Kawasaki Ki-45 Kai Hei Toryu (Nick)
The Kawasaki Ki-45 was the first attempt by Japanese manufacturers to provide the JAAF with a modern twin-engine fighter. The original specification was issued to Nakajima, Mitsubishi, and Kawasaki in 1937, but the first two soon withdrew from the project, Kawasaki continued into 1939 with the completion of the Ki-45 prototype. This proved to be inadequate in many respects, so in 1940 the aircraft was completely redesigned, with some existing Ki-45 prototypes being converted to Ki-45 Kai (Modified), with different wings, tail surfaces, and engines. Thus modified, the new aircraft was accepted for production by the IJAAF, entering service in 1942. The aircraft served throughout the Pacific War in China, New Guinea, Indo-China, Manchuria, the Philippines, and finally in mainland Japan against the B-29 heavy bombing offensive, where it was one of the few relatively effective interceptors.
There is quite a bit of material available on the Ki-45, although some of this is conflicting. The Green and Swanborough WW2 Fact Files: Japanese Army Fighters, Part 1 gives extensive coverage of the type’s development and service career. R.J. Francillon’s Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War provides an extensive account of the aircraft’s development and service. The old Profile No. 105: The Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu has some useful photos and information, while Henry Sakaida’s Aces of the Rising Sun, by Osprey Publishing, has some good color material. For interior details, refer to Monogram Close Up 1: Japanese Cockpit Interiors, Part 1, as this book has some excellent interior views of the airplane now in the NASM collection. Another book that gives an account of aircraft captured and tested by the Allies is Phil Butler’s War Prizes: An illustrated survey of German, Italian, and Japanese aircraft brought to Allied countries during and after the Second World War. One problem with the references, however, is the system of designations used, as some earlier texts use Ki-45 KAIa through Ki-45 KAIc, while more recent publications use Ki-45 Kai-Ko, Ki-45 Kai-Hei, Ki-45 Kai-OTSU, and Ki-45 Kai-Tei. This makes things confusing, to say the least. Donald Thorpe’s Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings, World War II also has some good information on the Ki-45.
The reason why this information is being provided is because it is important when building this model to know exactly which variant you are building. The breakdown of production Ki-45’s is as follows:
- Ki-45-Kai-Ko. 2 x 12.7mm Ho-103 Type 1 machine guns in nose, 1 x 20mm Ho-3 Type 97 cannon in ventral tunnel, 1 x 7.92mm Type 97 machine gun in rear cockpit.
- Ki-45-Kai-Hei. 1 x 37mm Ho-203 cannon in ventral tunnel, 1 x 7.92mm Type 98 machine gun in rear cockpit, and 2 x 20mm Ho-5 cannons in oblique firing position behind the pilot.
- Ki-45-Kai-OTSU. 1 x 20mm Ho-3 cannon in nose mounting, 1 x 37mm Type 97 hand-loaded cannon in ventral tunnel, 1 x 7.92mm Type 98 machine gun in rear cockpit.
- Ki-45-Kai-Tei. 2 x 20mm Ho-5 cannon in nose, 1 x 37mm Ho-203 cannon in ventral tunnel, and 1 x 7.92mm Type 98 machine gun in rear cockpit.
Photos of the first three variants are readily available, but I have not seen anything on the Kai-Tei version. Some late production aircraft dispensed with the rear-mounted machine gun, as it was considered ineffective. The Kai-Tei version, which was intended as a ground attack aircraft, was used mainly as an interceptor against B-29’s, as were most of the other survivors. In any event, do your research and make sure that you know which variant you are building, and which armament combination is appropriate. The Sakaida book has some excellent color profiles showing several of the specific versions. There is also much information online.
The kit instructions, consisting of 8 half-sheet-sized pages, include a brief type history in English and Japanese, a sprue diagram and color guide (Mr. Color), 3 pages of exploded assembly drawings, 2 pages of excellent 4-view drawings showing colors and markings and decal information, and one page of decal instructions and legal warnings. Some color information on the interior parts is provided. Instructions are clear and easy to follow, even though they are not verbal.
This is apparently a reissue of a previous (1996) Ki-45 kit by Hasegawa, #51262, depicting the Ki-45-Kai-OTSU, which had the nose-mounted 20mm cannon. This kit, which is labeled “Ki-45-Kai-Hei with Projection Cannon,” has all of the characteristics of the Kai-OTSU version, although there are a few parts provided on the sprues that would permit installation of the oblique-firing 20mm cannon, which were included on the Kai-Hei version – although these are shown as “do not use” parts on the instructions.
