David Knights' Weblog

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.

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