Hasegawa's 1/48 Nakajima Ki.84-I
Type 4 Fighter "Hayate" ("Frank")
Named "Hayate," (Gale) by the Japanese Army Air Force, the Nakajima Type 4 Fighter was the culmination of a line of original fighter aircraft development that had begun ten years earlier with the Ki.27, and included the Ki.43 "Hayabusa" (Peregine Falcon) and the Ki.44 "Shoki" (Demon) which were the backbone of the fighter arm of the JAAF. The specification that gave birth to the Ki.84 demanded the maneuverability of the Ki.43 with the speed, climb, and heavy armament of the Ki.44, which would make the new airplane superior to those aircraft intelligence reports indicated were being developed in Britain and the United States.
That Nakajima more than met these requirements was evident from the first moment of the Ki.84's operational debut over China in August, 1944, flying with the 22nd Sentai from Hankow. It was a formidable fighter, which possessed none of the shortcomings of its predecessors and firmly established Japanese fighter design on a par with the best the Allies had created during the war. In fact, the "Hayate" was good enough to best the P-51B and D Mustangs operated by the 23rd Fighter Group, and managed to establish air superiority over China during the last Japanese offensive of the war that fall. The Ki.84 gave good account of itself over the Philippines, Okinawa and the Home Islands, though their importance steadily declined in each theater as a result of combat losses, lack of supplies, and maintenance problems created by slipping production standards at the factory.
The Ki.84 was simple to fly and pilots with a minimum of training could be assigned to it, the majority of its pilots having only around 200 hours when they began flying it. The airplane was an "ace-maker" that made the average pilot good and the good pilot excellent.
Like any thoroughbred, the "Hayate" was adaptable for high-, medium- and low-altitude interception, close-support and dive- bombing. Its only shortcoming was the Ha.45 Homare engine, which suffered from slipping production standards and the fact it had been placed in production with insufficient preparation.
Considered by its opponents to be the best Japanese fighter of the war, only the Zero and the Hayabusa were produced in greater quantities, with 3,577 Ki.84s delivered between April 1944 and the end of the war. When tested after the war by the USAAF, it out-climbed and out-maneuvered both the P-51H Mustang and P-47N Thunderbolt, the ultimate developments of these fighter types.
Twenty-five years ago, Tamiya released their model of the "Hayate," a kit so good that it established the state of the art for 1/48 kits of the early-mid 1970s. The canopy was thin and could be posed open, and the cockpit had what was then an acceptable level of detail molded into the fuselage halves. This kit has now been effectively replaced on all counts other than price; however, Hasegawa's reduction in kit prices easily brings this new kit into competition with its elderly predecessor.
Hasegawa's product standards, which have always been high, have increased dramatically in the past year, since the introduction of its D3A "Val," which had the best cockpit interior of any Hasegawa kit to date when it hit the stores. This was followed by the B6N "Jill," which I considered to have the best cockpit interior out of the box of any mainstream plastic kit I had come across. The "Hayate" is even better than these outstanding examples of the kitmaker's art, and can easily be considered the best model the company has produced to date.
A look inside the box reveals seven sprues of dark grey, crisply-molded plastic parts, with excellent (and subdued) fabric detail on all control surfaces, 21 parts for the cockpit alone, and separate fowler flaps which can be assembled in the open position. The cockpit canopy is three separate (and thin) very clear parts, allowing it to be posed open.
Decals include markings for an aircraft of the 22nd Sentai, the first unit to take the "Hayate" into combat, and an aircraft from the Hitachi Air Base Training Flight Division.
Test-fitting of the major parts reveals no problems. This is not going to be a kit where modelers are going to be waiting for the aftermarket sets to enable them to make an outstanding representation of this important airplane.
This kit will do for modelers what its 1:1 ancestor did for pilots: make the average look good and the good look great.
1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00
Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.
PO Box 90933