Fine Molds 1/48 Ki-43-III 'Oscar'


FB 3




Several aircraft


Scott Van Aken




The Ki-43 was the 'Zero' of the Japanese Army Air Forces. In fact, most 'Oscars' were mis-identified as a Zero by Allied pilots when they first met them in combat during early 1942. Though decidedly obsolescent by 1944, an improved version, the Ki-43-IIIa started leaving the production lines in May of that year. Like the earlier versions, it was built by both Nakajima and by Tachikawa, though the latter company built the vast majority of them. The -IIIa was similar to the -IIkai and powered by a slightly more powerful Nakajima Ha-115-II engine rated at 1,230 hp. Just to give you an idea of engines, the US R-2800 was producing over 2,000 hp at the same time! (Several readers have written to me about this. Apparently I left the impression that the Japanese were not capable of producing high horsepower engines. That is not the case. The engines in the George and Frank were in the 2,000hp class. It is just that the Ki-43 was not able to use them as these newer engines were too large for the airframe. The Ha-115 was in the same power class as the R-1830 twin row radial as used in the Wildcat.) The later Ki-43-IIIb was finally given armament that befitted the aircraft when it replace the two nose-mounted 12.7mm machine guns with two 20mm Ho-5 cannon. Unfortunately for the Japanese, that variant was still being tested when the war came to a conclusion.

Despite its obsolescence, the Ki-43-IIIa was still very nimble and in the hands of a quality pilot was still able to give Allied aircraft fits. It was seriously hampered by the meager armament of only 2 machine guns as it tended to bounce off most armor plating. However, it was still enough to enable several pilots to reach ace status flying the 'Oscar'. 



Looking at the kit you will undoubtedly say 'Hey, this isn't any different from the -II you reviewed earlier.'. Well, yes and no. They do share a lot of the same sprues and parts. Where the -III differs is the engine cowling. There is a separate sprue on the right in the middle to take care of this difference. 

What is really different between these two kits is the decal sheet. Again, Fine Molds has offered a superb selection of aircraft for us to model. The decals are a bit thick, but should be usable. Undoubtedly, I'll be using an aftermarket sheet with this one, though several of the schemes are quite interesting. Here is a brief rundown of what is available;

All aircraft are in green over natural metal, some of them a bit more worn than others!

Review kit courtesy of me and my wallet!

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