C5M2 'Babs'

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.

The Kit

The FineMolds kit comes in a medium sized tray type top open box of thin card stock with nice artwork on the front. Inside the box one finds three sealed bags, one with two sprues, basically wings and fuselage, another with two sprues, one large and one small and the third with the clear parts, decal sheet and a very small sprue with the machine guns and ammo cans. The parts are molded in a gray color and are crisply molded and I couldn't find any flash worth mentioning. Ejector pin marks are where they should not be seen when things are assembled. The surface is matte and surface detail consists of fine recessed panel lines and a few really small recessed rivets and fasteners. They are so small they may well disappear when painted. There are raised surface details where applicable. I did not find any surface defects other than some flow marks that shouldn't show once painted.

The control surfaces are molded in the neutral position except for the rudder which is a separate piece but looks as if it is meant to be mounted in the neutral position as well. The ailerons are molded to the top wing surface so as to provide a nice thin trailing edge and there are gaps at the end to make them appear as a separate pieces. The entire tail assembly with the fillet that extends from the rear of the canopy is a molded separately, my guess was to make it easier to get an accurate molding of the complex shape. The cockpit is very well detailed with a large portion of the kits 120 parts going into it. The instrument panel has raised bezels with internal detail and a decal overlay is provided. The pilot seat and controls are mounted to a floor assembly along with fore, aft and middle bulkheads and the observers seat and camera. Structural wall assemblies are then loaded with additional details and these are then attached to the floor and bulkheads. Only thing missing is seat restraints and those can be sourced from FineMolds. Altogether a really nice package for the interior. No option is provided to pose the canopy in the open position, you are on your own for that.
The wings have a one piece top and bottom and a spar is supplied to go in between. The engine is a quite complete assembly made up of 14 parts with separate push rod assemblies, intake and exhaust manifolds. Needs only some wiring to finish it off but most of the detail will be hidden in the cowl. The propeller is a one piece molding with separate weights for the pitch adjustment. The wheels are designed with slots so they can be installed in the wheel spats after assembly and painting. They are one piece moldings and are not weighted. A belly fuel tank is provided as well as a center line bomb rack and two rather unusual looking bombs to put on it. Holes in the bottom wing will need to be opened if you wish to use them.
OK, lets look at the sprues.
The first one shown has the finely molded cockpit structure, floor and cockpit bulkheads, wings, wheels and spats.

The fuselage halves and rudder.

Belly tank, vertical tail and some other odds and ends.

Primarily engine parts on this one but also the horizontal stabilizers, internal parts and other bits and bobs.

The Lewis guns and ammo cans.

The clear 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Links to kit build or reviews
 Another in box review can be found here and a build/review here.


Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War by R.J. Francillon


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Updated  8/17/18