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Ki-44-II Kit

Hasegawa 1/32 Ki-44-II Hei Shoki (Tojo) Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2009 Manufacturer Hasegawa
Subject Nakajima Ki-44-II Hei Shoki (Tojo) Scale 1/32
Kit Number 08880 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, nice details Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (Yen) 4,400 (about $46.50 USD)

First Look

Ki-44-II Kit
Ki-44-II Kit
Ki-44-II Kit
Ki-44-II Kit
Ki-44-II Kit
Ki-44-II Kit
Ki-44-II Kit

The Ki-44 (Codename: Tojo) was an interesting contrast in design requirements from the Ki-43 (Codename: Oscar). Both were built by Nakajima for Army Air Force service. The Ki-43 was developed to meet the maneuverability requirements of a fighter and the Ki-43 the most widely deployed fighter within the Army Air Force. This aircraft was first flown in 1939 and remained in service throughout World War II.

The Ki-44 was designed as an interceptor, trading maneuverability for speed and rate of climb. The resulting design was not favored by pilots as visibility was poor over the nose for landing and this was complicated further by its short wings which resulted in higher landing speeds while not being able to effectively see where you were landing. Early variants lacked effective firepower.

Later versions of the Ki-44 received heavier cannon armament as these were revised to intercept a new menace - the B-29 Superfortress. These interceptors were pressed into air defense roles and remained in service through the end of the war, though many were being phased out of service in favor of the Ki-84 (Codename: Frank).

Hasegawa has released the latest in its new-tool series in 1/32 scale - the Nakajima Ki-44. This first installment represents the Ki-44-II and is up to the high standards that Hasegawa has been producing in its new-tool releases.

Molded in light gray styrene, the kit is presented on five parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. You can see on some of the trees where the gates have been closed off to hint at other parts options for future variants from this tooling.

The kit has a nicely detailed cockpit straight out of the box and includes a seated pilot figure. If you build the kit without the pilot figure, you will want to add an aftermarket seatbelt and shoulder harness set to the seat to round out that detailing.

Interestingly enough, a pair of machine guns are provided for the cowl with the breech mechanisms extending through either side of the instrument panel, as with the actual aircraft. In addition, the ammo bay access panels are separately molded, but the ammo cans are not present ahead of the cockpit. You can scratchbuild these along with some nice photo-etched ammo belts to add some additional detail should you wish.

There is an interesting box structure that goes into the wing aft of the main wheel wells, but the kit at present doesn't provide removable access panels for the wing guns, though this may hint at some future options.

The kit features separately molded landing flaps, so you can position these as desired. The ailerons, elevators, and rudder are all molded in place, but some careful surgery can fix that should you want to pose the flight controls in some position other than neutral.

The kit also features a nice Ha-109 engine which will build up nice for viewing through the cowling face. The cowling also has your choice of open or closed cowl flaps, so if you leave the flaps open, you'll be able to see some of that nice engine from behind as well.

A pair of drop tanks represent the external stores provided as well as their pylons, plus an additional set of pylons outboard of the tanks for bombs (not included in this release).

The canopy is molded separately from the windscreen and can be posed open or closed. You'll want to pose it open so that you can see that nice cockpit!

Markings are provided for three aircraft:

  • Ki-44-II, 2, 3 Sqn/70 Flt Regt as flown by WO Makota Ogawa, Kashiwa AF, 1945
  • Ki-44-II, 11, 3 Sqn/70 Flt Regt as flown by Capt Yoshio Yoshida, Kashiwa AF, 1945
  • Ki-44-II, 3 Sqn/47 Flt Regt as flown by Capt Teiichi Hatano, Naeimasu AF, 1944

Hasegawa has produced another masterpiece that is neither over-engineered nor over-priced. This will be a pleasurable build straight out of the box for most modelers and will also be a fun starting point for the AMS modeler as well.

My sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for this review sample!