Hasegawa 1/48 Ki-43-II (early)






Three aircraft


Paul Mahoney




Since this kit has already been reviewed more than once, I will confine the history section to a small bit pertaining to the Thai Air Force's use of the Ki43 "Oscar." According to the Aircam book listed in my references, Thailand was the only country that officially received exported Ki43s.  The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) received a Company of former JAAF Ki43II's in the spring of 1944.  It seems the purpose of this was twofold from the Japanese perspective - It would serve as great propaganda towards promoting the 'Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere', and it would give the Japanese an 'in' to the RTAF, where pro-Allied sympathies were budding.  The Aircam book further states that the Thais flew one squadron of these aircraft in southern China under JAAF control, and the balance were kept in reserve for the defense of Bangkok. According to this text, the majority of these aircraft never saw combat.
It appears the Thai Ki43s  were delivered in the relatively standard JAAF scheme of natural metal, with blue/black anti-glare panel and gray-green control surfaces.  They were stripped of the Japanese national markings and repainted by the Thais, most probably in the field.  The wartime Thai national markings consisted of a white elephant on a rectangular, red 'flag.'  Immediately after the war these aircraft were stripped back down to natural metal, and the pre-war roundel insignia was applied.


I had been pondering doing one of the RTAF 'tiger stripe' camouflage schemes for years - ever since seeing those elephant markings included in the old Nichimo kit.  Unfortunately, the Nichimo is a Ki43-I, and the RTAF was supplied with Ki43II's. 
Hasegawa comes to the rescue (years later) with the recently-released family of Ki43s.  As already mentioned, this kit has been reviewed several times so there isn't much new here to report.  Accuracy seems spot on, although there is some question as to the shaping of the nose area.  It certainly looked enough like an Oscar to satisfy me.  Typical Hasegawa moldings - crisp, nicely detailed, and (for the most part) should fit together well.  To allow for the different wingspans of various models, Hasegawa chose to mold the wingtips (including a piece of the aileron) separately.  This area will require a little extra care getting things lined up properly, but some basic modeling skills should more than suffice.
This 'special version' kit of the Ki43II 'Early Version' includes different oil coolers.  Externally this about the only thing separating the early and later versions of the II's.


Construction was basically out of the box.  As with all of Hasegawa's newer releases, the cockpit is extremely well detailed.  I added some photo-etch lap belts, and made a small cushion for the seat pan out of tissue paper.  I painted the cockpit in my own mix of Nakajima interior green - basically taking British interior green and adding some yellows and browns until I got a color that looked right.  Hasegawa provides beautifully-done instrument panels, giving one the option of painting or applying the included decals.  When this much detail is present, I always opt for painting mine, and used the Monogram Japanese Interiors book as a guide.  The panel was drybrushed to bring out the dial detail, and then a drop of Kristal Kleer was added to each instrument.  I also replaced the clear portions of the gun sight with acetate cut from a shirt collar stiffener.
The basic assembly went very quickly.  I only used the tiniest bit of putty on the lower surfaces, where the wing meets the underside of the fuselage.  The rest of the model just falls together.  This ease of building, combined with the fine surface detail, would make this an ideal candidate for a natural metal finish.  Actually, I did just that as one step in my camouflage process.
I assembled the entire aircraft, except for the landing gear, canopy, and various 'little bits' prior to painting.  One note here - the cowling actually mounts onto the engine itself, NOT the fuselage.  I wanted to mount the cowling prior to painting to get an even overall effect, but also wanted to attach the exhaust pipes AFTER painting, as they are prominent and I thought it would be a much easier painting job.  Unfortunately, one must attach the exhaust pipes before the cowling.  The cowling is enough of a press-fit that I did just that, leaving off the exhaust pipes until later.  After all painting was completed, I popped off the cowl, attached the painted exhaust pipes, and then glued the cowling on permanently.  The engine is fairly well detailed for what can be seen of it in the narrow cowl opening.  One minor complaint here - the cowl flaps are etched into the plastic at about the same depth as other panel lines.  This lack of distinct definition is about the only issue I have with this kit -- had I discovered it sooner (before the model was painted), I could have fixed this with a couple of passes using a scriber.
The landing gear and wells on the real aircraft were pretty basic, but Hasegawa has detailed each area appropriately.  I hand-painted the wells and the flap bays in Aotake, using Model Master's version.  I added a little green into the mix for the wheel wells, just to give them some tonal variety compared to the flap bays.  The gear legs and wheels I sprayed in Floquil Old Silver, then gave them a watercolor wash of dark gray to pop out the detail.  After the gear was mounted onto the plane I made some brake lines out of wire and installed them.
The front of the prop blades were also painted in Old Silver, while the back of the blades and the hub I painted in Model Master Rust, to simulate that odd brown primer color used often on these parts. 
Nicely molded 'butterfly' flaps are provided by Hasegawa, and without some minor surgery they can only be attached in the open position.  While I think it is great to have the option of lowered flaps on a kit, in this case (like the Ki84 issued not too long ago) the flaps were used primarily as a maneuverability aid during combat, and as such were almost never seen open on the ground.  Not wanting to perform any plastic surgery, I decided to leave them as is.  The rails provided are quite crisp, and the detail in the bays is nicely done. 
Finally, I painted the canopy framing in Old Silver and attached the two pieces.  I made an antenna wire out of stretched sprue.  A few touchups here and there and the RTAF Oscar was complete.


