The N1K1 started life as a high speed float plane fighter intended to replace the A6M2n. At the time, Japan was just starting their offensive operations in the Pacific and they wanted the ability to establish fighter superiority in locations where air strips were either unavailable or could not be built. Unfortunately by the time the plane was ready, Japan was on the defensive and had not use for a float plane fighter.
In 1941, Kawanishi engineers had proposed that the aircraft could be designed as a land based fighter as well, on at their own expense, Kawanishi designed the prototype. The land based fighter was accepted and the N1K1 started production. The aircraft kept the mid fuselage wing mount from the original float plane, and that, with a large diameter propeller required extra long, telescoping landing gear that would prove faulty in operation. The powerful Nakajima NK9A Homare 11 radial engine, offering 1850 hp and a top speed of 408mph, was unreliable and had been rushed into production along with the aircraft. However, the aircraft was well armored, an unusual feature in Japanese planes, and featured heavy armament, initially of two 7.7mm cowl mounted machine guns and two 20mm cannon in the wings. Automatic combat flaps adjusted based on acceleration and helped prevent stalling. Once the base model had been established, further variants were offered, including the N1K1-Ja, which featured additional 20mm cannon in gun pods on each wing, and the N1K1-Jb, which moved the pod mounted 20mm cannon into the wing. Good speed, good armor and four 20mm cannon made the Shiden a powerful adversary. It is considered the best, or one of the three best Japanese aircraft to come out of WWII, and Japanese pilots felt it was more than a match for the feared and respected Hellcat. 1007 of all types of the N1K1 were built before production switched over to the improved N1K2, with a low mounted wing and shorter landing gear.
The N1K1 and N1K2 were reserved for the best pilots both from their performance ability and the skill required to fly one. It is not known how many of these top pilots were lost to crashes, but there are claims that more Shidens were lost to engine and landing gear malfunctions than to aerial combat.
Hasegawa offers a limited production release of the N1K1-Jb variant with two 20mm cannon in each wing. It is not known (at least to any source I could find) how many of this variant were built, but the aircraft was available to Japan and did see combat in at least limited numbers.
The model has been built and you may view it via the link Click here for additional images for this review
The kit comes in a medium sized, top opening box with attractive artwork catching the subject in profile as it rises into the sky. Upon opening the box I found the kit parts contained in a single cellophane bag. While it keeps parts from bouncing around inside the box, it also presses the sprues together and I have had Hasegawa kits arrive with parts broken or scratched up from contact with the other sprues. Fortunately, no damage was present on the parts from this kit.
The clear parts were in a separate bag which protected them nicely.
The decals were on their own in the bottom of the box, no cellophane wrap to protect them. Again, they were undamaged but I have had them arrive with scratches or damaged from humidity. Luck is with me here.
Upon removal of the kit sprues from the bag I looked them over closely. Detail is quite good, certainly for an out of the box build. There is ample room for additional scratch detailing for those modelers who want to make more of the kit. All panel lines are recessed and fabric detail over the control surfaces is light but highlights the rib detail underneath.
The cockpit features some basic detail molded to the fuselage halves and a busy and detailed floor. There are two decal options for the instrument panel, one with a black background and one with only the white dial faces. The detail is raised for the modeler who prefers to paint it on their own. The seat has flash on the sides that should be easy to clean up. Detail painting is called out during assembly.
The fuselage and wings also offer good detail, with separate access panels for the wings. Formation lights are molded in place but clear replacements are offered as an option. A well detailed engine is also provided. The exhausts are not hollowed on the ends but they have a squared shape which would make it hard to do so. The modeler may add some additional wiring, but with the large spinner and prop assembly much of that detail would be lost. A small nylon washer is provided to allow the propeller to be removed for transport, or to allow the modeler to spin it as the aircraft is flown around the room.
The landing gear legs are nicely molded and only need a brake line attached, but the gear doors are very plain. I don't know if this is how the actual aircraft is, but I would think there was a bit more detail. The tail wheel has a molded on canvas cover to keep debris out of the mechanism.
The tail assembly offers two options of elevators. Only one set, with rounded ends, is indicated for use, though I have read online that the -Jb variant had a modified square profile. Photos online aren't clear enough to show this detail, and most builds I have found (there really aren't a lot out there) generally show the round tips as well.
The canopy parts are clear and free from flaws or distortion. They are on the thicker side but the frame detail appears to be well defined.
An external fuel tank and two 60kg bombs are included. The -Jb variant could carry two 250kg bombs on the wings, which would have been nice to have included.
The 20mm cannon are not hollowed out on the muzzle ends but with care this can be accomplished easily.
instructions, decals, painting
The instructions are in fold out pamphlet style and are in line drawing form. They are generally clear and easy to follow. A paint chart is provided on the first page, along with a map of the sprues. Paints colors are provided by number in GSI Creos Aqueous hobby color and Mr. Color brands.
Decals are provided for two aircraft. They appear to be well printed and while the carrier film extends away from the decal it is clearly visible on the paper. For the most part I have had good success with Hasegawa decals, although they are on the thicker side and sometimes don't settle as well.
The instructions include painting and decaling instructions for two aircraft, with both sides, top and bottom views provided. Aircraft number one is that shown on the box art, from the Genzan Naval Flying Group, Koria Genzan AB, April 1945.
No.1 343 NAG
I have seen a colorized photo of the latter closeup. Paint scheme is Nakajima green topside and, according to the instructions, Mitsubishi green underside, with a silver prop spinner. Tail code is 1172.
The second aircraft is from the Yatabe Naval Flying Group, Yatabe AB, Feb. 1945. It is painted Nakajima green on top and bare metal underside, Nakajima spinner. Tail code is 1168.
Searching online I found no available aftermarket sets for this aircraft. No one had seatbelts in stock either.
My overall impression of the kit is very positive. Good detail in general, clear instructions including the painting and marking scheme. I'll need to fix up some sort of harness for the seat but beyond that I don't know how much more this model needs. I am one of those who wishes these kits included the pilot figure to help bring it to life. Aside from that I don't foresee any major difficulty. I hope to start a build log in the near future so I can show how it all really fits.
I received this kit as a review sample. Online pricing showed the kit priced at around $39.99 US. Shop for the best deal.
Wikipedia was used as the primary reference source for this review. Almost all the other sites I visited for information quoted the same material, with many being direct copies of the Wikipedia information.
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