AML No. 72 004, Mitsubishi A6M2-K Zero Two-Seat Trainer
Review on the Sprue
by Mike Quan, IPMS #3925

Not ordered by the Imperial Japanese Navy until the end of 1942, the two-seat trainer version of the Zero first flew in November of 1943, and was intended to expedite the transition of novice pilots to the handling characteristics of Japan's front-line, carrier-based fighter. The 273 copies produced spent their service lives not only in the training role, but as target tugs for gunnery practice, and some were even expended in Kamikaze attacks near Okinawa. The rearrangement of certain equipment and the deletion of the 20-mm wing guns easily balanced the addition of a second cockpit. The canopy was moved further aft on the fuselage, leaving the forward, or student, cockpit exposed. For the target-towing role, canisters underneath the wings carried the folded sleeves aloft until released on a tether line controlled by an internal winch.
 The latest release from AML of Czechoslovakia carries on their tradition of seventy-second scale kits of (relatively) obscure, single-engined, multi-place aircraft; former releases being the Heinkel He-46, B5M1 Mabel, and North American O-47 Observer. Being from the generation of modeler brought up on Airfix bagged kits of the past, I recall being rather surprised when the existence of a two-seat, trainer variant of the Zero was revealed to the entire modeling world and upset the old paradigm. As this event, (near as I can recall), happened over twenty years ago, it is then surprising that it has taken so long for a "mainstream" kit to appear in the 'divine scale.' The only previous kit offering of a two seat Zero was by Gartex, in conjunction with Hasegawa. As one of the initial resin/plastic conversions on the market, it's original retail of anywhere from $65 to $100 shocked the mainstream modeler not only in the pocketbook, but with the fidelity of detail the kit offered. Gartex's very limited release was understandably scarce on this side of the Pacific, and those who did not get a chance to add this widely produced Zero variation, (273 examples produced), will welcome AML's new release.
The A6M2-K (K for trainer), kit follows AML's usual, multi-media approach. One sprue of sixty, low pressure injected parts in a medium gray, soft plastic, is complemented by a 2.00" x 2.75" etched brass fret and two vac-form canopies, Propagteam decals and a small celluloid sheet of instrument panel dials. Not mentioned at all in the instructions or parts list are four resin parts: the horizontal stabilizers, exhaust stacks and the tow-cable winch. These parts duplicate parts already provided on the gray plastic sprue, but appear to be of a superior quality and fidelity. It would appear to be a last minute substitution on AML's part, and a welcome one it is. This is all in all, a fairly complete model. The interior is better detailed than a current, state-of-the-art Hasegawa single-engined fighter, featuring fuselage skin ribbing and longerons, interior consoles, throttle quadrants, rudder pedals and various boxes. This detail is welcome as the front cockpit of a trainer Zero has no hood, and invites scrutinizing! The etched brass fret consists of sixty-seven individual parts, many of which decorate the cockpit area, but also provide for the wheel well interior, oleo scissors, and two external strakes on the rear fuselage intended to impart good spin recovery characteristics. I find that the soft gray plastic AML uses is very easy to carve and sand, and the exterior surface detail is finely engraved, although the engine is a little "blurred" for my tastes. An Engine & Things replacement Sakae 12 is in order here! I liked the one-piece, three-bladed prop, which saves the trouble of alignment when separate blades are molded. However, the cowling is molded in upper and lower halves, which presents a difficult problem of seam filling inside the cowling. The instructions are fairly comprehensive and are easy to follow, save for the illustration in step 15 of the tow-cable winch drawn in front of the engine cowling be assured that the correct location is in the aft cockpit as correctly shown in step 2. Optional rear fuselage tail cones, (standard, or open with target tow bracing), as well as a belly drop tank, are included in the kit. The decal sheet provides markings for an overall gray example from the Konoike N.A.G., 1944, and a green over gray example from the Genzan Kokutai in March 1945. The decals appear to be very opaque and provide fuselage ID stencils, flap-warning outlines, yellow wing leading edge ID bands, and two sets of hinomarus. My previous experience with Propagteam decals tells me to use Superscale Decal Film to overcoat these very fragile decals before committing them to water to prevent breakup. In summary, for the asking price, this kit is a very welcome addition to the family of 'divine scale' Zeros, and is a great value.
 Retail Price: $18.98
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