legend and history
A legend in model aircraft lore is the story of Tony, George and Jack Revell, a trio of 1/32 Imperial Japanese fighters: “Tony”, the Kawasaki Ki-61-I Kai Hein (Swallow), “Jack”, the Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Thunderbolt), and “George”, the Kawanishi N1K1-J Shiden (Violet Lightning). Revell created and released these for the Japanese market via their Revell-Japan subsidiary in the early 1970's. After several production runs the trio’s molds were shipped ( by ship ) to another Revell subsidiary. The ship sank, the molds lost at sea! We can only hope they are enjoying Model Valhalla with the Aurora molds bought by Monogram and destroyed in a train wreck.
Revell also issued two other 1/32 World War Two Japanese fighters, a Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero, and a Nakajimi Ki-43 Hayabusha "Oscar". Neither is considered remarkable.
Beautiful and graceful, the Ki-61 (Japanese Army designation "Army Type 3 Fighter") was designed for air superiority by Takeo Doi as one of two designs by Kawasaki to be built around the Daimler-Benz DB 601A, manufactured under licenced by Kawasaki as the Ha-40. Unlike the Luftwaffe DB 601A, the Ha-40 was optimized for low to medium altitudes. Flown in comparisons with a Ki-43, a pre-production Ki-44, a captured Soviet LaGG-3, a Bf 109E-3 and a captured American P-40E, the Hein proved to be the fastest, and outmaneuvred all except the Ki-43. Ki-61 had a self-sealing fuel tank, armored windshield and armor plate behind the pilot. Kawasaki built 3,159 Ki-61 aircraft. Of these, only a few partial airframes survive today, and a single complete one at Chiran Peace Museum.
The new Ki-61 Hien fighter entered combat for first time in spring 1943 over New Guinea with a special training unit, the 23rd Chutai. The only mass-produced in-line Japanese fighter, the Allies believed it to be of German or Italian origin; the Italian-like appearance led to its code name of "Tony". Lightly-armed (compared to Western fighters), Tony packed a pair of 12.7 mm caliber Ho-103 machine guns staggered just above and behind the engine, and a 7.7 mm caliber Type 89 machine guns in each wing. While these had a high rate of fire, they had a limited ammunition supply. Later Kai (“modified” or “version”) were better armed with a quartet of Ho-103, or a pair of 20 mm Ho-5 cannon (license-built German Mauser MG 151/20.)
Pilots of obsolescent early Allied fighters did not welcome the appearance of a fast, nimble fighter capable of diving fast (thus negating the usual Allied fighter pilot’s best escape tactic) and able to absorb some battle damage. Though effective against those types, Tony brought early-war performance to skies increasingly haunted by superior mid-war Allied fighters. Japan’s Swallow was not a sitting duck, but it had a tough time–when it could fly. The sophisticated Ha-40 engine proved to be an unreliable powerplant. Many grounded Heins were ground into the ground by bombing and strafing. A more powerful engine, the DB-605 based Ha-140 engine, improved performance but not reliability. In the end, Heins flew against B-29 raids because they were one of a few Japanese fighters capable of reaching the Superfortess’. Others were consumed in Kamikaze attacks.
found in the box
Sixty-eight parts of silver styrene, 8 clear parts and a decal sheet make up this model. Surface detail is engraved with subtle rivet and fastener details, and control surface fabric texture. The kit scores high on profile accuracy except for the contour and length of the nose--perhaps they measured from the Kai-II instead?
My test-fitting of the fuselage, and fuselage-wing junctions indicate that one should be armed with copious amounts of gap-filling superglue and/or putty.
Many mold marks, ejection pin marks and flaws will bedevil you. As will flash on most parts. There is a great deal of latitude for detailing the interior. This kit was a transition between the model as a toy, and as a historical miniature.
The landing gear does not retract like earlier toy-models and the wheel wells have basic detail. Photos of prototype landing gear detail were hard to find (see links below) but the struts appear accurate, though detail-shy. The gear doors have good detailing on their insides, though marred by mold marks. The kit begs for extra detailing:
The Ho-103 machine guns are basic.
You build the cockpit with a floor featuring horrible molded rudder pedals, basic representation of an instrument panel, bulkhead, seat, control stick and gunsight. Inside the fuselage halves are shallow molded sidewall details. Not up to today’s standards, but a good start. My prized Monogram Close-Up 14: Japanese Cockpit Interiors, Part 1, shows the Tony cockpit full of bulky boxes and stalky levers.
The canopy framing is over-sized. It suffers distortion and blemishes. Praiseworthy, the hood appears to have the slight bulge ignored by many recent offerings. Unfortunately, there is no choice of mounting it open. The other clear parts are lenses for the gunsight and navigation lights.
Seven parts build the Ha-40, including exhaust pipes. For what one can see with the cowl off, it is reasonably detailed. The engine mounts are integral to the fuselage moldings. The cowling panel interiors are devoid of detail. So is the clumsy radiator. The propellers are individually molded. Each is cursed with a slight ejection pin mark. They have pins to properly set their pitch. The spinner prop openings are too big.
A pilot figure is included but it is just terrible.
Though the decals are decades old and yellowed, they appear well printed but not thin. Some researchers question the Hinomaru color. You have five marking schemes to choose from including the famous mount of Maj. Teruhiko Kobayashi, commander of the 244 Sentai. These include his ten B-29 and two F6F kills. However, the red horizontal fuselage stripes should be blue, as should be the wing command stripes that are neither provided nor shown. Other choices are two green on aluminum “ribbon” or “wave mirror” Heins, 68th and 105th Sentais, and a pair of overall green aircraft, 19th and 56th Sentai.
Acclaimed as one of old Revell's best efforts, you can build an impressive Hein. The size of the model and accessibility to the engine afford immense potential for super-detailing. I built this bird when it first came out and fondly remember it. Be warned, it is a rare kit and will probably be expensive, though the new 1/32 Heins may impact this.
For reviews of Revell's other legendary 1/32 Imperial Japanese fighters mentioned above, please see:
1/32 J2M3 Raiden "Jack"
1/32 N1K1-Ja Shiden 11 "George"