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FineMolds 1/48 A5M4 "Claude"


The Mitsubishi A5M was the world's first monoplane shipboard fighter to enter service and the direct predecessor of the famous Mitsubishi A6M "Zero". In 1934, the Imperial Japanese Navy prepared a specification for an advanced fighter, requiring a maximum speed of 220 mph at 9,840 ft and able to climb to 16,400 ft in 6.5 minutes. This specification produced designs from both Mitsubishi and Nakajima.

Mitsubishi assigned the task of designing the new fighter to a team led by Jiro Horikoshi (original creator of the similar but unsuccessful Mitsubishi 1MF10, and later responsible for the famous A6M Zero). The resulting design, designated Ka-14 by Mitsubishi, was an all-metal low-wing fighter, with a thin elliptical inverted gull wing and a fixed undercarriage, which was chosen as the increase in performance (estimated as 10% in drag, but only a mere 3% increase in maximum speed) arising from use of a retractable undercarriage was not felt to justify the extra weight). The first prototype, powered by a 600 hp Nakajima Kotobuki 5 radial engine, flew on 4 February 1935. The aircraft far exceeded the requirements of the specification, with a maximum speed of 279 mph being reached. The second prototype was fitted with a revised, straight wing, and after various changes to maximize maneuverability and reduce drag, was ordered into production as the A5M.

The aircraft entered service in early 1937, and soon saw action in aerial battles at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, including air-to-air battles with the Republic of China Air Force's Boeing P-26C Model 281 "Peashooters" in the world's first aerial dog fighting and kills between monoplane fighters built of mostly metal.

Chinese Nationalist pilots, primarily flying the Curtiss Hawk III, fought against the Japanese, but the A5M was the better of almost every fighter aircraft it encountered. Though armed with only a pair of 7.7 mm machine-guns, the new fighter proved effective and damage-tolerant, with excellent maneuverability and robust construction. Later on A5M's also provided much-needed escorts for the then modern but vulnerable Mitsubishi G3M bombers.

The Mitsubishi team continued to improve the A5M, working through versions until the final A5M4, which carried an external underside drop tank to provide fuel for extended range.

The Kit

The FineMolds kit comes in a medium sized tray type top open box of thin card stock with nice artwork on the front. Inside the box one finds the three main sprues in one sealed bag and the decals and clear parts in another. The parts are molded in a light olive or tan color, are crisply molded and essentially flash free. Mold separation lines are light and should be easy to clean up. The surface finish is variable almost glossy on most of the parts but some of the panels on the wings have more of a matte finish. Not sure if this was done to provide some variation when doing the natural metal finish or what. I did not find any surface defects and ejector pin marks have been kept out of visible areas. Surface detail consists of fine recessed panel lines and a few really small recessed rivets and fasteners. They are so small they may well disappear when painted. There are raised surface details where applicable.

The control surfaces are molded in the neutral position except for the rudder which is a separate piece but looks as if it is meant to be mounted in the neutral position as well. The ailerons are molded to the top wing surface so as to provide a nice thin trailing edge and there are gaps at the end to make them appear as a separate pieces. The cockpit is nicely detailed, the top surface of the wing is the cockpit floor to which everything mounts including the flight controls, fore and aft bulkheads and side panels with the structure to which other details added. The instrument panel has raised bezels with internal detail and a decal overlay is provided. No seat restraints are provided. Only a windscreen is provided so everything in the cockpit will be seen through the opening. A pilot is supplied with the kit, reasonably detailed for the scale, I didn't measure him but he looks a bit small for the scale.

The engine is a quite complete assembly made up of 10 parts with separate push rod assemblies, intake and exhaust manifolds and separate cowl flap ring. The propeller is a one piece molding. The wings have a one piece top and bottom. There are holes that need to be opened for the drop tank if used. The flaps are separate and can be mounted up or down. The wheels are designed with slots so they can be installed in the wheel spats after assembly and painting. The wheels are one piece moldings and are not weighted. OK, lets look at the sprues.

The pilot had become detached during shipping.

In this photo you can see the variation in the finish on the upper wing with some panels having a glossy finish and other a matte finish.

The single clear part is thin and clear with well defined frame lines in recessed form.

