by: Russ Amott [ ]
The Japanese military was seeking to modernize and upgrade its weapons and through the 1920s began to experiment with different tank designs. A successful design was found in 1928 and officially adopted in 1929 (Imperial year 2489) and designated the type 89 tank (after the imperial year). It featured a gasoline engine, a type 91 6.5mm machine gun in the front hull and an asymmetrical turret with a type 90 57mm low velocity gun as primary armament and a second type 91 machine gun facing out the rear of the turret. A third gun could me mounted for AA protection. Production started in 1931. It was used in the Sino-Japanese war where it outclassed the tanks available to the Chinese army. Later, at Khalkin Gol, it performed well enough but was inferior to the Soviet tanks it faced. By the start of WWII, it was obsolete and was replaced in front line service by newer tanks, but still saw service in the Philippines, both in the initial invasion and again in defensive use.
IBG offers a 1/72nd scale version of the type 89 tank. Based on information generally available on the internet, this tank would appear to be of the late, diesel powered variant, but according to new information from Akira Takizawa, only the last production tanks were diesel powered, and only saw service in Japan and Manchuria. See here: http://www3.plala.or.jp/takihome/yi-go.htm#KoOtsu. Based on this information, the kit represents the late type gasoline powered engine variant.
The kit comes in a medium sized, top opening box with artwork depicting the tank with the commander sitting in the turret. Whether intentional or not it is very similar to a model built by Steven Zaloga of the type 89.
Inside, all parts are carefully packaged with sprues in separate cellophane pouches. Inspection of the parts revealed no flaws or issues with the molding process. All parts have good detail. Some slight flash was present but not widespread. Details are a little soft and some items, like tools and the AA gun appear over scale, but I think this is common in 1/72nd scale and smaller. The hull and turret feature multi part construction with rivet detail on all faces. All detail looks good, with one exception. The rear hull hatch and air intake are rectangular in shape on the kit. Photos of the engine deck show they are squarer. This is not a feature that can be corrected easily.
The suspension features individual road wheels and the tracks are link and length, with individual track lings to go around the drive sprockets and idlers. These parts are tiny and will require some care both in handling and removing from the sprues as the sprue gates are fairly large for the parts.
The instructions are CAD drawings that appear almost photo like. They are generally clear but make certain to go over the image carefully to make sure you get all the parts that are indicated.
The instructions include a paint guide with paints from Tamiya, Vallejo model color, Hataka, Life Color, Pactra and AK Interactive listed. Decals, from Techmod, are very fine and appear crisply printed. The carrier film is thin.
One painting option is included in the instructions, though the decals offer more variation. You will need to check references to match. The indicated marking scheme is for the 7th Tank Regiment, which saw action in the Philippines from 1941-42.
Assembly starts with the suspension. The plastic is fairly soft and I found that sprue cutters were not a good option. A sharp blade was best for cutting the parts off. Fit of the parts was generally good and the plastic took well to the Tamiya extra thin cement I used. I followed the directions through each step.
When it came to assembly of the drive sprocket I found the fit was a bit fiddly and the assembly needs support to hold the parts together. It still worked better to build the sub assembly alone as I tried with the other side to attach parts to the hull and build up from there and didn't get as good a fit. The individual track links that go around the drive sprocket did not fit well for me. I ended up removing the sprocket teeth on the second run and did get better fit for the track shoes, but in trying to manipulate the tracks for an extended time period they ended up looking a little mashed and crooked at the front.
The etch parts included are the brace frame for the trail assembly and an optional muffler cover. No bending template is included so it is a case of doing your best guess. The effect is much better than the included styrene part.
The turret has nothing to lock it in place and so will need to be cemented in the position the modeler most desires. The main gun is also fixed in position, straight ahead and level. On Japanese tanks, the gun could move independent of the turret right and left as well as up and down, so to show the gun in a different position would require the mantlet being moved as well. The turret hatch can be molded open or closed, though there are no latch details on the inside, and no interior. What is included is a half figure to put in the hatch, and a second full figure to stand alongside. Again, both are somewhat soft in detail, but a very nice inclusion. The commander is staring straight ahead and the artwork has him looking to the left, which adds a little more life to the scene. I have attempted to modify the figure by moving the head position, but it will take some work and clean-up before he is ready to be used.
I painted the model with a base coat of Tamiya dark yellow with a few drops of red brown added to the mix. Over this I applied flat brown slightly darkened and IJA green XF-13, with a yellow stripe. I did a wash and some dry brushing with plain Tamiya dark yellow. I have yet to add the decals and figure and there is still some slight weathering to do, but at least the photos show how the kit will look.
Overall, I think this is a great little kit. There is the accuracy issue of the engine deck, but overall, it looks very much like the subject it represents. The individual track links are a bit fiddly, and for this I would not recommend the kit for a beginner, but the build is, in general, very easy. IBG left out marking information for the decal options they included, which appear to be for another two tanks at least. The hardest part is identifying clearly a camouflage pattern as most photos are not clear and are of dirty vehicles. All of this aside, fans of Japanese armor should be happy with the kit.
Historical information posted above is from the IBG website and included historical overview included in the kit.