Fine Molds 1/48 C5M2 'Babs'

KIT #: FB 24
PRICE: 3240 yen plus shipping
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2018 tooling


The Mitsubishi Ki-15 (九七式司令部偵察機 Kyunana-shiki sireibu teisatsuki) was a Japanese  reconnaissance aircraft and a light attack bomber of the Second Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War. It began as a fast civilian mail plane. It was a single-engine, low-wing, cantilever monoplane with a fixed tailwheel undercarriage; it carried a crew of two. It served with both the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy (as the C5M). During World War II it was nicknamed "Babs" by the Allies.

The Japanese Navy, impressed by the performance of this aircraft, ordered 20 examples of the Ki-15-II under the designation “Navy Type 98 Reconnaissance Plane Model 1," or Mitsubishi designation C5M1, even before the Army. The Navy subsequently acquired 30 C5M2 aircraft which had an even more powerful 708 kW (949 hp) Nakajima Sakae 12 engine. They were used for reconnaissance duties. 

Fine Molds has been producing some superb kits as of late. These are high quality moldings with excellent engineering, making for a hassle-free build and this one portents to continue that trend.

Looking at the sprue layout, you can see that they are planning other variants of this aircraft. Apparently the aft fuselage is different on the earlier planes as this one comes with a separate tail section. It attaches via very large sockets to the extant part of the fuselage along a normal seam line and will probably need no filler.

Since this is a two seat aircraft, there is a lot of interior detail as a lot will be visible through the greenhouse.  Things like the fuselage fuel tank and the floor camera are part of the fit. You also get a complete radio suite for the rear gunner/radio operator/observer.  Full sidewall framing is separate and will eventually encase the cockpit assembly.

Wings are a complete upper and lower half into which a wing spar is inserted. Holes for the centerline external tank or bomb rack will have to be opened if you wish to use these items. You are provided two bombs with separate fins and frankly, all the little fiddly pieces you see on the sprue diagram? Most of those are for the bombs. Most of us will not use this option.

Wheel legs accept slotted wheels so you can easily paint the plane prior to attaching the main wheels. The engine is built up very much like their Claude kits so it means that it not only fits well, but looks right when done. Engine cowling is upper and lower sections with a one-piece forward cowling. As expected, the kit has a separate motor mount to take care of the different versions. The prop is a single piece with separate pitch weights. All the clear bits are added from the outside. The one piece greenhouse will require some major masking time, but will be well worth it. I expect Eduard or someone else to offer a masking set for this for those who like these.

Instructions are well done with parts of it in English and Gunze paints being the standard reference. The colors of all three options are overall Mitsubishi Navy Grey. I'm not sure if this is the concrete color of the Zero or not. These planes were heavily used in the first year or so of the Pacific War for reconnaissance, especially in the New Guinea area. I just finished reading a book on this theater of operations and discovered its widespread use so this kit is quite timely. The box art plane is from the Tainan Air Group based at Rabaul in August of 1942. You also get V-18 which was of the same unit based at Lae and X-14 of the 3rd Air Group based at Bali in March 1942. The decal sheet is nicely printed and until someone does aftermarket, remains your main option.

I realize that not that many people are jazzed about kits that are not fighters or bombers, but the recce types were extremely important in the war effort on all sides. This is not only a type of importance early in the war, but a nice looking aircraft. This one is definitely going on the bench.


July 2018

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Purchased by me.

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