Hasegawa 1/48 A6M2a Type 11 Zero

KIT #

9142

PRICE:

$29.98 MSRP

DECALS:

Four aircraft

REVIEWER:

Scott Van Aken

NOTES:

Type 21 built as kit includes parts for this version as well

HISTORY

The A6M Zero is without a doubt, the most well known Japanese plane to ever fly. It was also one of those planes that was used from day one to the end of the Pacific war, fighting in all of the major operations that involved Naval aircraft. The aircraft was quite a surprise to Allied pilots when it was first met. Its incredible range often led military planners to start looking for an aircraft carrier, when often it was operated from land bases. It was also a plane that one did not dogfight with as it was incredibly maneuverable. Both of these traits were paramount in Japanese aerial doctrine and more important survivability traits like pilot armor and self -sealing fuel tanks were not included. This was probably the Achilles heel of Japanese aircraft design and while it led to spectacular successes early in the war, it was to eventually cause a huge loss of irreplaceable experienced pilots and air crew later in the conflict.

This particular version of the A6M (the type11) was the initial production model. It started leaving production lines in August of 1940 and was terminated in November of the same year after 64 were built. It differed from the more widely build type 21 in several respects. The main ones were that it was devoid of carrier equipment such as the tailhook and folding wing tips. The first 34 aircraft also had an exhaust that exited the cowling higher up than later versions. It also had a Flettner trim tab on the ailerons. The lower cowling on the type 11 had a small indentation near the front of the oil cooler inlet.

The type 21 followed the type 11 on the production line. 3,368 of these planes were eventually built, a large number of them by Nakajima. In addition to the differences mentioned above, the type 21 did away with the Flettner trim tab with the first 326 aircraft. External mass balances (as on the Bf-109) were fitted as there was some problems with aileron flutter. After the 326th aircraft, internally balance ailerons were introduced and retrofitted to earlier planes. Late build Nakajima planes returned to using the Flettner trim tab. Type 21 and some type 11 models were in continual use throughout the war in 'backwater' bases or as advanced trainers and later as Kamikaze aircraft. 

THE KIT

Hasegawa's kit of the A6M2 is one of its first 'new' 1/48 kits. There are several parts that are not used for the type 11 that are appropriate for the type 21 so you could build either version from the same kit. As with all of these 'multi-use' kits, inserts are used for the different version to be modeled. The A6M used basically the same fuselage and wings for all of the versions up to the A6M5, which had a shorter, broader wing from these earlier variants.

Detailing is really quite good with no flash and only a few sink marks here and there on thicker parts. There are some rather large seam lines on the cowling that will need to be sanded off prior to use. Cockpit detail is excellent with separate side consoles, rudder pedals, seat, stick and instrument panel. There are also separate decals for the various instruments; much better than trying to paint them.

In terms of options, there really are none apart from decals. The canopy can be displayed open if one wishes, but that is about it. I should also mention that the cowling is not appropriate for a type 11 as it is. There is no small indentation for the forward section of the lower oil cooler intake as mentioned above. This should be simple enough to sand in if one wishes. The tail hook well has a cover for it. The wings appear to have the fold lines on the tips and they have the Flettner trim tabs. The instructions say to fill these tabs and remove the actuating rods. They say nothing about the wing tips. It seems to me that the tabs should be left on. The type 11 had a different aft canopy section with fewer panes in them and that is also included.

Markings in the kit are for four aircraft, three of them in a darker grey forward and lighter grey aft and one in an overall light grey. We now know that early Japanese naval aircraft were in a sort of caramel color called Ame-iro. Many have said that it is close to a concrete grey and several suggest a lightened RLM 02 to duplicate the shade. You can read about this yourself at this link. All appear to be China based with the 12th flying group and include aces planes such as those by Minoru Suzuki and Saburo Sakai. The decal sheet is quite good though is typical of Hasegawa in-house decals as it is a bit on the thick side. I'd show it to you, but I've already cut it up for use. Sorry.

CONSTRUCTION

As with a rather large majority of the models I build, this one was driven by a decal sheet. In fact, it was one of the Eagle Strike Pearl Harbor ones. This meant that I needed a type 21 plane. Research time!!!! As you should have read above, there were some differences. Specifically, whether to use the external mass balances for the ailerons. This has to be decided early as there are holes to open up for these. Well, I couldn't find the exact plane I was doing so had to look at a lot of photos. Naturally, the lower wings were not as visible as I'd have hoped. However, it seemed as if there was a mixture of Zeros with and without these balances. I chose not to install them. Main reason is that I tend to lose these things when they break off. If I don't install them, I don't lose them.

The interior was assembled and then was painted. Now a rather large number of A6M2s were built by Nakajima so I used Nakajima interior green for this purpose. (Some of what little was left of my Aeromaster stash) The prop blades were glued on the backing plate and then painted with Alclad black prep. Later, highly polished aluminum was sprayed on the forward surfaces and matte black on the back of the blades.

Back at the bench, the wings were glued together and Mr. Surfacer was used to fill in the Flettner trim tabs. Using the JAI reference, several items were picked out in black and a few other colors. The decals were applied to the instrument panel. After they'd stuck with Microsol, I plunked on some Solvaset to get them to snuggle down. A perfect fit. With all the bits glued in place for the interior, it was given a black acrylic wash. Then it was drybrushed with aluminum to bring out some of the detail.

