AML from the Czech Republic released two kits of the Ki-43-III - kits 72030 and 72033, both labelled Nakajima Ki 43-III Ko Hayabusa/Oscar. The plastic parts are identical in both kits. Both kits include resin parts for the cockpit (floor, sidewalls, control stick, instrument panel, headrest, seat back), pylons with integral (and fragile) sway braces, torque links for the main landing gear struts, cowling, exhausts, main landing gear wells, pitot tube and a tiny splitter for the carb intake. Kit 72033 includes additional resin parts (a second cowl, a bomb with separate fins, and flaps). Both kits include vacuformed canopies (two in kit 72030, only one in 72033). Kit 72033 also includes a photo-etched fret, including an instrument panel, main landing gear doors, flap interiors, rudder pedals, and additional tiny details. Each kit offers four different Japanese marking options.
The grey plastic parts have a smooth but slightly wavy surface texture, Panel lines are engraved, and look a little overdone to my eyes. The resin parts are nicely detailed, but some of the sidewall details are very thin and fragile. The vacuformed canopy is cleanly moulded, but could benefit from a dip in Future. The edges of the canopy itself and the framing are all very cleanly defined.
The instructions are a little vague on the assembly of the cockpit. The instrument panel and the seat back are shown hovering in mid-air, with no attachment points on the floor or sidewalls. The instrument panel is shaped to accomodate the butts of the two cowl mounted 12.7 mm machine guns, however no parts are provided to depict the guns. No advice is given as to how to position the sidewalls. I added some blocks of plastic painted black to represent the guns, and attached them and the panel to a scratchbuilt mounting. I also added some vertical plastic rod sections to the floor to mount the seat back. I thinned the kit fuselage halves with a Dremel tool to accomodate the sidewalls, which were positioned based on my best guess. The kit recommended Aotake blue for the interior, but I went with an interior green (actually US interior green as I was feeling lazy), with a natural metal seat pan and back.
With the cockpit assembled and installed in the fuselage, I glued the fuselage halves together. I left the underside aft of the wing unglued until after I fitted the wing. I had to remove a lot of plastic from the interior of the wing to accomodate the resin wheel well, which is quite thin. The wing training edges also needed a lot of thinning to give a good scale appearance. Kit 72033 gave the option of removing the moulded-in flaps and replacing them with resin and photoetch. As I understand it, the Ki-43's flaps were used for manoeuvring and not landing, and thus should not be deployed on the ground, so I left the flaps as moulded. With a little tweaking of the fuselage and wings, I obtained a reasonable fit, although there was a step on the underside at the rear that required me to sand down the fuselage to match. The landing light on the port wing is missing, so I cut out the opening, and added an MV lens later on, with a cover from clear packing tape.
Compared to the wing, the tailplanes went on without a hitch. As moulded, they are missing the elevator trim tab actuators on their lower sides. I added these with scraps of plastic.
The kit provides a 3 piece injection moulded engine, a resin cowl and exhaust, and an injection moulded cowl nose ring. The cowl nose ring fits well to the resin cowl, however the carb intake is open at the rear so the top cylinders of the engine are visible through the intake. As well, the way the blast tubes for the cowl guns end does not look quite right, so I substituted the cowl ring from a Hasegawa Ki-43-II, which fit well, had a blocked off carb intake, and better blast tube detail. Kit 72033 provides two different cowls, the difference being the number of exhuast pipes in the uppermost cluster on each side. However, only one style of exhaust is provided, so I used the cowl provided in both kits, with a cutout for two exhaust pipes in the uppermost position. I found I had to remove some material from the front of the fuselage and the insides of the exhausts to get a decent fit.
The kit provides a two piece spinner and three separate prop blades. These were crudely moulded, so I combined the kit spinner with the Hasegawa prop, and a new back plate. I feel the kit spinner is closer to the correct shape than the Hasegawa part. I also used Hasegawa parts for the main gear struts, wheels and tailwheel. I used the photoetched gear doors from kit 72033, but added some thin plastic strip to represent the internal structure. I also added fine wire brake lines, and drilled lightening holes in the Hasegawa torque links.
The AML canopy is nicely moulded, but when I installed it something didn't look right. All the canopy framing along the bottom edges seemed too thick, and the canopy itself stood out too much from the fuselage. I suppose I could have carefully trimmed material from the bottom edge, but I elected to replace the canopy with the Hasegawa part. Note that the Ki-43 III canopy is actually different from the early variants - it incorporates a cutout in the sliding section to access the fuel filler. I had to drill and cut this section from the Hasegawa part.
I have always wanted to depict one of the heavily weathered Oscars, still bearing traces of its original Japanese paint scheme. I opted for the aircraft coded white A from GC I/7 Provence, as shown in at least one photograph in a number of sources. This aircraft retained large portions of the green upper surface paint, but also had a lot of natural metal showing through. To depict this, I elected to experiment with the hair-spray technique widely employed by armour modellers.
After masking the canopy, I sprayed an overall coat of Alclad grey primer, then lightly buffed this. I masked the wing leading edges and rudder, then sprayed these white. I then sprayed the leading edges yellow-orange (an arbitrary mix of insignia yellow and insignia red). I masked off both these areas, then masked off the elevators and ailerons and sprayed these IJA grey on the undersides, and green on the top. These were fabric covered, and I assumed the paint would not have eroded from the doped fabric. I then masked off the control surfaces. All this detail painting was done with Model Master enamels
Next I sprayed a couple light coats of Alclad aluminum. After a day's drying time, I used the airbursh to spray a coat of hairspray (Finesse unscented, but I don't believe the brand matters) over the upper surfaces of the model. This dried to a clear finish, and again after a day's drying time, I sprayed Tamiya IJA green acrylic over the top of the model. Once this was dry, I used a stiff brush, lightly dampened with water to attack the paint. This dissolved the underlying hairspray, allowing irregular scratches and chunks of green to be removed, exposing the base Alclad.
When I was satisfied that I'd acheived the right look, I went on the decals. My original plan was to se the Hinomaru decals from the kit, and add white and blue centers to these. However, I found the kit decals were too stiff to conform to the surface detail. For the fuselage roundels, I cut circles from white Xtradecal trim film, then applied roundels from Model Art over top. For the wings, I couldn't find appropriately sized markings, so I used a circle cutter and a hole punch to create frisket masks. I sprayed the white first, then a red ring (using Model Master insignia red with a drop of yellow), then the blue centre (using Model Master intermediate blue with a drop of duck egg blue). At the same time, I sprayed the red and white rudder markings. I tried using the white A codes from Carpena, but they disintegrated, so I cut my own from white decal stock.
I applied a flat clear coat locally over the decals and sprayed markings, then sprayed exhaust stains (which came out a bit too heavy for my taste). On the underside, I used oil paints to add streaks and deliniate panels. I found that my original thinner of varsol attacked the Alclad, so I switched to artist's white spirit, which seemed a little milder. Final details included new sway braces (the kit ones disappeared during painting), a wire and plastic rod pitot tube, and a monofilament antenna wire.
I'm happy with the finish I acheived, but the AML kit was a bit of a letdown. I've heard that the Special Hobby kit isn't much of an improvement, so perhaps we're still waiting for the untimate Oscar III kit...
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