Mitsubishi A6M5a Zero Type 52 Koh Fighter-Bomber
The ultimate version of the Zero was the A6M5a type 52. Powered by one Mitsubishi NK1F Sakae 21, a fourteen cylinder air-cooled radial rated at 1130 hp for takeoff, 1100 hp at 9350 feet, 980 hp at 19,685 feet – amazing when compared to previous versions. The A6M5 also featured rounded non-folding wingtips, making a stronger wing for faster climbing and increased the diving speed to 460 mph. This Zero was better armed, with two 7.7-mm Type 97 machine guns in the fuselage and two 20-mm Type 99 cannon in the wings; these were belt feed instead of the older drum feed. Other less notable improvements, like thicker skin and added speed from exhaust thrust, were also implemented to the basic Zero design; however these improvements were still not good enough to compete with allied contemporaries, not to mention a shortage of skilled pilots. The Zero’s best days were now behind it; nonetheless, the IJN continued to upgrade the Zero until VJ day.
Our subject, the Zero A6M5a Type 52 Koh fighter-bomber versions, were converted at the Naval Air Arsenals or were done in the field during mid to late 1944. This basic modification replaced the centerline fuel tank with a bomb rack like those more commonly found on the B5N2 type 97 Kate, and they normally carried one 250 kg bomb. The first of these aircraft would see combat at the Battle of Marianas, then later serve as Kamikaze.
Inside this Limited Edition package, I found, 1 clear glazed sprue and 3 large and 2 smaller gray sprues adding up to 75 pieces. This kit features needed parts for the bomb rack and 250 kg bomb. All the parts were well protected in clear poly bags; Hasegawa’s quality is apparent after just a few short moments of inspection. One point to note: the sprue parts for the fighter-bomber version came from the Hasegawa B5N2 type 97 Kate kit and are of the same standard. In addition, one more point to mention: to be perfectly clear, this is not an all-new tooled kit. I also found the typical Hasegawa folded instruction sheet printed in B&W; the build steps are well thought out and straightforward. Lastly, a very nice decal sheet featuring two options:
- IJN 653rd N.F.G. 166th F.SQ Oita A.B. Sept-Oct 1944 tail# 653-222
- IJN 653rd N.F.G. 166th F.SQ Oita A.B. Sept-Oct 1944 tail# 653-207
In addition, Hasegawa has provided enough spare tail numbers in both yellow and white to do any particular aircraft you desire.
Kit options include: open or closed flaps, and two spinner options for either the Mitsubishi- or Nakajima- built Zero.
Following the instruction guide, start with step one, cockpit assembly. I found the fit to be excellent and the parts nicely detailed. The instrument panel features raised details with a optional decal; no less than 13 parts make up this exceptional cockpit. I did, however, drill out the lighting holes in the seat bucket and added photo-etch seat belts. Happy with the result, I proceeded to step 2, the fuselage assembly. The halves went together without a hitch and I slipped the cockpit tub right into place. Also included in the build step is the forward gun deck and guns; they offered no problems. Step 3, the engine assembly – 4 parts, easy clean up, and superb fit. Step 4, main wing assembly – no problems. Step 5, main wing installation – big problem: the wing root-to-fuselage fit is terrible and required quite a bit of massaging and gap-filling superglue. The tailplane, headrest, tail light, and aileron counter balance weights finished out this step. Step 6, engine installation: after adding the exhaust stacks, the engine fit right into place. I then added the cowling. Main gear and bomb assembly are covered in step 7. Step 8: various parts come together, including flaps, bomb, landing gear, and all the other fiddly bits. I did have minor fit issues with the flaps that required extra patience. Finishing up with step 9, prop and canopy no problems, but I wish I had a pre-cut mask set. The decals are a major improvement over the older thicker decals from earlier Hasegawa releases; they responded very well to Solvaset and are beautifully done.
The Bottom Line
The MSRP is a little high for my wallet when considering that, for just a few dollars more, you can have the newer Tamiya kit minus the bomb option. Beside that, it’s a pretty decent kit despite the wing root issues, and builds into an accurate and attractive model. I would recommend it to the experienced modeler.
Thanks to Hobbico and IPMS for the opportunity to review such a fine model kit.