Tamiya 1/48 G4M1 'Betty'






See Review


Paul Mahoney


Eduard photo etch set used


The Mitsubishi 'Betty' was one of the mainstream bombers used by the Japanese Navy throughout WW2.  It was one of the key aircraft used in attacking China and the Indo-China area during the opening phases of the War, and carried the surrender delegation to the Allies at the close of the War.  The Betty was used in attacks on the Prince of Wales and Repulse, sinking those ships and thus eliminating the majority of British Sea Power in Asia.  Bettys based in Celebes even attacked Darwin in 1942.  Bettys were able to carry out such long range attacks by sacrificing protective armor for both crew and fuel tanks.  This led to another Allied nickname: 'Flying Cigar,' for their tendency to light up or explode with just a few bursts from an attacking plane.  In one of the more famous episodes of the War, P-38s attacked and shot down Admiral Yamamoto while he was in a Betty enroute to Bougainville.


Tamiya's Betty is typical of their latest offerings: good detail, great fit (in most areas), crisp panel lines, and an interesting subject.  Options include different style exhausts (with or without flame dampers), optional propeller spinners, poseable flaps, and different types of offensive weapons (torpedo, bombs, or 'sealed up' recon version).  Bettys in 'bomber' mode had the bomb bay doors removed.  The doors were only on (and closed) when the a/c was in 'recon' mode.  I chose to model this kit as a bomber.


I began my kit, as almost all others, with the build up of the interior.  Tamiya's interior detail is good, but can certainly use some additional attention.  I purchased Eduard's photoetch set, but can't say I was that happy with what it gave me. It seems that there should have been more to it for the money that it cost. One thing I do like is the way Eduard does its instrument panels, and was happy that was part of this set.  A clear piece of acetate, with dials and instruments marked in black, is attached to the back of a brass instrument panel with hollow holes for the instruments.  Once the back of the acetate is painted white, the result is a neat and extremely realistic panel.  Viewed from the front, the acetate gives a good representation of glass covered dials.  

The rest of the Eduard set contains some radio faces, armrests for the seats, seat belts, some interior structure in the tail gunner's area, rudder pedals, and what seems like hundreds of ammo clips for the Lewis style guns.  Assembling these clips proved quite difficult (perhaps due to my clumsiness), and attaining a perfectly round shape to the clip was extremely frustrating.  Eduard provides you with a long strip that is to be made into a circle, and then topped off by the top of the clip (this is already attached to the strip, and just needs to be folded over.  It seems easy enough, but wasn't!  I was eventually able to solve the problem by wrapping the strip around a paintbrush handle, then folding over the top and tweaking everything until it looked right.  Cyano and/or white glue filled the many gaps.  Repeating this operation 20 or so times became tedious at best!

In addition to Eduard's set, I added sunshades and curtains to the huge glazed area over the cockpit.  Photos of these can be seen clearly in Monogram's Japanese Cockpit Interiors Book.  I also added some wiring and a few other bits and bobs to fill out the interior a bit more. I painted the interior sides of the fuselage using Testors Japanese Interior Metallic Blue to represent the natural metal with a protective sealant.  All other main interior parts were painted RLM 02 with some Interior Green added to it to make sort of a greenish-grey color.  From my research on the net and in books it appeared that most Japanese interiors (at least at this point in the war) were painted in a greenish-grey color (in fact the instructions suggest RLM 02), although I reasoned that the sides of the fuselage might have remained natural metal.  This gave a little more life to the insides and looks reasonable to me!

After the interior was finished, the rest of the assembly went fairly quickly.  The fuselage halves went together with no putty, and some light sanding took care of the seams.  The wings did require some putty around the inside leading edges, and around the engine nacelles.  Tail sections fit with no problem at all.  The engines are moderately detailed, but are so well hidden inside the cowlings that any extra detail would be lost.

The most time-consuming part of building this kit was easily the masking of all the windows prior to painting.  The large gunner's cone comes in two halves, and has a decent part of the tail assembly molded into it.  This actually helps blend the clear piece into the fuselage quite well.  It also means attaching it prior to painting in order for a seamless paint job.  I masked off all clear pieces and attached them prior to painting except for the upper turret.  Since I was going to pose this in the open position, I used the 'closed' piece to mask off the opening, and then replaced it with the 'open' piece afterwards.  

My method of masking canopy frames works well for me, but is painstakingly slow and can be prone to errors.  I place small pieces of Scotch Magic Tape (green plaid box) over each panel, then cut around it with a very new Xacto, using very light pressure to expose the frames.  After I finish one panel, I move on to the next.  I think the total masking job on the framework on the Betty took me at least 3 nights, one of which was just the tailcone!!  Several of the curved panes took more than one small piece of tape in order to be properly covered.  The nose cap and round hatch on the upper turret were carefully covered with liquid mask.  I had also installed all the little windows throughout the fuselage per instructions from the inside.  I covered these with liquid mask as well.

