by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
In 1940 the Japanese Navy issued the 15-Shi specification calling for a single-seat seaplane fighter. Its purpose was to provide air cover during the early stages of amphibious operations, or over small island bases where the construction of airfields was impractical.
Pending production of the resulting Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu, Nakajima was instructed to produce an interim floatplane version of the Model 11 "Zero". The modification included a large cental float, carrying extra fuel, wingtip outriggers attached by slender strut and a modified tail. A total of 327 aircraft was built. Known to the Allies as the "Rufe", the A6M2-N was initially successful, but was soon outclassed by land- and carrier-based opponents.
Hasegawa's Rufe is crisply moulded with 73 parts in pale grey plastic, plus a further 7 clear pieces. The manufacturer has used sprues from its existing Zero, so there are plenty of extra parts to stock your spares box. New parts include the lower surface of the wing, floats and bombs, along with a very neat beaching-trolley.
Detail throughout is superb, without a hint of flash. All panel lines are delicately engraved and the fabric-effect on the contol surface is subtly depicted. The parts breakdown does cause a couple of problems though; presumably to keep costs down, Hasegawa has used a multi -part tooling for the fuselage to allow a new tail to be added to their original Zero fuselage. This results in a slight mismatch in the panel lines and a step where the mould parts meet.
Similarly, Hasegawa has included the original wing top-surfaces, which means that a couple of panel lines and the aileron trim-tabs must be filled. The latter will be most tricky because, ideally, the rib detail needs replacing too. The cowling is a made with another multi-part mould, which again means there are a couple of lines to clean up where things don't quite line up.
A test shows that everything fits pretty well, but the seams will need a little care. It could be a good idea to trim off the locator pins to acheive a better fit in places. The fuselage/wing joint is a little loose; hopefully adding the cockpit will spread the fuselage a bit to fill the gap.
The cockpit is excellent, with 13 parts devoted to the area. The detail is very crisp - probably about as good as you'll find a plastic kit - and a little additional wiring, plus drilling out the holes in the seat should really make the cockpit look great. The instrument panel shows fine moulded on detail, which will reward careful painting - although decal alternatives are also provided. All that's really lacking for the cockpit is a seat harness.
The engine detail is pretty good too, with nicely moulded cylinders and a separate crankcase with pushrods. It'll be worth adding the wiring harness, but all the basics are there. The bombs and their racks look nice, although the fins are rather on the thick side.
Lastly there's the beaching trolley, made of 10 parts. This looks really good and solves the problem of how to display the model if you don't want to build a water-base. Don't forget though, this model is a tail-sitter - the instructions advise adding 16g of weight to the front of the main float.
Hasegawa's clear parts are usually good and these are no exception; the canopy is crystal clear and very thin. Also included are navigation lights and gunsight.
Instructuions and decals
The instructuions are well drawn and easy to follow - the illustrations are uncluttered and Hasegawa explain in Engish and Japanese where parts must be modified. Gunze Sangyo and Mr Color paint numbers are used throughout.
Decals are included for 2 aircraft of the 802nd Flying Group. The first is overall IJN Grey, while the second has dark-green topsides. The decals are well printed in perfect register, with a suitably dull red used for the Hinomarus. A number of stencils is included, along with cockpit instruments as noted earlier.
I've taken a rather critical look at this model, but it is a very good kit. The impression on opening the box is that it's simply stunning... but closer inspection reveals the niggles like the slight mould misalignment and fit issues. It's not a kit that will "build itself" but nevertheless, with a little work, any modeller with a couple of kits under their belt should be able to build a beautiful Rufe.