The first monoplane carrier fighter was the Mitsubishi Type 96 (A5M) and it quickly proved its worth. First seeing combat over China, it quickly obtained air superiority. In 1938 the final version of the A5M took to the skies and proved to be quite popular with pilots. The Claude, as it was code-named by the Allies, was both fast and maneuverable, allowing it to accumulate a hefty score against enemy fighters. Many Japanese aces got their start in the A5M, including Sakai. Although the A5M was the most numerous aircraft at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, it did not partake in that battle. Instead the A5M flew from the Ryujo against forces in the Philippines. A5Ms continued on in the IJN throughout the war, eventually ending up as kamikazes in the closing days of the conflict.
If you're not familiar with Craftworks yet, perhaps it's time to discover them. They produce some absolutely amazing 1/32 resin kits and this is their latest release. The kit is molded in a tan resin and comes with etched brass details and even bits of wire for detailing. A Williams Bros. Wasp engine is included and the decal sheet is large and well printed. So there's the overview, let's look closer at the kit.
The interior is a good starting point, and with this kit you'll be busy putting it together. You get a nice photoetch instrument panel and acetate instruments. This will likely be the simplest part for the interior. There are machine guns that you'll have to fit into openings in the one-piece fuselage. The cockpit opening in the fuselage has stringer detail molded in, and onto this you'll be adding the radio, throttle, trim handle, and other detail bits, provided in resin, PE and wire. The instructions do an outstanding job of showing what goes where and also providing accurate color information as well. The seat is nicely cast and the only thing you'll add to that are the PE seatbelts. The seat, control column, and rudder pedals fit onto the cockpit floor, which is molded integrally with the one-piece wing.
The engine is fairly simple compared to the interior. The Williams Bros. engine is a nice little model in its own right, and to this is fitted a few changes provided in resin. A well-detailed drawing shows how to wire up each cylinder. The engine fits inside a two-piece cowling, and the exhaust stubs fit into the completed cowling. The propeller is made up of separate blades and a one-piece hub, all in white metal. You should be able to complete this assembly, paint it, and set it aside until the end.
The fuselage-wing attachment is one that you'll want to take some time with. While initial examination shows that this should go flawlessly, there's lots that can go wrong. The instructions suggest masking off the detail around the joint before gluing, and using CA to glue it in place & fill the seam. I would actually recommend using 5 minute epoxy for the initial join, as that gives you some working time to make sure everything is lined up correctly. Once that sets up, use CA to fill any gaps. The landing gear are molded as one-piece and fit into holes in the wing. The wheels are separate and fit into recesses in the landing gear legs. Underneath the plane you have two bombs and a fuel tank, both of which are well-detailed and will look good should you choose to outfit your Claude with them. To finish your Claude off an absolutely stunning figure is provided in a leaning pose.
The decal sheet is very impressive and the instructions provide layout information for four A5M4s. There is enough on the decal sheet to do just about any Claude your references turn up, though, so don't feel bashful about mixing and matching the markings. The four choices you get in the decal sheet are an A5M4 from the Soryu in 1941; an A5M4 of the 14th Naval Air Group, China 1940; an A5M4 from the Kaga, East China Sea, 1939; and an A5M4 from the Soryu, East China Sea, 1939.
Simply put, this is an awesome kit. The level of detail present is amazing and the simple construction should make this a fairly easy kit for the experienced modeler to build. You'll definitely want to get the Maru Mechanic on the A5M and the FAOW as well, mainly just to find that one interesting paint scheme that you just have to do. Even if 1/32 isn't your scale this is a kit you might want to think about.
My thanks to Craftworks for the review sample.