Aoshima 1/72 Ki-100-II
|PRICE:||1620 yen plus shipping from Japan|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
In 1944, the folks at Kawasaki had a problem with the Ki-61. While airframe construction was going well, engine production was lagging far behind. So much so that there were airframes all over the factory awaiting engines. With a war going on, this was not considered to be a good thing. There was also the need to upgrade the engines in the Ki-61, but frankly, there were not enough engines around that were small enough and powerful enough to fit the need. Actually, the only suitable engine with enough power was a large 1,500 hp Mitsubishi 14 cylinder, double-row radial.
Deciding to give it a shot anyway, Kawasaki engineers went about trying to adapt a 4 foot wide engine into a 2 foot 9inch wide Ki-61. Some creative engineering and aerodynamic smoothing was applied and the engine was finally fit in, the first prototype flying in February of 1945. Much to everyone's delight, the aircraft that was produced was superior in almost every way to the Ki-61. It was lighter, more maneuverable, had better climbing speed and a higher ceiling. The only down side was that it was a few miles per hour slower. No big deal when the plan was to use it to get to the B-29s that were making themselves a major nuisance, what with bombing and all. However, once at altitude, the plane was quite sluggish and it took quite a while to get there. Thus a turbocharged version, the Ki-100II was under development at war's end. The type never left prototype stage. It is unknown if any of the three prototypes were pressed into active service.
The superb handling and ease of flying gave even the most inexperienced pilots a chance against American fighters. In the hands of an expert, they were easily a match for anything the US could put against it. As was typical of late war projects, it was too little and too late. Nearly 400 were eventually built, over half of them modified Ki-61 airframes. Thankfully, one still exists in the UK and has been lovingly restored.
Way back when, Aoshima produced a late Ki-100. It resembled the real plane in the way that Donald Trump resembles Brad Pitt. This latest batch is superb and well worth seeking out. Though it is a prototype, it is an important progression of what may well have been in the air had the war in the Pacific lasted into 1946.
The kit contains seven sprues, two of which is for the clear bits. One of the clear sprues is for the rear section of the canopy and one of the standard sprues is for the lower forward fuselage which includes the bits peculiar to this boxing. The cockpit contains a two piece seat, landing gear handle, control stick, side panels, rudder bar and an instrument panel that has the nose gun butts and gunsight. There is no decal for the instruments. This is trapped between the two fuselage halves along with the engine face. In this case it is the back set of cylinders, the full forward set being added later in the build. There is also a separate upper cowling piece.
The wing is a single lower piece with wheel wells and the upper wing halves fit onto this. Aoshima has let us decide if we want to install the drop tanks so one will have to be sure to open the holes if this is the case. One has plugs for the machine guns in the wing. There is a section that fits on the lower forward fuselage to which is attached the new oil cooler intake and the turbocharger exhaust. Also new to this boxing is a small intake on the wing leading edge and a new forward cowling. These are all on the E sprue. The aforementioned drop tanks are complete with the rack on one tank half.
The tailplanes are a single piece. Landing gear are well done with a separate wheel for the main gear and the tail wheel molded in place for the tail gear. The main wheels are held in place by attaching the gear door. Inner gear doors for the main gear have separate retraction mechanisms. The separate set of forward cylinders is installed near the end of the build just before attaching the reduction gear housing and finally the single piece forward cowling. The prop is a single piece and trapped between a backing plate and the spinner. You are provided a separate windscreen and rear canopy piece. You also have separate landing light covers and very small formation lights.
Instructions are well drawn and while everything is in Japanese, there should be no issues when it comes to building the kit or finding bits. Gunze paint references are used. There are three sets of markings with this kit. These differ only in the tail markings and allow you to build one of three prototypes. All options are in Kawasaki Army Green over unpainted metal, though the underside color is never shown in the painting guide. Another color not included in the painting chart is the primer brown of the prop. The primer grey-green of the lower flight control surfaces is also not shown in the painting instructions. The decal sheet is nicely done with the proper color of red (often Japanese decals make this red too bright). You are provided two colors of walkway and warning decals as well as what looks like extra fuselage hinomarus. The sheet also includes the leading edge ID stripes. The modeler may want to consider painting these areas as decals are notoriously difficult to get to fit properly on flight surface leading edges.
According to my recall, this is the third Ki-100 kit done by a mainstream kit maker in this scale. First was Aoshima's original boxing which is only a passing resemblance to the real thing. The other was the Fine Molds kit, which I found to be a bit tricky to build, but very much looks the part. Now we have an even newer version and from what I see, this is the best of the lot.
Thanks to your editor's abused credit card for the preview kit.
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