David Knights' Weblog

July 29, 2016

Book review: In the Skies of Nomonhan

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 5:03 pm
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Book review: In the Skies of Nomonhan
Japan Versus Russia, May-September 1939
By Dimitar Nedialkov
215 pgs. 8 pgs of color illustrations
ISBN:9 780859 791526

The clash between Mongolia and the Soviet Union on one side and Japan and Manchukuo on the other is a little covered precursory to the Second World War.  However, it was to have profound consequences for both major combatants.  Japanese senses were heightened to the Russian threat and thus the Japanese kept many aircraft and ground units in northern China to counter this possible threat.  The sting of the loss at Nomonhan (also called Khalkhin Gol) may have contributed to the Japanese reluctance to join Germany in the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941.  The Soviet Union got a chance to test massed tank combat and out of the battle rose the Soviet Union’s greatest general, Georgy Zhukov.

The war in the remote area of the China-Mongolia border was used as a testing ground by both major combatants, though the prize itself, 80 square kilometers of barren steppe was of no real value to either party.  The war was brought on by the Kwantung Army, the Japanese army in Manchuria that the central government in Tokyo had only limited control over.  This army pushed its units forward to try and define the border between Mongolia and Manchukuo as the Khalkhin River.

The book tells the story of the air war during the six month undeclared war between the parties. The Japanese started with both a qualitative and a quantitative superiority over their opponents.  This led to early dominance over the battlefield by the IJAF.  However, in a pattern that was to be repeated in WWII, the Soviets quickly built up a quantitative superiority that allowed them to wrest control of the air from the Japanese.  Even though the Japanese aircraft remained technologically superior over the course of the war, the weight of the Soviet forces was eventually too much for the IJAF to effectively counter.

The war had some effects that were not apparent until after WWII.  Not the least among these was the loss of more than 100 experienced Japanese pilots, at a time when the Japanese training system simply could not replace them.  Each one of these pilots killed was an experienced pilot that the allies didn’t have to face in the Pacific or in southern China during WWII.

The author is apparently a Bulgarian Air Force Colonel and PhD.  While you can tell from the text he relied more on Russian rather than Japanese sources, the overall presentation is even-handed.  The author points out that both sides wildly over-claimed during air combat for propaganda purposes.  The author generally acknowledges the combat superiority of the Ki-27 fighter and the Ki-15 recon aircraft over all of their Soviet counterparts, the I-15, I-16 and I-153.

The book contains many black and white photos, mostly from Soviet sources.  Most of the photos of Japanese aircraft as stock photos that most readers will have seen before.  The color side-view illustrations are nice and interesting, though 3-view illustrations would have been better.

The text is readable, but you can tell the author’s first language is not English as some of the sentences don’t flow naturally.  It isn’t enough to make the book difficult or unpleasant to read, but it is noticeable.  The book would have benefited from a better English language editor.

I found the book a quick, easy and pleasant read.  It is on a subject that I didn’t have much knowledge about.  I can recommend this book to both the casual reader and the enthusiast looking to gain deeper insight into this little known brush war.

July 27, 2016

Airliner photo

Filed under: Family,Modeling — dknights @ 8:54 am
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This photo comes from a previous trip to Jamaica.  The plane was photographed at the airport in Montego Bay Jamaica (MBJ).


July 26, 2016

Selling some kits

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 5:33 pm
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Here is one.

Here is another.

July 19, 2016

Book review: Ki-61 and Ki-100 Aces

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 10:30 pm
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Book review: Ki-61 and Ki-100 Aces
Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #114
By Nicholas Millman
ISBN 978 1 78096 295 5
96 pgs. 9 pgs of color illustrations.

I love the Ki-61 and Ki-100.  There is something cool about the Ki-61.  To me it looks much more attractive than the aircraft it is normally compared to, such as the Me-109, Spitfire and P-51.   Since the Ki-61 was the only Japanese inline-engined fighter of World War II, it holds a unique place in aviation history.  This book does its subject justice.  By know most everyone in the hobby is familiar with the Osprey Aircraft of the Aces format.  96 pages.  The center section of each volume is devoted to color profiles of the subject aircraft.  This book holds true to the format.

The author, Nicholas Millman, is very familiar with his subject.  He is the author of a number of books on Japanese Aircraft as well as running a website devoted to colors and markings of Japanese aircraft.  Having read previous works by this author, I can say that his writing style has only improved with experience.  The text, telling the story of the Ki-61 and the men who became aces flying her, flows much more naturally than in previous books.

The book starts with the story of the development of the Ki-61, which was built around the Japanese version of the DB601 license built from plans and pattern engines supplied by Germany.  Despite persistent stories, the Ki-61 wasn’t a copy of either the Me-109 or the He-100.  The Ki-61 was developed in parallel with the Ki-60 “heavy fighter”.  The Ki-61 was chosen for production and was popular with its pilots, even though it was less maneuverable than its predecessors, the Ki-27 and Ki-43. The prototypes actually engaged some of the Doolittle raiders, but the Ki-61 really got its debut in New Guinea.  Though plagued by teething problems related to production flaws, a number of Japanese Army pilots were able to amass impressive records flying against superior numbers of allied aircraft.

