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Nichimo 1/48 Ki-43-I Hayabusa (Oscar) Build Review

By Kelly Jamison

Date of Review July 2009 Manufacturer Nichimo
Subject Ki-43-I Hayabusa (Oscar) Scale 1/48
Kit Number 4820 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nicely detailed Japanese fighter Cons Japanese only instructions do not permit English speaking modelers to know painting & marking scheme information
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production


The Japanese Army Air Force was happy flying their Ki-27’s as the main fighter for the Emperor. It was light weight, robust and simple to operate. So the pilots and ground crew were not pleased when they first received the Ki-43 test airframe. There were many complaints of bad design, heavy handling and poor engine performance. The retractable landing gear and enclosed canopy were considered expensive luxuries by the elite fighter pilots.

Nakajima went back to the chalkboard and came out with the Ki-43-I—KAI. This improved version was met with great enthusiasm by the front line pilots. They learned to use the new “Butterfly Flaps” to increase the turning radius and maneuverability. This gave them the edge to turn tighter than just about anything in the air at that time.

There were three basic airframes produced over the years until the Ki-43 was replaced by the Ki-84 Frank. It was miss-identified many times as its more famous stable mate, the Zero which looks almost identical in combat but is a vastly different aircraft. This has led to it being overshadowed in history even though it did a fantastic job for the Japanese Army Air Force.

The Kit

This kit really surprised me. It had been sitting on the shelf for years and years. I thought I would give it another look and decided to build it to make room for the newer Hasegawa kit that had just hit the market. As I surveyed the Nichimo offering, I noticed that the detail really was not that bad at all. The surface had a strange rough surface and the dimple rivets were a bit distracting. Then I noticed all the engine detail from the firewall forward and all the extra cockpit pieces. This was going to be a fun build!

The instruction sheet is almost completely in Japanese but is easy to follow and did not give me any problems. It used exploded views and lined arrows to show you where parts go. Easy enough even this cave man can do it. It is a single page printed on both sides and is about 9” by 22” in size. A bit different than a normal instruction sheet you are used to seeing.

I started off with the engine. It went together real nice and was a straight forward build. Leave off the exhaust stubs for now. I got a little worried about the accessory gear housing and carburetor pieces fitting against the firewall. When I mocked it all up the fit was really tight and kept the engine from lining up right. I decided to leave out all the guts of the firewall. It wouldn’t be seen anyway and solved the fit and alignment problems.


Had I decided to open up an engine panel or two, I would have worked on this area a little more. The engine detailed out fantastic. I painted the engine cylinder heads steel and highlighted it in black. The crank case cover was painted in dark grey and washed in a black ink wash to bring out the small detail. You really don’t have to go overboard on detailing because the radiator covers a lot of the front of the engine. The engine cowling has a small part that needs to be glued and sanded smooth to the bottom. I put the engine off to the side and started on the cockpit.

You will really like the detail in the cockpit area. The genuine thing is a tangle of hydraulic hoses, hand pumps and switch panels. This cockpit seems to be a cross between a Ki-43-I and a Ki-43-II. You will notice a hand pump on the left side of the cockpit floor. It is not in any of my cockpit photos and I am not sure where it came from. There is also a bank of small boxes on the left side that jams up against the fuselage side and the seat. I nixed that one too and filled in the small holes these parts were supposed to fit in.

On the right side Nichimo did a better job in their engineering department with the levers and knobs. You can follow your instructions here to the Kanji. The large hand pump should be painted yellow and the two smaller pumps should have a yellow knob on the left and a blue knob on the right with black casings.

Now purist might boo me on this one but I have used this color combo before and won contests with it. I used British interior green for the side walls and any cockpit framing. A light wash of thinned out black changes the tone just a bit and brings out the detail nicely. The floor got painted a wood tan color and the foot petals, control stick and seat with backing got a coat of Floquil Old Silver.


The instrument panel is a bit scary. It is just a small curved piece of plastic that a decal is supposed to go on. There these two little stiffeners on the back side. There are no places to glue the pieces to. You just have to guess and hope you get it right. The instruction sheet shows you the angle it should be at. It seems a bit extreme to me. My research shows the panel at a near vertical position.

After painting the fuselage halves, putting the little accessory boxes on the sides and the needed black wash, I fitted the floor board and seat into position. As expected, I had to fight the instrument panel to get it to line up right. Everything was looking good in the busy little cockpit area. When test fitting the fuselage halves together, I noticed that a lot of the detail is lost to view. That was a bit disappointing but such is the game we play.

I test fitted the fuselage halves together with the fire wall in place. Even though I wasn’t going to use the firewall, I still installed it to add a bit of structural strength to the forward fuselage. The halves fitted as good as any Tamiya or Hasegawa kit I have ever built. I used a bead of Ambroid ProWeld to zip up the fuselage halves and a clamp every few inches to insure a good seam.

Some people are familiar with the technique of using capillary action to get the glue to draw up the seams right before putting the two fuselage halves together. Then when the plastic gets soft you push the two pieces together tightly and the seam smashes up a bit looking much like a weld line. When that totally dries, all you have to do is hit it with a sanding stick and polish it out a bit and the seam is totally gone without using any filler. It takes a bit of time and some trial and error to get this technique right but sure makes life easier when mastered.

