Hasegawa 1/48 Ki-44-II hei 'Flight Training Squadron'

KIT #: 09194 (Jt 134)
PRICE: 2200 yen when new
DECALS: Twp options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 1997 release

HISTORY

The Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (鍾馗, "Devil Queller") was a single-seat fighter-interceptor which was developed by the Nakajima Aircraft Company and operated by the Imperial Japanese Army from 1942 to 1945 during World War II. Its official designation is Army Type 2 Single-Seat Fighter (二式単座戦闘機) and its Allied reporting name was Tojo.

The design and development of the Ki-44 differed greatly from that of other Japanese fighters of the time, incorporating speed and rate-of-climb in preference to maneuverability. This was a result of a need for a heavy fighter aircraft that followed a more offensive doctrine and the Ki-44 is often classified as an Air Defence Fighter. Its development ran almost in parallel to its predecessor, the lighter and nimble Nakajima Ki-43, and yet the two aircraft differed. The Ki-44 had a higher landing speed and was less maneuverable. These were concerns for pilots who would compare it to the Ki-43 or Ki-27 which were far more agile and responsive. As a result, the Ki-44 was first restricted to pilots with at least 1000 hours of flying time due to its tricky handling characteristics. However, it was later found that younger pilots who had not been instilled with the extensive aerobatic training of earlier cadres could manage the aircraft perfectly well, so the restriction was removed.

Nonetheless, the Ki-44 was the fastest climbing Japanese fighter at the time. It was the Imperial Japanese Army's only interceptor type when the USAAF's B-29 Superfortresses began bombing the Japanese mainland in June 1944. While there were performance restrictions at high altitude, it was superior to the Ki-43 in that it was capable of matching Allied aircraft in climbs and dives, giving pilots more flexibility in combat and greater pilot confidence than the Ki-43; the basic armament of four 12.7mm machine guns or two 12.7mm guns and two 20 mm cannons (or, in a few aircraft, two Ho-301 40mm cannons of limited range) was far more powerful than the older Ki-43's two 12.7mm machine guns.

Production of the Ki-44 was terminated in late 1944 in favour of the more advanced Nakajima Ki-84, and when the war ended, only three sentai units were still equipped with them.

THE KIT

Part of Hasegawa's major introduction of 1/48 WWII Japanese aircraft kits in the early 1990s, the base kit has been re-issued a number of times; sometimes with added parts to make other variants. However the -II is by far the most released of the sub-types.

The kit is pretty much like their others with a nicely done interior that offers decals to go over the raised instrument panel details. There is sidewall detail and a few parts that fit there. A nicely done engine that uses a poly-cap to hold in the prop is provided. The prop has separate blades that are keyed onto the hub.

The wing has a single lower section that incorporates the gear well with separate upper wing halves. Tailplanes are a single piece per side that slot into the rear fusealge. This kit provides two upper fuselage inserts depending on which marking option you use. There is a nicely done exhaust section and you are provided a single piece cowling.

Main gear are well done with separate oleo scissors. You need to open a hole in the bottom of the cowling for the oil cooler. Of interest is that there are no holes on the inside of the wing to open for the drop tanks. Instead, there are small dimples on the underside of the wing that need opened from the outside if you wish to use these tanks.

There is a separate canopy and windscreen. Two windscreens are provided with one having an opening for a telescopic sight. You use one or the other depending on which markings option you are going to use. 

Two markings options are provided. One is the box art plane in dark green over light grey with the large lightning bolt on the fuselage from the Hitachi Flying Division. The other option is in unpainted metal with white 'bandages' on the wings and fuselage from the Akeno Flying School. The nicely printed decal sheet includes the black anti-glare areas and the yellow wing leading edges. I'd recommend painting the yellow areas as my experience with the decals has not be all that positive. Getting the inner ones to fit well being the main issue. As usual, the white areas are off-white, so if doing the second option, you may want to paint those as well.

CONCLUSIONS

I built one of these Ki-44 kits many years back and found the construction of the kit to be fairly trouble-free. It is a subject that does not often show on contest tables, but it makes into a very nice model when you are done. Well worth picking up if you get the opportunity.

REFERENCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakajima_Ki-44

February 2022 

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