The Ki-61 got a second life as a home defense fighter, since it was one of the few aircraft which could engage B-29s at high altitudes.  The Ki-61 pilots struggled to stem the tide of the B-29s, but never were able to do more that inflict minor losses given the number of bombers engaged.  The Ki-61 pilots even engaged in ramming attacks with a number of Ki-61 pilots surviving more than one such attack.

The last year of the war saw a number of Ki-61 fuselages awaiting engines, since the inline-engine production could never keep up with airframe production.  This prompted the Japanese to mate these fuselages with available radial engines, and thus the Ki-100 was born.  Even though this was simply a measure forced by expediency, it produced a superior fighter, even better than Ki-61.  At this late date in the war, the Ki-100 had no hope of being produced in sufficient numbers to stem the allied tide, it did enable Japanese pilots to continue to resist up to the end of the war.

The color illustrations provide numerous side views of aircraft in a variety of markings and colors schemes.  The illustrations by Ronnie Olsthoorn are excellent.  The limitations of the series with only left side views of the aircraft, rather than full three view illustrations, are one of the few drawbacks of the book.  This is somewhat offset by the numerous black and white photos in the book.  The photos are well-reproduced and are a great-cross section of photos showing both pilots and aircraft. These are much better than in previous volumes of this series.

In conclusion, this book was well worth its $22 retail price, though I purchased it for less off of Amazon.  If a modeler is interested in building either a Ki-61 or a Ki-100, this book will serve as inspiration and is a must have.

July 18, 2016

Decal review: Iliad Decals ANG Mustangs #72011

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 1:37 pm
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Decal review: Iliad Decals ANG Mustangs #72011

I love the new Airfix 72nd scale aircraft line.  They are very nice, simple but well detailed models for an excellent price.  I also have an abiding interest in Air National Guard (ANG) aircraft.  I hope eventually to build one ANG aircraft from each of the 50 states plus DC and Puerto Rico.

Bob Migliardi, the man behind Iliad Decals came out a few years ago with a 48th scale sheet of ANG markings for P-51s.  An embarrassing amount of begging followed, with me pleading with Bob to shrink the sheet down to 72nd scale. (God’s One True Scale.)  Either Bob got tired of my pleading, or he ignored me completely but decided it made good business sense to release the sheet in 72nd scale. In any event, a 72nd scale version of the sheet follow.  I got one immediately.

By shear serendipity, Airfix released a new kit of the P-51 in 72nd scale.  It is a beautiful kit.  While it might not be quite as nice or detailed as the Tamiya version, it is very nice and only $7.95 as compared to $25.00 for the Tamiya.  Clearly the modeling gods wanted me to start my ANG collection. (On a side note, my collection actually started 25+ years ago when I built the Hasegawa F-106 in Massachusetts ANG markings.  Sadly that kit didn’t survive my subsequent moves.  However, again proving the modeling gods love me, Meng has just released a new kit of the F-106.)

The kit went together very well. (Look for a subsequent kit review in the near future.)

The sheet has markings for P-51s from the Indiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, South Dakota and Missouri.  I decided on Indiana because of my proximity to the state of Indiana.  The decals are in register and the colors are excellent.  The decals are very thin.  Since I was putting the decals over a silver/bare metal surface, I was concerned that the carrier film would show on the kits surface.  I need not have worried, the carrier film disappeared completely with the application of the Micro Sol, Micro Set system.

Given how nice the decals are, and how easy and cheap the Airfix kit is I can see myself building more aircraft using markings from this sheet.  The sheet is $12 and can be purchased directly from Iliad on their website, http://www.iliad-design.com/

July 7, 2016

Magazine review: RT Vol. 38 #2 (Summer 2016)

Filed under: IPMS,Modeling — dknights @ 10:58 pm
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Frankly, I almost get tired of writing a review of issues of RT.  RT, as you know by now is the quarterly magazine of IPMS/Canada.  All of my reviews are pretty much the same since I am of the opinion that RT is the best modeling magazine out there, either commercial or non-commercial.

This issue is particularly good. Our good friend Jim Bates has the first part of a multi-part article on the Canadian Hurricanes.  This article contains a bunch of great reference photos and represents the kind of in depth research that modelers crave.  Jim has done a true service by gathering this info.  In addition, there are articles on a 1924 steam powered truck, a 72nd WWII Canadian minesweeper as well as a 35th scale build of the WWII Canadian army “Otter” recon vehicle. All of these articles are well worth reading and this magazine provided great reading material on a round trip flight to DC a few weeks ago.

If you aren’t already, you should become a member of IPMS/Canada right away.  Tell them David sent you.

July 4, 2016

Now this?

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 9:03 pm
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First a 72nd scale B-52, and now a C-17?  Wow.

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