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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby # SH72198
Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi -- 1:72 Scale



While Japan decidedly had the upper hand in the Pacific theater into early 1942, momentum reversed decidedly in favor of the United States following the Battle of Midway.  As the Japanese were progressively pushed back toward the home islands, they were faced with an increasingly desperate fight.  Kamikaze tactics emerged by 1944, and purpose-built kamikaze aircraft began to appear, such as the MXY-7 Okha flying bomb.  Lesser known is the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi, a kamikaze aircraft that was intended to defend against the anticipated Allied invasion Japan.  Here, let’s take a look at Special Hobby’s 1:72 multimedia kit of the Tsurugi.

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By early 1945, it was increasingly clear that an Allied invasion of Japan was inevitable. American war planners called it Operation DOWNFALL.  The Japanese High Command aimed to make any invasion of the home islands as deadly as possible, and one element of their defensive strategy envisioned waves of kamikaze aircraft attacking the invasion fleet and its supply lines.  The Japanese High Command decided to produce large numbers of simple and inexpensive suicide planes for this task.

In March 1945, Nakajima aircraft engineers got the first Ki-115 Tsurugi (or Sabre) into the air.  The airframe was made from non-strategic materials (i.e., wood, steel). To save weight and, further considering that any operational Ki-115 sortie would be a one-way trip, the airplane featured welded steel-tube main landing gear to be jettisoned following take off. Predictably, the prototypes suffered from terrible ground-handling characteristics.  Another flaw involved its circular fuselage where aerodynamic efficiency was sacrificed for a shape that was easier to fabricate.  Additionally, visibility from the cockpit was very poor and it only could reach a top speed of 350 mph.  Initial flight tests demonstrated the Ki-115 was very difficult to fly and some test flights ended in fatal crashes.

While airplanes were in short supply, Japan did have extensive stockpiles of obsolete aircraft engines.  The Ki-115 was designed to take advantage of this and could be fitted with virtually any of these older powerplants.  In the cockpit, the Tsurugi featured only the most basic flight instruments to conduct a Kamikaze attack, a radio, and a control stick and rudder pedals.  It was to carry one bomb weighing up to 1,800 pounds that would still be attached the Ki-115 when it would collide with its target.  The airplane possessed no defensive armament.

By the time the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, improved Ki-115s were under feverish development with the aim to begin production of 8,000 airplanes per month in workshops across Japan.  The war ended before the Ki-115 saw combat, but if Operation DOWNFALL had occurred, Allied forces may well have confronted waves of Tsurugis where the sheer number of these Kamikazes probably would have disrupted, but not stopped, a hypothetical invasion of Japan.


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Special Hobby’s Ki-115 is a fairly simple multimedia kit, consisting of one sprue containing 45 injection molded plastic parts, one clear sprue with a separate windscreen and canopy, 16 cast resin parts, one photoetched metal fret with 17 parts, one film sheet representing the diminutive instrument faces, and one decal sheet.  Markings are provided for three aircraft:

Strengths:  There is a surprising appeal to this kit.  Much like the Ki-115 itself, it is a simple kit and should be a relatively straightforward build.  Dry-fitting tests showed good alignment between the fuselage halves and the wings.  The recessed panel lines and rivets are nicely executed and are appropriately restrained for 1:72 scale.
However, the resin and photoetched parts really add a wonderful range of features to this already nice little kit.  There’s great detail here, from the very nicely cast double-row radial engine to the fine exhaust stacks (with hollowed out ends), a single large bomb, and the photoetched parts for the instrument panel, throttle restraints, flap hinges, and more.  The choices of markings options are also quite interesting, from a near-completely bare-metal Tsurugi to one carrying what would have been operational markings.  Designed by Rising Decals and printed by Aviprint, the decals consist only of Hinomarus.  Airplanes that were only intended to fly once don’t require maintenance stencils, after all.  Colors look good and the carrier film is tightly restrained.   
  
Weaknesses: With the injection-molded parts, I found some minor flash on the edges of some parts but was nothing that a quick pass with a sanding stick could not take care of. Also, there are no locating pins, so at least for the fuselage, just make your own from plastic styrene stock.  It’s easy, takes only a little bit of time, and prevents fit and alignment problems later.  For the wing halves, I’d use a slow setting superglue so one can work the parts into the proper alignment.  

As is often characteristic of Special Hobby kits, some of the pour gates are rather large relative to some of the smaller plastic parts, so removal and cleanup will take a little extra care.  The very fine framing on the clear parts will also take a little extra deliberate effort to mask off properly (again, nothing too hard to accomplish).  While not a weakness, do take care with the very small resin and photoetched parts.  They are great detail parts and add a lot, but certainly can be easy to lose if one is handles them carelessly.  

 

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Your reviewer does his best to be as dispassionate and objective in these reviews, but there’s just something really neat about Special Hobby’s Ki-115.  Perhaps it’s the unusual subject matter, or maybe it’s the really fine details the photoetched metal parts provide, or the rather clear potential that this simple kit can build into an excellent scale model of the Tsurugi.  In the right hands, this could be a contest winner for sure.
                            
Special Hobby also offers another 1:72 scale Ki-115 (SH 72199) which features a hypothetical Ki-115 in the “Battle of Tokyo” and there, a “what-if” potential abounds.  I think most scale modelers will find a good deal of value and potential in either of these two kits, and I look forward to working on the Special Hobby Ki-115 at some time in the near future – to me, it’s a perfect build for those times between larger projects or maybe a nice three-day weekend.

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby for the review sample. You visit them on the web at http://www.specialhobby.info and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/specialhobby

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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