Aoshima 1/72 Ki-61-II kai
|1800 yen SRP
|Scott Van Aken
The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (飛燕, roughly "flying swallow") was a Japanese World War II fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. The first encounter reports claimed Ki-61s were Messerschmitt Bf 109s: further reports claimed that the new aircraft was an Italian design, which led to the Allied reporting name of "Tony", assigned by the United States War Department. The Japanese Army designation was "Army Type 3 Fighter" (三式戦闘機). It was the only mass-produced Japanese fighter of the war to use a liquid-cooled inline V engine. Over 2.500 Ki-61s were produced, first seeing action around New Guinea in 1943, and continuing to fly combat missions throughout the war.
For years, it was assumed that the Ha-140 powered Ki-61 was designated the Ki-61-III. That appears to not be the case. It is apparently the Ki-61-II kai. Some sources state that only one actual Ki-61-III was built. Of the 374 Ki-61-IIkai airframes built, the unavailability of the Ha-140 engine meant that 275 of them were converted to Ki-100s, which turned out to be a superior aircraft.. This lack of original engines was due to the destruction of the Akashi engine production plant that made the water-cooled Ha-140 power plant. Those that did enter service mostly served with the 55th and 56th Sentai
This is one of Aoshima's most recent kits and is very nicely done. Reminds me of new Airfix toolings, and perhaps there is a tie-in as these are made in India as well. The cockpit is particularly nicely done. In addition to the usual bits, it has a proper sidewall with details. These enclose the cockpit and you attach the instrument panel and gun butts to it before trapping it in the fuselage halves. The kit also provides an engine, though I'm not sure how much of this you will see unless you leave off the upper cowling piece. There are no upper cowling gun barrels so not sure why you'd want to leave this off. It does, however, appear that you need the engine in place to have a place to attach the prop shaft.
Lower wing is two pieces with a separate center section piece and the upper wing halves fit in place. The lower fuselage radiator grille fits on the lower wing and you slide this into the opening for the radiator housing, which is molded onto the fuselage halves. Wing leading edges have inserts that need to be installed which include the landing lights.
Landing gear are nicely molded and the inner gear doors have the retraction braces. There is a separate forward cowling piece to glue on near the end. Not sure how well that will work, but we'll see. Prop is a blade assembly along with a spinner and backing plate. Clear bits include a separate canopy and windscreen with the proper teardrop aft section as used on this variant. A neat addition to this kit is a full set of maintenance trestles. I've shown those in place with the parts image. Three technicians are also included with the kit.
Instructions are nicely done with the usual Gunze paint references. The markings options are for planes that are dark green on the top and lower surfaces. You get optional red and yellow stencils. All the markings are for the 56th Sentai with tail markings in red, yellow and white. I've only see images that seem to have white markings. Actually, photos of this plane are very few and far between. White fuselage roundel backgrounds are provided along with the wing yellow ID areas and wing walk areas.
This is a 2016 tooling and like all newer Aoshima kits is very well done. Despite its low production numbers, Aoshima has produced the prototype/preproduction version with the older canopy, so they have filled a void in the type for 1/72 modelers. They also do the long nose Ki-61-Itei which other companies do not do in this scale, so they are making good use of the molds. Though I did not see this particular boxing when searching, you can get their other Tony kits to your door for $18-20 if you don't mind shopping overseas.
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