The decals are thin, in register and have a matte finish. Excess film has been kept to a minimum except around the large letters. The sheet provides markings for three aircraft, all in a natural metal finish, one from China in 1937 and two from Japan, one in 1939 and one in 1941.
I have no experience with decals from FineMolds so can't comment on their quality.

The instructions are map style, folded in quarters making eight panels. Most of the verbiage is in Japanese but there are enough English notations that it shouldn't be an issue as the diagrams are all quite clear. The front page I assume is history of the type ( I don't read Japanese). The instructions include a parts map, icon chart and the usual safety warnings. The assembly is divided into 18 steps and color call outs are provided along the way with color names and Mr. Color numbers. There are two panels with painting and marking instructions for the three aircraft on the decal sheet. There is also a color reference chart located there but I can't read any of it except the generic color names.

My 2¢

This kit looks to be very nicely detailed and fills the void for early war Japanese aircraft. Some of the early FineMold kits where not all that great for fit but their newer kits get better reviews. Still a good idea to treat it as a limited run kit and test fit before applying glue.

As always, thanks for looking !

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Italeri Short Stirling 1/72

Italeri Short Stirling 1/72

While not a really new kit, due to distributor issues this one took a long time to show up from US sources.



The Short Stirling has the distinction of being the first four engine bomber to be introduced into service with the Royal Air Force.

The Stirling was designed during the late 1930s by Short Brothers to conform with the requirements laid out in Air Ministry Specification B.12/36. Prior to this, the RAF had been primarily interested in developing increasingly capable twin engine bombers but had been persuaded to investigate a prospective four engine bomber as a result of promising foreign developments in the field. Out of the submissions made to the specification, Supermarine proposed the Type 317 which was viewed as the favorite, while Short's submission, named the S.29, was selected as an alternative. When the preferred Type 317 had to be abandoned, the S.29, which later received the name Stirling, proceeded to production.

During early 1941, the Stirling entered squadron service. During its use as a bomber, pilots praised the type for its ability to out turn enemy night fighters and its favorable handling characteristics, while the altitude ceiling was often a subject of criticism. The Stirling had a relatively brief operational career as a bomber before being relegated to second line duties from late 1943. This was due to the increasing availability of the more capable Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster, which took over the strategic bombing of Germany. Decisions by the Air Ministry on certain performance requirements, such as to restrict the wingspan of the aircraft to 100 feet, had played a role in limiting the Stirling's performance, these restrictive demands had not been placed upon the Halifax and Lancaster bombers once they were converted from two to four engine bombers.

During its later service, the Stirling was used for mining German ports, new and converted aircraft also flew as glider tugs and supply aircraft during the Allied invasion of Europe during 1944–1945. In the aftermath of the Second World War the type was rapidly withdrawn from RAF service, having been replaced in the transport role by the Avro York, a derivative of the Lancaster that had previously displaced it from the bomber role. A handful of ex-military Stirlings were rebuilt for the civil market.

The Stirling used the Sunderland's 114 ft wing and it had to be reduced to less than 100 ft, the same limit as that imposed on the P.13/36 designs (Handley Page Halifax and Avro Manchester). In order to get the needed lift from a shorter span and excess weight, the redesigned wing was thickened and reshaped. It is often said that the wingspan was limited to 100 ft so the aircraft would fit into existing hangars but the maximum hangar opening at the time was 112 ft and the specification required outdoor servicing. The wingspan limitation has been alleged to have actually been enforced as a method of restricting the designer into keeping the overall weight down.

The Kit:

The Italeri kit comes in large size box that seems to be in vogue these days, while it's sized to fit the largest sprue the remaining sprues are considerably smaller so there ends up being a lot of empty space in the box. The box is a top open tray type box of thin card stock so not overly sturdy with nice artwork on the front. Inside the box one finds three separate bags with the main sprues and one small one with the clear parts. The largest sprue is bagged by itself, the other two bags have two sprues in each, one has the two sprues with the wing halves and the other has two identical sprues. There is also a small fret of photo etch in a plastic sleeve.