After painting (see below), I added the usual final steps.  The landing gear is very well designed, and fits securely into the wheel wells with no fuss at all.  I did add hydraulic lines out of thin wire to the gear struts.  The wheel wells were painted in Interior Metallic Blue, then dry bushed with Flat Aluminum to show some wear and tear.  The wells have some detail, but are by no means complete.  At a minimum you should make some sort of bulkhead for the front of the bays to block the join line of the upper and lower wings.  After painting the tires, I brushed lots of brown and gray pastels on them to dirty them up.  The propellors were finished with Testors Silver on the front of the blades and Primer Brown on the rear faces.  I hand painted red stripes near the tips for the warning bands.   I added antennae wires using stretched sprue.  I attach it to the mast and tail with cyano glue.  I light a match, then blow it out and run it under the sprue, letting the smoke drift up to it.  A few seconds of this usually 'pops' the sprue taught immediately.  I drilled out the gun barrels and added them to their various stations.  Final step was to add the open canopy hatch, and a finished Betty was on my desk!


Although the wings could be left off and attached after painting, I chose to glue them on prior to painting to make sure my camouflage lined up properly.  After checking for missed seams (I found several -- it's a big kit!), puttying and sanding a bit more, the paint job commenced.  I first sprayed all the glass framed areas with Interior Metallic Blue, then the major work started.  I chose the green/brown scheme for an a/c that operated in and around Malaysia.  My research suggested that many of these planes were originally delivered in natural metal, and only the upper surfaces were camouflaged in the field.  I also found information suggesting some were light gray on the undersurfaces.  I chose the latter.  

One full bottle of Model Master Japanese Gray later, the undersides were covered.  I used Model Master Japanese Navy Green and Dark Earth for the upper surfaces, painted entirely freehand using an Aztek 470 airbrush.  After the initial camo was done, and retouched, and retouched again until I was happy with it, I lightened up each of the colors with about 30% light gray (30% white for the undersurfaces), and carefully sprayed the interior of most of the major panels.  I then lightened each color about 50% and lightly sprayed the control surfaces to represent the quicker fading of these fabric covered surfaces.  I then very lightly misted over another coat of the original color (thinned considerably) to blend them together.  I was fairly happy with this attempt at fading the paint job, but might have been a bit heavy handed in some areas.  After all this was completed, I masked and sprayed the black antiglare panel in front of the cockpit and on each of the engines.  Finally, I masked and sprayed the white band around the rear fuselage.

Two good coats of Model Master clear gloss lacquer (in a spray can), and I was ready for decals.  I have only had moderate success using Future, and must be about the only modeler that doesn't use it for clear coats!!  So I stuck to my tried and true method.  Anyway, after the gloss set for a few days, I applied decals using one of the several schemes offered in the kit.  This is also the subject of a color profile in the Famous a/c of the World book listed below.  According to that book, this a/c is from the Kanoya Naval Air Group, Flown by Lt. Haruki Iki on Dec. 10, 1941 off Malaya, Indo-china.

The decals are 'Invisiclear' by Scale Master and are in perfect register.  They went on without a hitch, using Micro Sol and Set to help them snuggle into all the panel lines.  The decals for this scheme are actually pretty basic, consisting of the national markings and the tail fin number.  The white fuselage band, as well as yellow id bands for the leading edges, are provided should you choose to use them.  This a/c was operational before the use of the i.d. bands, and I elected to paint the white band.  There is a data plate, but no other stenciling.  

After the decals had set overnight, I sprayed two coats of Model Master Flat overcoat to dull things down. After this dried I devoted several hours to peeling away all the tape on the clear panels.  I sharpened a wooden toothpick and used this to slowly peel up the tape.  I can press a little harder with the toothpick, and since it is wood, it doesn't leave any scratches on the plastic.  When peeling off some of the liquid mask on the windows in front of the cockpit, I managed to pop one of the strips of windows loose.  This fell into the fuselage and caused quite a bit of colorful language to be uttered.  I was able to shake the strip out through the upper gun turret, but there was no way I was going to be able to glue it back in place.  Before shaking it out, I tried holding the kit upside down, and gently shaking it into place, hoping to run some liquid glue around it, but that plan had no hope!  In the end, I made a new window using Kristal Kleer. Since the windows are at a curved part of the fuselage, the glass should be curved as well.  I had no way of doing this, and the difference is apparent if you know to look for it.  So word to the wise:  be sure to fix those windows strips in tightly!

Japanese paints during WW2 are notorious for their ability to erode away, even early in the war.  Thus a lot of peeling and fading and general abuse needed to be heaped upon the plane, without trying to get carried away!  I primarily used Testors Flat Aluminum, applied carefully with a 000 brush along panel lines.  I used post-it notes to mask one side of the panel while I 'chipped' away at the other side with the paint.  I tried to go heavier in corners and on panels that might be removed more often than others.  After this I applied some additional chipping to the leading edges of the flying surfaces.  Then the pastels came out.  I sanded down various brown, gray, and black pastels to create little piles of powder.  I then take a wide brush dip it into one of the piles.  Using this pastel brush, I lightly highlighted the panel lines.  I then went back with a heavier mixture of gray and black to represent the exhaust stains.


If you are a 1/48 scale fan of Japanese a/c, then this kit is without a doubt for you!  Highly recommend!  Only drawback is it's cost.  With enough looking around, I think it can be had for $15-20 less than the list price.  Now the only problem will be having a large enough display area.


  • Mikesh, Robert C., Monogram Close Up 15, Japanese Cockpit Interiors Part 2, Monogram Aviation Publications, 1976.
  • Thorpe, Donald W., Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II, Aero Publishers, 1977.
  • Famous Airplanes of the World No. 59, Type 1 Attack Bomber, Burindo Co., 1996.

Paul Mahoney

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

Back to Main Page

Back to Reviews Page2015