about nightfighters equipped with oblique firing weapons, most aircraft
enthusiasts would envision Luftwaffe aircraft such as a Ju-88 or Bf-110.
However, in an attempt to combat B-17’s raiding Rabaul at night in late 1942,
the Imperial Japanese Navy also saw the usefulness of such aircraft.
Yasuna Kozono is
considered the father of Japanese nightfighters with oblique weapons. From his
service with the
and 251st Kokutais at Rabaul, and finally commanding the 302nd
Kokutai with it’s dedicated interception duties near
, Kozono saw to it that many IJN types were fitted with oblique weapons. These
included the A6M Reisen, J2M Raiden, J1N Gekko, D4Y Suisei, C6N Saiun, and P1Y
Ginga. In addition to the larger caliber weapons mounted in the spine of
aircraft like the Gekko and Ginga, Kozono also believed that a single 20mm
cannon mounted in the left wingroot of an aircraft like a Raiden could prove
useful in dogfights. Ironically, Kozono independently devised these oblique
installations while similar trials were going on in
The model in this
article portrays a field modified D4Y2-S Suisei (Judy) of the Yokosuka Kokutai
in the spring of 1945. Flown by Lt. Cmdr. Masaharu Yamada, this aircraft
was lost attempting to land on the night of May 25th, after claiming
one B-29 destroyed and one damaged that night. Other than being unique because
of it’s 30mm oblique cannon, it is the only D4Y2 conversion I know of that
retained it’s rear canopy glazing as seen on attack and recon versions of the
Suisei- this area was usually faired over with metal on nightfighters. There is
a well known image of this aircraft in many publications, such as page 30 of
Famous Aircraft of the World #69, and page 249 of Model Art #510. These books,
along with Koku Fan #96 on the 302nd Kokutai, are essential
references for anybody interested in modeling a nightfighter Suisei.
images below to see larger images
For this project I used the original release of the D4Y2-S from Fine
Molds. This version of the kit features many white metal parts, such as seats,
landing gear, and 30mm cannon. The detail of the white metal parts is very nice,
and the plastic parts are also well detailed, if not up to 2005 standards. Be
forewarned, Fine Molds kits are worth building, yet are best approached as if a
limited run kit. Ignore the assembly sequence as given in the instructions, dry
fit as much as possible, and be patient. I found this to be true with both the
Suisei kit, as well as a Ki-43II recently finished.
There are a few
details the kit misses, such as the inner gear door actuators, and the canopy
guide rails that are prominent in close up photos. I added the door actuators
from spare A6M parts, the rails from scrap plastic. Other details are molded
onto white metal parts, such as brake lines and seat harnesses.
Be sure to check
references closely for panel line and access door locations. The kit has some
missing, and others molded in the wrong place. I filled, sanded and scribed as
Fine Molds created
this series of kits to accept both the inline engine of the early Suisei, as
well as the later radial engine D4Y3 and 4. Because of this, and bomb bay
differences between versions, you have separate nose halves, as well as a large
insert for the lower rear fuselage. After dry fitting all the major components,
I realized that regardless of how I assembled the model, large gaps would
result. Here is how I decided to tackle this issue….
I attached the
respective nose halves to their fuselage halves, eliminating any seams that did
not fall on panel lines. I then attached the lower fuselage, bomb bay doors,
upper cowl and radiator inserts to the left fuselage half. Either side would
work……as long as you achieve a somewhat reasonable fit. I like to use Tamiya
liquid cement, reinforced with CA on the interior. Then using the liquid cement,
attach the other fuselage half, making sure the inserts have the best possible
fit. You are now left with a series of gaps along the fuselage, but in this way
you avoid having inserts that are too wide, or too narrow. I shimmed any large
gaps with plastic sheet, smaller gaps were filled with Tamiya epoxy putty once
the entire airframe was assembled. The wing, fin, and elevator joints to the
fuselage were poor, any gaps were filled with epoxy putty. The fuselage also
shows some sink marks that are large enough to need filling, and the small
fairing that leads from the rear fuselage decking into the canopy glazing is too
small. This needed to be built up with epoxy putty, and blended back into the
Once all the
major parts were assembled and gaps filled, a final check with references showed
where panel lines should be. I again filled, sanded and scribed as needed. I
like to use Gunze Mr. Surfacer 1000, mixed 60% primer to 35% Gunze lacquer
thinner, with 5% Mr. Retarder as a basic primer. If sprayed slightly “wet”,
this quickly dries to an eggshell finish ready for wetsanding with fine grade
painting……while I like to know to a reasonable degree what colors were used
on the 1:1 scale aircraft, I also like to use some creativity. J-aircraft.com is
a great place to learn about WWII Japanese aircraft colors, the FAQ section is a
treasure trove of information.
I used Tamiya
acrylics, thinned with Gunze lacquer thinner. The basic dark green color on the
Suisei was close to FS 34079, or 34052. I airbrushed Tamiya XF-61 Dark Green for
this color. For the fresh dark green sprayed around the hinomarus, XF-11 IJN
Green was my choice. Lower (metal) surfaces were close to 16350, a grey-green
color not unlike RLM 02. This color varied between aircraft companies, and of
course, weathering. I chose a combination of XF-20 Medium Grey and XF-49 Khaki,
mixed to my personal liking. Fabric covered flight surfaces were 16314, a mix of
XF-25 and XF-2 is an acceptable option. Another good mix for this color is Gunze
H335 with Tamiya X-2.
Prop color is XF-68
Nato Brown lightened with white, yellow IFF wing markings are yellow with a drop
of red, aotake on the gear covers a mix of Tamiya clear blue and green, sprayed
over a silver base.
Suisei cockpits were
close to 34095, I created this color using a mix starting with XF-13 IJA Green.
For detailed information on Japanese interior colors, please visit J-aircraft.com.
Markings came from a great sheet produced by Revi
Decals, “Japanese Schragemusik”. This sheet supplies markings for two
A6M5’s, two Suisei, and one Raiden, all with oblique cannons.
The canopy is a mix of
kit parts and Squadron vacform. The windshield design of the D4Y2-S was unique,
and as far as I know is not available in vacform. All vac parts were cut, dipped
in Future, masked, painted, and installed. The unique windshield mounted sight
for the oblique 30mm cannon came from a Fine Molds IJN gunsight photoetch set.
This was modified, and mounted under the windshield crossbar. Finally, the
antennas were made from invisible thread, the unusual arraignment near the mast
was my best interpretation from the available photo.
I started this project
during the fall of 2003, and finished late spring 2004. It was challenging, yet
very satisfying, as I now have a third IJN nightfighter in my display case to
sit alongside a Raiden and Reisen. Next time you want to build a nightfighter,
why not try one of these little known, yet effective IJN aircraft?
images below to see larger images