Tamiya 1/48 J1N Gekko Type 11 (Irving) Night Fighter Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||June 2005||Manufacturer||Tamiya|
|Subject||J1N Gekko Type 11 (Irving) Night Fighter||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||61084||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Tamiya ease of assembly, interesting night fighter subject||Cons|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$38.00|
The story of the Gekko’s development began when the Japanese Navy requested development of a long-range fighter, that was fast and maneuverable enough to oppose single-engine fighters. Nakajima proposed the Type 13-Shi Twin-engine Land-based Fighter (J1N1), which employed two 1000 hp “Sakae” engines (the same as used in the Zero fighter) on it’s sturdy wings.
Production was approved after the prototype was completed in March of 1941, but by July of 1942 it’s designation changed to Type 2 Land-based Reconnaissance Aircraft.
In May of 1943, when the base at Rabaul in the Solomons came under the assault of nocturnal raids from American B-17 bombers, a prototype equipped with two guns, inclined to the front at 30 degrees angle, was immediately deployed. During it’s first mission, the prototype downed two B-17’s. After reporting the engagement results, many of the Type 2’s were equipped with four 20mm guns and re-designed as the Gekko (Moonlight in Japanese) Type 11, and production of the new plane began.
Unlike the late production model, these first night-fighters featured a stepped-down rear upper fuselage. Two lower guns were employed for anti-shipping missions and ground-attack missions, but as the role of the Gekko was anti-bomber missions, these lower guns were later eliminated and replaced with an additional upper oblique gun. The later production also featured an additional nose-mounted radar. Whereas early production Gekko’s were sent to many places in the Pacific, the late production models were used to defend the Japanese main land, mostly against B-29 heavy bombers.
The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The box art shows a Gekko attacking a B-29, from below with it’s oblique firing dorsal guns. The tail marking is from the Yokosuka Fighter Group, Night Fighter Flight, Yokosuka (Oppama) Base 1944 (one of the decal options provided in the kit.
A side panel show a color profile of a Gekko from the Kisarazu Detachment, Atsugi Fighter Group, Kisarazu Base, October 1943 and on another side panel we get a color profile of a Gekko from the 302nd Naval Fighter Group, 7th Flight, Atsugi Base, 1945 and a cut-away color profile of a Gekko from the 322nd Naval Fighter Group, 804th Fighter Squadron, Kotori Base, June 1944. These marks are all provided in the kit. A final illustration, in full color, shows the inside of the fuselage where the dorsal oblique guns are mounted.
Inside the box are 9 medium gray parts trees in 5 cello bags, one clear parts tree in it’s cello and 2 black vinyl poly caps.
There is a large decal sheet, in it's own cello bag and it's face is protected by a sheet of tissue.
The instructions complete the contents. These consist of a large sheet that accordion folds out into 10 pages.
Page 1 begins with a black and white photo of a Gekko built up with the markings of the Yokosuka Fighter Group, Night Fighter Flight, Yokosuka (Oppama) Base, 1944 (tail code 3-165). This is followed by the Gekko’s history in English, German, French and Japanese. The bottom of the page has illustrations of recommended tools to build the kit.
Page 2 begins with READ BEFORE ASSEMBLY instructions and CAUTIONS (in the same 4 languages). This is followed by a Tamiya paint listing to be used to paint the model. Then, there is side illustrations of a Gekko that is with and without belly guns.
The bottom of the page gives us the first assembly step.
Pages 3 through 8 give us a total of 17 assembly steps.
The bottom of page 8 is painting and decal application instructions.
Pages 9 and 10 give us 5 paint scheme alternatives.
In addition to the ones previously mentioned, above, there is one for the 202 nd Naval Fighter Group, Manggar Base, Balikpapan Borneo Island, January 1944.
The clear parts allow you to do the cockpit open or closed and the gun compartment can be posed open also. Interior parts are very plentiful and well done. The oblique gun cradles are highly detailed and models in themselves. The kit also includes optional under-wing 200 liter fuel tanks. The decal sheet includes seat belts and instrument panel dials.
Tamiya does the lower wing in the kit as full-span. This allows for having the dihedral absolutely right. I also liked the stringers molded into the fuselage walls.
Tree letter A is broken into 2 parts. One part holds the upper wing halves and their end tips, main wheel doors, main gear legs and wheel centers.(10 parts) The second piece is the lower wing half.
There are 2 identical letter B parts trees. These hold: engine cowlings, drop tanks, bombs (that are optional and not shown on the instructions), crew figures, engines, props and their spinners, main wheels etc. (34 parts per tree).
Tree letter C holds: the cockpit floor, seats, foot pedals, bulkheads, oblique cannon cradle parts and other assorted interior parts (30 parts).
Letter D tree is the clear parts. This tree is co-joined to letter J tree. D tree holds forward cockpit parts, wing light lenses and other windows. The J tree holds the rear cockpit canopy parts (16 parts)
Letter E tree is co-joined to letter G tree. E holds: fuselage halves, horizontal tail surfaces, nose cone and tail wheel assembly etc. Letter G holds upper decking and hatch parts. (17 parts).
Lettering now jumps to letter H parts tree. It holds: more cowling pieces and exhaust parts. (17 parts).
Finally, are the two black vinyl poly caps. These are to retain the propellers in the engines and are in a small cello.
This is a sleek aircraft and one of my favorite Japanese aircraft types. The paint schemes are a little dull: overall dark green with black cowlings and the tail codes, but still a neat aircraft.
Highly recommended to modelers with a few other 1/48th scale kits under their belts, due to the complexity and number of parts in the kit.