Ki-43 Don’t worry about the periscope or the headrest and canopy or the tail wheel right now. The wings cleaned up real nice and the wing skins went on with no problem. I sanded the trailing edge a bit. I felt it needed to be thinned out for a more realistic look. If you do this make sure and use thin set super glue and not a melting agent like Ambroid, Tamiya or Testors liquid glue. It is too hot and will melt and distort the thinned out plastic.

I like to sand the leading edges now because I think it is easier to handle the wing off the fuselage. If you want a nice look with the landing light, put a small dot of silver on the back side of the little lens and superglue the piece into the leading edge. Once the superglue dries, sand it to shape and polish it out with a soft cloth. Then tape over the lens to keep from scratching it and it will be ready for painting. Don’t worry about the pitot tube or landing gear at this time also.

The wings went on the fuselage really easy and the seam looked great. I was really happy with it. Again the fit was as good as any modern casting. And she is starting to look like an Oscar.

After basic cleanup, the landing gear got a coat of metallic blue. The dust covers for the shock struts got a coat of flat black and silver straps were used to bring a bit of flash to the landing gear. A set of True Detail wheels were used in place of the shapeless donuts supplied in the kit. I painted the tires Aircraft Interior Black with just a touch of brown and the hub got airbrushed IJA Grey from Tamiya’s color line. Final sanding and fitting got the plane prepped for painting. I temporarily installed the engine cowling sans the engine just for painting.

Now I have to decide what color to paint the darn thing. One reason I like the Oscar is that there are so many camouflage patterns you can use and there are a fair amount of decal companies making them. I wanted an IJA brown plane to offset my green Zero and Metal/palm frond Tony. So I choose an aircraft from 11th Hiko-Sentai of the Dutch East Indies circa 1942. SuperScale Decal sheet #48-515 supplied the decals for my Oscar.

I used a custom mix of browns to get the Japanese Army Brown (approx FS30117). The final tone is more like FS30118 which is a bit darker. But was not too bad a match by my un-calibrated eye. The pebble surface seemed to melt away with the first layer of paint. I was much relived after seeing the paint surface level out. Don’t forget the pitot tube needs painting at this time also. (The voice of experience on that one.) Then masking off the top side of the plane for the bottom side and landing gear covers, I used IJA Grey from Tamiya.

Ki-43 Now I used a smidgen of Blu-tac putty to soft glue the landing gear covers into the wheel wells and masked off the aircraft for the identification panels. I used Floquil Yellow FS 33538 for a perfect match. Use your reference for how big and how far up the wing the panels go and don’t remove the tape off the landing light just yet.

Mask off the wheel wells and landing gear covers and paint the area metallic blue to replicate the Aotake lacquered areas. There are many techniques to doing Aotake metallic blue. You choose the best method that works for you. Aircraft Interior Black was used for the anti-glare panel. I painted the headrest black at this time too.

And now for the decals. I used my usual technique and put a coat of Future Floor Polish for a gloss coat and placed the decals down according to the directions from SuperScale. They snuggled down perfect with a dose of SolvaSet. The box decals were just too old and went straight to the decal dungeon. I have heard of others using the decals with success. They look very thick to me but Nichimo gives you many options if you want to build something different.

Once everything was dry, the plane got another coat of Future and was left to dry again. The next day, I gave the plane a light wash of black to highlight all the wonderful surface detail and to tone down the yellow ID bands and white decals. Then the whole plane got a coat of Testors Clear Flat. The plane was looking great.

All the little bits and pieces were next on the assembly list. I finished out the landing gear gluing it to the wings with superglue.  Great care needs to be used with the very fragile tail wheel which went on next.  I painted the prop and antenna mast Testors Acryl Rust then while I had the airbrush loaded, I put a few drops of black to change the tone of the Rust. Then I painted the spinner and exhaust stubs. This gives nice tonal changes that add to the look of the model in many ways. The engine got installed inside the cowling and the prop and spinner went on next.

As assembly wrapped up, I had to make a hard decision. The kit canopy was lost somewhere over the years and I had a Squadron Vac-formed canopy to replace it. I decided because it is hard to see inside the cockpit anyway that I would display it in the closed position. I filled the canopy with silly putty to give it some strength and used a very sharp pair of surgical scissors to cut the excess plastic away and then I taped it up and shoot it with my exterior brown concoction used on the rest of the aircraft. I used a very thin mix of good old Elmer’s Glue to tack the canopy down. It fit like a champ but needed a little work to clear around the periscope.


Ki-43 The plane was finished. I thought it looked great and sits well next to my other planes. You can still find this kit at swap meets with no problem or on the net for a fair price. My whole cost was about 15 dollars including the aftermarket canopy and True Detail wheels. One of my complaints is the exhaust. It is just a lump that really doesn’t go anywhere. The Hasegawa, Otaki/Arii, Fine Molds offering isn’t any better. If you can find it use the Moskit replacement set. They are expensive but because it is such a prominent piece on the aircraft, the money is well spent.

I enjoyed this build very much. Easy and no big surprises. It did not make me work too hard to get a nice looking build that still holds its own against the big guys and looks great on the shelf. I highly recommend this kit for someone just delving into Japanese subjects. There are so many interesting camouflage patterns and colors to choose from that it will be your biggest build dilemma. How to paint the thing!