In 1934, the Imperial Japanese Navy issued a specification for an advanced fighter with a maximum speed of 350 km/h (220 mph) at 3,000 m (9,840 ft) and able to climb to 5,000 m (16,400 ft) in 6.5 minutes. This 9-shi (1934) specification elicited designs from both Mitsubishi and Nakajima.
Mitsubishi assigned the task of designing the new fighter to a team led by Jiro Horikoshi (later responsible for the famous A6M Zero). The resulting design, designated Ka-14 by Mitsubishi, was an all-metal low-wing fighter with a thin elliptical, inverted gull wing, and a fixed undercarriage.
The first prototype, powered by a 447 kW (600 hp) Nakajima Kotobuki 5 radial engine, flew on 4 February 1935. The aircraft far exceeded the requirements of the specification with a maximum speed of 450 km/h (279 mph) being reached. A second prototype, fitted with a revised conventional wing and modifications to increase maneuverability and reduce drag, was ordered into production as the A5M (Allied reporting name Claude).
The A5M entered service in early 1937 and soon saw action at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. This entailed air-to-air battles with the Republic of China Air Force’s Boeing P-26C Model 281 “Peashooters.” Although armed with only a pair of 7.7 mm machine-guns, the new fighter proved effective and damage-tolerant, with excellent maneuverability and robust construction. Later A5M’s also provided much-needed escorts for the then modern but vulnerable Mitsubishi G3M bombers.
Almost all A5Ms had open cockpits and a fixed, non-retractable undercarriage. Wheel spats were a feature of standard fighters but not training aircraft. The Mitsubishi team continued to improve the A5M culminating with the final version, A5M4, which carried an external underside drop tank for extended range.
Some A5Ms remained in service at the end of 1941 when the United States entered World War II. US intelligence sources believed the A5M still served as Japan’s primary Navy fighter, when in fact the A6M ‘Zero’ had replaced it on first-line aircraft carriers. Some Japanese carriers and Kōkūtai (air groups) continued to use the A5M until production of the Zero caught up with demand. The last combat actions with the A5M as a fighter took place at the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7 May 1942, when two A5Ms and four A6Ms of the Japanese carrier Shōhō fought against US aircraft that sank their carrier. In the closing months of the war most of the remaining A5M airframes were used for kamikaze attacks.
(Edited from Wikipedia)
This is the Hobby Boss “Easy Assembly” kit and boy, it sure is. Since I opted to not fit the drop tank, this build took a whopping 17 parts to complete!
Like many of these “Easy” Hobby Boss kits, the molding of the major parts is very well done with little-to-no flash and nicely rendered inscribed details that are scale appropriate. The fit of the one-piece fuselage and wing is spot on although the joining does result in seams on each side of the fuselage that should be dealt with prior to painting.
The one area that required slight re-shaping is the dorsal fuselage decking just behind the cowl, ahead of the windscreen. This area was re-worked with sanding sticks and then buffed to smoothness with Micromesh 3600.
Although I swore to take advantage of the “Easy Build” nature of the kit and build it straight out of the box (OOB), I just couldn’t help myself and installed a PE seat and harnesses from the spares box. While I was there I went ahead and added additional details to the sides of the cockpit. I mean, while I was there; so much for the out of box build.
Color and Markings:
The model is painted as the A5M4 Claude flown by PO1c Matsuo Hagiri of the Soryu Fighter Squadron, circa 1939. Details of the scheme are provided in the excellent book on the type “Mitsubishi A5M Claude” by Mushroom Models (Yellow Series; reference below).
In preparation for painting, the model was wiped down with denatured alcohol (Crown Denatured Alcohol, “Cleans Glass”) and then shot with Vallejo White Primer straight from the bottle with 5% Liquitex added. It was applied at 12psi with an H&S Infinity fitted with a 0.2mm tip.
Once dry, the primer was gently wet buffed with Micromesh 4,000 then 6,000 grit pads. The entire model was then shot with Vallejo Model Air Aluminum (#71.062) diluted 1:1 with Vallejo Thinner with 5% Liquitex added. This was applied at ~15 psi with an Infinity fitted with a 0.2mm tip. When dry the model was given a light coat of Alclad Aqua Gloss and allowed to dry 24 hours.
Preparatory to painting, the area around the fuselage destined to be white was masked, as were the areas around the ailerons. Similarly areas adjacent to the angled bands on the wings were masked. The fuselage and wing areas were then shot with Vallejo White applied with an Infinity fitted with a 0.15mm tip. Likewise the ailerons were sprayed with a custom mix of Vallejo White and Green to mimic the color of the fabric covering they had.
When dry, the fuselage was masked preparatory for spraying the black portions which was done with Vallejo Black diluted 30:70 (paint to thinner) with Vallejo Thinner with 5% Liquitex added. This was shot ah ~10psi with an Infinity fitted with a 0.15mm tip.
Prior to spraying the red areas, the angled bands were masked off as was the tail and the six positions of the Hinomaru. These areas were then shot with LifeColor Red with a little Black added for hue.
Once the paint was dry, the tapes were removed and the model was given a coat of Alclad Aqua Gloss. When dry, the decals on the vertical stabilizer and various airframe stencils (mostly from the spares box) were applied using conventional methods and Micro-Set and –Sol.
The cowl and landing gear were shot with Vallejo Black lightened with a little White for hue. When dry, these were attached with Gap Filling CA (Bob Smith). The propeller was sprayed Vallejo Black and the front of each blade was covered with Chrome Bare Metal Foil.
Panel lines on silver portions of the model were picked out with Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color (Dark Brown) while lines on the black areas were highlighted with Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color (Grey). These were applied with a small brush and the excess removed with a cotton bud moistened with Mona Lisa Odorless Thinner.
A final coat of Vallejo Satin Varnish, diluted 20:80 (satin to thinner) was applied as light, misty coats to avoid going too far into flat. The canopy and telescopic site were added and with that, the kit was done.
What a blast! If you like spraying paint but don’t want to pay the price of a long, arduous build, try one of these “Easy Assembly” kits for a change. From cutting parts off sprues to a completed model (with all the additions) was about 10 hours: not bad at all. Then it was just hassle-free painting and masking for 3-4 days and the final result is more than worth it to this modeler. What fun!
Time to go paint something else!
Mushroom Models Yellow Series Books “Mitsubishi A5M Claude” #6107 (eISBN 978-83-61421-99-3)