Hasegawa 1/72 A6M2b '261st Flying Group'

KIT #: 00362
PRICE: At the time, about $18.00
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2002 limited release


The A6M's history mirrored that of the Empire of Japan in World War II. When it was introduced, the Zero was the best carrier-based fighter in the world and it was greatly feared by Allied pilots. The IJNAS also frequently used the type as a land-based fighter. A combination of excellent maneuverability and very long range made it one of the finest fighters of its era. In early combat operations, the Zero gained a legendary reputation, outclassing its contemporaries. Later, design weaknesses and the increasing scarcity of more powerful aircraft engines meant that the Zero became less effective against newer fighters. By 1942, new tactics and techniques enabled Allied pilots to engage the Zero on more equal terms. By 1943, American and British manufacturers were producing fighters with greater firepower, armor, and speed, and approaching the Zero's maneuverability. The Mitsubishi A6M was outdated by 1944, but remained in production. During the final years of the War in the Pacific, the Zero was utilized in kamikaze operations.

The A6M2b Model 21 was the most produced early variant of the A6M and saw action in all the early war battles with the Allies.

Probably because Hasegawa wore out the molds on the old Zero kit, they decided a few decades back, that perhaps it would be a good idea to go the 'multiple variants' route and do the entire series of A6Ms. Thanks to much of the airframe being the same, this was an easy to do endeavor. Basically, just the cowling and the wings are changed from version to version. As the Zero is probably the most sold model kit in the world, Hasegawa has done very well in this area and special boxings seem to sell out with great regularity.

This particular boxing is for a very colorful plane from the 261st Flying Group. Though the unit, formed in mid 1943, primarily flew the A6M5, there were a number of earlier versions assigned, as much to replace losses as anything. The unit fought at Pelileu and later in the Borneo theater, guarding the refineries at Palembang. 

Typical of Hasegawa, the cockpit is a bit sparse, using a decal for the instrument panel. Fortunately, there are aftermarket sets to help. The one piece canopy is very clear. Inserts are used for the lower cowling and upper forward fuselage. The two piece engine is very nicely done and looks the part once in the cowling. The only optional bit is the belly tank, something not always carried on defensive missions, though it would be appropriate for longer patrols.

Instructions are Hasegawa's usual fare with Gunze paint references. The two planes on the decal sheet are the box art plane from the 261st  Flying Group in what appears to be a two tone upper green with grey undersides. I think this two shaded appearance is little more than faded paint and patches. I've seen the original photo from which this scheme comes and you can tell that sections are darker than others. It is quite possible that this is due to piecing together bits from other planes and repainting badly worn sections. The other is also in green and grey and from the Kohnoike Flying Group, a training unit based in Japan and often used for air defense. Hence the fuselage banding in trainer orange. Decals are well printed and of the 'old' style with white that is off-white. One would probably be well to paint the banding.



I doubt if there are many out there who have not built a Hasegawa Zero in any scale. These are basically trouble free builds and can quickly be made into very nice models. Enough so that many of us have a bit of a collection of them! They don't seem to stay on store shelves for long and for that reason should be snagged when one finds them.





Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units, Naval Institute Press, 1989


January 2009

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