This was the really fun part of this kit.  After poring over the few photos that exist, and some very helpful correspondence from a few people I found on the j-aircraft board (especially George Elephtheriou), I decided on a plan of attack.  I would paint the entire aircraft first in the natural metal scheme I believed it was delivered to the Thais in, and then apply their camouflage on top.  I decided to use Aeromaster Primer Brown for the main top color, and JAAF dark green for the tiger stripes.  There are certainly no absolutes when it comes to painting WWII Japanese a/c, and all the more so when it comes down to an aircraft exported to one of their allies.  I reasoned that the colors might be close to Japanese, and might even have been from Japanese stocks.  In addition, the primer brown color has a reddish tint to it that is very similar to the reddish clay found in a great deal of Southeast Asia, so it seemed a logical color.  From the photos, it appears the darker color of the tiger stripes is quite dark, and JAAF dark green is a very dark green, hence that choice.  It does not appear that the 'tiger striping' was very uniform, but the pictures are murky at best.  Quite a bit of artistic license was used out of necessity.
I used Alclad II Aluminum, which I sprayed over a basecoat of Tamiya semi-gloss black.  I use Tamiya's spray can of semi-gloss black as the undercoat barrier for Alclad II, and am quite happy with it.  After the Alclad II dried, I masked off the control surfaces and painted them with Model Master JAAF gray-green.  Alclad II has a very hard finish that the masking tape will not pull off.  I added a few drops of Dark Sea Blue to flat black to get the blue-black color for the anti-glare panel.
After allowing all this to dry, I rolled out varying lengths of Silly Putty, and randomly applied these squiggles and stripes on all the uppersides of the a/c.  I masked off the anti-glare panel, purposely leaving a tiny extra border around this to show that the scheme was applied around the anti-glare markings.   I used Aeromaster Primer brown for the base color. Next came the tiger stripes.  After much thought on how best to create this, I charged ahead with a scheme that I thought might just work.  I lay out several strips of masking tape on a cutting mat, each slightly overlapping the next.  Then I set the model on top of the tape and marked the approximate dimension of one wing, penciling in the outline.  I then free-hand drew a tiger stripe pattern onto the tape, working on a bit of an angle.  After I had a pattern I was happy with, I cut out each of the stripes using a new Xacto blade.  The resulting spaghetti mess of tape was then carefully peeled off my cutting mat, and applied to the wing.  I repeated this process for the other wing, and then again for the fuselage.  I patterned the stripes angling outward on the wings, and angling backward on the fuselage sides, with the angle switching to forward as the pattern wraps around the underside of the fuselage.  Photos show that this pattern is random, but is hard-edged.  After ensuring that the tape mask was secure, I sprayed Model Master JAAF dark green.  I peeled back the mask and was rewarded with something pretty much along the lines I was going for.  Again, there is a lot of artistic license here, but I am happy with having captured the 'feel' of this paint scheme.
To simulate the area where the hinomaru was removed on the undersides (this is quite prominent in photos), I created a circle mask the size of the hinomarus in the kit, applied this to the appropriate underwing locations, and then dusted SNJ power over the mask.  I buffed this out to show the shinier metal where the hinomarus had been removed.  As the final painting step, I masked and painted the leading edge id band in yellow, and the fuselage 'combat stripe' in white.
