Fujimi 1/72 Ki-43-I Hayabusa '59th Sentai'
|KIT #:||722481 (C-2)|
|PRICE:||1080 yen on discount (1200 yen SRP)|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Ki-43 was designed by Hideo Itokawa, who would later become famous as a pioneer of Japanese rocketry. The Ki-43 prototype was produced in response to a December 1937 specification for a successor to the popular fixed-gear Nakajima Ki-27 Nate. The specification called for a top speed of 500 km/h (311 mph), a climb rate of 5,000 m (16,400 ft) in five minutes and a range of 800 km (500 mi). Maneuverability was to be at least as good as that of Ki-27.
When first flown in early January 1939, the Ki-43 prototype was a disappointment. Japanese test pilots complained that it was less maneuverable than the Ki-27 Nate and not much faster. In order to solve these problems, Nakajima produced a series of progressively modified prototypes through 1939 and 1940. These changes involved a major weight saving program, a slimmer fuselage with the tail surfaces moved further aft and a new canopy. Crucially, the 11th prototype introduced the unique differential "butterfly" maneuvering Fowler flaps, which dramatically improved performance in tight turns. The 13th prototype combined all these changes, and tests of this aircraft resulted in an instruction for Nakajima to place the Ki-43 into production, the Ki-27 jigs being transferred to the Mansyu factory at Harbin in Japanese occupied Manchukuo.
The Ki-43 (Oscar) was initially produced in November 1939, given the designation Ki-43-I. Deliveries from Nakajima's Ota factory commenced in February 1941. In addition to outstanding maneuverability, the Ki-43-I had an impressive rate of climb due to its light weight. Power was provided by the Nakajima Ha-25 engine turning a two-bladed, two-position variable-pitch metal propeller. Top speed was 495 km/h (308 mph) at 4,000 m (13,160 ft). The Ki-43 was equipped with two synchronized cowling machine guns in various configurations, with either two 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 89 machine guns, one 12.7 mm (.50 in) Ho-103 machine gun and one 7.7 mm (.303 in) gun, or two 12.7 mm (.50 in) Ho-103 guns; the aircraft was given various sub-designations to reflect these differences. The configuration that appears to have been most prevalent at the outset of the war was the first configuration with two 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 89 machine guns, while as the war progressed the heavier combinations gained popularity and the version with the heaviest armament was sometimes given the designation Ki-43-Ic. The Ho-103 was often loaded with explosive ammunition to increase target effect; its penetrative effect against later Allied aircraft armor appears to have been marginal.
I ordered this kit thinking it was a -II. It was all based on the camo scheme of the box art, but when it arrived, I found it to be the earlier variant. This one is boxed 'Kato captain Fighter', because the lone markings option is for Kato's plane with the 50th Sentai. The kit is superbly done with fine engraved panel line detailing. This kit was released in 2014 so is very much up to modern standards for the scale. I had thought that Fujimi was not doing new tool aircraft kits as it seemed they had stopped after a huge input in the 1990s. Apparently that is not the case and I'm glad.
The kit provides a properly curved floor with molded in rudder pedals onto which you put a control stick and two part seat assembly. There is a nicely done instrument pane with raised details and a decal to place atop them. This is no inner sidewall detailing. The engine consists of a front half row of cylinders onto which you place the prominent oil cooler that was typical of the early 'Oscar'. There is no pushrod detailing on the engine.
Wings are a single lower piece with separate upper halves. Of you want to use the drop tanks you'll need to open holes in the lower wing. Closing the fuselage traps the engine and interior pieces and you have a full forward colwing to attack along with small exhaust pipes and machine gun housings. Landing gear is well done and the main gear doors are molded in the lowered position so some work will be needed if you plan on building this one gear up. The tires are flat on the bottom which is a nice touch. You are provided a one piece canopy into which you will need to drill a hole for the telescopic sight.
Instructions are well done with the usual Gunze paint references. There is only one markings option and that is pretty much the only difference between this and the previously previewed kit. This is for an early Hayabusa of the 1st Chutai of the 59th Sentai operating out of Hankow China in the summer of 1941. This aircraft is overall unpainted metal save for the flight control surfaces which are grey-green primer. Decals are very nicely printed.
Since Hasegawa doesn't do an early Oscar, this kit is a nice addition to any IJAAF collection. I only wish I'd have read the description better as I really wanted a new tool -II! I also wish it had more than one option, but it seems that Fujimi is doing this on its less expensive kits and offering other markings in other kits.
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