Hasegawa 1/48 A6M5a 'Fighter-Bomber'
|PRICE:||$20.70 on sale ($44.95 SRP)|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||2012 Limited Edition|
Considered the most effective variant, the Model 52 was developed to face the powerful American F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair, superior mostly for engine power and armament. The variant was a modest update of the A6M3 Model 22, with shorter, non-folding wing tips and thicker wing skinning to permit faster diving speeds, plus an improved exhaust system. The latter used four ejector exhaust stacks, providing an increment of thrust, projecting along each side of the forward fuselage. The new exhaust system required modified "notched" cowl flaps and small rectangular plates which were riveted to the fuselage, just aft of the exhausts. Two smaller exhaust stacks exited via small cowling flaps immediately forward of and just below each of the wing leading edges. The improved roll-rate of the clipped-wing A6M3 was now built in. The A6M5a Model 52a «Kou»,featured a Type 99-II cannon with belt feed of the Mk 4 instead of drum feed Mk 3 (100 rpg), permitting a bigger ammunition supply (125 rpg) Some of these were retrofitted with the ability to carry a bomb in place of the long range tank.
The 653rd Air Group was formed in early 1944 as part of the 3rd Air Division assigned to the Chitose, Oyodo, and Zuiho. Originally assigned A6M2 Zeros, after the Marianas battles, they reformed with A6M5s and were used solely as a fighter-bomber unit. They were assigned to the 2nd Air Fleet and based in Taiwan. About half the unit was lost in battles around Taiwan and later in the year deployed to the Philippines. They flew missions against the Leyte landing areas and by the end of October had lost all their officer pilots. Those enlisted pilots remaining retired to the main islands where, in November the unit was quickly brought back up to strength and flew to Taiwan where there was a redesignation of units and the 653rd ceased to exist.
Next to their 109s, the A6M has to be one of the most reissued kits that Hasegawa produces. They produce them in a bewildering number of variants and special mission planes, this being one of them. It is your standard A6M5a kit with the addition of a sprue that includes the bomb and the bomb rack.
Like others in the series, there is an insert or two that will have to be dealt with, but overall, the kit has proved to be a painless build. The detail level is very good with the usual decals for the instruments, but one also has the option to paint the raised detail on the panel instead. There is excellent interior detail making aftermarket sets somewhat unnecessary for the majority of modelers.
One thing I noticed is that the mold seam for the engine cowling is rather large, though not a major issue. The kit can be built with the flaps lowered if one so wishes and there are inserts for the lower wing to take care of the differences in wing armament. The kit comes with a three piece canopy section, though it is designed to be built closed. A few panel lines will need to be filled on the wings. You have two different spinners to use with the longer one used on the initial and box art option.
Instructions are well done with Gunze paint references. Both markings options are dark green over light grey with yellow wing leading edges and brown props and spinners. Aside from the spinners, these differ only in the tail codes. The decal sheet is well printed and provides a goodly number of optional numbers. All the code numbers are in both white and yellow as it is difficult to tell which shade was actually used. The decals are nicely printed and should pose no issues with your favorite setting solution.
If you have not built a Hasegawa Zero kit, you really should. I have not built any of their A6M5 kits, preferring to concentrate on the early war A6M2s for the majority of my Zero builds. I do have several in the wings and this one would be as good a one to build as any.
Thanks to me for the preview kit.
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