I had an unbuilt Nichimo Ki43 in the closet, as well as an old decal sheet from another Nichimo kit, so happily had all the Thai markings I needed.  Some references, including Aircam and the Nichimo instructions,  state that these a/c carried Hinomarus on top of the wings, but I believe this not to be the case.  One photo clearly shows a dark insignia of some sort on the wing, but it does not extend over the aileron and seems rectangular in shape.  Hinomarus on Ki43s did extend over the ailerons, and (obviously) are round in shape.  Having only this one murky photo to go on is not conclusive proof, but certainly helps a bit.  I was in luck to have two sets of the Nichimo decals, as they only provide 4 markings.  I had my doubts as to the quality of these decals, so for safety's safe I scanned them into my computer.  Never having made decals before, I didn't know what kind of safety margin this allowed me, but I figured better safe than sorry.  As it turns out, the decals worked just fine.  The adhered nicely to the surface, after a little Micro Set, but were a little bit translucent.  I thought about making some of my own with the scans, but decided to leave them as is.  I cut bits of red stripe decals for the prop warning bands.  I also left off all stencils and other markings, reasoning that they would not have been re-applied over the Thai camouflage.
After decaling and attaching the rest of the pieces, I started to weather the a/c.  These planes did not see much, if any, combat, and at one point were the pride of the RTAF, so I think they were relatively well-maintained.  I did some minor chipping around the cockpit area, a few access panels, and the port wingroot.  Since the undercoat was natural metal, I gently peeled off some paint with my Xacto.  I did decide to highlight panel lines, and generally dirty up the airframe a bit using pastels.  I used various shades of brown and gray, ground up and applied with a brush.  A watercolor dark gray wash was used in the control surface hinges to pop them out, and the tires were gone over with varying shades of browns and tans to dirty them up.


This was quite an enjoyable project.  I tried to capture the look of the Thai Oscars using the minimal reference material available.  Hasegawa's detail and ease of assembly once again allowed me to focus on the camouflage scheme without any major construction issues.  With the many colorful schemes that Oscars wore, I could see building several more of these kits.  In fact, I have already purchased the Ki43-I, and -II (late version).  I would certainly recommend this kit to anyone. 


Bueschel, Richard M., Nakajima Ki.43 Hayabusa I-III in JAAF/RTAF/CAF/IPSF Service, Arco Aircam Aviation Series, 1970.
Fearis, Peter J., The Samurai's Wings (Army), Peater J. Fearis, 1998.
Francillon, Rene J. and Windrow, Martin C., The Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa, Profile #46, Profile Publications, 1965.
Mikesh, Robert C., Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945, Monogram Aviation Publications, 2000.
Skulski, Przemyslaw, Nakajima Ki 43 Hayabusa "Oscar" #11, Ace Publication, 1999.
Thorpe, Donald W., Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings, World War II, Aero Publishers, 1968.
www.j-aircraft.com - a tremendous website for all things JAAF and JNAF.

Paul Mahoney

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