Pearl Harbor for repairs. The "Jeep" carrier Bismarck Sea was sunk in the same engagement. The trouble with the Kamikazes was, they seemed on the verge of working- tactically. Huge carriers were being stopped for very little expenditure of resources. Yet for each pilot who got through to complete his mission, perhaps 50 fellow men drifted dead to the bottom of the ocean.

Then, on April 6, 1945 off Okinawa, the first of ten massed "kikusui" (floating chrysanthemum) attacks started. Aircraft and pilots had been brought in from the Japanese mainland, assembled and launched in waves in an attempt to overwhelm the defenses. 355 Kamikaze were launched. It was a Hellish rain of metal hail, of 400mph missiles with human minds behind them. Most of the 10th Army's mortar ammunition was sunk on two transports. The destroyer Colhoun, ablaze and sinking, had to be scuttled. The destroyer Bush, set on like a wounded animal, listing and almost helpless after a B6N2 Jill smashed down between her stacks, was almost cut in half by a Zero hit amidships. She finally was set ablaze by another strike, broke apart, and sank.

Later, in following kikusui attacks, the Bunker Hill was struck twice in quick succession, with 400 dead or missing and 250 wounded. After returning from kamikaze-inspired repairs, the Enterprise CV-6, once the prize of the fleet and nearly the only thing standing between the Japanese and the remainder of the free world, was mortally wounded. One of her elevators was blown 400 feet into the sky by a Kamikaze Zeke, whose bomb had penetrated 5 decks before detonating. To quote Commander Edward P. Stafford, U.S.N., in "The Big E": "But Chief Pilot Tomi Zai (his body, with calling cards in his pocket, was found at the bottom of the elevator well) had done what his superiors in the Imperial Navy had been unable to do in three and a half years of concerted effort. He had knocked Enterprise out of the war." On April 16, 1945, the destroyer USS Laffey suffered 31 dead and 72 wounded after being attacked by 22 Kamikaze in 80 minutes in the third kikusui wave.

Some of the Kamikaze aircraft used were simply bombed-up Zekes (250kg on an A6M5, 500kg on an A6M7 Model 63), Judys, or even trainers. Specially designed suicide planes, such as the Ki-115, perhaps even the J8M Shusui, were yet coming online. Then there was the unique flying bomb, the MXY7 Ohka model 11. Designed to be carried aloft and dropped from the bottom of a Mitsubishi G4M2e Betty bomber when 10-20 miles from the target, the Ohka was to glide in close before firing its three solid rockets. Boosted to 580mph by gravity and 8-10 seconds of thrust, the Ohka would slip past fighters and AA fire and contact the warship at the waterline. 2,646 lbs (1200kg) of tri-nitroaminol would do the rest.

That was the plan. In reality, the Betty bombers could rarely get anywhere near close enough to launch- even with fighter cover- and fell from the sky in flames. Often, no bombers returned from an Ohka mission, and all the bombs were dropped harmlessly into the sea- sometimes with a pilot onboard, launched at too great a range.

Still, a few got through. On 12 April, 1945, off Okinawa, the 2,200-ton Sumner-class destroyer Mannert T. Abele, disabled from an earlier Kamikaze Zero strike, broke in half and sunk within three minutes of being struck amidships by an Ohka flying bomb. On 4 May, the light minelayer USS Shea suffered an Ohka strike which put it out of the war, with 27 men dead and 91 wounded. The bomb, because of its tremendous velocity, actually passed through the ships bridge structure before detonating off the port side. The destroyer Hugh W.Hadley had to be scrapped after a horrendous encounter with up to 100 Kamikaze craft, including Ohkas, on 11 May.

