Aichi 
D3A1 'Val'


On December 7, 1941 the D3A1 became the first Japanese aircraft to drop bombs on American targets. Despite its apparent obsolescence the aircraft achieved considerable success during the first ten months of the war and sank more Allied fighting ships than any other single type of Axis aircraft. During the summer of 1936 the Japanese Navy issued an 11-Shi specification calling for a carrier based dive bomber of monoplane design. Three companies submitted proposals, Aichi, Nakajima and Mitsubishi, Aichi and Nakajima each received a contract for two prototypes. Aichi's entrant was a low winged monoplane with elliptical wings inspired by those of the Heinkel He 70. In spite of the inherent drag of a fixed undercarriage, this type of landing gear was retained as performance gains stemming from the use of a retractable landing gear were found to be insufficient to justify the extra weight and maintenance problems.

The first prototype powered by a nine cylinder 710 hp radial was completed in December of 1937 and flew a month later. Initial results were disappointing as the aircraft was underpowered, suffered instability in wide turns and the dive brakes vibrated alarmingly when used. On the positive side the aircraft possessed a strong airframe and overall handling characteristics were satisfactory.

To correct the deficiencies the second aircraft was extensively modified before being flown. A more powerful engine of 840 hp was installed, the cowling was redesigned, the area of the vertical tail surfaces was enlarged and strengthened dive brakes were installed. The main modification affected the wings which were increased in span while the outer sections of the leading edges were cambered down to prevent snap rolling in tight turns. Thus modified the D3A1 won the competitive trials over the Nakajima D3N1 in December of 1939.

The production D3A1's were further modified and featured slightly smaller wings and were powered by a 1,000 hp engine. The aircraft included numerous internal changes that increased it loaded weight. The directional stability problem was finally eradicated with the fitting of a large dorsal fin and the aircraft became highly maneuverable, a characteristic which enabled it occasionally to be used as a fighter in spite of the fact it only carried two forward firing 7.7mm machine guns. The normal defensive load was a single 250 kg bomb.

The Kit

The Hasegawa kit comes in a medium sized top open box that they use for a lot of their 1/48 kits and as usual has some great artwork on the top. Inside the box is one bag with all the sprues inside including the clear parts, not the best packaging. As a result a number of the parts had some scuffing on them but nothing that won't buff out. The clear parts survived without damage. This kit dates back to the mid 90's. It is molded in light gray and the surface detail consists of recessed panel lines and fasteners and rivets. The panel lines are about normal for the scale.The surface finish is smooth and I found no noticeable surface defects in any of the major airframe parts. The mold parting seams on two sided parts are minimal. In spite of the age of the kit there was very little flash evident. The cockpit is fairly well detailed for the scale and age of the kit and I'm sure most will be satisfied with the supplied level of detail. The cockpit makes up as a complete assembly which is them mounted to the fuselage before joining the halves. There are some holes that need to be opened up in the lower wing to attach included bombs and this needs to be done in advance of assembling the wings. The engine is a one piece casting to which you install a gearbox. It should look nice when painted up as it has a good depth of detail. The kit was supposed to have poly caps to allow installing the prop after assembly but mine seemed AWOL. The kit includes three bombs, a 250 kg bomb for under the fuselage and two 60 kg bombs for under the wings. The tires are weighted. I have stopped doing parts counts on kits, not sure anyone really cares and many of the newer kits tell you on the box how many parts are there. In the case of duplicate sprues only one is shown. see below.

The clear parts are relatively thin but when you stack them as you would if you want the canopy open the effect may make them look overly thick. The clarity is good but a masking kit would be helpful ! Also included besides the canopies are navigation light lenses, a landing light lens and a gun sight. See below.


The decals are typical old school Hasegawa, thick and with the white that is a cream color. There is a lot of extra clear film on some of the them and the registration is not all that good. The sheet also has decals for the instrument panel. The decals provide markings for two aircraft from the Battle of Midway, one from the Akagi and one from the Kaga. While I haven't done it yet myself I would highly recommend finding some after market decals as I suspect working with these is going to frustrating. See Below.


The instructions follow the Hasegawa pattern of printing them on a long sheet which is then folded to fit the box creating separate panels. In this case the count is eight. panel one is a brief history and specifications in Japanese and English, panels two through four are assembly steps, panel five has a parts map and color chart with Gunze numbers and generic color names, panels six and seven are painting and marking diagrams and panel eight includes decal installation instructions and the usual safety and health warnings. 

After Market Goodies

Strange as it may seem I didn't buy this set for the Val but to use it as a basis to build an interior for the old Fujima 'Jake', fortunately Lone Star Models made a set for the 'Jake' so it now will most likely get used on this kit. This is CMK's set # 4056 and it is a resin set designed to replace the kit's cockpit.  The parts are molded in a cream colored resin and has extremely well molded details with a minimum of pin holes and short shots.  According to the review linked at the end of this review in which the author used the same set it fits pretty good as after market sets go. It also includes photo etch fret with lots of little goodies and a film for the instrument panel dials. It also comes with a vacuformed canopy but mine has crawled off and hid some where so there is no photo of it here. See below.

Conclusions

Although not a new kit it is still nicely detailed and by all accounts the fit is good and as such gets my recommendation for modelers with a bit of experience.

Links to kit build or reviews

A build / review can be found here.

References

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

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Updated 7/5/13