AB&K 1/48 Nakajima A2N3
The Nakajima A2N Type 90 was developed by Nakajima as a private venture to replace their A1N carrier fighter. It was designed in 1929 by Takao Yoshida and was strongly influenced by the Boeing Model 69 F2B-1 and Model 100 F4B-1, examples of which had been exported to Japan.
The first two prototypes, powered by Bristol Jupiter VI radials, first flew in December 1929 but were rejected by the Imperial Navy as not presenting a sufficient improvement over the A1N. A partial redesign was done by Jingo Kurihara, with the new prototype, powered by a 580 hp Nakajima Kotobuki 2, was completed in May 1931. The new prototype demonstrated a climb to 10,000 feet in 5 minutes, 45 seconds, a top speed of 182 mph; the wing loading of only 16.1 lb/sq ft allowed superb high-G close-in maneuverability favored by IJNAF fighter pilots. This prototype was accepted by the Imperial Navy as the A2N1 in April 1932.Later that year, Lieutenant Minoru Genda formed a flight demonstration team known as "Genda's Flying Circus" to promote naval aviation, flying the A2N1.
The A2N first entered combat during the battle of Shanghai in August-September, 1937. The carrier Kaga arrived off Shanghai on August 15, 1937, with an air group composed of 12 Mitsubishi B2M2 Type 89 attack aircraft, 13 Yokusuka B3YI Type 94 attack aircraft, 14 Aichi D1A1 Type 94 dive-bombers and 16 Nakajima A2N3 Type 90 fighters and launched the 12 B2M2 bombers unescorted on the first strike against the city at 0530 hours. The strike was intercepted by 21 Curtiss Hawk III fighters flown by the ROCAF 4th Pursuit Group and six of the B2M2s were shot down.
The next day, Kaga launched eight A2N3s on the first patrol over the city. One fighter was forced to land on Chung Ming Island in the Whampoa River with engine failure. During a patrol launched the next day, one A2N3 was damaged when the formation was intercepted by Hawk IIIs that dived through them but didn’t stick around to fight. On August 20, the first A2N3 was lost in combat with Hawk IIIs of the ROCAF 24th PG while escorting an E8N float plane on a reconnaissance mission.
Ryujo arrived to operate with Kaga on August 18. On August 22, a patrol of four A2N3s from the Ryujo fighter squadron attacked 18 ROCAF Hawk IIIs in a surprise attack from the rear, shooting down six Hawk IIIs without loss.
The next day, Hawk IIIs of the ROCAF 21st Pursuit Group engaged four Kaga A4Ns escorting five B2M2s, losing two of their number to the defending Japanese fighters. That afternoon, four Ryujo A4Ns engaged 27 ROCAF Boeing Model 248s (P-26A) of the 17th Pursuit Group, shooting down nine Chinese fighters for no loss.
On August 20, Hosho, the first IJN carrier, joined Ryujo while Kaga returned to Sasebo.
The air war heated up on August 25, beginning that morning when three Hosho A4Ns intercepted three ROCAF Martin Model 139 (B-10B) bombers over Shanghai and claimed one bomber shot down. Later that afternoon, four Heinkel He-111As of the ROCAF's 19th Bomb Squadron (Heavy) and five Martin 139s of the 10th and 30th Squadrons, escorted by seven Boeing 248 fighters of the 17th squadron, attacked Japanese ships anchored in the Whangpoa River off Shanghai. Defending A4Ns shot down two He-111As. At almost the same time, the Japanese fleet moored in the Yangtze was bombed by six Curtiss Model 60 (A-12 Shrike) attack bombers of the CAF 9th Attack Group, with two lost to defending A4Ns.
Kaga returned from Sasebo on August 26 and over the next week the three carriers launched daily bombing attacks on Chinese forces in and around Shanghai without meeting opposition from the ROCAF. Both Ryujo and Hosho returned to Sasebo on September 2.
Ryujo and Hosho returned on September 18, at which time Kaga departed for Sasebo. The two carriers flew the first strikes against Canton on September 21. A combined strike from Hosho and Ryujo, escorted by six Hosho A4Ns and nine from Ryujo was intercepted by ROCAF Hawk IIIs over the city. The Hosho squadron claimed six Hawk IIIs, but five of the six A4Ns ran out of fuel while returning with the pilots rescued by IJN ships. The Ryujo squadron claimed six for no losses. Strikes against Canton and Shanghai continued for the rest of the month without meeting ROCAF opposition. Hosho transferred her remaining aircraft to Ryujo on October 3 and returned to Sasebo.
At the end of October, the first Soviet I-15bis and I-16 fighters appeared over Shanghai. In November, Kaga returned with the first A5M fighters aboard. The A4Ns on Ryujo were replaced when she returned to Sasebo.
A.B.& K. Hobby Kits, a new company in Ukraine, announced the A4N3 in 2019, and the kit arrived in the summer of 2020. This is the first kit of this airplane in 1/48, though Fine Molds released an A4N2 in 1/72 a few years ago. A.B. & K. will also release an A2N2 in 1/48. This sub-type is distinguished from the A2N5 by having an upper wing with no dihedral.
The kit is very nicely molded and is another “high end limited-run” kit from the Ukrainian plastic kit renaissance. The parts are very crisply molded with petite surface detail and excellent fabric detail. Quality-wise, the kit is on the same level as the AMG Hawker Hart. There are no locating pins, but this does not look like a problem. Struts and other small parts are “scale thickness,” which means they are fragile, so care must be taken in cutting them off the sprues. The cockpit provides basic detail, but given that the opening isn’t very large, what’s there will be more than sufficient.
Decals are provided for A4N3s from Kaga in 1937 and Ryujo in 1936, both of which will be appropriate for A4Ns used in the Battle of Shanghai. A very nice markings instruction sheet provides all the necessary placement information.
Overall, this looks to be an excellent kit. The A4N3 is a nice-looking biplane. Photos of built-up models show a nice result. Highly recommended for Japanese aircraft fans. This is a good mate for the Fine Molds IJAAF Ki.10.
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