Monday, March 20, 2017

Low and slow

Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bomber, B1-310, Lt. Joichi Tomonaga, at Midway; 4 June 1942

This is the second half of a "dogfight double" by Airfix that I completed for a theme build focused on "Low and Slow" subjects. I tried the salt weathering method on this one, otherwise it was an OOB build.

The Subject

During the Battle of Midway, on 4 June 1942, a section of Kates attacked the USS YORKTOWN (CV-5). LCDR Jimmy Thach, the CO of VF-3 which was assigned to YORKTOWN, was part of the CAP and attacked the Gates. Tomonaga's Kate was one of those shot down by Thach that day.

B1-310 was one of a group of Kates assigned to Hiryu and participated in the attacks on Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941. These Kates were originally (factory) painted in Ameiro, or a caramel gray color overall just like the A6M Zeros and D3A Vals of the typical IJN pre-war carrier air wings. En route to Pearl Harbor the Kates were given a coat of dark green on their upper surfaces to help conceal them from above over the waters of Pearl Harbor. By the time of Midway, survivors were showing wear to the green paint, even though the underlying Ameiro was still holding up well. Factory new B5N2 aircraft by this time were painted green on their upper surfaces, and the paint was well adhered to the airframe, so these examples would appear much more homogenous in their paint schemes.

The Model

I've always wanted this aircraft on my shelf, and while I have an old Hasegawa B5N2 Kate it was made 25+ years ago and reflects not only my knowledge of IJN aircraft schemes but also the available knowledge in the modeling community. In other words, that old kit is in the absolutely wrong colors! I was able to find some photos from Nick Millman who graciously shared them and while it appears that B1-310 does not have any surviving photos, photos of similar B5N2's at the time have survived and indicate a rather natty appearance. This both gives me freedom to weather it as I see fit but also mandates that the ameiro color show through in that natty appearance or it just would not be right.

Construction was straightforward; with the new Airfix kits accuracy is quite good and the engineering is amazing. Unfortunately it really does mean the modeler must follow the instructions as fit is so tight that any mistakes will result in a very poor looking model. After painstakingly painting the cockpit interior all the right colors, I closed up the fuselage and not a thing was visible! The olive green used in the interior (Tamiya XF-71 Cockpit Green) is not dark, but with the small openings it all comes out as just a single dark shade. I did add seat belts from masking tape, painted a bronze green color to give it a solid contrast.

The basic ameiro color is described as "grey poupon" or a "brownish RLM02". Huh? I found a recipe using Humbrol paints that was well like by Nick, specifically 8 parts Hemp (Hu168), 1 part Khaki (Hu159) and 1 part Midstone (Hu225). Since I had Gunze Hemp, and Tamiya Khaki plus my own recipe for Midstone, I tried this mix and it came out to a yellow-brown RLM02, but I didn't want to quibble at this point. My color mixing skills are not yet where I'd like them and while I know I can add some color and get brown, I have enough pots of brown mixed from various shades of other colors. I don't need to risk making another...

After painting the model overall ameiro, I then glued the canopy on, applying Eduard masks (which are nirvana when it comes to painting a canopy like this one!) and then gooped some salt, dampened with some water, onto the top of the model. After it had dried thoroughly (it turned white to confirm it) I sprayed XF-11 IJN Green on the topside. I purposely did not spray it evenly. I also lightly misted the tops of the ailerons, flaps and elevators, and the rudder to ensure they were a different tone, being fabric. After the initial clean up of all the salt I realized one side looked like it had been mistreated so I reapplied the ameiro and salt and tried again. Much better.

The other colors I used were a mix of black and Gunze H77 tire black to get a "blacker blue-black" for the cowling, as Nakajima used a "blacker blue-black" than did Mitsubishi. For the metal interiors such as the cowling and gear bay I first sprayed aluminum and then lightly misted metallic blue. This color should be more green but I'm not prepared to mix up that color.

Decals went on fairly easily with Daco soft and sometimes Daco medium. I had to be patient because initially they didn't behave, but eventually with multiple applications they finally tamed. Then I coated it overall with a misting of micro scale satin to seal everything in.


This was a very easy build, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've got two more as well as the B5N1 with the earlier cowling. I'm looking forward to completing at least one with folded wings.

Thanks for looking...

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