Hasegawa 1/32 A6M7 Zero Fighter Type 62 '302 Flying Group' Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|A6M7 Zero Fighter Type 62 '302 Flying Group'
|Easy build, great details
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was considered a formidable threat at the beginning of World War 2 because the aircraft was designed as a lightweight fighter that was highly maneuverable. To highlight that distinction, several years ago, the Planes of Fame Museum featured a formation takeoff with their A6M5 and the P-51 Mustang. While both applied military power at the same time, the Zero was off the ground and clearing the runway before the Mustang had even lifted its tail. While subsequent models of the A6M introduced features that enhanced survivability (self-sealing fuel tanks didn't come along until the last production models), the aircraft remained a lightweight, agile fighter.
When Japan lost its long-deck aircraft carriers at Midway, the Imperial Japanese Navy also lost its dive-bombing capabilities as their existing dive-bombers were not suited for their shorter-deck carriers. Since the Zero could easily operate from these shorter flight decks, Mitsubishi developed the Type 62 which replaced the centerline drop tank with a bomb rack capable of lofting a 250kg bomb. Wings and tail structures were reinforced to permit higher dive speeds and recovery while wing racks were added to carry external fuel tanks.
While the subject title '302 Flying Group' might be confusing, there seems to be a disconnect in Hasegawa's English translation of some of the combat units from World War II. The so-called 302 Flying Group is actually the 302 Naval Air Group of the Imperial Japanese Navy which was activated in March 1944 and decommissioned in September, 1945. While not much is available in the English language about this unit, it evidently was a shore-based combat unit stationed at Atsugi AB that not only operated the late-model A6M Zero, but also the J2M Raiden interceptor as preserved by the J2M from the Planes of Fame Museum carrying the markings of the 302 Naval Air Group.
In 1978, Hasegawa released their first 1/32 scale A6M5c kit and it remained as one of its core kits for several decades as it was the best Zero in this scale, at least until Tamiya released their own 1/32 scale kits (A6M2b and A6M5) in 2000. Hasegawa released a new-tool A6M5c kit last year that renders all previous A6M kits obsolete in this scale, with the notable exception of the Tamiya kits. The Tamiya A6Ms remain the best detailed kits of the Zero in any scale, but are they truly the best? Let's take a look:
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees plus one tree of flesh-colored parts (pilot figure) and one tree of clear parts. As you would expect, the molded-in detailing is sharp and exquisite with the scribed panel lines and no sign of excessive rivet details. The fabric-covered flight control surfaces look spot-on as well. Among the features and options in this kit:
- Very nicely detailed cockpit interior with cockpit wall structures separately molded
- Instrument panel nicely detailed with sharp decal instrument faces provided
- Pilot figure with choice of three head options
- Detailed gunsight
- Positionable canopy
- Internal fuselage bulkheads for structural strength
- Interesting internal frame for horizontal stabilizer tabs to provide strength and alignment
- Wing main spar provided to reinforce the wings and wing/fuselage joint
- Nicely detailed landing gear and wheel wells
- Parts provided to display landing gear up
- Nicely detailed Sakae engine with positionable cowl flaps
- External fuel tanks and underwing mounts
- Centerline bomb rack and 250kg bomb
Markings are provided for two examples:
- A6M7, 127, 302 NAG, Atsugi AB, 1945
- A6M7, 102, 302 NAG, Atsugi AB, 1945
The decal sheet also provides a nice set of airframe stencils, instrument faces for the instrument panel, and a selection of squadron and rank insignia for the pilot figure.
So which is the better A6M5 kit? Hasegawa or Tamiya? That depends on what you wish to build. Both have terrific details externally and in the cockpit. The Tamiya kit is far more complex which lends itself to the super-detailer and for them, Tamiya is the better choice. For the regular modelers out there that don't want to take a month or more to assemble a complex kit, the Hasegawa kit is the best. Not to mention that the Tamiya kit doesn't build into an A6M7 without some changes. In any case, this is an outstanding new kit from Hasegawa!
My sincere thanks to Hasegawa USA for this review sample!