Bf-109E-7 & Fw-190A-5 in Japanese Army Service
There was considerable industrial collaboration between Germany and Japan before and during World War II, and the fact that the Germans were able to send complete aircraft to Japan after Pearl Harbor was surprising, especially since they almost had to be sent by submarine. During 1941, the Japanese Army received 5 Bf-109E-7’s, and these were thoroughly tested by the Army, who did not select the type for production, but they did use the DB-601 engine in its Kawasaki Ki-61 “Hein” (Tony) fighter of 1942. These aircraft were delivered in standard Luftwaffe camouflage, were marked with standard Japanese Hinomarus, and lacked at least wing armament and pilot armor. From available photos, it is not possible to tell whether the aircraft retained their fuselage-mounted machine guns. However, the spinners were the type which equipped engine-mounted cannon-armed fighters, so the question of cowl machine guns is not possible to determine. Some accounts state that the aircraft were unarmed. Your choice on this one. Photos and information are available on https://j-aircraft.com/captured/testedby/me109/me109.htm
In 1943, the Japanese Army received one Focke Wulf Fw-190A-5, and this aircraft was extensively tested during that year. It was most probably delivered by submarine, and also carried standard 74/75/76 Luftwaffe camouflage, and was flown in Japanese markings. From photos I obtained via Google (FW-190 Japan), the FW-190A had inside wheel well covers and definitely carried standard armament. These aircraft provide a chance for the modeler to do standard types in unusual markings, and that is why Hasegawa chose to reissue these kits in Japanese markings.
Each kit has separate instructions, although a combined decal sheet provides markings for both kits. Oddly, both instruction sheets only have a brief historical account of the service career of the airplane, probably the same information that is provided in their FW-190A-5 and Bf-109E kits.
There is no reference to why the Japanese Army received or tested these aircraft, nor how they might have gotten to Japan, especially after Pearl Harbor. The only reference given is on the color painting guide, which lists the Army airfield and date of the documentation of the aircraft.
The instructions for both kits are mainly pictorial, with drawings showing assembly stages. There are color guides that provide useful information, such as RLM colors. The Bf-109E-7 instructions include a four-view drawing of “White 1”, one of 7 Bf-109E’s tested by the JAAF at Kakamigahara Army Airfield in 1941. The drawings agree with the photos I was able to unearth online. The Fw-190A instructions are similar, with good drawings of the assembly stages, including telling you which panel lines to fill in as the lower wing panels are intended for the FW-190A-8 kit, not the “dash 5”. One item left out is the underwing fairings for the outboard cannon which should be bulges, not the small fairing common to the “dash 8”. The bulge would be very difficult to duplicate, so I merely trimmed off the existing fairing and left it smooth. I would have liked to have seen an account of these aircrafts’ careers.
These kits are basically reissues of kits that have available for many years, so there is nothing new here. The Bf-109E-7 kit can be built in any of the E variant forms, as the early and late style canopies are both included, along with extra spinners, fuel tanks, racks, and bombs. Since this is an old kit, it has a certain amount of flash, and a metal seat replaces the older plastic seat, which strangely is not included. I replaced it with one from the spares box, as I didn’t think it looked right. Recessed panel lines appear to be accurately located, and there is some interior detail that I don’t think came with the original kit. A decal instrument panel is provided, but this didn’t fit the unit in the kit, so I substituted one that I had in my spares box. The canopy cannot be displayed in its open position without cutting it, which involves a certain amount of risk. This is a very early kit and is not up to the later Hasegawa standard, although it certainly can be made into a first-class model with a little work.
The Fw-190A kit is, in my opinion, one of the best 1/72 scale kits on the market today, with only a few problems aside from a few panel lines that have to be filled in as they were on the A-8 but not the A-5, and this kit has a lot of A-8 components included. It has a prop which has to be assembled blade-by-blade, hopefully with the blades in the right positions. A one-piece prop like Airfix’s would have been nice. The canopy can be opened or closed, and there are no inside landing gear well covers. These could be scratchbuilt, but I used some from an old Frog Ta-152H kit. Photos show an armed aircraft, so I used the standard kit armament. One thing missing was a step, which usually shows in photos taken when the plane is on the ground. Otherwise, this is a first class kit, and only the decals are really new.
Painting and Finishing
It looks strange seeing planes in standard Luftwaffe camouflage with Japanese markings, but perhaps this is the idea. Paint them in the standard Luftwaffe camouflage for the period. The Bf-109E should be in RLM 02 and RLM 71 dark green over RLM 65. The Fw-190 should be 74/75/76, standard for the period. Decals should be applied as directed, although they made what I think was a major goof on the Bf-109E when they provided wing leading edge decals in red, when they more probably should have been yellow. The j-aircraft site uses yellow, which was the standard Japanese tactical marking of the period. Photos show a light color, and since yellow was the standard color, there is no logical reason why they would have been red. I used yellow striping decals, and the result was good. There are a lot of decals for both aircraft, many of which are not mentioned in the instructions, such as small “lift here” or “do not touch” warnings. I used some of them. The decals for the trim tabs need to be carefully trimmed, or else the film will overlap the trailing edges of the tabs.
These are standard Hasegawa kits, and they are nearly always useful in building models of World War II aircraft. You’d buy these kits mainly for the decals, which are basically excellent. They do produce a couple of striking models, and they’ll stand out in your model collection. If you are interested in doing these aircraft, the kits are well worth getting. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Hobbico and IPMS for the review kits. They were a lot of fun and not a lot of work.