Tamiya 1/48 J2M3 Raiden

KIT #: 61018
PRICE: $13.50
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Jonathan Prestidge
NOTES: Techmod insignia used


 In September 1939, aircraft manufacturers Nakajima and Mitsubishi received an unofficial order to trial-manufacture the Raiden, the Japanese Navy's first intercepor (a fighter to undertake the air defence of land bases). It was finally decided, however, that the development and trial-manufacture of the Raiden should be conducted only by Mitsubishi. It was in April of 1940 that the plane was designated “14-Shi Interceptor (J2M1)” and official requirements were set out by the Navy. The requirements gave priority to climbing power, maximum speed and high-altitude performance. Aircraft engines of those days that could meet all these requirements were only the air-cooled engine “Kasei” Type 11 trial-manufactured by Mitsubishi for the Type 1 Attack Bomber (G4M) “Betty” and the liquid-cooled engine “Atsuta” trial-manufactured by Aichi. Because of the Navy's poor experience in liquid-cooled engines and Atsuta's insufficient reliability, the Navy was forced to employ the air-cooled engine Kasei which, having larger engine diameter and giving larger air resistance, was not best suited to be used in a fighter. The Raiden was designed by Jiro Horikoshi and his designers who had taken charge of the Zero fighter.

To lessen air resistance, the propeller shaft of the engine was made longer and the cowling was made slenderer. To obtain higher cooling efficiency, the forced-cooling fan was used. The body was spindle-shaped with its largest section at the 40% of its overall length. The wing load was as large as 145 kg/m2 and, in due consideration of dogfights, Fowler flaps were employed. The retracting system and propeller pitch changing system of the electric type were employed in place of those of the hydraulic type which had a bad reputation. 

The 14-Shi Interceptor made its first flight at Kasumigaura Airfield on 20th March, 1942. As a result of various test flights made thereafter, defects such as insufficient power of the Kasei engine, bad vibration of the extended propeller shaft and poor visibility were pointed out. A production type which bettered visibility by shortening the nose and remodeling the canopy and mounted the more powerful Kasei 23 engine equipped with the water-methanol injection system made its first flight on 13th October, 1942. The production type also developed many troubles in the engine and other sections, and it was in December 1943 that the plane was accepted for use under the name of Raiden Type 11 (J2M2). In the meantime, the Raiden Type 21 (J2M3), an anti-bomber fighter which had more powerful armament consisting of four belt-fed 20mm machine guns, was completed in October 1943 and now became the main object of production. The production of the Type 21 totaled about 300.

The Raiden Type 21 first saw action in the battle of  the Marianas in September 1944. Subsequently, some were sent to the Philippines and Formosa and took part in actions, but the result was not as good as the Japanese had expected. It was in air defence actions for the mainland by the Raiden unit of the 302nd Air Group based on Atsugi that the Raiden exercised its own power to the full and showed the most brilliant activity. The Raiden unit distinguished itself by shooting down a total of  about 300 enemy planes in the short period from the end of 1944 to the end of the war. It owed much of its success to the fact that it could readily obtain necessary material from the nearby Koza naval air arsenal which produced the Raiden, the geographical conditions that its base Atsugi was located near the course of B29 bombers into the Kanto district, and the best consolidated air defense system and air defense control by means of radar network.


The instructions for this kit are dated 1974 so it is at least as old as I am. That said, this kit holds up very well in spite of its age. There is a mix of finely engraved and raised detail, a 10-piece interior with a decal for the instruments, very clear one-piece canopy, minimal flash, and no parts warpage. The only area that NEEDS help is the decals. With a price of only $13.50 currently at Squadron, one can afford to spring for some aftermarket goodies.


Naturally, the interior came first. Because of the expansive canopy, the interior on this plane is very visible. I did not use any aftermarket items for the interior but do I think that some photoetch seatbelts would look nice. I simply took my time and painted the molded-in seatbelts, applied the insrtument decal and did the usual paint/wash/dry-brush on the rest of the interior. I did drill out the lightening holes in the structural member behind the pilot's head. 

Once the interior was finished the fuselage was glued together, wings and tail planes added, and the front cowl section installed. Minimal seam cleanup is all that was required. No putty needed on this one. As there was no option for an open cockpit, I used white glue to attach the canopy at this time (after a dip in Future, of course). I masked the canopy with Tamiya tape and a new no. 11 X-acto blade. I painted the masked cockpit area with the interior color and set the plane aside – for several years!

Moving into a house that needs remodeling does that.


Aside from the move, part of the problem for me was that I couldn't find a non-boring paint scheme for a J2M3. I.J.N. green over I.J.N. gray blah-blah-blah! Then, while perusing a color profile book at the local Borders, I happened upon a yellow-nosed Raiden with cool yellow “gills” and a white band around the fuselage. The plane was part of the famous 302 Flying Group based out of Atsugi between March 1944 and August 1945. It was still green over gray but it was enough to get me motivated. I purchased the book and decided to finish the Raiden. Now I must say, as much as I enjoy my color profile book, some of the profiles are fanciful at best. I would not have proceeded with my chosen paint scheme had I not seen another finished model of this same aircraft on J-aircraft.com. The builder of that model claimed to have seen an actual picture of the plane. I decided to use the color profile as a loose guide, applying the added color over the standard J2M3 colors.

I broke out my Badger Anthem air-brush and shot some Polly Scale acrylic “aircraft interior black” on the anti-glare panel in front of the cockpit. I then primed the areas that would end up yellow and the fuselage band with flat white. I used automotive pin striping to mask the fuselage band. It stretches more than masking tape and allowed me to get a nice line around the tapered surface. Next, I shot the yellow and masked that off with Tamiya tape. Then the gray underside and finally the green uppers.

Now I removed all but the canopy masking and applied various shades of pastels with a fine soft brush to simulate weathering and exhaust stains. I gave the plane a gloss coat of Future to seal the pastels and to prep the plane for decals.

The kit “meatballs” are truly junk. Use them only if you don't care how  the finished model looks. I decided to try some Techmod Hinomarus I had purchased on my birthday. The Techmod decals are nicely printed, in register and the color seems spot-on. My only problem with the Techmod decals is that one of them wrinkled/cracked, refusing to settle down even after repeated application of setting solution. The final effect is not very noticeable and resembles a slightly over-stressed airframe in that small area. It just adds to the realism right? The other five Hinomarus went down fine. For the remainder of the markings, I used the kit decals and they worked great. I had to cut and paste to get the correct tail code. Once the decals were dry, I used pastels to weather them and then sealed everything with a thinned Tamiya flat base and Future mix (thanks to Tom Cleaver for that tip).

I spent another day or so attaching all the final bits (landing gear, etc.) and applying the finishing touches on my weathering with Testors silver.   


I am really happy with how this kit turned out. Construction was straightforward enough that a beginner could tackle this one with ease. I really enjoyed researching the color scheme and practicing my weathering skills. The fact that there are some raised panel lines may deter some, but the kit decals are the kits only real failing. However, even with the aftermarket decals I used it was cheaper than the competition. Highly recommended!

Jonathan Prestidge

October 2008

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