Tamiya 1/48 M6A1 'Serian'
|PRICE:||2200 yen SRP|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The first production examples of the Seiran were completed in October 1944. Deliveries were slowed by an earthquake near Nagoya on 7 December 1944, and by an American air-raid on 12 March 1945. Construction of the STo submarines was stopped in March 1945, after two submarine aircraft carriers had been completed and a third finished as a fuel tanker. These were supplemented by two smaller Type AM submarines, originally designed as command submarines carrying reconnaissance floatplanes, but capable of carrying two Seirans. Owing to the reduced carrier submarine force, production of the Seiran was halted, with a total of 28 completed (including the prototypes and the M6A1-Ks).
The new submarines and aircraft were assigned to the 1st Submarine Flotilla, comprising the two STo submarines, the I-400 and the flagship I-401, each carrying three Seirans together with two type AMs, the I-13 and I-14. The 1st Submarine Flotilla commenced training with the Seirans in January 1945, the crews gradually learning how to handle the submarines and aircraft. Launching all three Seirans took longer than expected: 30 minutes if floats were fitted, although this could be reduced to 14.5 minutes if the floats were not used.
The first mission of the Seiran squadron, which was named the Shinryuu Tokubetsukougeki-tai (神龍特別攻撃隊, meaning "God-Dragon Special Attack Squad") was to be a surprise air strike on the Gatun locks of the Panama Canal, to cut the main supply line for US forces in the Pacific. When the force was finally ready to set off on their mission against Panama, Japan's increasingly desperate situation led to a change in plan, with the target for the attack, called Operation Hikari (Splendour), being switched to the American base at Ulithi Atoll where forces, including aircraft carriers, were massing in preparation for attacks on the Japanese Home Islands. The flotilla departed Japan on 23 July 1945 and proceeded towards Ulithi. On 16 August, the flagship I-401 received a radio message from headquarters, informing them of Japan's surrender and ordering them to return to Japan. All six Seirans on board the two submarines, having been disguised for the operation as American planes in violation of the laws of war, were catapulted into the sea with their wings and stabilizers folded (for the I-401) or pushed overboard (for the I-400) to prevent capture.
When Tamiya decided to get back into 1/48 aircraft, one of the subjects they chose was the M6A. It was a good choice as it was not only Japanese, and so popular with the home market, but also an interesting aircraft in its own right. This is one subject that was later produced in their 1/72 line.
As is the norm with Tamiya, you get a very well appointed interior with detail on the side walls, crew figures and decals to help fill the instrument panels and for seat harness. Both the rear seat gun and radio/nav suite have been nicely duplicated as well.
Once the fuselage halves have been assembled, it is time to add external bits such as the engine intake, exhaust, and a four piece radiator bath. The exhaust can be installed at the end, making painting easier. The low wing is a single lower section with two upper halves. Trailing edge flaps are provided and can be posed lowered if one so wishes. There are bomb shackles that fit on the center section and a bomb is provided.
Floats are simple right and left side affairs with a weight provided to install in them to keep the model from leaning back when done. While you get a separate windscreen, the rest of the greenhouse is a single piece. There is also a boarding ladder to attach and you get a three piece propeller assembly that attaches via a polycap. Since this is a floatplane, a nicely done beaching dolly is included
Instructions are well done with the usual Tamiya paint references. The decal sheet is well done and includes the wing leading edge yellow bands. Since so few units flew this plane (as in one), your markings options are quite limited to different tail numbers. Float stripes are also part of the package as are the fanned out tail stripes that are used to help the gunner.
Overall, an excellent kit that has all the detail and quality engineering you'd expect from Tamiya. A real must for any 1/48 WWII JNAF aircraft collection.
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