Mania's 1/72 Nakajima B5N2 'Kate' Type 97 Carrier Torpedo Bomber
According to Robert Mikesh, the Nakajima B5N2, code named 'Kate' comprised 144 of the more than 300 aeroplanes in the Pearl Harbor raid. The first prototype of this carrier-based torpedo bomber flew in 1937, with the later version employing a 985hp Nakajima Sakae 11-radial engine. Later in the war, the 'Kate's' obsolescence lead to it being used for reconnaissance and anti-submarine convoy escort.
I decided to model Captain Mitsuo Fuchida's aeroplane as an entry for my IPMS clubs' 'Pearl Harbor Special Contest.' Mitsuo Fuchida was a first-wave lead pilot in the raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 local time, and sparked the United States' entry into World War Two. For those interested in finding out more about Fuchida, Gordon Prange has written Fuchida's biography, the first two-thirds of which describes Fuchida's life up to the end of World War Two. In particular, the book contains an excellent firsthand account of the raid on Pearl Harbor and the events leading up to it from Fuchida's perspective: the book's final third deals with Fuchida's conversion to Christianity and career as an evangelist.
The kit comes in flash-free molded plastic with finely engraved panel lines. Hasegawa bought the mold and have released it under their own label; the only differences being the decals and instruction sheets. The original Mania kit contains a coloured card showing four different schemes that can be made from the decals provided. Unfortunately, the decals in my kit were somewhat yellowed from age so I used those from the Hasegawa kit's version. There is scant detail inside the wheel wells, though they are, at least, boxed in, and possibly the engine and cooling flaps around the cowl could be a bit better detailed. Nevertheless, for the money and given the age of this kit, it is first rate. My only strong recommendation for enhancement is the clear part canopy, which is thick, unevenly molded and not up to Hasegawa's recent standard. Given the Kate's canopy comprises seven-sections, I recommend replacement with the inexpensive Squadron vacuform canopy.
Cockpit interior and engine
I began with the cockpit interior: an 11-piece component that goes together easily. I sprayed the entire subassembly and fuselage interior Medium Green, painted the instrument panel (no decal for that) and did some little black and various coloured knobs and switches with a tiny brush. I added seat belt from a photoetch set - I only had the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF) set, so they had to do. Once dry, I gave the entire interior an oil wash of burnt umber and black. This darkened up the Medium green to a more realistic level. Robert Mikesh's 'Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945' suggests "A dark green of some undetermined shade."
The engine comes in two pieces. They fit well but could use a little detail. I left things as they were: painted a base of engine grey then I dry-brushed with aluminium and burnt aluminium. I broke the little plastic ring piece that fits onto the front of the engine, and I replaced it with a piece of 28-gauge brass wire. I sprayed the engine cover and cowl parts Scale Black, glued the engine place and left that subassembly to one side.
Fuselage and flying surfaces
I nearly forgot to glue in the side and underside observation windows prior to closing the fuselage and fitting the wing. The fit of the fuselage halves was fine, though I used too much Pro-Weld on the tail and consequently altered its profile in a small way. When I glued the wing subassembly to the fuselage, there was a significant gap on the upper surface sideís join. I used thin pieces of plastic rod that I sort of melted into the gap using Pro-Weld. Surprisingly, this method worked fairly well: far better than using super-glue. I had tried the super-glue method on an ill-fitting Dako Yak-9, which resulted in a less than ideal outcome.
I filled all the remaining join cracks with Squadron White putty, sanded that down and used typewriter correction fluid to fill the remaining tiny hairline cracks.
Painting and decals
There is some lack of consensus as to colour, particularly on the underside. Some say it should be painted in a natural metal finish, though current wisdom (whatever that means) leans towards light grey. I used acrylic Model Master's Light Ghost Grey (FS36375). The spraying process revealed some unfilled cracks and seams: again typewriter correction fluid came to the rescue. I then masked off the underside and sprayed the upper side with Aeromaster Mitsubishi Navy Green. Yes, I know this is a Nakajima aeroplane but I wanted that slight blue tint to the green. I then masked off all but the front of the fuselage so I could spray it Scale Black. Once that was completed, I masked off the tail and sprayed it Guard Red. Then I began the weathering. First I mixed the base Mitsubishi Navy Green with a little white and painted the control surfaces and a couple of panels to lighten them.
The decals were next. I used the decals from the new Hasegawa issue. These all went on without too much difficulty. I realized that the decals needed no extra strong solutions - a little Microsol but nothing stronger. Once complete, I sprayed a coat of clear Testors Flat over the entire surface. When all that had dried, I gave the entire assembly an oil wash of burnt umber and black. I used a small make-up sponge applicator to blend the wash into the surface and remove any surplus. Next, I used a silver Prismacolor pencil to make the worn-paint effect. Perhaps it does not look quite as good as using an undercoat of silver and then peeling off the top colour with tape but it certainly easier and any mistakes can be wiped off with water. Again, I sprayed a clear Testors Flat coat to seal in the weathering effects. At that point I noticed that the underside of the horizontal tail should also have been painted red: I had left it grey. Once again, I masked of the entire aeroplane and sprayed Guard Red, weathered that and sprayed a clear flat coat.
Landing gear and ordnance
The landing gear went on without a hitch. The ordnance was a story on its own. I fretted over the fact that Fushida's Pearl Harbor aeroplane had an 800kg bomb rather than the torpedo bomb enclosed in the kit. Merv Brewer kindly sent me a resin bomb to add onto my kit but I was not careful and made a fair mess of adding the fins: my apologies to Merv and everyone else. In mitigation, I really like the look of the torpedo bomb with its elongated shape and black tip. Thus my model is not authentic in this and probably a number of respects about which I am blissfully ignorant.
The canopy on this aeroplane is a major seven-part production. First, I cut the parts individually out of the vacuform sheet. Then so as not to get mixed up, I used my son's Kala game (African Draughts) board, which has these scooped out holes. I labeled each hole 1 to 7 and left the canopy parts in there. I then used decal paper sprayed with Mitsubishi Navy green and cut the canopy framing using a sharp #11 Exacto knife blade. Needless to say, this took sometime and was somewhat tedious. When that was finished, I used Elmers White Glue to set these in place. Note that section 2 slides over the top of section 3, section 4 slides over section 5, and sections 6 and 7 slide under section 5. So, at position 5, we have four canopy pieces on top of each other. This required some judicious trimming of said canopy pieces: even vacuform canopy parts are not that thin. I then mounted the radio mast onto the canopy. My apologies but I forgot to add the radio mast wire, though I will take care of this in due course; namely, before the 'Pearl Harbor Special Contest' at my local IPMS.
This kit is old but good. I would recommend it to all levels of modellers. There are fewer than 50 parts, construction is straightforward and it is a fairly nice sized model. I have one or two other Mania kits lurking in my cupboard so I think it will not be too long before I dig one of them out and have a go.
I would like to thank Merv Brewer and for his advice during the building of this kit. I would like to apologize to him for messing up the 800kg bomb add-on that he sent me. I would also like to thank Mike Lampros for sharing his knowledge and references. Finally, I would like to thank the folks at Dave Pluth's j-aircraft.com message board site who helped with answering my questions.
Robert Mikesh and contributing author Todd A. Pederson. '''Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945.' Monogram Aviation Publications, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 2000.
Gordon W. Prange with Donald M Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon.'God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor.' Brassey's (US), Inc. Maxwell MacMillan Pergamon Publishing Corp., New York, New York, U.S.A., 1991.