Ki 43 II
Design work on the Ki-43 began in December 1937 when the Army instructed Nakajima to design a single seat fighter to supersede the Ki-27. The specification, which was quite exacting by Japanese standards, called for a fighter with a maximum speed of 311 mph, a climb rate of 5 minutes to 5,000 feet, a range of 500 miles, an armament of two 7.7mm machine guns and a maneuverability at least equal to the Ki-27. Within one year the prototype was completed and flew for the first time in early 1939. A total of three prototypes were built and tested and although they met the performance requirements of the JAAF they were criticized by service pilots for failing the maneuverability requirement. An additional ten were built and some of these were modified including all around canopies and "butterfly" combat flaps which improved the maneuverability. The modification proved so successful that the service pilots now approved. The first production variant, the model 1A was fitted with a two pitch metal propeller, had two synchronized 7.7mm machine guns in the upper cowl and attachment point for two fuel tanks mounted under the fuselage between the landing gear. The model 1B followed with a different armament configuration. The model IIA differed in have a larger engine, wing span was reduced by about two feet, the windscreen was heightened and a new reflector sight was installed. Strengthening of the wing mounting points allowed carrying 551 pound bombs and pilots protection was introduced in the form of a 13mm head and back armor plating and a rudimentary form of self sealing fuel tank was installed in the wings.
Numerically the Ki-43 was the most important aircraft in the JAAF and as such served on every front to which the service was committed. In the closing stages of the war it was replaced by newer types in most front line units and the type was used extensively on suicide missions. The Ki-43 I was also operated by the Royal Thai Air Force during the war, a few being supplied to the puppet Thai government and used for limited operations against th US 14th Air Force in Southern China. After the war, salvaged Ki-43's were flown by pilots of the Indonesian Peoples Security Force against the Dutch and for a brief time by pilots of the French Groupes de Chasse I/7 and II/7 against Communist insurgents in Indo-China.
The Hasegawa Ki 43-II comes in a typical Hasegawa top open box with nice artwork. Since I bought this kit second hand I can't say whether the parts were bagged from the factory, the only thing bagged when i got it was the decal sheet. The kit was originally released in the early 70's and the airframe parts feature very fine raised rivet detail along with some recessed panel lines and other raised detail as appropriate. While this sort of detailing has fallen out of favor to that of all recessed detail, it is actually more prototypical even if it is harder to deal with from a finishing standpoint. That said the molding is excellent. My kit was released in 2004 and even though the molds were over ten years old, the parts are nearly flash free and there are only minimal mold alignment seams to deal with. The finish is smooth and glossy and other than a couple of very slight indentations on the fuselage sides where there was interior detail, I found no surface defects on any of the main airframe parts. These indentations were so slight that I don't believe fixing them would be worth the effort and they look a lot like the oil canning effect seen on many aircraft. The control surfaces are all fixed and feature a very fine texture effect, which is no doubt over scale but should disappear under a coat of paint. One issue that is problematic deals with the way Hasegawa chose to create sharp trailing edges on the wings by molding part of the bottom side on the wing on the top. while this creates a nice sharp trailing edge, it also creates a seam across the ailerons and bottom wing where no seam exists. Careful gluing to insure a tight seam and a small amount of glue squeeze out will help here. This kit is quite simple consisting of only 83 parts. Of those 22 are for the engine which is the most detailed part of the kit. Four parts make up a pilot figure which is a rather poor rendering and not worth the effort to use in my opinion. The cockpit is rather plain with minimal details and most of the complaints heard about the kit center around this issue. The rather small cockpit opening will hide most of the cockpit detail anyway so to me it's not an issue. The kit also comes with two optional bombs and drop tanks. If you leave out the pilot, the drop tanks and bombs and the display placard the parts count drops to 69 making the kit practically a weekend project. See the photos below.
The clear parts are nice, clear and thin for the time they were issued. They feature recessed frame lines which should make masking easy. Besides the canopy, a landing light lens and two gun sight lenses are included. See below.
The decals are typical Hasegawa from the period, thick and with the white a more cream color than white. Markings provided cover two aircraft from the 54th Fighter Group, with the only difference being different color used on the tail markings, one of which is shown on the box top and not the three illustrated in the instructions. They are included on a separate sheet. This will require stacking the already thick decals to create the white surround on the fuselage hinamaru. see below.
The instructions are printed on a long sheet folded to fit the box and create separate pages. The first page has history in English and Japanese, the second page has the usual safety warnings in six languages, decal instructions in the same six languages and a paint chart with Gunze color numbers and generic paint names in multiple languages. The third, forth and fifth pages are the assembly steps divided into fourteen separate steps. The next two pages have paint and marking instructions for markings not supplied and the last page has a parts map. There is a separate sheet included that covers the marking supplied.
After Market Goodies
The only thing I could find currently available for this kit is a set of white metal landing gear struts from Scale Aircraft Conversions (32011) which probably don't add any real detail to the kit and the kit landing gear should be more than adequate from a strength standpoint.
In spite of it's age the kit fits together well and makes up into a nice representation of a Ki-43, recommend to most any skill level.
Links to kit build or reviews
Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War by R.J. Francillon