Tamiya 1/48 A6M5/5a Zero
KIT: Dragon 1/72 M4A2 (Sherman III)
KIT #: 728861103
PRICE: $57.00 MSRP (3200 yen from www.hlj.com )
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Includes canopy mask and four standing pilot figures.


We all know that the Zero was the most potent aircraft in the Pacific at the start of the Pacific war. So much so that it was feared by Allied pilots as being impossible to defeat. Once tactics changed from dogfighting to hit and run, it was discovered that the Zero was not the terror of the skies, and actually was pretty easy to bring down, thanks to its lack of armor protection for the pilot, engine and fuel systems.

Though built from day one to the end of the war, the A6M went from superiority to mediocrity in just 4 years of warfare. Attempts were made to bring it up to specs, but with added weight of protection, more power was needed and its sterling qualities soon started to go away.

The most built variant was the A6M5. It had a shorter and broader wing than earlier versions with improved systems. Here is a brief rundown:

The A6M5 was a modest update of the A6M3 Model 22, with nonfolding wing tips and thicker skinning to permit faster diving speeds, plus an improved exhaust system (four pipes on each side) that provided an increment of thrust. Improved roll-rate of the clipped-wing A6M3 was now built in.

Sub-variants included:

The A6M5 could travel at 540 km/h and reach a height of 8000 meters in nine minutes, 57 seconds. Other variants are the night fighter A6M5d-S (modified for night combat, armed with one 20 mm type 99 cannon, inclined back to the pilot's cockpit) and A6M5-K "Zero-Reisen"(model l22) tandem trainer version, also manufactured by Mitsubishi.


Tamiya's new A6M5 kit has provided a lot of buzz amongst modelers of late. Not so much because it was developed, but because of the price of the kit. I'll cover this aspect first so we can get it out of the way.

At US $57.00 MSRP, many modelers will stay away from this one. For half the price, you can get the still nice Hasegawa version of this kit. Paying that sort of money for an injection molded, single engine WWII fighter is asking quite a bit. However, getting one direct from Japan ( www.hlj.com - plug), where it currently retails for about $34 may well be an option if one wants one of these.

OK, so money aside, is this a nice kit? Well, Tamiya has built a considerable reputation on providing kits that are well molded, well engineered and as accurate as the pattern makers can make them. Of course, when the pattern aircraft has problems, they are transferred over to the kit (Meteor anyone?). This is not an issue with the Zero. There are enough of these around to where getting measurements is not a problem. Besides, back in 1985, Tamyia issued what was then the best A6M5 around, a model that still is very nice.

So what makes this one so special? Tamiya has decided to handle the differences between the variants just as Hasegawa did. There are separate inserts for the wing, for instance, to allow you to properly do the standard A6M5 or the A6M5a variant. Separate inserts are provided for the area just aft of the engine and there is even a separate one for the left side access hatch to the rudder. Tamyia provides optional up or down flaps, the ability to install a tail hook or put a cover over that area, there are two styles of drop tank (one without the fairing and with stabilizing fins), a separate canopy that can be left open, different spinners, different cowl flap areas (open or closed) and different leading edge gun access panels. Of course, many of the choices on these will be as to whether you are going to build the cannon-armed version or not.

The cockpit is superbly detailed with decals for the various instrument sections. The engine is equally detailed  and should look great once painted. A pilot figure is also provided for the cockpit if you wish and if not, you can install the harness decal. I wish all companies provided decal harnesses as they look better than nothing.

Instructions are typical Tamiya referencing only their brand of paints. One needs to decide which version is being built rather early in the build process. There are markings for three planes. Two are A6M5s and one, the box art plane from the 302 Naval Fighter Group at Atsugi in early 1945, is the A6M5a. This plane carries Ens Sadaaki Akamatsu's personal score on the fuselage. The first A6M5 is from the carrier Junyo with the 652nd Fighter Group in the Marianas battle of June 1944. This and the other aircraft, based at Rabaul in late 1943, have the white section of the Hinomaru painted over.

The decals are superbly printed and if used with hot water, will provide excellent coverage. The leading edge ID panels are provided as decals and Tamiya has also included a set of canopy masks. Tamiya offers the decal placement and painting guide as a separate fold out in 1/48 scale.  A final bonus are four standing pilot figures in various garb.

Price aside, this is a superlative kit. While it doesn't make all others obsolete, I think you will agree that it is the best that has yet been done. I'm sure the 'Zero-philes' have been picking it over, but if you decide it is for you, I believe you will be very pleased with the kit.



August 2003

My thanks to www.hlj.com for the review kit. Get yours at a substantial savings, direct from the source.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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