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


FB 18


3000 yen SRP


Four aircraft


Scott Van Aken


  2014 release


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 reviewed earlier.'. Well, yes and no. They do share a lot of the same sprues and parts. There is a nicely done cockpit, though not as parts intensive as the Hasegawa kit. You have the option of the canopy opened or closed. You also have the option of wing pylons and drop tanks. A standing pilot figure is also included.

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. Something that has been added to this particular and later boxing are a plastic seat harness and another smaller sprue with a new forward cowling, which appears to have a smaller opening, as well as a couple of smaller bits. Neither are shown in the parts illustration.

What is different from this and the earlier boxing (FB3), is that there are only four markings options instead of the six provided earlier and some of those are different. However, these are the modern sheets with white areas that are really white. The yellow ID bands will need to be painted as will  the black anti-glare panel on the first option.

Here is a brief rundown of what is available;

54th Hiko Sentai 2nd Chutai in 1944. This plane is Nakajimi IJA green over unpainted metal. If you choose this option, you'll need to install the fin decals before the horizontal stabs so keep this in mind.

Hitoshi Yamamoto, 3rd Chutai, 33rd Sentai, Sumatra 1944. Colors are olive drab over grey-green

Sgt Hayashiou Okabe, 1st Chutai, 48th Sentai, Nanking China 1945. This one is also olive drab over grey-green

Capt Hideo Miyabe, commander of 64th Sentai, Indo-China 1945. This is the box art plane and is in olive drab over Mitsubishi IJN grey.

Some of the schemes are a bit more worn than others.

Instructions are well done and provide references for Tamiya and Gunze paints.


I'm a bit of a fan of the Ki-43 and have built kits by Hasegawa, Fine Molds, Fujimi, Nichimo and Otaki. The Hasegawa kits get my nod at being the best but their basic boxings are only for the -I and -II. For the -III, you have to wait for a special boxing as it includes resin. That is not the case with Fine Molds as the -III is one of their standard boxings and is generally more readily available.

March 2020

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Review kit courtesy of me and my wallet!

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