by: Russ Amott [ ]
The Ki-109 heavy fighter was an extension of the Ki-67 twin engine heavy bomber built by Mitsubishi industries. It was initially designed to be fast, highly mauverable, and unlike most other Japanese aircraft of the time, able to sustain heavy damage and also provided with good defensive armament.
In 1943, new emphasis was put on fighters that could engage US bombers such as the B-17 and B-24 and the forthcoming B-29. There was a need for good speed, high altitude performance and the ability to hit the bombers while remaining outside the range of the bomber's heavy defensive armament. As the Ki-67 had just entered production and appeared a suitable canditate for modification, it was chosen as a new bomber interceptor. Initially the Ki-109 was to be built as a two plane team-a hunter, equipped with radar and a 400mm searchlight, and a killer, armed wtih two obliquely firing 37mm cannon, but the project was too complex. Japanese army Major Sakomoto suggested that a simpler modification be made, mounting a 75mm type 88 antiaircraft cannon in the nose. This would allow the aircraft to fire well beyond the range of the bombers guns, and should be able to destroy a bomber with a single hit. The idea was accepted and two test aircraft were constructed. Performance was favorable enough for the design to be put into production and 20 Ki-109 heavy fighters were built and assigned to the 107th Sentai in the spring of 1945. However, by that time the B-29s were primarily doing night bombing missions, and those daylight missions that were flown had accompanying fighter escort. As a result the Ki-109 never saw action in it's intended role. Some are believed to have been expended in Kamikaze attacks but I have seen photos of at least one being examined intact by US soldiers after the war.
Notable features of the Ki-109 are the use of the Mitsubishi Ha-104 radial engine rated at 1900 hp, providing a top speed of 550kmh (342mph) at 6,000m (19,500 ft), and a maximum range of 2,200 km (1,367 mi). The prototypes retained the glass side blisters and turret of the Ki-67 but in production models these were faired over with the only defensive armament being the tail mounted 12.7mm mg. 12 rounds of 75mm ammuntion were carried, and reloading was performed by the co-pilot.
Hasegawa has re-released the Ki-109 in 1/72 scale as a limited edition kit with features to build it in prototype or production model mode.
The kit comes in the standard top opening box with artwork depicting a Ki-109 production model in flight. There is no imaginary presentation of flaming B-29s falling from the sky, making this a simple but honest representation.
The parts are all packaged together in a single bag, not my favorite method as it often leaves scratches on the surface, but in this case there was no apparent damage.
All parts are very well molded with recessed panel lines. You get the complete Ki-67 in the box, with separately bagged resin parts to make the modifications for the Ki-109. The plastic is in gray styrene with clear parts and decals also separately bagged (inside the big one). The kit features a fairly well detailed cockpit and flight deck area, most of which won't be visible after construction, rather well detailed engines for the scale, weighted two part wheels, and the 75mm cannon is a white metal part.
The parts layout is as follows:
"A" sprue is the fuselage halves, engine nacelles and bomb bay doors and interior frame.
"B" sprue is the upper and lower wing halves.
"C" sprue is the cockpit and rear gunner's position. The instructions show what appears to be the catwalk over the bomb bay as cut away in the sprue map, but in place for construction. I will leave it as is. Detail looks decent for the scale, but some may prefer more. No seatbelts are provided in any form.
"D" sprue X2, engines, propellor, landing gear, wheels and horizontal tail sections.
"J" sprue, clear parts.
"K" sprue, plastic inserts for faring over the rear side blisters.
"P" -four vinyl inserts for the propellers. This allows for easy removal if you have to transport the kit, and lets them spin if you want to play with them.
"U" parts, resin nose piece and dorsal turret covers
MB1-75mm gun in white metal. This nees some polishing up.
The decal sheet offers markings for two aircraft, including instrument panel and propellers. The decals are well printed. There is some carrier film that will need to be trimmed away. The wing Hinomaru have a small blank space that should be a hold for an identification light. It will need to be opened to fit over the light.
The instructions are in fold out pamphlet style with clear line drawings showing assembly in 6 steps. Interior painting is called out during assembly, and drop boxes call out options for construction. Historical infomation on the first page of the instructions provides detail for the Ki-67, but only the basic data for the production Ki-109. One nice feature is that for cuts on the fuselage to modify for the resin nose piece, full scale drawings are provided to allow for a more accurate cut.
The paint guide shows completed paint schemes for two aircraft, both with the 107th flight regiment. Option 1 is a production aircraft with turret and side blisters covered over. The scheme is gray green lower and olive drab upper. There is no white outline on the hinomaru. Option 2 is for one of the two prototype aircraft, also of 107th flight regiment. It is overall gray green with IJA green in a vine-like overspray. Turret and side blisters, with all armament are retained. A photo I have seen online of this aircraft shows the real pattern painted on far less precisely than the instructions indicate.
Paints are called out by number for GS Aqueous hobby color and Mr Color brands, as well as by name.
I did not see any flaws or issues with the molding. It does not appear that any ejector pin marks will be on visible surfaces other than small ones on the landing gear that can be cleaned up without too much hassle. The white metal gun shows a step in the barrel and ring around the muzzle. Photos appear to show a straight barrel with no ring. I believe it will be more accurate to replace the barrel with a piece of brass (or styrene) tubing of the appropriate diameter.
This appears to be a nice, well molded kit representing the Ki-109. Based on my experience with Hasegawa kits I don't forsee any major issues. This kit should be perfect for fans of Japanese aircraft, as well as those who prefer odd, unusual or what-if subjects. This kit retails for about $39.00 US and is a limited edition release, so shop around carefully. My thanks to Aeroscale and Hasegawa for this review sample. I look forward to doing the build.
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