D3A1 Type 99 Val Dive Bomber
If you are looking for a head-scratching challenge…this is the kit for you. Cyber Hobby’s new 1/72 scale kit of the Aichi D3A1 Type 99 Val is guaranteed to provide you with hours and hours of the same kind of entertainment you anticipate when buying a die-cut puzzle...but, this one carries a MSRP of $41.75.
The colorful box top painting shows a pair of wartime Vals about to deliver their payload, and the many state-of-the-art CAD illustrations and profiles on the other box panels suggest this is the best kit to reproduce the aircraft in miniature. I had hoped I would get to review this one and soon learned why my mother often said, “Be careful what you wish for.” A good-looking model is certainly possible, but only if you have reference material to consult, and begin the project with the knowledge that the guys at Cyber Hobby may have thought they were working for a puzzle company.
Unlike the 500-piece puzzle that takes many hours to solve, this Cyber Hobby kit manages to do almost the same thing with a mere 91 pieces. How did they do it? Let me explain…
Upon opening the box, you will find 3 parts sprues of soft grey plastic (with parts that exhibit the delicate recessed panel lines we expect to see these days), one sprue of clear parts, a small sheet of decals printed by Cartograf (with markings for eight of the aircraft that launched from all six carriers involved in the Pearl Harbor attack), and a folded instruction sheet. That instruction sheet is the prime culprit. It is filled with many mysteries and much misinformation. But, it doesn’t do the job alone. Its accomplices are the sprues of plastic. They all conspire to confuse and delay you as you venture into the fun of model building. The illustrations in the instructions show some parts that are not what you will find on the sprues, and some of the ones that are there have different part numbers. The sprues contribute their share of obstacles by providing some parts that don’t look like those shown in the instructions, and then throw in some that are not shown at all.
Sound like fun to you?
OK, if you do think this sounds like fun and want to build an overpriced 1/72 kit of the Type 99 Val, here is a little more you should know:
- Parts have recessed panel lines that generally match those on the real aircraft.
- The main parts fit well and the panel lines align nicely,
- Sprue attachment points are molded on the backside of the parts and do not affect the mating surfaces.
- The wingtips are separate parts and may be attached in either the extended or folded position.
- Decals are vivid and well printed on thin film. Markings are included on one small sheet for the following eight Pearl Harbor attack aircraft:
- No 2 aircraft: 22nd Section, 1st Squadron, Akagi.
- No 3 aircraft: 25th Section, 2nd Squadron, Soryu.
- No 2 aircraft: 26th Section, 1st Squadron, Hiryu.
- No 1 aircraft: 20th Section, Command Squadron, Shokaku.
- Unidentified aircraft: Zuikaku.
- No 1 aircraft: 25th Section, 2nd Squadron, Akagi.
- No 1 aircraft: 27th Section, 3rd Squadron, Kaga.
- No 1 aircraft: 21st Section, 1st Squadron, Akagi.
- Multiple open canopy parts are provided, as well a single closed canopy part. However, the open parts exhibit heavy frame detail and really should be replaced with vac formed canopy parts to represent a more accurate open canopy.
- The closed canopy’s windscreen almost fits the sill, but from there on back, the rest of the canopy narrows to the point that it doesn’t even touch the cockpit sills from the third sliding section all the way to the back. Not even filler can remedy this problem.
- Optional engine cowlings with open and closed cowl flaps are included…although the closed version is not mentioned anywhere in the instructions.
- Separate parts are provided for the wingtip navigation lights, but the parts are molded in gray plastic instead of clear plastic.
- All control surfaces are separate parts that can be positioned in any way the builder chooses; however, the raised rib detail on the flaps should be sanded smooth because these control surfaces were not fabric covered on the real aircraft.
- Parts are provided to assemble and attach a centerline 250 kg bomb and two smaller wing mounted 60 kg bombs, along with the appropriate wing bomb racks and fuselage bomb release trapeze.
- The small parts are delicate and may break if not handled with care when removing them from the sprues…many of those in my kit did.
- There appear to be a number of locating holes along the cockpit sidewalls for parts to be attached, but no parts are provided or indicated in the instruction sheet.
- Quite a few recessed ejector pin marks all over the cockpit sidewalls must be addressed with filler and a #10 X-acto blade.
- The pilot will have a rough time of it because there is no control column indicated on the instruction sheet and none is provided on any of the parts sprues. There is an unexplained part D2 on the sprue that is not shown in the instructions. It looks more like an armature with a side lever. It certainly doesn’t represent a control column.
- The rear gunner will also have a tough time of it because there is no scarf ring or machine gun on the parts sprues and nothing is indicated on the instruction sheet either. I’m sure the Vals involved in the Pearl Harbor attack were supposed to have something for the rear gunner to use other than his sidearm.
- The cockpit tub shown in the instruction sheet is, in reality, only a floor section on the parts sprue.
- The instrument panel is devoid of most instruments and no decal is included to add them.
- The mounting tabs molded on cowl gun breeches force you to mount the guns in the opposite locations indicated in the instructions, resulting in the charging handles ending up rather inconveniently located behind the instrument panel.
- The pilot’s seats is generic and the gunner’s bucket looks exactly like the pilot’s seat. Neither have seat belts and both really are too narrow.
Still want to build this one? If so, let me tell you a little about what I experienced. First, I spent a considerable amount of time sorting out what went where. The instruction sheet is about the worst I have ever encountered, with assembly drawings calling out part numbers that do not match those on the actual parts trees and showing images of parts on sprues that aren’t there. And the confusion was not restricted to the instructions sheet. Many of the parts on the C tree were incorrectly numbered. So, first all parts were identified and carefully studied, then thoroughly dry-fitted before assembly. It took time, and the drawings with arrows vaguely pointing somewhere on the instruction sheet did little to speed the process.