The kit is molded in a light gray color. The parts for the most part are crisply molded with some light flash here and there and mold separation lines are light. The surface detail consists of recessed panel lines and rivets. The panel lines are oversized for the scale, better than the Sunderland from Italeri but still a bit deep. The rivets on the other hand could have been left off altogether as they are way too big and not uniform, some on curved surfaces are more tear drop in shape. They are also not uniform across the surface with some being sharply molded and others rather soft. Hopefully a couple heavy coats of primer will help subdue them. I found several surface defects on the fuselage halves, there are sink marks on the sides where alternative window openings are located but these get cut open later and a couple on the top and bottom where alignment hole structure is molded on the inside. The rivets will make filling these spots an issue. The rivets on the wings seemed more uniform and I found no surface defects on them. The fuselage has internal structure molded in and although there are some ejector pin marks it appears that most are located where they won't be seen.

The control surfaces with the exception of the flaps are all molded separately. The cockpit area is very nicely detailed back as far as the astro dome on the top although not much will be seen of the last two sections. The small photo etch fret supplies an instrument panel which is layered over a decal, seat restraints, some levers for the throttle quadrant and a couple other details. The photo etch is pretty thick so annealing may be needed especially on the seat restraints. The rear portion of the fuselage is also well detailed again with some photo etch parts and there is an option to leave the crew door open so some of it can be seen if desired. The bomb bay features structural detail and bombs are supplied to fill it. The bomb doors are separate which is great if you want them open but the six full length doors look like they might be problematic getting them all in place if you want them closed. A single molded closed piece would have made life easier. There are also bombs supplied for the bomb cells in the wings and again the bomb doors are supplied separately but these look to be easier to position closed. The turrets are well detailed for the scale and it appears that the front and upper turrets must be installed when closing the fuselage. The rear turret looks like it can be installed later.

The landing gear assemblies are quite complete and complex looking and there is extra structure that gets installed in the gear bays. The tires are molded in halves and are weighted but look way too flat to me. The engines are nothing to write home about but are molded with two banks of cylinders and will probably look OK once painted and installed. The propellers are one piece moldings. There is a photo etch part for the cowl supports. no effort has been made to model the exhaust connections to the collector ring. OK enough verbiage lets look at the sprues.

A look at the interior structure molding.

There are two of the following sprue. At the top right are half of the six bomb bay doors that will need to fitted into place if you want the bomb bay doors closed.

The clear parts are thin enough and the frame lines are well defined but the optical clarity is not all that great and the turrets have a lot of optical distortion. Not uncommon for kits in this scale many of the small windows have bubbles or fish eyes in them.

This photo etch fret is supplied with the kit and includes a lot of detail for use in the cockpit, turrets, rear fuselage and engines. It is quite thick compared to most PE so annealing may be helpful at least on the seat restraints and any parts that need to be folded.

The decals are thin, glossy and in register. They are printed by Cartograph so they should behave with no issues. The sheet provides marking for six aircraft, two from #15 Squadron in 1941, two from #7 Squadron in 1941 and two from #7 squadron 1942, one before being shot down and one after crash landing and recovered and remarked by the Germans. A fair amount of stencils are supplied, all of which are readable with magnification and there are even stencils for the bombs.

The instructions are a 20 page booklet, A4 size. The cover page has a brief history in six languages and the the usual safety warnings, the next two pages have a parts map and a paint chart with generic names, FS numbers and Italeri paint numbers. The next 14 pages are the assembly steps with 3D cad type drawings in 30 steps. The last three pages are the painting and marking diagrams which are in color.

Eduard, as usual, has developed a PE set, not sure how useful it will be but I got it anyway. I have issues painting instrument panels in 1/32 so no way am I'm going to try it in 1/72. How much of the rest of it ends up being used will remain to be seen.

My 2¢ worth:

This is a really nicely detailed kit and certainly way nicer than the aging Airfix kit. I personally don't care for the surface detail, the panel line trenches could be toned down and the rivets eliminated altogether as far as I'm concerned. That said I had similar thoughts about their Sunderland kit but once painted it wasn't all that noticeable. Hopefully a couple coats of primer will tone it down some. If the kit builds up as well as their Sunderland kit it should be a relatively easy build except for its complexity.

Thanks for looking !

