Tamiya 1/48 Ki-46 'Hyakushiki Shitei IIIkai'

KIT #: 61056
PRICE: 2600 yen SRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 1997 release


On 12 December 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force issued a specification to Mitsubishi for a long-range strategic reconnaissance aircraft to replace the Mitsubishi Ki-15. The specification demanded an endurance of six hours and sufficient speed to evade interception by any fighter in existence or development, but otherwise did not constrain the design.

The resulting design was a twin-engined, low-winged monoplane with a retractable tailwheel undercarriage. It had a small diameter oval fuselage which accommodated a crew of two, with pilot and observer situated in individual cockpits separated by a large fuel tank. Further fuel tanks were situated in the thin wings both inboard and outboard of the engines, giving a total fuel capacity of 1,490 L (328 imperial gallons). The engines, two Mitsubishi Ha-26, were housed in close fitting cowlings developed by the Aeronautical Research Institute of the Tokyo Imperial University to reduce drag and improve pilot view.

The first prototype aircraft, with the designation Ki-46, flew in November 1939 from the Mitsubishi factory at Kakamigahara, Gifu, north of Nagoya. Tests showed that the Ki-46 was underpowered, and slower than required, only reaching 540 km/h (336 mph) rather than the specified 600 km/h (373 mph). Otherwise, the aircraft tests were successful. As the type was still faster than the Army's latest fighter, the Nakajima Ki-43, as well as the Navy's new A6M2, an initial production batch was ordered as the Army Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Plane Model 1 (Ki-46-I).

To solve the performance problems, Mitsubishi fitted Ha-102 engines, which were Ha-26s fitted with a two stage supercharger, while increasing fuel capacity and reducing empty weight to give the Ki-46-II, flying in March 1941. This met the speed requirements of the original specification, and was ordered into full-scale production, with deliveries starting in July.

Although at first the Ki-46 proved almost immune from interception, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force realised that improved Allied fighters such as the Supermarine Spitfire and P-38 Lightning could challenge this superiority, and in July 1942, it instructed Mitsubishi to produce a further improved version, the Ki-46-III. This had more powerful, fuel-injected Mitsubishi Ha-112 engines, and a redesigned nose, with a fuel tank ahead of the pilot and a new canopy, smoothly faired from the extreme nose of the aircraft, eliminating the "step" of the earlier versions. The single defensive machine gun of the earlier aircraft was also omitted. The new version first flew in December 1942, demonstrating significantly higher speed (630 km/h (391 mph) at 6,000 m (19,700 ft). The performance of the Ki-46-III, proved superior to that of the aircraft intended to replace it (the Tachikawa Ki-70), which did not enter production.

In an attempt to yet further improve the altiude performance of the Ki-46, two prototypes were fitted with exhaust driven turbosupercharged Ha-112-II-Ru engines, flying in February 1944, but only two prototypes of this version were built.

Mitsubishi factories made a total of 1,742 examples of all versions (34 units Ki-46-I, 1093 units Ki-46-II, 613 units Ki-46-III, 4 units Ki-46-IV)during 1941-44.


 Typical of Tamiya kits in the last 30 years or so, this one is superbly molded with a fairly complete cockpit/crew area. The interior includes seats for both the pilot and gunner along with decals to put on the seats if you aren't going to use the included figures. There is good sidewall detailing and if you'd like to use decals for the main instrument panel, you can as those are provided as well. This is the angled upward cannon armed version so that item is included up to the barrel to place in the middle of the airframe where a fuel tank used to fit.

In order to allow both this earlier and the later III kai aircraft with the more streamlined nose, separate nose sections are provided, this being the 'shorter' one.  Unlike Hasegawa's 1/72 kit, the center section of the upper fuselage is not incorporated with the canopy piece. This is to allow the modeler to pose the many canopy sections open if so desired. There is no defensive rear gun in this one.

One builds up the gear wells trapping the landing gear legs in them before inserting these assemblies into the lower wing piece. It doesn't look like the gear can be added after painting, but test fitting will show one way or another. A short wing spar is provided to help stiffen this all. The kit can have bomb racks installed and so at this time those holes need to be opened. Attaching the wing to the fuselage looks pretty standard and from the looks of it, Tamiya wants you to prepaint it before attaching. I'll pass on that.

As mentioned there are air to air bombs that can be attached to the lower fuselage. Gear doors have 'hooked' hinge pieces to help with attachment. It is only now that the engines are built up. These have polycaps in the gear box to hold the prop/spinner combo. In this case there are options blades and spinners with one set being a bit more pointed than the other. There is no indication as to which marking option uses what so your choice. The engine is then attached to the firewall, which has the exhaust attached to the back of it and then the one piece cowling is glued on. These are handed so follow the instructions well. Last bits are the attaching the engines to the nacelles, adding the various guns and pitot tubes.

One option does not have the big gun sticking out of the roof, which makes me wonder about doing that one as you still have the rest of the gun assembly filling the rear. As mentioned, one can pose the various canopy pieces open if one wishes, though they are all shown closed. Instead of having six clear pieces it would have been nice to have just two for the closed position.

There are three markings options provided for you. All the upper surface and undersurface colors will need to be mixed as none of them were in the Tamiya catalog in 1997 and you are only provided Tamiya paint references. The box art plane is in brown over grey and was with the 17th Hikoki. The other two have green upper surfaces with one being with the 16th Hikoki and the other with the 29th Sentai. Decals are well done and printed by Scalemaster, which means you can use standard setting solutions on them. The sheet includes the yellow wing leading edge bands, though you may wish to paint these. The white wing and fuselage 'bandages' are also included on the sheet.


Based on my experience with other Tamiya kits, the engineering will be excellent. I expect it will require some care in building and if one is smart, one will get some canopy masks to help the build progress.




August 2019

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