While that was drying the wings were glued together. The wings had the Flettner tabs filled in with Mr.Surfacer 500. When dry, this was sanded smooth and the actuating arms cut off.  Then the fuselage halves were mated as the interior can be installed from below. The fuselage had the forward section with the guns glued in place. This doesn't fit very well. I believe I had this problem with the A6M3 type 32 I built several years ago. While that dried, the engine was painted aluminum and the struts/wheels with flat black.

Returning to the interior, it was given a black wash and then drybrushed in aluminum to add a bit of wear. The main bits were attached to each other and then it was inserted into the fuselage. Took a bit of fidgeting and fussing to get it all in place, but it eventually fit as it should. Then came time to attach the wings to the fuselage. The first thing I noted is that there was going to be a rather large step between the aft wing and the lower fuselage. Try as I might, I couldn't get rid of it. I also noted that the wings didn't fit very tightly at the roots. The way I got around that was to glue one side as best I could and then let it fully cure. On the other side, I pushed at the fuselage from the inside and then used super glue and accelerator to ensure a proper fit. This seemed to work quite well. At the front, there is an insert which really doesn't fit as well as one would hope. With the less than perfect fit in the front and step in the back, it required several filler and sanding sessions to get these areas smoothed out. Not what I'd expected from a modern Hasegawa kit.

With that part done, I painted the area that would be under the canopy with the Nakajima Interior Green. The gun sight was painted and installed and the clear bits masked. It was then I noticed I'd forgotten two things. One was that I forgot to open the holes in the lower wing for the drop tank. Secondly, I noticed that I hadn't opened the hole for the head rest. In fact, the instructions said nothing about it, yet show the head rest being installed. Well, I took a SWAG for the drop tank and glued that on. Then I cut the tab off the head rest, scraped away some paint, and glued it in place. I also glued in the antenna and pitot tube. The aileron hinges were next, followed by the canopy bits. The sliding hood was just lightly tacked in place. It was time for some paint.

PAINT

As you now know, the proper color for early war Zeros is a caramel sort of color called Ame-iro or Ame-hiro. The decals suggested a lightened RLM 02 so I added some Floquil Reefer White to Testors ModelMaster RLM 02 enamel. This was sprayed on one of the tail planes and left to dry. I still didn't like the color as I thought it should be more of a brown tint. With that in mind, I added some ModelMaster FS 30219 dark tan enamel. This was sprayed on the other tail-plane and also left to dry. When the results were compared, I found that I liked the more brown color better so used that to paint the rest of the plane. Please don't ask me what the mixture is. I never keep track of how much of what I put into these things. It was a bit of this and a bit of that sort of thing. Not very scientific, but it works for me. If you like the greener version, then by all means use that. Once the plane was painted, it was taken back to the workbench to have the landing gear attached in preparation for decals.

CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES

While the paint was drying, I glued together the engine and then painted it aluminum. The exhaust section was painted Burnt Iron and the forward piece in Steel. Then the push-rod housings were painted black and the bits glued together. The whole assembly was given several washes with Rust-All black wash to bring out some detail. Meanwhile, the prop spinner was painted with Alclad II aluminum and the assembly glued together. The cowling was painted Aeromaster Mitsubishi blue-black and the small exhaust ports glued in place. These were painted Burnt Iron.

The landing gear struts were painted black and then the oleos were wrapped with thin strips of Chrome Bare Metal Foil. At this time the wheels were painted black with dark grey tires and the tail wheel assembly painted and then installed. I then painted the wheel wells with Polly S 'Aotake' and glued in the main gear. It was now on its gear and so time for the decals.

 DECALS

I decided to use a new sheet from Eagle Strike: 48-109 for the Shokaku at Pearl Harbor. It offered a pair of type 21s and I chose the one with the two bands on the tail; EI-121. The set comes with only basic markings and doesn't have any prop blade stripes or any other normal warning or data markings. Those must be gleaned from the kit sheet. Personally, if I'm to use an aftermarket sheet for a kit, I'd like it to have all the needed markings. Often we choose these aftermarket sheets because the kit decals are not up to standards. Sort of defeats the purpose somehow to have to resort to kit decals. Anyway, the decals worked just fine, even over the lumps and bumps, though I did need some Solvaset on the more difficult parts. 

FINAL BITS

With the decals on, it was time to do the final pieces of the kit. This meant quite a few smaller pieces that I'd left off so they'd not be broken. It included the gear doors and retraction arms, the tail wheel, the arrestor hook, and the upper cowl machine guns, which I'd drilled out. Then the kit was given an overall coat of clear gloss to seal in the decals. I then applied a coat of semi-gloss to flatten things out a bit. Actually, I'd read that most of the Pearl Harbor planes were in excellent condition and that included being waxed for extra speed and endurance. It would not be out of character to have a glossy plane, but with model planes, too high a shine just doesn't look right and is best left for airliners and sports planes. Last steps were to remove the masking from the windows, glue on the engine and then press fit the cowling in place. Finally, the prop was pressed into the engine and some exhaust staining was added.

CONCLUSIONS

Despite the fit situation regarding the wing, this is a really nice kit. I'm not sure why it took me so long to do one of these. It is also the ONLY 1/48 type 21 I've ever built, which is also a bit unusual, considering how important an aircraft it is. I'm pleased with the way the paint turned out and will hopefully be able to duplicate it when it comes time to do another early war Japanese Naval airplane!

December 2002
#1251 in a series

REFERENCES

Mitsubishi A6M Zero, by Artur Juszczak, Mushroom Models Publications, 2001
Japanese Aircraft Interiors; 1940-45, Robert Mikesh, Monogram Publications, 2000
A6M type 11-21, Famous Aircraft of the World #5, July 1987

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