Hasegawa 1/72 A6M2b/A6M5c 'Samurai Combo'

KIT #: 01973
PRICE: $19.99 on sale ($50.00 SRP)
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2012 limited release. Two complete kits.


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 The Mitsubishi A6M was outdated by 1944, but remained in production.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.

By the conclusion of the Guadalcanal campaign, it was clear that the A6M2 Model 21 Zero was now outclassed by the newer U.S. fighters in all respects other than range and maneuverability. The same was true of the A6M3, Models 22 and 32. Had the Imperial Japanese Navy foreseen a longer war and undertaken development of a replacement aircraft at a higher priority than had happened with the A7M Reppu, these would have been the last of the Zero line. Unfortunately, such was not the case, and Mitsubishi was forced to try and update an airframe that was running out of "stretch."

The A6M5 Model 52 appeared in mid-1943. The wingspan had been reduced by 1 meter, as had the A6M3 Model 32, though the wingtips were rounded rather than "clipped." A complete redesign of the cowling resulted in the installation of single thrust-type exhausts, which with the uprated Sakae engine increased speed from the A6M2 Model 21's 335 m.p.h. to 358 m.p.h., a useful increase but still not as fast as the new fighters it opposed. The armament was changed from the Type 99-1 drum-fed 20mm cannon to the Type 99-2 belt-fed weapon. This aircraft, the A6M5a, would continue as the main Japanese Navy fighter until the end of the war.


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. The sprue image is for the Type 21,but the Type 52 is almost identical aside from the two items mentioned. 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.

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. This Combo kit should be called the 'Sakai Special' as it contains an option for four of the aircraft flown by ace Saburo Sakai. For the Type 21s, both are in the light concrete grey that was the standard for the type. Both are planes he flew from Rabaul as a first class petty officer with the Tainan Air Group. One is V-103 with a white tail band and a Red fuselage stripe. The other is V-138 with red tail bands and a blue fuselage stripe. The sheet also includes markings for V-128 but offers no markings guide for that one.

After Sakai's long recuperation from his wounds at Guadalcanal, he went on to fly the A6M5c with the Yokosuka Air Group in 1945. The two planes offered there are Ǝ-137 which has the tip of the spinner in red with the rest in unpainted metal. The other, in similar markings, is Ǝ-138, this plane having a broad white tail band. Both of these planes are in the mid/late war scheme of green over grey with yellow leading edge stripes. The decals are nicely printed and should provide no problems. Hasegawa has supplied separate instruction sheets for each type in the kit.  


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! While the SRP of these combo kits is a bit much, when they can be found on sale like this, they are well worth snagging.



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

December 2013

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