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IJA Type 95 “Ha-Gō”

DML 1/72 IJA Type 95 “Ha-Gō” – North China Version Build Review

By Llarry Amrose

Date of Review March 2012 Manufacturer DML
Subject IJA Type 95 “Ha-Gō” Scale 1/72
Kit Number 7402 Primary Media Styrene/Photo-Etch
Pros Nice detailing, new subject Cons Very small kit in a big box
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $16.95

Background

In 1933, a specification for a new light tank was issued, and Mitsubishi produced a prototype the next year. One year, and a second prototype later, it was accepted as the Type 95 (the last two digits of the year in the Japanese calendar) light tank.  Approximately 2300 were built from 1936 through 1943.

The crew of three consisted of the driver, the hull machinegunner, and the commander, who had to manage everything in the turret himself.  The main gun was 37mm, and two 7.7mm machine guns were carried, one in the hull, the other in the right rear of the asymmetrical turret.

After the first few were sent to Manchuria, it was found that the furrow spacing in the sorghum fields matched the spacing of the main road wheels, leading to mobility problems. To remedy this, a number were modified by adding an additional bogie wheel suspended between the pairs of road wheels.  This kit depicts that version, though most Type 95s had the standard suspension.

The Kit

Japanese armor has always been poorly represented, particularly in the smaller scales.  For a long time, the only mass-produced kit available was the venerable old Airfix kit of the Chi-Ha medium tank, and that was in and out of production.  Some cottage-industry kits have existed, but not nearly enough.  Finally, Dragon has answered the call with kits of the Ha-Go, Chi-Ha, and even the amphibious Ka-Mi. 

This is the second release of the Ha-Go. The original boxing represented a machine used in the Philippines in 1942, this one has earlier “Manchurian”-style suspension as used in northern China. The road wheels are the only parts that differ from the previous boxing, and in fact there’s a large gap on the main sprue where the later road wheels would have been.

Open the stock Dragon yellow lid-and-tray box, and you find a lot of air.  This kit is tiny, consisting of one sprue, the upper and lower hull parts, Dragon Styrene tracks, and one small brass fret with the screen which goes over the exhaust.  A small decal sheet completes the package, and everything is individually bagged for protection.

The instructions are printed as line drawings of exploded views, which do a pretty good job of showing where the parts go.  Paint notations are given for Gunze Aqueous and Mr. Color, with ModelMaster cross-references.

Assembly

This is a tiny tank with a fairly complicated paint scheme, so some preplanning is in order. The instructions would have you add the upper hull to the lower right at the end, after putting the tracks on, but I think you’re better off not waiting.  The fenders are high enough that the tracks can be mounted later without difficulty.

Step one builds up the suspension.  As the camouflage extends behind the road wheels and return rollers, I decided it was best to leave them off for now and paint them on the sprue.  Step two covers the upper hull details, which I added after joining the upper and lower halves.  I held the jack and tools off, to be added after painting.

IJA Type 95 IJA Type 95 IJA Type 95 IJA Type 95

The third step is the exhaust and the photoetched muffler screen.  Those, too, were painted separately and added at the end.  The turret is built in step four.  The hatch can be mounted open or closed, but with no commander figure, and no interior detail, it made more sense to button it up.

Construction to this point had taken about an hour, and now painting could commence.  It took a good bit longer…  Once that was done, the rest of the wheels could be added, along with the tools.  The brass screen is sufficiently thin and flexible that it can be bent around a dowel or pen without needing to be heat-treated first.

Dragon is rightfully proud of their Dragon Styrene tracks.  While I’m still a fan of a good set of link-and-length tracks, even in 1/72, it is clear that DS tracks beat all vinyl tracks, ever.  Even when painted before mounting, they hold paint so well that only minimal touchup will be needed.  Regular plastic adhesives can be used to glue them to the running gear, instead of resorting to the various techniques involving epoxies or heated blades that other tracks require.  The instructions give tips for shortening or stretching the tracks to fit.  I ended up stretching the tracks a little bit, but some more might have been a good idea, as the Ha-Go normally showed a fair bit of track sag along the upper return.

Painting and Weathering

There are two schemes to choose from.  The first is from the Koushurei Tank School in North China, 1941, the second is the 4th Tank Regiment, 2nd Company Command Tank, at Khalkhin-Gol, July 1939, and this is the one I chose.  Both schemes are variations of the standard Japanese tank camouflage through the first half of the war.  This involves irregular patches of red-brown and dark green over a base of wood brown, with a couple of jagged, meandering stripes in yellow, and pictures seem to show that the pattern could vary noticeably from tank to tank.  All in all, this is a distinctive, eye-catching scheme that really stands out on the shelf. I used Lifecolor paints for the red-brown and wood brown.  The green specified translates to IJA Green, but that seemed too light and grey a shade from what I understand, so I substituted PollyScale RAF Dark Green. 

IJA Type 95 IJA Type 95 IJA Type 95

Decaling consisted of a single marking on the rear which seems to be a kind of license plate.  The Koushurei Tank School option also includes an identification letter appearing in a few places around the turret. Final finishing was done with Tamiya Weathering Masters, which are a series of pastels in makeup-like cases with an applicator sponge/brush which excel for more subtle affects, and hold up better than regular dry pastels.  I kept the weathering light so as not to detract from the rest of the paint scheme.

Conclusion

This is a very fine kit, state of the art and of a long-neglected subject. Very good surface detail, and the shapes match up very well with the few pictures I’ve been able to find. The finished product is fairly tiny, and the parts count is unsurprisingly low, yet Dragon resisted the temptation to pad it with excessive numbers of unnecessary microscopic detail parts.

IJA Type 95 IJA Type 95 IJA Type 95 IJA Type 95

Fit was very good, making assembly easy.  This is definitely the kind of kit you spend more time painting than building.  The price-to-plastic ratio may not please everyone, due to the small size, but there’s no denying the quality of the kit.

My sincere thanks to Dragon Models USA for this review sample!

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