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The Ki-43 Squadron in service of the Manchukuo Air Force

You probably know that the Manchukuo Imperial Air Force used Ki-43 fighters during World War II. However what is not clear was the number of aircraft, their insignia, their start of service, as well as the bases from which they operated. Fortunately thanks to FineMolds, we will try to demystify the history of Hayabusa fighters in the service of Manchukuo.

Picture 1: Manchukuo ki-43-II markings

Documentation and footage found by experts indicates that the Manchukuo Imperial Air Force’s Ki-43 Squadron flew the Ki-43 II. Version II was a significant improvement over the Ki-43 I thanks to its 1150hp Nakajima Ha-115 engine, redesigned fuselage of the main wing and a three-bladed propeller. The tremendous increase in power output of the Nakajima engine was achieved by upgrading the Ha-25 powerplant with a two-stage supercharger.  This modification helped to improve the top and cruise speed of the aircraft to 536 km/h and 355 km/h while allowing it’s operational range to stay at an acceptable level of 1610 km without drop tanks. The Manchukuo Imperial Air Force’s Hayabusa squadron was pictured in ‘Manchukuo War Chronicles #283,’ dated 12 December 1944. From this, we learn that the squadron operated from the Fengtian Air Base and consisted of 4 aircraft that had been donated by Manchukuo citizens and the Manchurian Oil Company (picture 1). Each aircraft carried the name of its sponsor through markings on the fuselage. The kanji markings transliterate as Gokoku-Gou: ‘Defense of our Country’ + ‘Gou’ being the suffix indicating a preceding number. This is an equivalent of well-known Japanese slogans Aikokoku-Gou ‘For the beloved Country’ for aircraft donated to the Japanese Army and Houkoku-Gou ‘Patriotic Act’ the donations of aircraft to the Japanese Navy. Based on the date of the ‘Manchukuo War Chronicles’, it can be safely assumed that the Ki-43’s were delivered and began combat operations in 1944.

The kit’s decals give the full names of each aircraft and a short description of its donator (picture 2).

‘From Manchurian Oil Company No. 1’ was the first of two aircraft donated by Manchurian Oil Company. The company was founded in 1934 and was expected to extract, refine and sell oil to local customers. It was  a joint venture between the state and private owners. However due to lack of suitable oil fields in Manchuria the company needed to import unrefined oil from the US, the UK and other overseas countries to refine at its Dalian refinery. Decals 1 and 2 should be used for this aircraft.

‘From Manchurian Oil Company No. 2′ was the second aircraft donated by the Manchurian Oil Company to defend Manchuria This aircraft is visible in the photograph from ‘Manchukuo War Chronicles’ at Fengtian Air Base.  To get the markings for this airplane you need to use decals 1 and 2 and replace the last 2 kanji characters with decals 11 and 12.

‘From the Labour Service Group of the Songhua River’ All around Manchuria youth and students were organized into “Manchurian Construction Working Volunteer Corps” which were  employed in civil engineering construction and agriculture work in their region. This aircraft was donated by the workers of the “Denjin Corps” who worked in the Songhua River basin. Decals 3 and 4 should be used for the markings of this aircraft.

‘From the Citizens of Longjiang County No. 1′  was donated by the citizens of the Longjiang County. Decals 5 and 6 should be used for this airplane.

 

Picture 2: Ki-43-II decals for Fine Molds (FB9)
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Type 61 – Fine Molds 1:35

Recently I’ve received a kit of Japanese Self-Defence Forces Type 61 tank in the revised specification. As you know I’m a fan of german and russian armor from World War II, so it’s not easy to convince me to look at something from ‘this era’. Until now I have only made a few vehicle kits that were designed and manufactured after 1945, moreover all of them come from the 60-70’s of the last century. Fortunately for Fine Molds, it was the same this time, Type 61 was produced between 1962 and 1975 with a final decommission date in the year 2000.

In the box, you will find 8 sprues from olive-green polystyrene (including two identical once with wheels and track sections), 2 from a transparent material with periscopes, scope glasses and headlights, a photo-etched plate, a piece of nylon string for the towing cable, decals and an assembly instruction. The instruction itself consists of 16 pages with the tank description (unfortunately only in japanese), 44 assembly steps and 4 painting schemes using Mr. Hobby C & H colors as well as Tamiya. Paints coming from this manufacturer belong to the C line.