The Ohka Model 22 was a weapon built of desperation. Never reaching combat, it was designed to address some of the Model 11's shortcomings. It featured a unique Campini-type "jet" engine arrangement meant to extend the range to a safe distance. This consisted of a 100-HP Hatzukaze piston engine driving a compressor into which fuel was injected and ignited. It was meant to be carried aloft under a Yokosuka P1Y3 Model 33 Ginga "Frances", and was given a 33% smaller wing and half the warhead of the Model 11. At only 276mph airspeed and with undoubtedly monstrous handling (on the first test flight, it killed the chief Ohka test pilot when it plummeted out of control immediately upon being dropped), it is difficult to see how it would have been an effective weapon. Other planned models were to be powered by the new Ne-20 turbojet and launched in a variety of ways: Nakajima G8N2 Renzan "Rita" bomber drop, own takeoff, catapult-launch from land or submarine, or towed behind an aircraft.

Altogether, the deaths of 150 American sailors and wounding of 250 may be attributed to Ohka attacks. In return, Japanese sources indicate 55-60 Ohka pilots died, together with 229 Betty pilots and crew. In the Okinawa area in total, perhaps 2,000 kamikaze missions were flown vs. 5,000 conventional ones. 20 ships were sunk by kamikaze vs. 6 by conventional bombing, and 217 were wounded by kamikaze vs. 45 by conventional aerial attack. Around 4,900 American sailors were killed and 4,800 wounded. One can argue, therefore, that the tactics were working. They were effective. But in the horrible logistics of war, the suicide bombers from the sky had spent themselves against a vast approaching wall of steel, to little strategic effect. Hundreds of missions were flown against radar picket destroyers, for example, when a dedicated run against carriers or troop transports would certainly have had a more telling effect. Often, suiciders kept pummeling obviously disabled ships instead of turning to fresh prey. The Americans learned how to bomb and harass airfields by night as well as day to help blunt counter-attacks. And one lesson learned too late by the Americans: perhaps the days of the wooden flight deck were over. When the Brits entered the fray with their armored carriers, one Kamikaze Zero, such as put the Enterprise out of commission, was said to have left nought but a small dent in the 3-inch thick flight deck of the aptly named Indefatigable.

THE KIT

Manufactured and packed in Argentina by Antares models, this simple but well-made kit consists of 15 resin pieces, 15 white metal detail parts, 2 vacuformed canopies, and decals. The parts are cleanly molded with delicate panel lines and very few bubbles or other imperfections. The metal parts look nasty at first but clean up nicely. The canopies are of a decent thickness but unfortunately are male molded, which means soft edges to the framing. The waterslide decals, consisting of chrysanthemum blossom emblems, red sighting line, and a selection of numbers (but lacking any stenciling) come on two tiny sheets protected by paper. Instructions consist of two photocopied (front and back) pages with hand-drawn assembly drawings, potted history, painting recommendations (Tamiya and Testors), and a nice 3-view.

Unfortunately, the wrong picture was accidentally used on both the boxtop and in the instructions, showing the older rocket-powered Ohka Model 11 (as long available already in 1/48 kit form by Testors/Hawk). Don't worry, that's not what's in the box. I talked to Rick Geithmann, the man behind this kit, and he was aware of the mistake and apologizes for any confusion.

Everything is well packed in separate bags, and a chunk of styrofoam is used to prevent the delicate cockpit opening from damage. After removing this, I found some remnants stuck to the resin. A slosh of liquid styrene cement dissolved it away handily. All in all, a very nice kit in a surprisingly tiny tough cardboard box. The only conspicuous absences are photoetched bombsight and a display stand, which you will need to come up with on your own since the craft lacks any kind of landing gear.

CONSTRUCTION

After removing the small casting blocks on all pieces, I built the simple cockpit pretty much as given, just adding a few wires and a prominent red release handle to the port side of the panel. If you dig around enough online you can find some reference pictures of the restored example at Udvar-Hazy to go by. The instructions recommend using a dark green, but I chose aotake blue by Model Master (#2119 Interior Metallic Blue) just to be ornery- because I got a new bottle and wanted to try it out. The seat as given is OK but lacks the characteristic lightening holes of the original. I vacuformed a copy using it as a pattern and drilled out some holes, then used some Eduard seatbelts, but left it out until final assembly.