I know something about the D3A1 and have a half-dozen good references about the aircraft to consult for interior and exterior details. These references came in handy because the instruction sheet did not help much in that area, either. It did very little to guide assembling the cockpit parts, mistakenly indicating the cockpit was a complete tub, and not addressing the number of sidewall details that needed to be scratched from styrene and stretched sprue to represent what was not included to fit into the number of obvious mounting holes. Because of this, I had planned early on that I would use the closed canopy to minimize viewing the interior...but the kit had other plans for that (more about that later). After fabricating a control column from stretched sprue, I painted the cockpit parts and gave everything a light oil wash and highlighted the raised details with a dry-brushing of white. The cockpit parts went together nicely and the whole thing fit into the designated area. The fuselage halves then closed up perfectly. But, then I also found sink marks that needed filling along the side frames of the underbody mount for the bomb release trapeze ahead of the wing fillets. On the real aircraft, there were two small screened intakes on the front of both of these frames, but the kit makers missed that, too.
I decided to complete the model with the wingtips extended instead of folded because the kit provides little detail at the interior ends of the wing and wing tips. It was then I found that the wingtips have a slightly longer chord than the main wing pieces. So, after attaching them to the main wings, it was necessary to sand them to down and smooth out the slight ridge on the topside that became apparent when the parts were glued together. After that, the leading and trailing edges were smoothed out. A little dab of filler was required here and there and panel lines needed to be re-scribed. I sanded off the incorrect rib detail Cyber Hobby molded on the wing flaps and knocked down the rather pronounced ribs on the ailerons. After polishing them, I took advantage of the separate control surface parts by mounting the ailerons in slightly deflected positions. The fit was good.
The fit of the wings to the assembled fuselage was good, with only a slight gap at the point where the rear of the wing meets the underside of the fuselage. Some filler and re-scribing took care of it. And then, instead of using the opaque gray plastic kit parts provided for the wing tip navigation lights, I attached small bits of clear red and blue plastic cut from old toothbrushes and sanded them to shape. I was trying to do everything I could to make this one a presentable model.
The tail feathers were attached with no difficulty using Tamiya liquid cement, and I aligned them in deflected positions before the cement set. A little filler was required to smooth out some sink marks along the fuselage tail fillets on the top and bottom.
The engine parts went together nicely and fit into the cowling. I intended to use the version with the open cowl flaps pictured in the instructions but, when I fitted it, the questionable (and rather substantial) gap that appeared between the flaps and the fuselage left me with no other choice but to assemble the two-piece cowling with closed cowl flaps that I found on one of the parts sprues. Since that option is not noted on the instruction sheet, I didn’t recognize it was there at first. Modelers who want to build a model with the open cowl flap version will have their work cut out for them.
The parts for the fixed gear went together well, although the two-piece wheels shown in the instructions were actually one-piece wheels. I then fitted the landing gear into the recesses on the bottom wing and attached the dive brakes. Then, after coming to the conclusion that I would have to add shims to the inside of the cockpit sills and sand the fuselage into a Coke bottle shape to fit the rear of the closed canopy, I decided the little beast finally had the better of me. I attached the windscreen and painted its frames. I then painted the many frames on the multiple canopy pieces and stacked the injection molded parts on top of each other in an almost totally open position. At this point in the build, I just wanted the experience to end.
I touched up the scribed panel lines, wiped down the main assembly, and painted what I had assembled before attaching anything more. I used Gunze paints mixed to match the current opinions concerning the correct color of early Vals (a slightly more caramel color than RLM02), painted the nose with a blue-black mix ,and sealed everything with a light coat of Future (now called Pledge, with a Future Shine) before applying decals.
Ah yes, the decals…They are thin and I found they would conform to compound curves very well with a little help from Gunze’s Mr. Mark Softer. I’d go so far to say they rank among the easiest I’ve worked with. But, the accolades end there because the color of the Hinomarus (and anything else that is red) is just too bright…even for early war IJN markings. It looks more like a salmon color against the fuselage color instead of red! Oh…one more thing, the Hinomarus for the wings are too large and the ones for the fuselage are too small. But, I went ahead and used them because this is a kit review. They should be masked off and repainted a more accurate color before showing the finished model to others.
The bombs and the rest of the small bits were painted and fit into their respective positions, making the rest of the assembly an easy thing. I gave everything but the clear parts a light dusting of Dullcoat. Whew…it was over!
So, in the end I had a 1/72 scale Type99 Val that some may be happy with. But, given the excellent instruction sheets and overall level of quality of other new kits on the market today, at this price point I believe this Cyber Hobby release falls a little short of the mark. In my judgment, this is one of those kits that will appeal to those 1/72 scale model builders who are interested in devoting many hours to a puzzle-like challenge, who have a good knowledge of the actual aircraft, some scratchbuilding skills, and plenty of patience.
It strikes me that reviews of Cyber Hobby 1/72 scale aircraft kits that have been posted on this website are usually quite lengthy and have something in common. Reviewers (myself included) find it necessary to devote a large part of their text to explaining how to overcome the shortcomings of the poor instruction sheets and what will actually be found molded on the sprues. These reviews provide model builders with a valuable warning to heed before they begin to build one. So…Caveat emptor!
I can only recommend this kit to those who want a 1/72 scale D3A1 Type 99 Val and are ready to build it in spite of the instruction sheet (and willing to seek out a vac form canopy).
My thanks to IPMS/USA and Dragon Models USA (importer of Cyber Hobby) for the opportunity to review this kit.