In The Skies Of China, Composite Kit: Ki-21 and Ki-27

Published on
January 21, 2024
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Company: ICM - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: ICM - Website: Visit Site
Box Art


Over the years, much interest has been generated in the conflict between the Japanese, Chinese, and Russians begun by Japanese aggression in the area of northeastern China. By 1939, Japanese and Chinese air forces were actively engaged in a struggle for aerial superiority. While the Chinese had no aircraft industry to speak of, the Japanese were producing airplanes that compared favorably with those of the Americans and Europeans. The Japanese Army, for example, were producing airplanes which were extremely maneuverable, mainly because they were lightly constructed, had minimal armament, and had no armor protection. An example of this design philosophy was the Nakajima Ki-27, code named “Nate” by the Allies, which had a 780 HP Nakajima He-1b radial engine, and two light .30 cal machine guns mounted in the fuselage. The prototype first flew in 1936, and production models were operational by 1938. These were used in China, where they outperformed anything the Chinese had to offer.

The Japanese Army replaced their ageing Mitsubishi Ki-20 bombers with the Ki-21, which entered service in 1938. This was a modern, twin engine heavy bomber (as classified by the Japanese) which featured 950 hp. radial engines, later upgraded to 1,500 hp. models. Early models were armed with three 7.7 mm, machine guns, while later models had five 7.7 mm guns along with one 12.7 mm. machine gun in a powered dorsal turret. No armor was carried, and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the type was used in most areas where the Japanese Army was involved. As they encountered more effective American and British fighters, they were later replaced by more advanced types, the Ki-21s eventually winding up as trainers. A transport version, the MC-20, coded “Topsy”, was also developed, and a few continued in commercial operation in the Far East after the end of hostilities in 1945.


Aside from the limited historical information provided by the kit manufacturer, there are several good sources of information provided in various sources. One useful source is Profile Publications No. 172 on the Mitsubishi Ki-21. Although there is no Profile publication on the Ki-27, the type is described in numerous publications dealing with Japanese fighter aircraft of World War II.

Kit Descriptions and Assembly Process

Nakajima K-27

The earliest kit of the Ki-27 in 1/72 scale was from Mania, whose assets were eventually acquired by Hasegawa. Before the ICM issue, there was another kit of the Ki-27, but I have not seen one of these. I built several Mania models years ago, and these are identical to the Hasegawa kit. The ICM kit consists of about 72 plastic parts plus 4 clear ones, but these include optional landing gear and several parts listed as “don’t use”. An advantage over the Hasegawa/Mania issue is the excellent detail provided in the ICM kit, although I had a few problems getting a few of the parts to fit, mainly in the wing to fuselage, section. The end result is a very nice representation of the aircraft.

The only problem I found was that although two kits are provided in this issue, there is only one set of decals for the Ki-27, although the only thing missing is the four wing hinomarus, wing insignias. With most modelers’ decal collections, this should not be a problem.

For the experience, I built a Hasegawa kit alongside the ICM kit, and found the ICM kit to be better in nearly all respects, including detail and accuracy.

Mitsubishi KI-21

According to reviews I have read about this aircraft, this is one Japanese Army aircraft that was extensively used in nearly all areas of operation during the war, but it had been neglected by model producers until relatively recently. The ICM offering, which like the Ki-27, has been issued several times individually, has only recently been issued in a composite kit. An early kit of the aircraft, by Hasegawa, appears only as the later model Ki-21-2b turreted version. The early model has the long greenhouse in the dorsal position, and had been neglected by early kit producers.

The ICM kit is an excellent model, with great surface detailing and excellent fit. It is impossible to get the wings and tailplanes misaligned. The joint lines need very little filler for the seams, and the fit is generally pretty good, except for one issue; the retractable landing gear. The main gear legs are very thin and require three additional parts for each gear. They need to be installed before the engine nacelles can be fitted, and although these fit nicely, the wheels are a little too wide to go through the hole where the landing gear retracts. I ended up removing the wheels, and I managed to get them lined up properly.

The kit is highly detailed, with many parts shown to be installed inside of the fuselage, where they can’t be seen through the windows once they are in place.

The kit instructions are very detailed, a 16 page novel giving a history, a paint list with several paint numbers, an excellent parts diagram, and believe it or not, 71 individual assembly drawings. Drawings are provided for four possible color schemes, for which excellent decals are provided. It should be listed in public libraries as a novel.

One rather amusing aspect of this kit was the window arrangement. These are well cast, but the plane has about 130 individual windows, Fortunately for the modeler, the kit instruction provides a window masking diagram. Although it could have been provided with masking material, only the diagram is included. I read a review of this kit in another source, and the writer suggested making a copy of the masking diagram, and running a copy through the computer printed with masking tape stuck over the window diagrams. Then, all I had to do was carefully remove the masking tape from the copy, trim it with sharp scissors, and stick the masks on the windows. Not all masking tape is absolutely secure on the model, however, so I had a little trimming of paint and the edges of a few windows. That was much better than trying to do the painting by hand.

Painting and Finishing

Both models were easily painted with an airbrush, and after removing the masking tape and applying the decals, the results were most satisfying.


This kit issue is certainly recommended. These are historically very important aircraft, and at least one of each should be in any display of World War II aircraft.

Thanks to ICM for the review samples.


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