WWII Japan’s Type 4 ‘Ke-Nu’ light tank was created by a need to bolster and multiply the existing amount of light tanks then available and to provide improved fire support to combat engaged infantry divisions of the Imperial Japanese Army. The direct upgrading of the original Type 97 ‘Chi-Ha’ medium tank, which replaced its short low velocity Type 90 57mm anti-tank main gun turret with a newer longer high velocity Type 1 47mm anti-tank main gun turret to both increase the tanks firepower and crew room, left the now obsolete original ‘Chi-Ha’ turrets surplus.
In 1942 plans were set to begin work on retrofitting these spare ‘Chi-Ha’ turrets to the then obsolete chassis of the Type 95 ‘Ha-Go’ light tank, which originally had been armed with a short low velocity Type 4 37mm anti-tank main gun turret. The resulting modernization added almost a ton to the original 7.5ton weight of the vehicle reducing its already slow top speed of 28mph (43km/h) to just 25mph (35km /h). Approximately 100 of this hybrid light tank conversion project designated the Type 4 ‘Ke-Nu’ were completed in 1944, too late to have any impact on the crumbling Japanese interests in the Pacific theater.
Aside from a few Type 4 ‘Ke-Nu’ light tanks that fought in Manchuria (‘Manchuko’) and Korea in 1945 most late model Japanese tanks saw little or no combat. Sizable portions of these tanks were stationed at Okinawa and Kyushu Japan, retained to protect against the expected Allied invasion. A sole single surviving example captured by the Soviets in August 1945, during the battle in Manchuko, now resides at the Kubinka museum in Russia.
has gone and done it again in a small way with this recent WWII Japanese armor light tank release. A hybrid of sorts combining the chassis of the Type 95 'Ha-Go' light tank with the turret of the Type 97 'Chi-Ha' medium tank. Well let's go have a look . . .
Dragon’s recent 72nd scale limited Armor Pro Series release provides us with yet another WWII Japanese battle tank, this one being a hybrid light tank mating both the chassis of their well done Type 95 ‘Ha-Go’ light tank and the turret from the Type 97 ‘Chi-Ha’ medium tank kits. Upon opening the kit box the first thing you’ll notice is the Dragon card loaded with sealed and zip lock bags containing the DS plastic track runs, two PE (photo-etch) frets, a decal sheet and an entire plastic molded parts sprue taped to the back side of the card holding the suspension, turret and accompanying details of the Type 95. Inside the box are the separately sealed bags with the parts for the Type 97 suspension and the all-important turret, a Type 95 upper hull and its corresponding lower hull. No figure(s) are included. Close to a hundred pieces in all.
The parts breakdown:
Sprue A, 33 parts for the Type 95 suspension, turret, details
Sprue A, 49 parts of the Type 97 suspension, turret, details
Part B, Type 95 upper hull
Part C, Type 95 lower hull
Part Z, 2 DS flexible plastic track runs
2 small PE frets holding 7 parts
1 Decal sheet
Injected molded parts:
The injected molded plastic parts have crisp detail and are virtually flash free with just a noticeable amount of clean up needed on some of the parting seam lines. The three largest multi-sided pieces in the kit box, the upper and lower hull and turret, are all very well detailed throughout on the appearance side of the parts due in large part to the slide molds used to create these individual pieces. There are protruding and recessed injector release pin marks on some of the parts but these are relegated to areas that won’t be seen on the completed model.
The main gun (for the Type 97) and rear idler wheels (for the Type 95) also benefit from slide molding too as these parts come furnished with hole(s) at the end of the main gun barrel and around the wheels with the lightening holes (inner & outer wheel pairs), so the modeler won’t have to fiddle with drilling the holes out on these small parts to add a bit more realism.
Altogether, including two PE parts, there are no more than a dozen parts that are involved in completing the assembly of the Type 97 ‘Chi-Ha’ turret. Two separate parts make up the Commander’s hatch but no option is given in the instructions for positioning the hatch in the open position. And although the main gun is nicely detailed, given the small size of the kits turret in this scale you would hardly be able to see the gun or much of anything inside, so leaving the hatch in the open position would add a little eye-catching interest for the viewer.
The upper hull is a newly tooled item designed specifically with a larger diameter turret ring opening to accommodate the Type 97 turret. Together the upper and lower hull parts make up the entire chassis. What I found amazing about these two hull parts is the wealth of crisp molded surface detail, both recessed and protruding, crammed onto such a tiny area of plastic and all realistically rendered to scale . . . ‘Dragon we are not worthy, we are not worthy!’ (‘Ok, we can all stop bowing down and come up for some air’.)
Completing the Type 95 chassis the modeler will attach a jack, stowage bin, headlamp, machine gun, machine gun ball mount face plate, muffler and its accompanying PE exhaust mesh screen and an integrally fine molded pick and shovel. ‘That’s right, 10 parts in total’.
All 20 of the suspension components, including the flexible DS tracks, are faithfully reproduced to match the real counterparts down to the 19 toothed drive sprockets. The track guide wheels and rear idler wheels are molded together in pairs. The road wheels are also paired up but not alongside each other, two wheels are joined together on each opposing suspension crank arm making up one half of a bogie wheel set. The modeler will need to build four of these bogie wheel sets. This helps to both reduce the building time of the suspension and keeps the wheels aligned with each other and on this thumb sized model that’s a big plus in my book!
On the bottom of the third page of the assembly instructions is a note concerning the desired length (130mm) for the pair of flexible plastic DS track runs. I went ahead and measured my examples and found them both to be at the given dimension. As the DS plastic is flexible the modeler could very carefully stretch them just enough to provide for a little track sag.
The detailed assembly instructions are printed on a four-section page fold out color sheet, with each page being the same size as the kit box, and the last page providing the Painting & Markings guide. The needed parts to complete the kit are broken down into 5 separate assembly steps all laid out in the usual Dragon 3D CAD black line drawing format with the part number call outs highlighted in blue for the Type 97 items or black for the Type 95 items with the assembly note symbols in blue. Personally I like this type of format over the color photographed kit diagrams sometimes found in some of their kit releases, but that’s just me. There is only one painting option included for any one of the three separate markings on the decal sheet.
This is a must have for those interested in collecting all WWII Japanese armor. It’s a very well molded and detailed kit, for its rather small size, representing one of the later and somewhat obscure tanks in the Japanese army’s inventory. Although the kits parts count is high for such a small sized tank, half the parts will end up in the spares box, so this appears to be a good starter kit for the beginner or less experienced modeler and a seasoned modeler will have a gem quality museum piece with a little effort. I’m glad Dragon has chosen to present us with a line up of WWII Japanese vehicles and hope this trend will continue and grow.
References used for this review:
New Vanguard 137 ‘Japanese Tanks 1939 – 45’
by Steven J. Zaloga
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