Fujimi 1/48 D3A1 'Val'
KIT #: Q1
PRICE: $10.00 in part of a lot
DECALS: Several options
REVIEWER: Jonathan Prestidge
NOTES: Eduard p.e. belts


From the kit instructions: “The Aichi Navy type 99 carrier dive bomber, known to the Allies as ‘Val’, was, along with the A6M2 Zero and the Nakajima B5N type 97 carrier attack bomber ‘Kate’, one of the primary attackers at Pearl Harbor. The Val was roughly comparable to the German Ju-87 Stuka, and like it, was obsolescent by the time Japan began the Pacific war in December 1941. Despite this, the Val achieved spectacular success during the first ten months of the war, and eventually sank more war ships than any other Axis plane.

 Designed to a 1936 specification by a team led by Tokuhishiro Goake, the Val featured an extremely clean airframe. The low elliptical wing planform and gracefully curved tail surfaces were inspired by the Heinkel He-70 which coincidentally had influenced the design of the Supermarine Spitfire a year before this. The fixed undercarriage was selected after the designers decided that the slightly reduced drag of a retractable undercarriage could not justify the added weight and complexity. It displayed many features common to dive bomber types which were in vogue during the ‘30s such as: underwing dive brakes, a trapeze type bomb carriage under the belly to prevent the centerline bomb from entering the propeller arc while the plane was in a dive and a rearward firing gun which allowed the radio operator to protect the tail during a bomb run.

By early 1943 the Val was being replaced on Japanese carriers by the faster and more modern Yokosuka D4Y ‘Judy’. The Val was then relegated to land based units and small aircraft carriers which could not handle the Judy because of its high landing speed. By late in the war the Val had all but disappeared from front line units. However this was not to be the end of its combat career as, in the final desperate months of the war, these planes were used for ‘Kamikaze’ suicide missions. Because of the Val’s lack of speed and the overwhelming Allied air superiority, these planes rarely gained their targets, and their young pilots were futilely spent in a bitter contrast to their glorious victories of a few years before.”


I believe this kit originated in the early 1980s. The kit came in a top opening box with stunning artwork done by master painter Shigeo Koike. Released by Fujimi when they were a serious contender in the 1/48th scale aircraft market, the D3-A1 was a product of its time. It had a very basic interior, three figures (two seated, one standing), a thick canopy that can only be accurately posed in the fully closed position, a simple engine and rather crude details. Its’ one saving grace was the petite raised rivet surface detailing. The surface detailing was so fine that it remains impressive even today. The kit decals were too old to use so I pirated some from a Testors/Fujimi Val I had in the stash. My goal in building this kit was to turn out a respectable model, improving the kits lack of detail with some simple scratch-building.  


 Construction began with updating, painting and detailing the cockpit. Since there was no side wall detail, I added stringers with Evergreen .01” x .03” plastic strip. Throttle levers and other details were added as well. Polly Scale acrylic French Khaki was then painted throughout. I brush-painted the cockpit details and gave the interior a thin black wash. Once the wash had dried, I dry-brushed the interior with a slightly lighter shade of green. I added the Eduard photo-etched seatbelt for the pilot’s seat. Once the interior was complete, I closed up the fuselage and added the wings, tail, and landing gear. I was extra careful with construction because I did not want to sand off the beautiful raised detail while cleaning up the seams. I assembled and painted the engine but left it off until after painting. Light sanding of the airframe followed.  

The engine cowl was assembled next and I thinned the rear of the cowl flaps and drilled out the machine gun ports during the process. I also drilled out the machine gun ports on the fuselage and installed Evergreen rod for the gun barrels. In looking at reviews of the Hasegawa kit, I noticed that the oil coolers were angled on their front edges so I cut down the kit parts accordingly. I also drilled out the exhausts and used Evergreen strip to box in the fins of the bombs.

As the final step in preparation for paint, I added the canopy. The clear parts were dipped in Future prior to assembly. I used Tamiya tape to mask the clear parts. If I were to tackle this project again, I would either use a different canopy or spend less time and effort on the interior since it simply could not be seen once the kit part was installed.


Since I had already modeled a Zero which flew from the carrier Shokaku during the Pearl Harbor raid, I decided to model Val EI-235 which also flew from Shokaku. All paints used in this build were Polly Scale acrylics. First, French Khaki was sprayed on the canopy framing. I then painted my custom mixed tan gray over the rest of the airplane. Finally, I masked the airframe and airbrushed Japanese Cowl Color (again custom mixed) on the nose and engine cowl.

At this point I used pastels to emphasize the panel lines and dirty the airframe up a bit. I tried to keep things subtle, adding just enough shade variation to enhance detail. I then sealed everything with a coat of Future in preparation for decals.

As noted above, I used decals from a Testors/Fujimi Val for this one. The red decals went on fine but all the white decals decided to shatter. After much effort, I was able to get most of the pieces in place. I used white paint to touch up the decals that misbehaved. After weathering the decals, I gave the plane a final flat clear coat.

The engine, cowl, prop, bombs, and other details were added at this time. Final detailing was then completed.


Based on what I started with, I’m happy with the way this kit turned out. It was a fun challenge to update an oldie. The extra effort improved the basic kit, though my efforts on the interior remain unseen. While the Hasegawa Val remains the definitive kit in 1/48th, the Fujimi Val is easy enough for a beginner and cheap enough that most can afford it. I recommend it accordingly.

Jonathan Prestidge

March 2014

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