The kit consists of 77 parts, including several clear plastic units, and surface detail is exceptional, with fine engraved panel lines and no rivet detail. Cockpit detail, for what is there, is good, although there is no sidewall detail at all. Granted, through the glass, it is difficult to see the sidewalls, but I added a few things to make it look more realistic. Cockpit detail consists of two bulkheads, a floor, an instrument panel, seats, a control stick, a decal instrument panel, a gunsight, and a machine gun mount, all of which go together quickly. There are no engines as such, just cowling fronts with some internal detail such as oil coolers, but the engines could not be seen anyway, so this is not a problem. The lower wing section is cast in one piece, assuring correct dihedral angle, but the wingtip shape is a little suspicious, being a little too pointed. I didn’t correct this, although a purist might have done so. The nose section comes in two parts, with the 20mm cannon molded on one side. The landing gear is very simple and went together a lot easier than I thought it would. Also, it is very robust once the glue is dry. The wheels attach to the axles securely, and the overall effect is a very realistic landing gear.
There is no wheel well detail inside of the wing, but again, this is almost impossible to see unless you are handling the model. One good feature of this kit is the propellers, which look exactly like the ones in the photos. They require attachment before the cowl fronts go on if you want them to turn. Otherwise, wait until you are finished painting before attaching them. One interesting point is the radio mast. Nearly all of the photos show the mast in a position just behind the cockpit, where it would be behind and out of the way of the obliquely mounted cannons. A couple of Sakaida’s drawings show the antenna running from the forward part of the vertical stabilizer to a point just ahead of the gunner’s position on several aircraft. The instructions show the mast in the proper position, while the box art omits it entirely. On the Ki-45 the USAAF tested at Wright Field after the war, the mast was behind the rear gunner’s position, but this may have been an American modification. Another “Nick” tested in the US had the standard mast, and this is the one the NASM currently has in storage.
When I build a review kit, I like to build another one alongside for comparison. In this case, I built an old Revell (England) Ki-45 Kai kit, and found that both kits were comparable in many ways. The Revell kit has interior sidewall cockpit detail while Hasegawa did not. The Hasegawa props were infinitely better and more accurate. The Revell kit had provision for the nose cannon to be exposed, as mountings and the gun were provided, although some superdetailing would be needed to use this feature. The Hasegawa kit had better surface detail, although the Revell kit had recessed rivets. The Revell landing gear was more robust, but might be too heavy for the model. The Hasegawa rudder hinge is rather large, but photos show it to be very prominent, whereas the Revell units are too small. Both kits are designed in such a way that any of the major variants could be built with only minimal modifications, and they both include most of the parts required for the conversions.
Painting and Finishing
Once the parts were assembled, the few seams were filled in, and after the canopies were attached it was time to paint the model. I masked the windows, filled in the cockpit openings and wheel wells with some makeup remover sponge stuff I bought in the cosmetic section of the drugstore, and got ready to paint. I began by painting the white bands around the wings and rear fuselage, as I don’t care to use decals for this. After masking the white, I painted the wing leading edges yellow, this time using Model Masters RLM 04. After masking these markings, I painted the entire airframe and wheel well doors using Model Master Japanese Army Light Grey (a greenish color similar to RLM 02). When the model was dry, I thinned out some Model Masters Japanese Army Green, similar to RAF Dark Earth, and applied the speckled camouflage pattern using my handy Pasche airbrush. In ten minutes, I had the airframe painted. The props, of course, I painted medium brown with yellow tip stripes. It is surprising how nice the camouflage scheme looks, and after decal application (the wing Hinomarus appear to be a tad too large) the model was basically finished. The decals were of excellent quality and needed no trimming.
This is an excellent kit, well engineered, and relatively easy to assemble. There are no major problems, and very little filling was needed. The instructions were clear, and everything fitted perfectly. My only negative comment is the fact that according to the sources I have, the kit actually depicts a Ki-45-Kai-OTSU, not the Ki-45-Kai-Hei as stated on the box top. Since Hasegawa previously released the kit as the OTSU variant, I suppose that it is possible that they either gave out one of the older kit moldings, or neglected to upgrade the moldings, although the instructions also show the OTSU variant. Sakaida’s book shows drawings of two of this unit’s aircraft, a Ki-45-Kai-Hei and a Ki-45-Kai-Ko, but not the OTSU type. Green and Swanborough’s book illustrates the OTSU version belonging to a different unit, and it is possible that the 4th Sentai, 2nd Chutai based at Ozuki Airfield, Yamaguchi Pref., Japan, during 1944 and 1945, operated this type, but I just haven’t seen a photo to document it. Anyway, mine is in the version given in the kit, and it looks good, and that is mainly what counts. This one is definitely worth getting. Don’t throw away or trade off the older Revell kits, however, as they also can be made into very nice models. But don’t miss out on this one. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Hobbico for the review sample and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.