Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Short-Winged Zekes, Broken Birds, and a Spiffy Hangy Thingy

It's Sunday But You Gotta Do It When You Can

Which is another way of saying I'm trying to keep things going during The Great Northern Invasion of South Texas by the inlaws. Maybe I can crank out another one of these tomorrow, which is when I'm actually supposed to do that, or maybe I won't be able to. With that thought in mind, here's a little something to tide you over 'til things settle down. If you'll pretend like yesterday's installment was really done tomorrow, and that today's won't exist until Tuesday, then we'll be right on schedule. It's a concept that works for me!

Let's Put an End to This Zero Madness

I'm going to work on a theory, one arrived at after endless minutes of entirely inconsequential pondering, that most of you are ready to get this whole Hasegawa Zero Thing behind us. It's probably The Right Thing to Do since the project could literally go on and on and on ad nauseum; there are after all some 14 or 15 different iterations of that kit to build, photograph, and write about. Brevity has never been the Long Pole in my very own personal tent, but I'm with you on this one; let's get 'er done.

What follows are a couple of photos of three of the short-wing Zekes in my collection. For the purpose of this ramble there really ought to be an A6M5C in there too, since it's got two guns per wing and those spiffy little rocket rails and is therefore different from the others, but I haven't built one yet. Suffice it to say that the kit that caters to that particular variant has an entirely new lower wing section included (as well as the original one for the A6M5, A6M5a, and A6M5b variants) so you'll end up with an accurate model of the thing when you're done. Let's also remember that we aren't detailing each and every A6M variant in plastic; we're just looking at The Big Picture.

A bone-stock Hasegawa A6M5 from the 253rd NAG at Rabaul in 1943. The model has the usual (for me) Eduard belts, stretched sprue antenna, and .006 brass wire for brake lines. Paint is my "standard" for late-War Zeros; Sky underneath, with 34079 up top. Hinomarus are airbrushed on with a stencil, which is exceedingly easy to do, and their white surrounds are overpainted (freehand, using an Omni 3000) with a darker green which seems to have been the norm on the Rabaul-based A6M5s.

The underside of that 253rd aircraft. This view illustrates the major differences between what I'm calling the Short-Winged Zeros and the earlier Long-Winged variants; the fuselage is different, the wings are the short-span variety introduced with the A6M5, that little piece at the front of the wing that was an insert on the Long Wings has been made integral with lower wing, and the flaps can be modeled in the deployed position. I went ahead and did that because it was the easiest thing to do, but on most military airplanes the flaps should be up all the time when on the ground. There are exceptions, of course, but mostly they're up, which is something a lot of modelers apparently don't pay attention to. One more thing; on this model the aux tank is painted with Floquil "Concrete" to break up the monotony of a large expanse of the undersurface color. Recent research by the guys over at J-Aircraft (a site you really ought to look at some time) has proven that the "early" drop tanks could be natural metal or painted. I use Sky as an undersurface color for my late-War Zeros and "Concrete" for the earlier ones. The mix-and-match on the tank isn't too far-fetched and adds, or at least I think it adds, to the model. If you think otherwise I'd suggest not doing it that way.

Hasegawa's A6M7 fighter-bomber. This one's a case of Second Verse; Same as the First---same belts, same antenna, same paint, same stencilled hinomarus. What makes it worthy of inclusion is a fuselage mod that you can't see because I didn't photograph the starboard side of the model---there's a tiny little window on the other side just behind the cockpit of the real airplane that Hasegawa provides in the kit---and the 4-gun wings with underwing drop tanks.

The underside of the A6M7. This view shows the bomb mounting (the A6M7 was a dedicated fighter-bomber variant that was frequently used for Kamikaze attacks) and the flaps. Once again the Sky undersurfaces have their monotomy relieved by different colored tanks. Hasegawa definitely has this Zero thing figured out!

