Fine Molds 1/48 J8M1 Shusui


FB 6




One aircraft


Scott Van Aken




It is no secret that the Japanese and Germans traded technical information during the war. One item that the Japanese were most interested in was the Me-163 rocket fighter. They even obtained a manufacturing license for the aircraft and the Walter engine. Much to the dismay of the Japanese, one of the two submarines carrying technical data back to Japan for the 163 was sunk enroute. This basically left the Japanese with incomplete information.

Despite this setback, Mitsubishi was chosen to build a similar rocket fighter. The Walter engine was also modified to meet Japanese manufacturing techniques (whatever that means). Both the Army and Navy were involved in the project. The Navy's version to be the J8M1 and the Army's the Ki-200. The mockup was built and approved in September 1944. 

In order to get aerodynamic information, the MXY8 glider was built and completed in December of 1944. It not only gave data but was used to train prospective pilots. Three prototypes were built and evaluated. Successful evaluations lead to a short production run of similar but heavier Ku-13 gliders. A proposed MXY9 with a small ducted fan engine was not built.

The first two prototype J8M1s were built without engines to evaluate the handling characteristics. First powered flight of the J8M1 was on 7 July, 1945, however the engine failed during the steep climb-out and the aircraft stalled and crashed, killing its pilot. While the other prototypes were having the fuel systems modified, the war ended and no further flights were attempted. To my knowledge, there is one J8M1 still extant, and that is being held by the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California.


Though they look like Hasegawa kits and are marketed by Hasegawa, Fine Molds kits are not Hasegawa kits. While they are darn close, they aren't the same. Fine Molds pretty well limited the desirability of their kits by making them very expensive. This is because they did not do production runs of 20-25,000 kits at a time. This low production meant higher unit costs. Over the last few years, the kit prices have dropped down to where they are more reasonable. Of course, it could be that we are now used to paying more for kits!

The biggest surprise when opening the kit box was how little plastic there was in the box. It almost looks lost in the large box! There are two and a bit sprues rattling around in there along with one small clear sprue. No metal, no etched brass, no resin. The kit itself looks very complete, despite not having an engine, like some boxings of the Dragon kit have. Detail is quite good and up to the standards of Hasegawa. The canopy is a one-piece affair, with a prop so that you can pose it in the open position. The smaller backlight windows are molded into one piece along with the fuselage section to make it easier to smooth out. You can build either the unarmed prototype or an armed version. The kit is designed to be built with skid down though it shouldn't be that difficult to modify it for an in-flight display. However, no pilot figure is given.

Though the instructions are mostly in Japanese, the colors are given in English. This helps a great deal. It seems that the cockpit is bamboo green with various bits in black or wood. Decals are for two aircraft and have no distinguishing markings. One is for the unarmed prototype in overall orange. The other is a JNAF '47 armed version in mostly green with  a small patch of aluminum on the underside. They look like typical Japanese decals and will require hot water to get proper performance from them.

Overall, this kit should be a snap to build. I have built Fine Molds 1/72 Me-410 and found it to be an excellent build. This one should be similar.



Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War by Rene J Francillon, Putnam, 1979

Review copy courtesy of me and my wallet!

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