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MiniArt Anti-Tank Obstacles in 1/35 scale

MiniArt Anti-Tank Obstacles in 1/35 scale

Anti-Tank obstacles of this type were known as Czech Hedgehogs.
In the past Tamiya and Italeri did some,but I think it's justified that MiniArt comes with a new offering.

MiniArt comes with the same size box,that they also use for their figure and other accessoires kits.

IMG 4822

Instructions as usual on the back side of the box.
Recommended paints call for Red Brown,Dark Grey and White. (what I ignored)

IMG 4823

You get 12 x sprue Ba1,each sprue can be made into 1 Anti-Tank obstacle.
Oddly enough I found 13 sprues in the box.

IMG 4824

One thing I wasn't pleased with however;you will have to use some scalpel or knive,
files and sandpaper...because the connection points between the beams are just too small! :pinch:

IMG 4825

Painted and weathered it turned out like this:

IMG 4826

Come to think about it,you can always use the Czech Hedgehogs to make the Culin Hedgerow Cutter,
found on US tanks,as the US Army did just that with them as they found them on the Normandy beaches. :cheer:

Got this kit from the local hobby shop for 14,30 Euro,but also saw it from a trader at a show for just 11,50 Euro.


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1/32 ICM Polikarpov I-153


In 1937, the Polikarpov design bureau carried out studies to improve on the performance of its I-15 and I-15bis biplane fighters without sacrificing maneuverability, as Soviet tactical doctrine was based on a mix of high performance monoplane fighters (met by the Polikarpov I-16) and agile biplanes. Early combat experience from the Spanish Civil War had shown that the I-16 had problems dealing with the Fiat CR.32 biplanes used by the Italian forces supporting the Nationalists, which suggested a need to continue the use of biplane fighters, and as a result, Polikarpov's proposals were accepted, and his design bureau was instructed to design a new biplane fighter. Polikarpov assigned the task to the design team led by Aleksei Ya Shcherbakov, who was assisted by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich (who would later set up the MiG design bureau).

The new fighter (designated I-15ter by the design bureau and I-153 by the Soviet Air Forces (VVS)) was based closely on the design of the I-15bis, with a stronger structure, but was fitted with a manually retractable undercarriage to reduce drag. It reverted to the "gulled" upper wing of the original I-15 but used the Clark YH aerofoil of the I-15bis. The four 7.62 mm PV-1 machine guns of the I-15bis were replaced by four ShKAS machine guns. While still rifle-caliber weapons, these fired much faster than the PV-1s, (1,800 rounds per minute rather than 750 rounds per minute) giving a much greater weight of fire. The new fighter was to be powered by a Shvetsov M-62 an improved derivative of the Shvetsov M-25 that powered the I-15 and I-15bis with twin superchargers.

The aircraft was of mixed metal and wood construction, with the fuselage structure being based on chromium-molybdenum steel with duralumin skinning on the forward fuselage, and fabric covering on the fuselage aft of the front of the cockpit. The aircraft's wings were made of fabric covered wood, while the tail surfaces were of fabric covered duralumin. The aircraft was fitted with a tailwheel undercarriage, with the main wheels retracting rearwards, rotating through 90 degrees to lie flat in the wing roots, being actuated by cables operated by a pilot-driven hand wheel. The solid rubber tailwheel did not retract, but moved in conjunction with the rudder.

The I-153 first saw combat in 1939 during the Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkin Gol in Mongolia. The Japanese Army Air Forces' Type 97 Fighter (Nakajima Ki-27) Nate proved a formidable opponent for the I-15bis and I-16, but was more evenly matched with the I-153, which retained agility inherent to biplanes while featuring improved performance. While the overall I-153 performance was satisfactory, some significant problems were revealed. Most troublesome was the absence of a firewall between the fuel tank mounted in front of the cockpit and the pilot. Combined with strong draft coming in through the wheel wells, fuel tank fires invariably resulted in rapid engulfment of the cockpit and severe burns to the pilot. In addition, the M-62 engine suffered from a service life of only 60–80 hours due to failures of the two-speed supercharger.

