1/48 Fine Molds D4Y2-S Suisei 

Nightfighter

by Dan Salamone

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When asked 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 Tainan and 251st Kokutais at Rabaul, and finally commanding the 302nd Kokutai with it’s dedicated interception duties near Tokyo , 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 Germany .

            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.

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            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 needed.

            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 fuselage.

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 sandpaper.

            On to 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?

Dan

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Photos and text © by Dan Salamone