Hasegawa 1/72 G3M2/3 Type 96 (Nell) "Sea Battle off Malaya"

KIT #: 01924
PRICE: $39.95 from www.greatmodels.com ($49.95 SRP)
DECALS: Three Options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Limited reissue



The G3M flew for first time in 1935, taking off from a Nagasaki airfield belonging to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and landing at Haneda Airport on the outskirts of Tokyo. The G3M first saw combat in Japan's expansionist campaigns on the Chinese mainland in what became known as the Second Sino-Japanese War, where the G3M was able to exploit its long-range capability when, during August–November 1937, the "1st Rengo Kokutai" (a special unit) was established, operating alongside the "Kanoya" and "Kizarazu Kokutai" based in Taipei, Formosa, Omura, Kyūshū and Jeju Island. On August 14 of that same year forty-two "Nells" and seven Hiro G2H1s, escorted by 12 Nakajima A4Ns and 12 Mitsubishi A5Ms of the "2nd Rengo Kokutai" (a unit consisting of the 12th and 13th Kokutai), departed from their bases to cross the East China Sea, for the bombing of Hangchow and Kwanteh, and performed amongst others actions of terror bombing in coastal and inland targets in China, including the bombing during the Battle of Shanghai and Nanjing. Later, from bases in occupied Chinese territories, it took part in the strategic carpet bombing of the Chinese heartland, its combat range being sufficient to cover the elongated distances involved. Most notably, it was involved in the round-the-clock Bombing of Chongqing.

When the Pacific War erupted in 1941, after the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, the G3M was by this time considered to be antiquated but still 3 front-line units (the 22nd to 24th Koku Sentai) were operating a total of 204 G3M2s in four Kokutai (Naval Air Corps) in the central Pacific and of these 54 aircraft from the Takao Kokutai were deployed from Formosa in the opening of the Battle of the Philippines. On the 8th of December 1941, (7th across the International Date Line), G3Ms from the Mihoro Kokutai struck Singapore City from bases in occupied Vietnam as one of many air raids during the Battle of Singapore, resulting in thousands of British and Asiatic civilians dead. Wake Island was similarly bombed by G3Ms from the Chitose Kokutai on the first day of the war, with both civilian and US Navy infrastructure being heavily damaged on the ground.

The G3M was famous for taking part in the sinking of two British battleships with the more advanced Mitsubishi G4M "Betty", on 10 December 1941. "Nells" from the Genzan Kokutai provided important support during the attack on the HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse (Force Z) near the Malayan coast. Prince of Wales and Repulse were the first two battleships ships ever sunk exclusively by air attack while at sea during war.

A G3M of the Mihoro Air Group was involved in a dogfight with a Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat of No. 205 Squadron RAF near the Anambas Islands on 25 December 1941, in which the Catalina was shot down.

The attack on Darwin, Australia on February 19, 1942, by 188 Japanese aircraft, included 27 G3Ms of the 1. Kokutai (1st Air Group) based at Ambon, in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). The "Nells" attacked alongside 27 G4Ms. These bombers followed an 81-strong first wave of Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, Aichi D3A dive bombers and Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers.

From 1943, the majority of "Nells" served as coastal patrol aircraft,  glider tugs, aircrew and paratroop trainers and for transporting high-ranking officers and VIPs between metropolitan islands, occupied territories and combat fronts until the end of the war.

The difference between the G3M2 and G3M3 is that the latter had more powerful engines and was build solely by Nakajima. Externally, they were identical.


Those who have been around a while will know that this is not the first 1/72 kit of this aircraft with LS producing a version way back in the heydays of modeling during the early 1970s. While not a bad kit, it is crude by comparison. Even this kit is not ultra new as Hasegawa has been producing this one sporadically for at least the last ten years. During their 'let us do a bunch of Japanese twins' period, the Nell was one of those that was produced.

Like all Hasegawa kits, the external detailing is superlative. The interior detailing is not too bad either, but somewhat basic. There are decals for the instruments, which is somewhat standard stuff for most 1/72 kits. The cockpit has no sidewall detail with a pair of seats, control wheels and what I guess is a bomb release handle on the floor (since I do not think bombers have a parking brake). Behind the pilot is the bomb aimer's position with a seat and sight along with a pair of bulkheads. The side gunner's position appears to only be able to be built with the guns stowed. This is not true of the upper gun positions. In fact, the forward upper turret can be built either extended or retracted.

One has to decide which markings scheme is to be done about a third of the way through the build and there are notes showing which bits are appropriate for which markings option. The kit can be built with or without prop spinners, with the lower entrance hatch open or closed, with the upper cockpit hatch open or closed and with either a bomb or torpedo load. Apparently Nell did not have a standard bomb bay with doors so all loads are external of sorts. I found it interesting that the bomb load option is but two rather small looking bombs.

The clear bits are quite clear so if one can find an aftermarket set to spice up the interior, it would not go to waste. Nell had long ailerons similar to what the Ju-87 had in that they protrude below the lower wing surface. These are molded in place so no worries on attaching these to the wing.

Markings are provided for three similarly painted aircraft from the Genzan Naval Flying Group as participated in the sinking of the Repulse and Prince of Wales in December of 1941. Two options are with torpedoes and one is with bombs. All three are in a brown/green over light grey scheme with the brown needing to be mixed using the Gunze paints that are so typical of many Japanese kits. Aside from the small differences in camouflage are the various stripes and fin markings. The most colorful being the box art plane with the white wing stripes and the single yellow band on the left wing. The decals are very nicely printed and should work just great. No yellow wing ID stripes on any of these, which will appeal to many builder.


Thanks to the yen/dollar rate (which is currently at a measly 77 yen per dollar), this is not an inexpensive kit as things go. Even in Japan the 3000 yen kit would be nearly $39.00. However, you can save on the SRP from a variety of sources and it is a very nice kit of this important early war Japanese bomber.


October 2011

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