Yokosuka Type 12 Special Attack Scooter

Gallery Article by Steve Nelson on Jan 3 2011

Silly Week 2011


As 1945 dawned Japan's military situation was becoming more and more desperate. In Europe, the Third Reich was clearly almost finished, and Japan's forces were being pushed back on all fronts. Military leaders were forced to begin plans to fight off the expected Allied invasion of the home islands.

The air arms of both the Imperial Army and Navy had been increasing relying on "special attack" suicide units, in which pilots with only rudimentary training would be sent to fly their explosive-laden aircraft directly into allied ships or other targets. Such units were an integral part of the defense plans for the home islands, and the Imperial forces had developed several aircraft specifically for suicide missions. One of the lesser known designs was the Type 12 Special Attack Scooter, designed by the Japanese Naval Air Technical Arsenal. It was intended to be a cheap, easy-to-fly aircraft that could be rapidly produced in huge numbers. To accelerate development, designers relied on proven components, basically mating a scooter with the scaled-down wings and tail of the Zero fighter (the tailwheel and hook were retained, in the hopes that the design might eventually be adapted as a carrier-based interceptor.)  The plan was to have thousands of the aircraft stashed in mountain caves, and then when Allied forces began their landings, military planners declared they would attack "like a mighty wind, breaking up the invasion." Hence, the aircraft was named "Toppakaze," which literally translates as "breaking wind." 

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Development proceeded rapidly. The aircraft was given folding wings for storage in tight spaces. The Type 11 relied on its own power to get up to speed on a launch ramp, and then would glide down to attack. Initial test flights were not entirely disappointing, but it was found that once a bomb load was added, the aircraft would only stay airborne for a few feet off the end of the launch ramp. Designers were forced to add a three-cylinder 30 hp Hitachi radial engine to simply keep the aircraft in the air. The Imperial Navy also insisted that the aircraft be given some form of armament, but it was too small for conventional guns. Designers added four compressed-gas powered weapons in the wings, based on a design by the American Daisy company. Unfortunately, several trainee pilots managed to shoot their eyes out.

While several hundred of the scooters were built, Japan capitulated without an invasion, so luckily for the pilots they were never employed operationally. Allied intelligence was unaware of the aircraft's existence, but when it was discovered by occupation troops, it was given the code name "Melvin." Most ended up having their wings, tails and nose engines removed, and provided handy transportation for weary GIs.

The Model

This project had its genesis at the 2009 IPMS USA National Convention. The Tamiya reps were handing out 1/24 scale Scooter kits, which used to be part of the "Campus Friends" figure set. The kit consists of seven parts on one sprue. There is a tag molded on the sprue saying "In Commemoration Of Your Visit," so I assume Tamiya gives them out after factory tours. Someone in IPMS West Michigan got the bright idea to get a bunch of the kits, and then we would all build them for what was dubbed the "Mean Motor Scooter" club contest.

Most of our club members built their scooters as various custom jobs, but I'm mainly a WWII aircraft builder, so my first thought was "OK, how do I make this thing fly?" I remembered I had an old 70s vintage 1/72 Hasegawa Zero that I picked up for 50 cents many years ago, and decided it would be perfect for the project. After a bit of slice & dice I attached nose and tail sections, fairing them in with a bit of Apoxy Sculpt putty. The nose engine came from the junk box..I think it was once part of a 1/48 Monogram AT-6. I used styrene rod and tube to make hinges for the wings, and some brass tube for the gun barrels. Tail codes came from the Decal Dungeon, and since I figured the rivets on the wings and strange contours on the sides might prove difficult for decals, I decided to mask an paint the Hinomarus. I was surprised at how well they turned out..I may start using this technique on all my Japanese projects.

No Mon-Keys were harmed and no Banana Brew was consumed during this project.

Steve Nelson

Photos and text by Steve Nelson