by: Darren Baker [ ]
Originally published on:
The following introduction is from the web page of the National Museum of the US Air Force; a link to their web page can be found at the end of this review.
The N1K2-Ja Shiden Kai (Japanese for "Violet Lightning--Improved") was the best fighter used in significant numbers by the Japanese Navy during World War II. Known by the Allies as the "George," this maneuverable, heavily-armed fighter was a formidable opponent in the closing months of the war.
The Shiden Kai was considerably better than the Japanese Navy's most common fighter, the A6M Zero. With a top speed of 369 mph, the N1K2 was about 20 mph faster than the A6M Zero. The heavier Shiden Kai also possessed surprisingly good maneuverability due to a mercury switch that automatically extended the flaps during turns. These "combat" flaps created more lift, thereby allowing tighter turns. Moreover, its four 20 mm automatic cannon provided greatly increased firepower than earlier Japanese designs. Unlike the A6M Zero, the Shiden Kai could compete against the best late-war U.S. Navy and U.S. Army Air Forces fighters.
The N1K2-Ja was developed to counter high-flying B-29s. It first entered combat early in 1945, and over 400 were produced before the war ended. The Shiden Kai primarily equipped the 343rd Kokutai, a unit composed of the Japanese Navy's best fighter pilots. Commanded by Capt. Minoru Genda, the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack, the 343rd Kokutai entered combat in March 1945 in the defense of the Japanese home islands.
Shiden Kai pilots scored several successes against low-flying, carrier-based U.S. Navy fighters. Even so, they did little to stop high-altitude B-29 attacks because of the N1K2's insufficient climbing ability and the considerable loss of horsepower and engine reliability above 21,000 feet. These B-29 raids seriously hindered Shiden Kai production by heavily bombing the plants building the fighter.
The museum's N1K2-Ja is a fighter-bomber variant of the Shiden Kai equipped with wing mounts to carry bombs. It is painted as an aircraft in the Yokosuka Kokutai, an evaluation and test unit similar in function to the USAAF's flight test unit at Wright Field. As a result of Japanese forces being pushed back on the battlefront, by the spring of 1945 Yokosuka Kokutai test pilots entered combat in a desperate defense against overwhelming Allied air attacks. This aircraft is one of only three surviving restored examples in the world.
This model is packed in a card tray with separate card lid. Inside the box there are two plastic bags containing all of the parts for the model. The contents break down as follows;
6 grey sprues
1 clear sprue
A decal sheet
A fold out instruction sheet
This model of the Shidenkai Kawanishi N1K3 – J from Aoshima in 1/72nd scale is the first model of theirs I have looked over and I was interested to see what it offered. All of the parts including the decals are packed inside four plastic bags, my only concern from this approach is possible damage to the decal sheet, I look to have been lucky in this respect. The mouldings look to be of a good quality and have no obvious problems that jump out at me. There are a number of ejector pin marks present, but it is my belief that all of these will be hidden on the assembled model. One aspect I am not a fan of is where the gates between sprue and part overlap the mating surfaces, this makes clean up more of a chore than it need be and will often result in either a bad join or the need for filler.
Looking at the parts that make up the cockpit, Aoshima look to have done a very competent job and provided a nicely detailed pilots home. Looking over the cockpit parts, this is I feel the most complex stage of the build, the cockpit is built outside of the fuselage and only added when complete. Aoshima has included a detailed instrument panel, side wall framing and rudder pedals. The seat is not just glued to the cockpit floor or rear wall, it is attached to an adjuster as it would be in the aircraft, the only thing I can see missing here are the pilots harness. A rudimentary pilot figure is included if desired with the model, but the instructions do not cover adding it to the model.
Looking at the engine included with the model, you get both banks of cylinders for the rotary engine. The cylinder detail is quite good for the scale, and if you are a glutton for punishment you could even scratch an ignition harness for added detail. Moving onto the propeller we find the one thing I really do not like, the propeller nose cone is split into two halves and while some filler would hide the joint easily I cannot see a logical reason for tackling this area in this way.
The fuselage, wings and tail of the model have very nice shallow recessed panel lines, these panel lines should look rather pleasing when highlighted by careful painting and weathering. None of the flight control surfaces are supplied as separate parts, and so if you want to reposition them you will need to reach for the razor saw.
The undercarriage of the model has been tackled quite well by Aoshima, but they have moulded the tail wheel as part of the fuselage. The bays in the wings and the undercarriage doors have a nice level of detail moulded on, those that strive for better detail will likely add some wiring to finish this area off. The wheels and struts look ok to me, but the wheels are not weighted and the addition of some wire down the legs will further improve the detail.
Aoshima has supplied a quite nice drop tank with this model for some added interest. The cannons in the wings are moulded along with the wings and so detail here is limited. The canopy has been well looked after by Aoshima as they have supplied a single piece closed canopy or the option of an open canopy as a separate set of moulding. One of the weak spots of this offering from Aoshima is the decals, no there is nothing wrong with the decals themselves, but Aoshima has not provided any details on the aircraft depicted in this model.
This being the first Aoshima model kit I have looked at, I am for the most part pleased with what I find included. The detail in the area of cockpit and radial engine is of a very good standard, even more so when considering the scale. Aoshima do seem to cut some corners though, areas such as the tail wheel and cannons I can forgive, but I would have liked the option to decide the placement of the control surfaces for myself. That said this should build into a quite pleasing model depending on the ability of the modeller.