|Scott Van Aken
The Ki-54 was developed in response to an Imperial Japanese Army requirement for a twin-engine advanced trainer, principally for crew training. The prototype first flew in summer 1940 and, on completing trials, entered production in 1941 as Army Type 1 Advanced Trainer Model A (Ki-54a). The Ki-54a was soon followed by the Ki-54b as Army Type 1 Operations Trainer Model B and Ki-54c as Army Type 1 Transport Model C. The Ki-54b and -c enjoyed successful careers until the end of the war.
The aircraft variants were for a pilot trainer, an armed crew trainer, a light transport and liaison aircraft, and as an ASW patrol aircraft. These aircraft were to be found pretty well anywhere the IJAAF had a good sized airfield. Many were captured intact after the war and flown by various Chinese factions, the North Koreans, the French and the British. Over 1,300 airframes were build during the war.
This is Special Hobby's latest newly tooled kit and it is the initial release. There will be others to handle the different variants and to help spread around the sprues. This is the third version, the transport, and possibly the one produced the most.
As is the case with most Special Hobby kits, it is fairly parts intensive. This is basically because it is easier to form something like a cockpit seat out of four parts than it is to mold it as one. The cockpit is fairly nicely appointed and uses decals for the main instrument panel and for seat harnesses. All of the interior pieces are to be painted 'green', which is shown as a very dark shade, but is probably something slightly lighter. In the cabin, there are six seats, each which is four pieces. In the cabin area, there are three bulkheads to be installed, with a diagram showing the exact placement of these items. Once all the interior items have been installed, including a tail gear well, the fuselage halves can be closed.
Note that the small individual cabin windows are installed from the outside. Some of the smaller ones aft of the entrance door need openings cut and this should be done early in the build. Depends on the markings option as to whether these windows are there. Turning to the wings, these are a single lower piece with separate upper halves. Special hobby wants you to build part of the gear mechanism in the upper wing sections, then attach the rest, with a bulkhead, in the lower engine nacelles. Once the nacelles and landing gear are assembled, the wing can be attached to the lower fuselage.
Engine cowlings are upper and lower halves so the seam will need to be dealt with. The engines themselves are a forward section that is attached to a firewall. This assembly will then fit into the completed cowling which is attached to the nacelle. The rest of the build are scoops, exhaust, wheels, gear doors and props. The kit has a separate cabin door which is shown posed open. If you want to model it closed, it would be wise to attach it very early in the build in case it doesn't fit too well in that position.
The instruction booklet is well done and includes color. Paint is generic names and Gunze paint references. There are four options, but these only cover three planes. The first is the box art plane in overall green-grey which I'm guessing most will model as it is a single color (save for the yellow wing leading edges) and doesn't require the additional windows open. The second has a heavy squiggle in green on the upper surfaces along with white 'bandages' on the fuselage and upper wing. These white areas need to be painted. The third and fourth options are the same plane with the the plane in overall green-grey with heavy green squiggles on the upper surface. The other option includes white surrender crosses on this plane. This plane was photographed quite a bit and I've included a photo of it here.
It is nice that this kit is being released. The only other Ki-54 of which I am aware, is a resin kit produced by A&V Resin. I would be great if this kit did well so that Special Hobby might produce the Ki-21 based Ki-57.
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