Tamiya 1/48 Mitsubishi Ki-46 III Dinah

Model, Text and Photos by: Fernando Rolandelli



Mitsubishi Ki-46-III Hyakushiki Shitei "Dinah", 82nd Flying Regiment

Perhaps one of the most elegant twins to be born during WWII, the Mitsubishi Army Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Plane, Dinah to the Americans, excelled in high-altitude performance, a region where most Japanese aircraft failed, making it an ideal strategic reconnaissance machine. It replaced the Ki-15 Babs in this role and that of forward air command (an outdated concept embraced by the Japanese as well as the French!) in both the IJAAF and the IJNAF as well, which based a small number in Timor island to perform reco missions over Australia, an almost unique case of interoperability in the Japanese armed forces, always overzealous about their independence.

The kit and accesories
Tamiya kit is almost what we have come to expect nowadays from that manufacturer. Let's remember that it was one of the spearheads of the "new generation" Tamiya models, so, if outstanding in some areas, is somewhat lacking in others. In view of the extensive glazing and the very important role played by cockpits in this plane, I decided to add the Eduard PE set, which, if expensive, is quite comprehensive in interior items and provides astoundingly reproduced flap structures. Just to keep well clear of the canopy-riding-too-high problem, a common occurrence, I bought the Squadron vacuformed canopy set. Later, I got carried with it, as we'll see.

Cockpits (all of them!)
Well, the entire fuselage may be considered a huge cockpit space, and so it was treated. You cannot go wrong with the Mikesh book. In the front cockpit, most of the finer details were supplemented or replaced by Eduard or scratch built items. A definite highlight in this area is the complex throttle and pitch control, made from Eduard, kit and scratchbuilt bits. Eduard's trademark PE-plus-film instrument panel was also used, the many coloured dials beefed up by careful painting on the inside of the film (nowadays, Eduard has improved -and lowered costs!- by replacing the film by a common colour printed paper)

Behind the pilot's seat, there are a myriad of cables, some of which are moulded and were supplemented by others made from copper wire, which were carried through the "tunnel" leading to the observer's position. This area shows some ugly mould lines, which were erased. I feared the internal side of the observer's bulkhead would show through it, and added some token tubing, but this proved unnecessary. The observer's position is another problem. To begin with, floor is very narrow and leaves prominent gaps with the fuselage sides. Rear bulkhead is flimsy and very simplified, with the complex rotating canopy system only hinted (this, a common Japanese system for the deployment of the rear defence machine gun, was not operationally used on recon Ki-46s, as they were unarmed, but the system should be operative) This station had a very busy look; lots of gadgets are missing and should be added, part from the Eduard set, part from scratch, specially the numerous piping and electrical wiring and junction boxes. Plastic sheet filled the gaps from the floor to the sidewalls, with holes in lieu of structural detail (which can be seen in the photos).

The rear bulkhead received some piping, and the oxygen regulator was scratch built. The carrying bags in the sidewall received the PE mesh added to paper bodies to give them some volume. The cockpit, including instrument panel, was painted Mitsubishi Interior Green, using an Aeromaster Acrylic paint which is very close to the "colour n° 34" chip in Mikesh book (and deceively similar to US Interior Green!). Electrical boxes were painted Interior Black, levers in various Whites and Yellows and Reds, oxygen regulators Blue, piping in various metallic colours and the map table was given a red Mahogany hue.

They are well thought, with spars protruding the fuselage sides to ensure perfect diedhral. Straightforward and hassle-free as they should be, I complicated them by detaching the flaps. Their complex structure was provided in the Eduard set, and it was too tempting to be left aside. After much gluing, priming and sanding, they look the part. I evaluated cutting the formation lights and replacing them with clear sprue, but, looking at the Cosford example, I saw that the whole light was colored plastic, instead of a colored bulb in clear plastic, so I decided to just paint the area Silver and covering in the approppiate colour using Tamiya Clear Paints (darkening the Clear Green with Blue)

Wheel wells
Well, to begin with, they are split longitudinally, and the seam is unavoidable. To go around it, I covered it with a thin strip of Tamiya masking tape, mimicking a spurious structural detail. More detail came from Eduard and scratch, as well as all the piping. There is a prominent gap where the engine firewall should be, but luckily (or not so!) there is a single photo in Mikesh's book, so I made a gimmickry out of scratch. The undercarriage legs received the usual detailing with Tamiya tape and copper wire. I was anxious about fixing them early in the assembly process, but it prove a blessing: fit is good and strong, and, once masked, they provided a good base to hold the model for painting. The undercarriage door hinges could be replaced by PE items, but I, fearing an excess of fiddliness, dropped this improvement. Most of the wells were painted in Silver plus Aotake.

