Modeling the Ki-27 ‘Nate’ in 1/72nd Scale
by
Jack Gartner IPMS 30538 (diaphus@aol.com)
IPMS/Pelikan Model Club of the Pinellas Suncoast
St. Petersburg, FL 33704

Historical Info

Essentially obsolete by the time the US went to war against Japan, the Nakajima Ki-27 was the Japanese Army Air Force’s front line fighter in the Chinese theater for many years. The prototype was introduced in 1936 and six Sentai’s fighting against the Chinese were fully equipped with the Ki-27 by September 1938.

The Ki-27 was powered by a 9 cylinder air cooled radial engine (the Nakajima Ha-1a or -1b) with a top speed of 292mph at 11,500ft. It was armed with two 7.7mm fixed machine guns mounted in the cowling, and the ‘b’ model could carry four 50lb. centerline bombs or two 30 gallon "slipper" fuel tanks under the wings. It employed a fixed, spatted undercarriage with tail skid, although in some cases in early operations and in all trainers, the wheel spats were removed. Overall, it was slower than many contemporary aircraft and, like many Japanese fighters, was weakly armed. Despite these shortcomings, it was a highly maneuverable aircraft and was a formidable opponent in China against both Chinese and Russian air forces, and the Ki-27 also enjoyed some successes in the Pacific Theater. By 1943, however, the Ki-27 was increasingly relegated to the role of a trainer aircraft and home defense use. Like many of the remaining aircraft in the Japanese arsenal, at least some Ki-27’s were modified for, and used in, the role of kamikaze.

The Ki-27 originally was given two code names, "Abdul", for the China, Burma and India theaters of operations, and "Nate" for the Pacific theater. After 1943, however, Nate was the only designation retained. There were essentially two production versions, the Ki-27a and the Ki-27b. The most noticeable difference between the two was in the canopies, the ‘a’ had a metal rear canopy section with small side window panels whereas the ‘b’ possessed a completely clear rear section. Additionally, the ‘b’ had a more powerful engine, a modified oil cooler, an external radio antenna, and the ability to carry the fuselage and underwing stores previously mentioned. A combined total of 2,005 production versions was built.

 

The Kit

The actual kit that I purchased and built was the Mania original release of the Ki-27. These originals are rare and hard to come by, however, Hasegawa now owns the mold and Ki-27’s are currently part of their inventory so you shouldn’t have difficulty in locating one. The only real difference between the two kits is that Hasegawa’s release includes considerably fewer decal options: Mania included decals and an instruction sheet for a whopping 15 aircraft, including both a and b models, as well as trainers. This is the fourth old Mania kit that I’ve built and I must say that they were a company far ahead of the standards of their time.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene, and was essentially free of flash. A very nice touch was that included in the kit was that it has parts for all production variants. Undercarriage parts included fully spatted, spats removed (trainer version), and with spats removed and replaced by mudguards (fighter version). It also includes two different types of tires for these different "spatless" versions, thick for the fighter, thin for the trainer - the full spats (which are in halves) come with molded in tires. Also included were 4 canopy parts, the front section with an overly large slot removed for the telescopic gunsight (more on that later), the middle section, and rear sections for both the 27a and 27b versions. The parts were nice and clear, even though the kit must be about 30 years old! The slipper tanks are also included (no bombs though), although they are very basic and could use some work.

The fuselage and wing halves possess some of the finest incised panel lines I have ever seen! They were so fine that I initially mistook them for raised lines! Additionally, the trailing edges of the wing halves are the thinnest I’ve ever found in a 1/72nd scale kit. I believe that if you aren’t careful, you could actually slice yourself on the edge of the halves! These very thin edges are both a blessing and a curse, as I will shortly describe. In contrast to the delicacy accorded to the fuselage and wing parts, the elevators are quite thick with raised panel lines(!), and the undercarriage parts are quite thick as well. It’s as if two different modeler’s constructed the masters for the molding of these parts.

Construction

Interior, Engine and Prop, Cowling and Canopy - Interior construction in the kit was straightforward. The interior is very spartan, consisting of a floor, control column, basic seat, and control panel with some passable dial faces. Unless you vacuform new canopy parts, you can only build a closed canopy version and you won’t be able to see much, so the parts included are adequate.

I did my standard 1/72nd scale interior work. The seat and seat back were slightly deepened with a Dremel tool. Interior surfaces were painted with Xtracolor Japanese Metallic Blue, the seat and control panels in a Model Master British Interior Green that looks quite similar to the green seen on interior fittings in the Air & Space Museum’s Zero. Seat belts were painted on using PollyS Antique White, ModelMaster Leather and Chrome Silver. Dial faces were Flat Black dry brushed with Flat White for indicators (ModelMaster for both), and Testor’s Sky Blue for the turn and bank indicators and the dials were sealed with a drop of Krystal Kleer to simulate the glass.

Photos of the Nate’s engine show the oil cooler assembly to be bright silver, so I sprayed the cylinders, cowling interior and engine mounting plate Model Master Flat Black, and the crankcase housing was painted Model Master Dark Gull Gray, while the push rods was highlighted in Gloss Black. The oil cooler assembly was dry brushed silver.

The prop blades needed only a small amount of cleanup to remove seam lines. The prop hub was attached and then the prop tips were sprayed insignia red. After drying, very thin strips of tape were used to mask off the prop tip warning stripes, and the entire assembly was painted with Model Master Chrome Silver. This color gives a beautiful polished natural metal look to prop blades but BE WARNED: Do NOT mask over it once you’ve sprayed it! Lifting the tape off dulls the shine and it never again looks right without respraying.

