Tamiya 1/48 J1N1-S 'Gekko'
KIT #: 61084
PRICE: 3200 yen SRP
DECALS:  options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2002 release

HISTORY

In early 1943, Commander Yasuna Kozono(小園 安名 of the 251st Kōkūtai in Rabaul came up with the idea of installing 20 mm cannons, firing upwards at a 30-degree angle in the fuselage. Against orders of central command, which was skeptical of his idea, he tested his idea on a J1N1-C as a night fighter. The field-modified J1N1-C KAI shot down two B-17s of 43rd Bomb Group attacking air bases around Rabaul on 21 May 1943.

The Navy took immediate notice and placed orders with Nakajima for the newly designated J1N1-S nightfighter design. This model was christened the Model 11 Gekko (月光, "Moonlight"). It had a crew of two, eliminating the navigator position. Like the KAI, it had twin 20 mm Type 99 Model 1 cannon firing upward in a 30 upward angle, but added a second pair firing downward at a forward 30 angle, allowing attacks from above or below. This arrangement was effective against B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and B-24 Liberators, which usually had Sperry ball turrets for ventral defense. The Gekko's existence was not quickly understood by the Allies, who assumed the Japanese did not have the technology for night fighter designs. Early versions had nose searchlights in place of radar. Later models, the J1N1-Sa Model 11a, omitted the two downward-firing guns and added another 20 mm cannon to face upward as with the other two. Other variants without nose antennae or searchlight added a 20 mm cannon to the nose.

The J1N1-S was used against B-29 Superfortresses in Japan, though the lack of good radar and insufficient high-altitude performance handicapped it, since usually only one pass could be made against the higher-speed B-29s. However, some skillful pilots had spectacular successes, such as Lieutenant Sachio Endo, who was credited with destroying eight B-29s and damaging another eight before he was shot down by a B-29 crew, Shigetoshi Kudo (nine victories), Shiro Kuratori (six victories), and Juzo Kuramoto (eight victories); the last two claimed five B-29s during the night of 2526 May 1945. Another Gekko crew shot down five B-29's in one night, but these successes were rare. Many Gekkos were also shot down or destroyed on the ground. A number of Gekkos were relegated to kamikaze attacks, using 250 kg (550 lb) bombs attached to the wings. 

THE KIT

One is always surprised by what Tamiya releases when it comes to aircraft and so it was with this one when it came out in 2002. Tamiya also chose to start with the early plane that was converted from the recon plane. Previous kits in 1/72 were always the later J1N1-S. A good way to start a 1/48 sequence. I believe that Tamiya has since done this later variant.

We have come to expect quality detail from Tamiya and so you have it with this aircraft. The cockpit has everything you need in terms of bits and pieces. Two crewmen are also included and Tamiya has provided decal seat belts for those who don't like manned models. Decals are also provided for the instrument panels. There are plenty of items to add to the sidewalls so the interior will not be barren.

Most of the options in this one are for both the upper and lower guns. This means a rather complex gun mount in the back and since you will be able to see this through the transparencies, Tamiya has done a very credible job of reproducing this somewhat complex assembly. You'd expect a lot of fuselage inserts to allow the later version to be done and those are aplenty. I expect them to be a superb fit.

I'm not jazzed about the three piece rear engine mount section, but there must be a reason for it. The engine itself is close cowled so you only really need a forward face and that's what you get. You can also model this with the cowl flaps open or closed. Things under wings are two drop tanks and you need to open holes prior to assembling the wings if you wish to have these. You also need to open holes if using the lower guns. Wings have a single lower piece and two upper halves. Tamiya also provided two different canopies. One is a single piece and the other has separate sections that can be posed open. This is also true of the aft gun bay cover.

Instructions are excellent and as usual, provide only Tamiya color references. I (and Revell), used to think these planes were overall black, but not so. All the planes in this boxing are IJN dark green with black engine cowlings. They differ only in the aforementioned gun set up and tail numbers.  Tamiya includes the yellow wing leading edge ID markings and since these are nice and straight, should allow you to not have to paint them on.

CONCLUSIONS

This really looks like a great kit. I don't see many of Tamiya's twins build and this one less than others, probably due to the somewhat boring camouflage scheme. Nonetheless, it does build into an excellent model and is well worth seeking out.

REFERENCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakajima_J1N

November 2017

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