Zoukei-Mura Inc. 1/32 J2M3 Raiden (Jack) Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|J2M3 Raiden (Jack)
|Beautiful molding, excellent detail
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. Two years ago, Hasegawa filled this void with a nice kit of the J2M3, though the kit lacked some of the detail options available in their other contemporary releases.
Zoukei-Mura Inc. has stepped in with the ultimate Raiden kit in 1/32 scale. This kit offers all of the options that you'd look for in a contemporary kit and more. Let's take a look...
This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on nine parts trees plus two trees of clear parts. Following their established business model, the kit is all styrene as the super detail parts (photo-etch, turned brass, resin, etc.) are all offered separately. This keeps the retail price of the basic kit low and allows each modeler to select those optional items that are relevant for their project.
Let's look at the features and options:
- Super-detailed MK4R-A Kasei 23a engine
- Choice of open or closed cowl flaps
- Positionable engine access panels
- Super-detailed cockpit
- Choice of pilot seats
- Choice of instrument panels (clear or opaque) with individual instrument faces as decals
- Positionable canopy
- Choice of clear or two-part framed canopy/windscreen
- Detailed wing gun bays
- Positionable gun bay access panels
- Positionable ailerons
- Positionable flaps
- Positionable elevators
- Positionable rudders
- Optional centerline drop tank
The details on the Kasei engine and from the firewall forward are awesome. You could easily have all of the inspection panels removed from the aircraft, the cowling removed, and the engine removed for overhaul.
Markings are included for two examples:
- J2M3, 352 Naval Air Group, Ohmura AB, Nagasaki, 1945, as flown by Lt.JG Yoshihiro Aoki
- J2M3, 302 Naval Air Group, Atsugi AB, Kanagawa, 1945, as flown by Lt. Susumu Ito
As with the previous releases in their Super Wings Series, this latest release is a gem, and easily takes the lead as the best Raiden kit in any scale.
My sincere thanks to Zoukei-Mura Inc. for this review sample!