Each fuselage half has a rudder half attached. After creating the rudder hinge lines with an X-Acto blade, I sealed the fuselage halves using Tenax liquid plastic cement. The fuselage halves joined beautifully, however, you should take great care in applying liquid cement to the rudder halves. They are so thin the liquid cement can warp or even dissolve them!

After the fuselage halves were joined, I attached engine to its back plate and then fitted the cowling. The Nate cowling has a number of fine sections demarcated by thin raised panel lines. I scribed these in before attaching because in dry fitting the cowling, I found it did not fair smoothly into the fuselage section, which it needs to do. After scribing the cowling, I attached it and then sanded it down until it faired into the fuselage properly. The engine exhausts come as separate pieces. I deepened these with a Dremel tool and attached them. You will need to be careful here as there are no locating pins for their attachment. Use the kit diagrams or other reference material to properly locate the exhausts. These were painted Model Master Metallizer Burnt Iron with a brush after all other painting was completed. The interior back of the exhausts was painted Model Master Flat Black.

Following this, I attached the canopy sections. The telescopic sight is included, but its "stand" is way too overdone. I cut the mount off and used two short pieces of brass rod for the mounting pins (one goes inside the canopy, the other just outside). The sight and its mounts were painted Model Master Flat Black. Before attaching the canopy sections, I dry fit them. The fit of the canopy was good in the front section, but the large cutout for the telescopic sight left a noticeable gap beneath the sight. I touched the sides of the gap and bottom of the sight with some Zip Kicker and then applied a fine drop of superglue and voil , a new window piece under the sight! The middle and rear sections needed some sanding, and the rear section never did fit as perfectly as I would have liked. I then masked all windows using 3M Magic Tape, cutting away the frame portions with a brand new #11 X-Acto blade. The interiors of the canopies were given a brushed application of Future Floor Wax. I then attached the canopies with white glue. After drying, the white glue was rewet with a stiff brush and smoothed down until a perfect seam was produced. After that, a coat of Xtracolor metallic blue was sprayed on as the interior frame color.

Wings, Elevators - The fit of these parts to the fuselage and tail was excellent in both kits. The wings come with the typical two upper panels with the entire lower wing as a single part. The hinge lines for ailerons, flaps and elevators was deepened using the back of a #11 X-Acto blade. I also sanded the elevators down to thin them a bit, and rescribed the appropriate panel lines on each. Remember when joining the elevators and wings to the fuselage that the Nate, like many Japanese a/c, had distinct join lines at the wing and elevator roots which look just like the other panel lines and these should be apparent on the finished model. Check your references for the location of the elevator roots since they are not the same as where the kit parts join the tail. They’ll have to be scribed in.

The only problem I had was that I was a bit overenthusiastic about applying liquid cement to the trailing edges along the wing tips. Being so thin, the wings tips buckled and warped. After waiting a few days to make sure that all of the warping was over, I puttied in the wingtips, sanded and rescribed the affected panel lines. However, the end result is a very nice scale thin trailing edge to the wing.

A cutaway diagram of the Nate shows that on top of the port wing, a gun camera was often attached. It so happened that the diagrams for the plane I was building showed it mounted, so I attached it. This part is included in the kit, although it kind of looks like a ball antenna. The front end needs to be sanded flat and then drilled out. The base also needs to be thinned a bit and dry fit to match the wing surface. After I finished all other painting, I put a drop of flat black in the drill hole and then a drop of Krystal Kleer to simulate a camera lens.

The pitot tube in the kit is inaccurate in shape, and the tube itself is a bit thick, but I used it after I sanded it down to reduce the diameter and give it the proper shape.

Undercarriage - The Nate that I wound up building was fighter version with spats removed and heavier tires. Instead of spats, this particular aircraft had mudguards. The mudguards are way too thick on the kit parts, as are the support frames for the wheel axles. I thinned them with a Dremel tool. Probably the worst aspect of the whole kit, the sockets in the wing undersides for the wheel assemblies are very shallow, so I drilled holes in the tops of the wheel assemblies and inserted brass wire, and then fitted and superglued the assemblies into holes drilled in the sockets. The fit of the sockets to the tops of the wheel assemblies was way off and I had to repeatedly putty and smooth these areas to produce smooth joins. The tires were painted with AeroMaster Tire Black, and ModelMaster Silver for the hubs. After attaching to the axles, a brace piece of brass wire was attached from axle tip to mudguard (the kit pieces were too short).

Decaling and Painting - As I said, Mania included markings for 15 different aircraft in ‘a’, ’b’ and trainer versions. All have a basic overall color of Japanese Army Light Gray. I used Floquil Japanese Army Light Gray for this basic color. The 15 variants all differed based on cowling colors and an assortment of wing and fuselage stripes, as well as aircraft code numbers.

Early on, I selected the most colorful of the lot, in keeping with my preference for colorfully decorated aircraft. It was a Ki-27a with mudguard undercarriage and thick tires flown by Lt. Col. Toshio Kato, CO of the 1st Hiko Sentai at Kagamigahara in June 1939. It features a cowling with two color bands, yellow followed by red, and a blue rudder. In addition, it has double diagonal stripes across the wings, and 3 fuselage bands arranged in a \ | / pattern, all in red. All of these markings were hand painted (although the fuselage bands were supplied as decals. After painting, I applied small drops of red (port top and bottom wingtip), blue (starboard top and bottom wingtip) and silver paint (top of fuselage in front of tail) and then placed a small drop of superglue over each to simulate navigation lights.

The kit was a pretty straightforward build and took about 15 hours to complete. It’s another example of the excellent craftsmanship put into Mania kits, and produces a very nice looking Nate.

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