Engines and cowlings
Perhaps the worst parts in this kit, they sport terribly moulded pushrods. In my opinion, problem is that the pushrods of the rear cylinder "star" come out of the front crankase, which forces to a lot of unsightly plastic. You could very easily replace them with resin Sakaes, ranging from the very good (and expensive) CMK or Aires to the cheap Engines & Things, but, to be fair, the cowling is very tight, and, if properly painted, you can make it go unnoticed. Crankase was painted Light Gray, cylinders Gunmetal drybrushed Silver, the rocker covers Black with Dark Gray pushrods. I added a collector ring and spark plugs from copper wire. The inside of cowls was painted in Silver.

Ah, the canopies! Given the extensive glazing, I was expecting this to be a nightmare, and it proved so! My initial dry-fits revealed that the main canopy rode a little too high, so I invested in the Squadron vac replacement. The observer's hood, moving over a slimmer area of the spine, could be expected to behave better. When I saw the Squadron parts, however, I was tempted to replace the entire kit glazing with them. It should not be an impossible thing, but getting those big, flimsy vac parts to conform perfectly to the fuselage is quite a feat. After several tries using a clear, slow setting epoxy glue, I was forced to retreat. I turned back to the injected pieces. They did not fit quite perfectly either, but at least they could be sanded to shape! Even so, I fitted twice the big nose and the problematic aft section, which was extensively puttied, sanded and polished. The fixed clear section aft of the pilot is notoriously slimmer than the fuselage, maybe to help the moving part sit, to the point of being extremely difficult to persuade to behave properly. Luckily, once the moving part is in place over it, it hides all the untidy mating. For some reason, I left the front fixed section of the observer station to be fitted after painting. I fitted well, but not so well, and if I would build another Dinah I should glue it before painting, like the rest. I had to very carefully fill and sand the already completed model, retouching the paint. The overall "patchy" paintwork helped here. The middle panel of the nose section hinges upward, to give access to the gas fillers (yes, this crazy thing has an unprotected gas tank just ahead of the pilot!); a vac part would allow you to cut it and pose it opened… hopefully! I was contented with leaving a conspicuous gap without filling and making some weathering work, to show it is a moveable part.

What is drabber and duller than a Dark Green Japanese aircraft? A Dark Brown one! Most depictions of Dinahs show them in the usual Army Dark Green over Light Gray-Green scheme, including the example beautifully restored at Cosford, but I found an Ian Baker article, published on SAMI, where he maintains that a red, drabbish Dark Brown was also used on them. Moreover, he put the very one machine I was modeling as an example. This was enough to tempt me. J-aircraft recommends Humbrol 160 (Panzer Red Brown) as the best paint to mimick this shade (which can vary a great deal) out of the bottle, but I mixed it with some Burnt Umber to give it a more chocolatey tone. I did not keep a surplus of this mix, and retouching proved a nightmare. Luckily, the very patchy look I had chosen for the finish helped a bit.
Clear parts were masked (quite a tiresome work) and the model was primed in Light Gray 36440. To give the otherwise uniform surfaces a bit of interest, I made extensive use of preshading, airbrushing a Black-Umber mix both masked and freehand. Certain undersurfaces panels were highlighted with a lightened mix of Gray-Green (I used Aeromaster Acrylics). The darker upper surfaces did not show preshading so well, but I airbrushed them heavily on panel lines, filling the interior in mottle fashion, to give a scruffy and battered look. Then, panels were masked and airbrushed with lightened or whatsoever modified versions of the base color (I proved unable to obtain the same shade again, so this method proved safe!) The Yellow ID markings were painted afterwards; this was probably a mistake, but Aeromaster Acrylics RLM 24 covered OK, showing through the base color just a bit. Due to my lazy nature, I chose not to paint the Hinomarus, but rely on decals (maybe another mistake, but I find making a decal conform properly to a surface as difficult as painting a proper circle!) Propellers were painted Red Brown Primer, which seems the same as the camouflage colour but it is not (one propeller is also a little darker than the other; I swear I painted both of them at the same moment!) Then the model was glossed and passed on to the decal shop.

As I have mentioned, I used the kit's, which were of the Microscale variety with which Tamiya blesses us from while to while. They are thin, very fragile and must be left alone if you want them to survive. If so, they conform satisfactorily to the surfaces. By a strange paradox, both the White and the Yellow (the very sight of that tiger insignia made me shiver…) were very opaque and did not let show the dark camo paint, but the Red was very translucent! Obviously, neither the wing undersurface Hinomarus (on Light Gray-Green) nor the uppersurface (having White backing) gave any problem, but the fuselage ones (Red only) did. I evaluated replacing them by the White bordered surplus ones, even to the expense of accuracy (both the kit instructions and Ian Baker coincide in Red only Hinomarus), but finally opted for spare Superscale roundel from a 1/72 Hien sheet (lotsa them there!) Eventual cracking and missing bits were compensated with some Silver chipping and Revell Insignia Red, which matched to perfection (something must be wrong…)

Well, she (definitely, it is a she…) is as nice and streamlined a flying machine could be. As most kits from some time ago, even those first rank like this, it would make a very easy, relaxed build "out of the box", but enhancing it is quite a job. And a lengthy one as well: it is perhaps the kit which took a longest time I have built, having been in my workbench for over six months.

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