by: Eirik Sandaas [ ]
Originally published on:
The Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa "Peregrine Falcon" (or "Army Type 1 Fighter") was a single-engine land-based tactical fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II.
The Allied reporting name was "Oscar", but it was often called the "Army Zero" by American pilots because it bore a certain resemblance to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the Imperial Japanese Navy's counterpart to the Ki-43. Both aircraft had generally similar layout and lines, and also used essentially the same Nakajima Sakae radial engine, with similar round cowlings and bubble-type canopies. While relatively easy for a trained eye to tell apart, in the heat of battle, and given the brief glimpses and distraction of combat, Allied aviators frequently mistakenly reported having fought "Zeros" in areas where there were no Navy fighters.
Like the Mitsubishi-produced A6M Zero, the radial-engined Ki-43 was light and easy to fly and became legendary for its combat performance in East Asia in the early years of the war. It could outmaneuver any opponent, but most did not have armor or self-sealing tanks, and its armament was poor until its final version, which was produced as late as 1945. Allied pilots often reported that the nimble Ki-43s were difficult targets but burned easily or broke apart with few hits.
Total production amounted to 5,919 aircraft.
This boxing is of the first mark of the Ki-43, which means the armament is just two 7,7 mm machine guns
-1st Flight Regiment-
This limited boxing is identified as “1st flight regiment” and follows a line of boxings from Hasegawa that focuses on a single air unit. The three included profiles are:
IJAAF 1st Flight regiment. 1st Squadron, Akeno Airfield, Japan. Summer 1942
IJAAF 1st Flight regiment. 2nd Squadron, Akeno Airfield, Japan. Summer 1942
IJAAF 1st Flight regiment. 3rd Squadron, Akeno Airfield, Japan. Summer 1942
In August 1938, a complete re-organization of the Army Air Service resulted in the creation of the Air Combat Group (飛行戦隊 Hikō Sentai), which replaced all of the former Air Battalions and Air Regiments. Each Air Combat Group was a single-purpose unit consisting typically of three Squadrons, divided into three flights of three aircraft each. With staff flight, reserves and so on the typical complement of a Hikō Sentai would be around 40 aircraft. Some sources translate Hikō Sentai as “squadron” but the closest equivalent is perhaps a Luftwaffe Gruppe, RAF Wing or USAAF Group. So the boxing should perhaps more correctly been called "1st Air Group".
Regardless of how we translate it, the "Dai-ichi-hikō sentai" was established on 5 July 1938 at Kagamigahara, Japan. The unit saw service in Manchuria during the Manchuria Incident, China during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Burma, Netherlands East Indies, Indochina, Rabaul, Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Philippines, Formosa and Japan during World War II. The unit was disbanded at Takahagi, Japan in late 1945. They were equipped with the Ki43-I from July 1942 to August 1943, and it was while they transitioned from the older Ki-27 they were stationed at Akeno. (until august 1942).
The three different profiles are all in dark green over grey, with the only difference being the colors and number of chevrons on the fuselage and tail. Note that as these was brand new aircraft at the time, you should go lightly on the weathering.
The kit arrives in a box of the lid and tray type, made in rather thin cardboard, with a beautiful subdued painting of a Oscar in the colors of the 3rd squadron in the Dai-ichi-hikō sentai on the front.
Hasegawa's tooling of the Oscar in 1:48 scale first saw the light of day back in 2001, and have been steadily reissued with new markings since then. But even so, there are not a hint of flash or blemishes on the parts, so their molds must hold up splendidly.
What is less praiseworthy is that Hasegawa has placed the five sprues in grey plastic in the same bag. That can easily lead to scratches, and in my kit the engine cowling had broken loose from the sprue. The sprue with transparent parts are enclosed in it’s own bag, together with the nylon washers intended to keep the propeller (and the tail wheel assembly) moveable on the finished kit.
The parts breakdown is as follows:
Sprue A consists of the fuselage, horizontal stabilizers, wing tips and propeller.
Sprue B/C consist of the wings, cockpit floor and walls, engine parts and exhaust
Sprue T/V give us more engine parts and the rest of the cockpit
Sprue X/U is duplicated, as this is main landing gear and drop tanks.
Sprue R/Q molded in clear plastic is the cockpit hood and landing lights.
I all there’s 73 parts of which 6 are marked “not for use” in the instructions. The instruction sheet is of the folding type, in black and white. There are 8 steps, and I could find no errors, except in some of the English spelling. Colour call outs throughout is keyed to Gunze Mr. Color and Mr Hobby Aqueous Hobby Colour
The decal sheet is colorful, and the decals themselves look to be both in register and opaque. But beware that the fuselage chevrons are printed as a single decal. This means there will be a lot of clear film, which must be treated carefully to avoid silvering. On the other hand, there are few stencils to worry about. There is no note on who is responsible for printing, so I assume it is an in-house job from Hasegawa themselves.
The Ki-43-I, which is what we have here, is the most distinctive of the three different marks of Oscars since it had a two-bladed (license-built) Hamilton-Standard constant speed prop, a very pronounced chin intake for the carburetor and a ring-type oil cooler in front of the engine within the engine cowling. Less noticeable, its wingspan was about two feet greater than its successors in the series.
Hasegawa has solved the wingspan issue with separate wingtips. This might be convenient for them, but for the builder it means there is a joint in the outer end of the aileron which will need work to be invisible. If Hasegawa had molded the ailerons separately this would have been avoided. The way the spinner is built up of three separate parts is also novel.
According to the box the finished model will have a length of 184 mm and a wingspan of 238 mm
The overall level of detail is more than adequate for a very nice result out of box. The only omission is the seat harness, as per usual. I cannot fathom why kit producers cannot include at least a diagram of the harness, or as a decal. Especially glaring when there is no pilot figure included.
The kit is only tooled to be built with the landing gear down, and that makes the beautiful “butterfly flaps” somewhat redundant as I believe these were retracted when the plane was parked. The cockpit hood can be built opened or closed. The low parts count and colorful markings should make this a joy to build, and I look forward to see if Hasegawas deservedly good reputation hold true for this kit as well.