When joining up the middle to rear fuselage, the major weakness (literally!) of the kit came to haunt me. The joint is a simple butt-joint of the scale-thickness cockpit edge to a solid block of resin. There are no locators except the cockpit edges to aid alignment, so great care must be taken in ensuring no twist is introduced at this stage. The cockpit on my sample was slightly distorted, so I held it in place while CA gluing in stages to recover the roundness. Even after reinforcing the joint from inside the cockpit with what I thought was plenty of thick CA, I managed to crack apart the joint two or three times later. A different design of the kit here would have done wonders. I recommend dripping in a radius of 5-minute epoxy from the inside- the seat will cover it up.

The main airframe parts went on pretty well. I glued the wings on so that the tops matched the wingroot fairings on the fuselage, then filed the undersides of the fairings to match the wing thickness. I scribed the panel lines a little deeper and added a few more using the 3-view drawing as a guide. Two you really should add if you display the cockpit closed are the deep canopy rails.

I was disappointed by the jet air intakes, which are molded solid with a relatively shallow depression in the front. In this scale you really should have open intakes. I suppose you could just paint them black, or drill them out. I chose to replace them altogether with Vac-U-Formed copies (and even took the opportunity to drill out the fuselage and add compressor blades back there), but that's because I'm a nutcase.

Another area that definitely needs drilling out is the jet exhaust, which again has merely a sunken area. Fortunately, a 1/4" drillbit in a slow battery-powered drill cleans it right out. While the drill is out, open up a tiny hole in the nose as well. The vertical tailplanes are simple butt-joins, so you really should pin them on with tiny music wire as I did. I also added a bit of elevator actuator detail missing in the kit and a little airscoop or two. Be sure to carefully and repeatedly sight from the front and rear to make sure everything stays lined up properly.

The piston engine exhausts are separate tiny metal pieces. I deepened the locating pips into an ovoid slot before painting. The canopy, once cut free, fit well. I masked it with metal foil and used Testors clear parts cement to fair in the windscreen. The framing lines were a bit difficult to follow because of the radiused edges to the framework.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Although I did preshading to break up the monotonous paint scheme, this soon disappeared after I literally broke up the model by dropping it four feet to the cement floor and had to repaint my repairs! Model Master #2117 IJN sky gray enamel was used and gave a nice smooth semigloss surface for decals. The only kit decal I ended up using was the flower logo, which was a bit thick and wanted to stick fast where positioned. Although it is provided, I used some narrower spare decal strip for the red line running all the way fore-to-aft.

Polly Scale satin varnish was airbrushed on and it was time for the fiddly bits. The jetpipe was brush-painted Model Master #1424 burnt iron non-buffing metalizer lacquer, a really lovely paint. The white metal mass balances were very nicely done but, again, needed to be butt-joined where they touched. A spare etched German gunsight was added in front of the windscreen and a sighting post further forward. A head armor plate was added from black 0.015" styrene. I built a crude stand using ends from a Dragon Bachem Natter kit stand, wood, wire, and foam strips, and it was ready to display.
 

CONCLUSIONS

I really enjoyed building this kit, and it looks great on the shelf. It is a unique subject and nicely done. It's also a quick build- the additions and corrections I did were standard operating procedure for me, but you can skip them if you like. I wish the fuselage were engineered differently for structural soundness and that the air scoops were open, but if the subject matter interests you, don't hesitate to pick up this kit while you can. The price is reasonable for the limited-run nature, and yes the review kit was purchased with my own hard-earned funds. I look forward to seeing what Models & More will come up with next!

REFERENCES

 

"Aero Series no.7 Kamikaze", Aero Publishers. The oldie but goody (pictures never get old).

"Suicide squads, W.W. II : Axis and Allied special attack weapons of World War II" by Richard O'Neill. The statistics, dates etc. in the history section were all taken from this source. ISBN 0312775296

Larry Cherniak

November 2008

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