Croco 1/72 Nakajima Ki-34 (updated preview - See Below)

KIT #:
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Resin kit


The Ki-34 was originally designed as a civil transport. Nakajima Aircraft Company, which had the license-production rights to the Douglas DC-2, began design work in 1935 on a smaller twin engine airliner for routes which did not have the capacity to justify use of the larger DC-2. The initial design was designated AT-1, and after numerous design iterations, flew as a prototype designated AT-2 on 12 September 1936. The design was all metal, except for the flight control surfaces, which were plywood. The wings used a multi-cell cantilever design. The prototype was fitted with 432 kW (580 hp) Nakajima Kotobuki 2-1 radial engines with fixed pitch wooden propellers, which were replaced in production models with Kotobuki-41 529 kW (710 hp) nine-cylinder radial engines, with variable pitch metal propellers.

A total of 32 AT-2s were produced for Imperial Japanese Airways (Dai Nippon Koku KK) and Manchukuo National Airways, operating on scheduled routes between Tokyo and Hsinking, Tokyo and Tianjin, and within Manchukuo. These aircraft remained in operational service until the surrender of Japan in August 1945.

With a high demand for increased military transport capability after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army adapted the AT-2 design for military use by fitting with more powerful Nakajima Ha-1b radial engines and re-designating the aircraft as the Army Type 97 Transport and Ki-34. The initial 19 aircraft were produced by Nakajima Aircraft, and another 299 aircraft were subsequently produced by the Army-affiliated Tachikawa Hikoki K.K.. The final airframe was delivered in 1942.

In operational service, the Ki-34 was used as a utility aircraft for liaison and communications duties, and for paratrooper training and Special Forces operations.

At a later date, some aircraft were transferred to the Imperial Japanese Navy, where they were known as the Navy Type AT-2 Transport or Nakajima L1N1. Several were also transferred to the air force of the Japanese puppet state of China-Nanjing in 1942.

Croco is a fairly new company from Latvia that has produced a few kits of aircraft frequently overlooked by the mainstream kit makers. This is one of his more recent, the Nakajima Ki-34 'Thora'. Most of you have probably never heard of this aircraft and that is why one has to rely on the 'garage kit' resin manufacturers for types like this.

The kit is nicely molded with fine engraved panel lines. Typical of the genre, you will need to clean up every part as there is some flash on it all. I found a few air pockets, but they were quite small and those of us who have built kits like this should be used to finding things like this. Rather than show a mass of small resin parts embedded in resin wafers, I thought I'd provide some of the major bits as an example.

You are provided with a full cockpit and cabin with the latter having side mounted jump seats. Both pilot and co-pilot seats are molded onto a raised section that fits on either side of the cockpit. A control stick and instrument panel complete the cockpit.
All of the clear bits are vacuform plastic and two full sets are provided for the cockpit section and the cabin windows. You also get a clear nose piece. Now I know darn little about this plane, but from what I can glean from photos on the net, the civilian version gets the clear nose piece and the military one a solid nose.

All the flight surfaces are a single casting. The wing has a center section that includes the bulk of the engine nacelles and the gear wells. Outer wings are a butt join so I would highly recommend some sort of metal pits to hold the outer sections in place. The engines are nicely molded and you have a choice of cowlings. One has the little speed fairings around them and the other is smooth. Again, looking at photos is the only way to determine which one you should use. It is difficult to tell if the props are wooden or metal, but I guess it really makes no difference.

The aircraft has no gear doors so that is something you don't need to worry about. The landing gear is very nicely done and quite scale. This may cause issues down the road from the weight of the model deforming the gear. Then again, it may not. The main gear legs look like those from a DC-3/C-47 so you might want to look into replacements from Scale Aircraft Conversions. main wheel and tail wheel/gear are a single piece.

Instructions consist of two 4x6 inch photographs of drawings. One shows detail stuff form the interior and landing gear, while the other is an exploded view of the general airframe. There is a third that shows the markings and photos on which the markings are based. OK, not standard stuff, but not really a major deal and one that those who are building these sorts of kits should be able work with. No readable color information is supplied (notes are written in Russian).

Two markings options are provided. Both planes appear to be overall silver/unpainted metal. One is with the Manchukuo air force with a yellow fin. This plane shows the solid engine cowlings. The other has some sort of writing on the aft fuselage with a hinomaru on the fin. The photo of this plane I found on the net shows it has the earlier cowling with the little cylinder fairings. I was rather surprised that the tail marking from the box top photo was not included as it seems that many of the 'net photos of the Ki-34 had these markings. The decal sheet is very nicely printed with no registration errors.

Major update.

Croco had provided some updates in terms of parts for this kit. First of all, they have added some cabin interior detailing in terms of fuselage framing. This should provide something to look at if you build the door open. It also adds strength to the fuselage halves. They have also provided a cabin floor piece, which will help with stiffening as well.

Secondly, they realized that the kit's resin gear would probably not work well holding up the model so have produced the landing gear with metal reinforcement. This applies to the axle stubs on it as well. The tail gear got the same treatment. I know these are not easy to make so two thumbs up to Croco for putting in the extra effort.

After initially posting this, I was informed that the decal sheet shown is an optional sheet that you can get from Croco if you did not want to do the standard military version as shown on the box top. This is the standard decal sheet. It seems that a goodly number of Ki-34s served with this unit and an Internet search will show a variety of camouflage schemes used on these planes.

All of the upgraded bits will be included in the kit you get from Croco.

I am a huge fan of these sorts of subjects and am very pleased to see them being released in some form or another. Somewhere in the piles, I have a Ki-57, which is what augmented/replaced this aircraft in service and should really find the time to build it.


May 2019

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