The Competition. Here's Tamiya's recent A6M5 kit done for the Yokosuka NAG as deployed at Iwo Jima prior to the invasion and featuring Tamiya's own aftermarket brass gun barrels and pitot tube. I used them because I wanted to see if they added that much to the model; they did, but they also added almost $20 to the price of it and I'm not sure the trade-off is worth the cost unless you're building for a contest. The interior is better than Hasegawa's (although Tamiya was up to their old tricks and copied their interior from a museum specimen that's missing a couple of components in its cockpit so you still have some work to do there), and the overall level of detail on the rest of the model is slightly better too. Build difficulty is about the same for both kits, at least in my never-humble opinion, but Tamiya only offers the A6M5 and A6M5a in their kit. Given its expense and its lack of relatives (as opposed to Hasegawa's entire family of Zekes) I'd consider it a one-trick pony, at least for now. I bought one, and I built it. My next Short Wing will be a Hasegawa kit. So will the one after it.

Another view of the Tamiya kit. It's got a really great presence, and definitely gets the point across; it's a Zero, by golly! This kit is a lot closer in price to Hasegawa's these days, primarily because Hase raised their prices across the board a few months back, but the pain may still not be worth the gain, mainly because Tamiya never issued any other variants of the airplane. They probably will in another year or two, given the way they've historically done such things, but that won't help you much today.

The bottom of the Tamiya kit. The stencilling you see is from an aftermarket decal sheet included in one of those spiffy Polish (I think) books. Tamiya drops the flaps for us too, and I really wish they hadn't. That's Life, I suppose...

So we got the Zero out of our systems in only two days. That's not bad when you consider how much I normally ramble on about such things, and it may in fact be a record of sorts! Now, how about a couple of odds and ends to finish up with?

Some Broken Airplanes in The 'Nam

It's been a while since I've run anything by our old friend Gandy. I found this one last night while looking for something else and it's just so neat I had to share it with you. Enjoy!

The Kelly repair and overhaul team that deployed to South Vietnam was involved with aircraft other than the F-4. Here's a ramp full of broken birds undergoing repair for battle damage at DaNang in 1968. Visible in this shot are "Ruptured Duck", an otherwise unidentified EC-47, A C-130 from the 41st TAS/374th TAW, a C-123 from the 311th TAS/315th TAW, and an EC-47 from the 360th TEWS/460th TAW, which is presumably the parent unit of "Ruptured Duck" as well. That EC-47 in the middle of the photo has been pretty well peppered by something!  I. Gandara

This'll Just Blow You Away

It's simply amazing the things I've been finding since this rebirth began some two months ago. I've found photos and documents I'd completely forgotten I'd ever had, and some of them are seriously cool. This is one of those Too Cool Photographs.

Jim Sullivan never ceases to amaze me. He's been a valued friend for more years than either one of us care to remember, and the stuff he routinely comes up with will knock your socks off pretty much each and every time. Grab your ankles and hold on, 'cause this photo is one of those. The airplane is a Marine SBD-3 (or more likely -4) on Bougainville in December of 1943, but that's not what's so special about the picture. Look at that 250-lb GP bomb and at what's wrapped around it; that's a belt of time-expired .30 caliber machine gun ammunition that's turned the bomb into a home-made anti-personnel weapon. How cool is that! And, how easy would it be to replicate it in 1/48th or 1/32nd scale using some of the photo-etched belted machine gun ammunition that's available to the modeler these days? If you do it, and I really think you should, remember that this was done on land-based SBDs only, and probably only on those at Bougainville. I wouldn't duplicate that on a Navy SBD, ya'll, and definitely not on anything flying off a boat. A big tip of the hat to Jim for this one!  USMC via Sullivan

Until We Meet Again

I'm told that The Tribe (Jenny's, not mine) is en route for a day of recreation and tourism that's going to involve the driving of a great many miles and a day of which I'm to be an integral part. Lord only knows when or where it'll all end, but I might see you again tomorrow, or maybe I won't until later in the week. Either way, be good to your neighbor and we'll talk again soon!

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