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N1K2-J Shidenkai (George) '301st Fighter Squadron'

Hasegawa 1/48 N1K2-J Shidenkai (George) '301st Fighter Squadron' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2017 Manufacturer Hasegawa
Subject N1K2-J Shidenkai (George) '301st Fighter Squadron' Scale 1/48
Kit Number 07455 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, nice details Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $45.99

First Look

N1K2-J Shidenkai (George) '301st Fighter Squadron' Kit
N1K2-J Shidenkai (George) '301st Fighter Squadron' Kit
N1K2-J Shidenkai (George) '301st Fighter Squadron' Kit
N1K2-J Shidenkai (George) '301st Fighter Squadron' Kit

The Kawanishi N1K was designed as a robust floatplane fighter that was more capable than the A6M2-N Rufe (Zero floatplane) and could provide the Japanese Navy with front-line fighter support where runways are not yet available. Designated as the N1K1 Kyofu (Rex), the aircraft started service entry in 1943, but by that time, Japan's forward momentum had been blunted and was being pushed back. Even as the N1K1 was in production, the Kawanishi engineers foresaw the potential of this powerful aircraft if it could be separated from its heavy floats and a land-based variant was developed with conventional landing gear.

Designated N1K1-J Shiden (George), the aircraft had serious potential but also exhibited some latent issues based upon its floatplane heritage. A redesign was begun almost immediately to move the wings from mid-fuselage to low-wing, the fuselage was lengthened for greater stability, and it was designed with roughly 1/3 the parts of the N1K1-J. This new aircraft was the N1K2-J Shiden-Kai and with this aircraft, Japanese Navy pilots had a formidable fighter that could match the F6F Hellcat and the P-51 Mustang. While the aircraft was very successful, it couldn't be produced fast enough to change the outcome of the Pacific air war.

Hasegawa first released an N1K2-J kit in 1/48 scale back in the 1980s, but what we have here is not that kit. As with most kits from that era, that original release had raised surface details. At some point in time, Hasegawa retooled their N1K2-J with beautifully scribed surfaces and offers much of the same detail and options of their more recent 1/32 kit of this same subject. Among the features and options in this box:

  • Beautifully detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Detailed Homare engine
  • Positionable cowl flaps
  • Positionable wing flaps
  • Positionable landing gear
  • Optional centerline drop tank

When you look at the aircraft, you can understand why allied aircrews could mistake the N1K2-J as the F6F Hellcat (and its performance would rival the F6F as well). The detail guys might tell you that such a mistake would be rare, but after watching orange-force F/A-18 Hornets at Green Flag flying against blue-force F-15 Eagles back in the 1980s, there's a big difference in the perception of details while parked versus while in air combat. After the planned furball ended, more than one wingman formed up on what he thought was his lead until they finally got close enough to notice those details and the dogfights would resume again, and again, and again, until air safety terminated the fight.

Markings are provided for two examples:

  • N1K2-J, 343-23, 301 FS/343 NAG, Kanoya AB, April 1945, as flown by Petty Officer 1st Class Tomokazu Kasai
  • N1K2-J, 343-22, 301 FS/343 NAG, Kanoya AB, April 1945

This kit is a special edition to honor Tomokazu Kasai with a biographical summary with photos of him as a young pilot as well as recent photos. Unfortunately, the summary is in Japanese-only, so this bit of history is on hold until we can find a translation. If you do want some good reading, the 343rd Naval Air Group was one of several organizations established toward the end of the war to provide air defense of Japan, and while the 343rd was equipped with the N1K2-J and used it effectively against allied air forces, there simply wasn't enough aircraft and experienced pilots left to make a difference in the outcome of the war.

The instructions provide paint recommendations using Gunze Sango paints and include mixes between Mitsubishi and Nakajima cockpit green to render the Kawanishi cockpit green as well as the mix to replicate Kawanishi Dark Green (exterior camo) using Mitsubishi Dark Green and a blue. These will help you render the right colors using other brands following similar mixes.

This is another nice release from Hasegawa and the only aftermarket support you'll need will be pilot restraints for the cockpit and perhaps photo-etched instrument panel and side panels in place of the decals provided in the kit.

My sincere thanks to Hasegawa USA for this review sample!