It’s the first time that I have seen an assembly instruction from Fine Molds and I have to admit, that even though drawing are of high quality it’s not the easiest to follow – at least at first sight. It’s caused by the fact, that you’re able to build the tank in 2 specifications, ‘Upgraded’ and ‘Night Combat’, which requires you to jump between the steps or exclude some elements. On top of that, the kit instruction contains the steps related to ‘Detail Up Option’, which are in fact the steps to fitting a separately sold photo-etched plate ‘Extra Detail Set of JGSDF Type 61 Tank’, consisting of 28 parts, which make reading the instruction harder.

However, I think that once you start building and get used to this style of presentation you should not have any issues with finishing the kit according to the instruction. As mentioned, this is the first Fine Molds kit, in my workshop and I have to admit, that it’s of very high quality, characteristic for Japanese manufacturers. The sprues are very good, sharp, almost without spills (I did find a few), the delicate texture of armor and weld marks are a joy for the eyes. The openwork ventilation covers of the engine bay are amazing, that’s a detail rarely available even from other japanese manufacturers. Push-out marks are in invisible places, and if you would like to get rid of the once located under the fenders, it should be easy, as they are very shallow. The number of elements, from which the kit is assembled is reasonable – it’s not going overboard like with Dragon, but at the same time it’s more than with other japanese manufacturers. Even the smallest elements are crisp, however, the details on Browning M2 0,50” could have been enriched. If someone would like to make this replica more attractive, a metal or resin machine gun would be a nice addition. Adding a brass line instead of the nylon string for the towing cable would be a very good move however it’s typical for japanese manufacturers to stay with nylon string. Decals required to transfer markings for one of the 4 suggested painting schemes are unfortunately very thick, compared to the products offered by best decals manufacturers nowadays. Of course using gloss paint underneath the decals and selecting an adequate application liquid can result in satisfactory results.

Concluding – if you’re looking to build a Type 61 in the early or revised specification, there is no better alternative than to the Fine Molds kit. Other products available on the market come from the 90’s which for sure will not satisfy an exacting modeler in 2017. There is no point in trying to compare them.

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‘Castle in the Sky’ Tiger Moth review

Thanks to HHkits I had the opportunity to review the Dola’s Pirate Airship from the Animage Grand Prix winning anime ‘Castle in the Sky’ by Hayao Miyazaki. Even though the kit is tagged as 1:72 by Fine Molds I would see it rather as an equivalent of kits in 1:144 scale. Inside the box, you will get the kit it self and a much larger figure of the pirate captain Dola.

-Kit quality-

the airship is made neatly and with excellent fitting, about 90% of the elements can be snapped on together without a single drop of glue. The push out marks are slight to moderate and in many cases, they are hidden under different elements or in places where they are invisible. The nicest thing about this kit is the fitting when putting two half’s of the mold together brake lines are almost invisible. This is especially visible on handrails and ladders.

-Details-

there aren’t too many details here compared to a traditional kit however, all elements within the ship compartments the fuselage and all surfaces, are clean and with sharp edges. I believe that Fine Molds intentionally did not put too many details on this ship and focused on replicating the ‘Anime’ creation of Mister Miyazaki without decorating it with elements with were not visible on the drawn original.

-Quality of plastic-

the used plastic is stiff but not too brittle, it has a very smooth surface without any flaws. The only thing you need to pay attention to so separating the elements from the sprues, don’t snap the parts but use a sharp knife or you risk damaging the elements itself.

-The figure of Dola-

what might surprise you there are not to many details as for it’s size and with rather soft edges. However as mentioned before it’s representing a cartoon figure that was drawn with simple lines and not a real human.

-Decals-

they are printed with high quality without any visible rasters


JUDGMENT:

Strong points

  • -very good quality, there are no major defects
  • -it’s simple enough for a junior kit maker
  • -sharp and clear edges and details

Weaknesses

  • -limited number of details vs. comparable 1:144 kits
  • -a number of push out marks that should not be there
  • -no figures of the anime characters in scale of the Tiger Moth
  • -no transparent wings for pirate scooters

Product link: Tiger Moth