The kit:

The ICM kit comes in a medium sized box, fit for the scale and size of the kit. The box features a thin top which when removed reveals a hinge top box made from thin corrugated card board. Inside the box one finds a large resealable cellophane bag containing three sprues and inside that a smaller bag with the clear parts. The kit is molded in a light gray color and the parts have a smooth matte finish. The parts are virtually flash free with only a hint being found here and there. Mold parting lines are moderate showing reasonably good mold alignment. The aircraft is almost entirely fabric covered and the fabric detail has been handled quite nicely. What little is metal covered features recessed panel lines and fastener detail. There is some raised detail where applicable. I found no surface defects on my kit and ejector pin marks have been kept to places not easily seen when completed.

The cockpit is reasonably well detailed as the actual aircraft was rather simple. The cockpit consists of a two part seat, stick and rudder pedals. a frame work is built up with additional parts that mount to it including the instrument panel. This assembly then mounts to the floor surrounding the seat. The fuselage side walls have a little structural detail molded on and a couple additional items are added to that. While more detail could be added, not much will be seen through the small cockpit opening. The control panel has both raised and recessed detail and a decal is supplied for the instrument faces.

The lower wings are molded with one piece bottom and separate tops and the top wing has a single piece top and separate bottoms. The control surfaces are all molded separately. The engine assembly looks quite nice with a separate push rod casting for the front and intake manifold on the rear side needing only some wiring to make it complete however very little of it will be seen unless you leave the cowling side pieces off. The landing gear wheels are in halves and not weighted. The gear doors have some nice structural detail molded on the inside.

The kit comes with an assortment of bombs and rockets to mount on the wings although not all of the marking options could carry them. Being a biplane the kit does need rigging and the instructions have some vague diagrams as to where it goes but more detail would be helpful. OK, lets take a look at the parts.

The first sprue contains the fuselage halves, lower wing parts, wheel halves, wing struts, cowling side and top panels, gear doors, cockpit floor, propeller and a couple of other parts.

The next sprue has the upper wing halves, control surfaces, engine and front and rear cowling and a few other misc parts.

And the last gray sprue contains everything else, weaponry, cockpit frame parts, engine parts, landing gear parts and a host of details.

Some of the detail is quite petite like the internal cockpit framing and care will be required when freeing it from the sprues.

The clear parts consist of the windscreen, two inspection port covers that allow the pilot to see if the gear is up in the wheel wells, two wing tip and one rudder navigation light lenses. The windscreen is thin, quite clear and free of distortion.

The decals are thin, glossy and are in register. Not easy to tell how opaque they are especially the white numbers. I have had mixed luck with ICM decals and the last ones I used seemed impervious to Microsol. The sheet contains markings for four aircraft, One all aluminum color, one with green squiggles over aluminum, one green over light blue and one green and black over light blue.

The instructions are printed on glossy paper in a 16 page A4 size booklet stapled at the spine. The cover has a brief history in Russian and English, a color chart with Model Master and generic color names and an icon chart, pages 2 and 3 are a parts map, pages 4 through 13 are the assembly drawings in isometric style with a few halftone drawings, page 14 has a halftone drawing of the completed model and a rudimentary rigging diagram. The last two pages have painting and marking instructions in color.

Some builders have noted that the landing gear parts are a bit fiddly to assemble and appear the be a bit weak to support the model long term. Aerocraft Models has come to the rescue with a set of replacement struts in a one piece lost wax brass casting that are drop in replacements and feature superior strength. The parts are quite nicely detailed and require little to no clean up. I have not acquired them yet but they are on my list. The parts can be seen here

My 2¢:

This is only ICM's third foray into 1/32 scale, the first being an I-16 and the second a Bucker Bu 131D. ICM has made great strides in their quality in all there kits over the past couple of years to the point it is difficult to consider them as a limited run kit manufacturer. One still needs to build them as you would a limited run kit doing a lot of test fitting but if you haven't built one of their newer kits you should give one a try, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. The kit is getting good reviews elsewhere and seems to go together with few difficulties.

As always, thanks for looking !

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Ki-84 by Kas Labecki

I thought this build is worthy of front page news. 

Build by Hubert "Dewertus" Labecki's young son Jas. Already an award winning modeler I hope he'll be a MA Master one day (soon I'm sure). 

Congratulations young man! 

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