The Ki-15 was designed by the Mitsubishi Corporation to meet an Imperial Japanese Army Air Force requirement of 1935 for a two-seat, high-speed reconnaissance aircraft. The resulting aircraft was a low-wing cantilever monoplane with a fixed, spatted undercarriage, similar to other all-metal stressed-skin monoplanes developed elsewhere in 1930s, such as the Heinkel He 70 and the Northrop Alpha. Power was by a single Nakajima Ha-8 radial engine, giving 750 hp at 13,120 ft. The first prototype flew in May 1936, with testing proving successful, the aircraft meeting all performance requirements, reaching a speed of 299 mph and showing good handling characteristics.
Service testing was completed without difficulty and the type was ordered into production under the official designation Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Plane Model 1. In May 1937, a year after the first flight, delivery of the first of 437 production aircraft to the army began.
The Ki-15-I was almost immediately placed into operational service at the beginning of the war with China in 1937. The aircraft proved useful in the early period of the Second Sino-Japanese War and performed missions deep into Chinese strategic rear areas, as far as reaching Lanzhou. Its high speed gave it a distinct advantage until the Chinese Air Force acquired Soviet Polikarpov I-16 fighters. This aircraft was used for level bombing, close support and photo reconnaissance before being eventually replaced by the Mitsubishi Ki-30.
Plans were already in hand to improve the Ki-15-I, and in September 1939 the Ki-15-II was put into production with the 900 hp Mitsubishi Ha-26-1; the smaller diameter of this both reduced drag and overcame one of the major shortcomings of the initial version: poor forward field of view past the large-diameter of the initial Nakajima Kotobuki engine. The improved version entered production in September 1939 as the Ki-15-II.
The Japanese Navy, impressed by the performance of this aircraft, ordered 20 examples of the Ki-15-II under the designation “Navy Type 98 Reconnaissance Plane Model 1," or Mitsubishi designation C5M1, even before the Army. The Navy subsequently acquired 30 C5M2 aircraft which had an even more powerful 949 hp Nakajima Sakae 12 engine. They were used for reconnaissance duties.
When production ended, approximately 500 examples of all versions of the Ki-15 had been built, the majority in front-line service when the Pacific War began. By 1943, the Ki-15 had been relegated to second-line roles, but numbers were expended in kamikaze attacks in the closing stages of World War II.
parts are only moderately thin and not all that optically clear.
This may improve with a dip in your favorite clear medium. The
frame lines are clearly defined but not really raised and the
frames themselves appear to be lightly frosted. Hopefully Eduard
will bless us with a mask set.
decals are thin, in register and have a matte finish. Excess
film has been kept to a minimum except around the large letters.
In spite of its small size it provides markings for three
aircraft which vary only in the tail number. Three different
groups from 1942 are represented and all three in overall IJN
Mitsubishi gray. I have no experience with decals from FineMolds
so can't comment on their quality.
instructions are map style, folded in quarters
making eight panels. Most of the verbiage is in
Japanese but there are enough English notations
that it shouldn't be an issue as the diagrams are
all quite clear. The front page I assume is
history of the type ( I don't read Japanese). The
instructions include a parts map, icon chart and
the usual safety warnings. The assembly is divided
into 18 steps and color call outs are provided
along the way with color names and Mr. Color
numbers. There are two panels with painting and
marking instructions for the three aircraft on the
decal sheet. There is also a color reference chart
located there but I can't read any of it except
the generic color names.
After Market Goodies
This kit is pretty new at the time of this
review and no aftermarket is available except for seat restraints
which are available from FineMolds.
This kit looks to be a very nicely detailed kit that fills the void for early war Japanese aircraft. Some of the early FineMold kits where not all that great for fit but their newer kits get better reviews. Still a good idea to treat it as a limited run kit and test fit before applying glue. Other than that I have no problem recommending it to most level of modelers.
Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War by R.J. Francillon