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J2M3

Hasegawa 1/32 J2M3 Raiden (Jack) Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2011 Manufacturer Hasegawa
Subject J2M3 Raiden (Jack) Scale 1/32
Kit Number 08882 Primary Media Styrene
Pros First new-tool kit of this aircraft in many decades Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $74.95

 

 

First Look

J2M3
J2M3
J2M3
J2M3
J2M3
J2M3

The Imperial Japanese Navy issued a requirement for a point defense fighter that could be used to protect the homeland as well as forward operating bases from enemy bombers. The Mitsubishi Aircraft Company designed the J2M to meet that specification, pairing an airframe that was slightly larger than their A6M Zero with an engine that was roughly twice as powerful. With more armament, more armor, and less fuel, the J2M looked like the ideal solution on paper. First flown in early 1942, the Kasei engine was experiencing development problems along with the propeller pitch control mechanism and landing gear problems. These bugs would eventually be worked out by the time of the main production variant, the J2M3.

First entering service in October 1943, the J2M3 wouldn't see combat until June 1944 during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Providing area air defense, the J2M3 would be deployed around forward bases in the Pacific as well as around northern bases to protect against Soviet incursions. In its homeland defense mission, the J2M3 was one of the better interceptors against the high-altitude B-29 Superfortress but the J2M3's main weakness was that the engine was normally aspirated and engine performance was degraded at those altitudes. Nevertheless, the J2M3's pilots were able to intercept the B-29s and make good use of their four 20mm cannons before the B-29s received P-51 escorts and their attacks were switched to nighttime operations. Once the J2M3's weakness was identified from combat experience, Mitsubishi set out to supercharge the Kasei engine but these aircraft didn't reach operational status in sufficient numbers before the end of the war to make a difference.

If you look in the various kit collectors' guides, one of the more sought after kits ever made was the Revell 1/32 J2M Raiden. These kits had been available in Revell boxings from literally around the world before they disappeared many decades ago. Until now, the only option for building this Mitsubishi fighter was finding one of those Revell gems and paying the going rate for the kit.

Hasegawa has now released this distinctive fighter in 1/32 scale though it is not scaled up from their earlier toolings in 1/48 and 1/72 scale. While this isn't a complex model, it does have the contemporary tooling style of their other recent releases.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and is presented on seven parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. Another sign of this kit's contemorary tooling is in the details!

The cockpit reveals the new Hasegawa attention to details. The real cockpit was rather spacious and given the relative simplicity of the airframe, there wasn't that much to control from the cockpit. Nevertheless, the kit provides a very complete range of details from the seat height adjustment lever, flap extension pump, hydraulic gear extension pump, throttle, control stick, rudder bar, radio tray, detailed instrument panel, and more. This kit is looking great before we even leave step one of the instructions!

  • Very detailed cockpit
  • Optional pilot figure
  • Optional seat pack (if you don't use the pilot figure)
  • Internal structural support (see text below)
  • Flight controls are not positionable
  • Flaps are not positionable
  • Nicely detailed landing gear
  • Tires and wheel hubs molded separately
  • Two types of propeller and spinner
  • Centerline drop tank
  • Detailed Kasei engine
  • Cowling designed to be removable to show off engine
  • Two types of antenna and rear window configuration

How many times have we build some really beautiful aircraft, filled-in and cleaned the seam lines, painted and finished the aircraft, only to hear a snap as one of those seams flex once too many times? Hasegawa has done some incredible engineering in this kit. There are a number of bulkheads that go into the fuselage to keep it from flexing when it is being handled. Likewise they've added not only the scale mainspar visible from the main wheel wells, they've also added two other spars that mount between the outer wing panel halves so you won't accidentally squeeze a wing seam open either. Very nice engineering here Hasegawa!

The cowling has gun troughs molded into it though the kit provides plugs for those openings for this J2M3, which means we'll be seeing the supercharged J2M5 in kit form in our future.

In addition to Hasegawa's great instruction booklet, they've also included a 'comic book' in Japanese and English looking at the Raiden from a young pilot's point of view during the war.

Hasegawa provides a good-sized decal sheet that has marking options for two aircraft and a selection of maintenance stenciling and instrument faces. The two subjects featured here are:

  • J2M3, 352-20, 352 NFG, as flown by Lt.J.G. Yoshihiro, March 1945
  • J2M3, 3D-152, 302 NFG, as flown by Lt. Susumu, March 1945

This is a very nice kit and for those who've wanted to build the Revell kit all these years, here is a much better option that doesn't have those trademark huge rivets molded into the surfaces. This Hasegawa kit is really showing off their improved CAD-based tooling capabilities and I'm looking forward to seeing if this kit builds as nicely as it looks!

Definitely recommended!

My sincere thanks to Hasegawa USA for this review sample!

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