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Hasegawa 1/48 scale Aichi D3A1 Model 11 (Val)

Kit: No. Jt55
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Hasegawa, distributed by Marco Polo Import, 532 S. Coralridge Pl., City of Industry, CA 91746, phone 626-333-2328
Price: $24.98
Comments: Injection molded, 123 parts (4 vinyl), decals.

With dive brakes similar to those on the Junkers 87 "Stuka," the Aichi D3A1 (code named "Val" by the Allies) had a range of 800 miles and could accurately put its bombs on target, which it proved at Pearl Harbor. Later in the war, its maximum speed of just over 200 knots and its span of nearly 50' made it a big target for Lightnings, Hellcats, and Corsairs.

Hasegawa's Val provides an accurately detailed cockpit, fine panel scribing, and a great set of decals with markings for both green and gray Pearl Harbor aircraft. Special features include polyvinyl propeller keepers, flattened tires, positionable rear seat and gun-mount assembly with gun storage option, and detailed bomb racks with sway braces for the center-line bomb. You can choose a one-piece closed canopy or a five-piece canopy that can be opened and "nested." All the instrument panels have raised detail that can be either painted or decaled.

The 12-step assembly drawings on the plans were easy to follow, with many not-so-well-known parts identified. Parts maps, paint chart (with Gunze Sangyo numbers and names only), and painting and decal guides round out the instructions.

Parts fit was marvelous. There was no flash, and fine mold-separation seams were easily eliminated. I airbrushed all the parts in the kit with Japanese navy colors by Testor Model Master before beginning assembly. These paints are glossy and require no clear gloss overspray before decaling. My color reference, Asahi Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, suggests the front half of each wheel spat could have been the same green as the fuselage.

I applied the decals before mounting the canopy, wings, landing gear, cowl, and horizontal stabilizers. A couple of light coats of AeroMaster decal solvent helped the decals settle over the curved surfaces of the wheel spats. The yellow decals were slightly translucent.

I should have waited to mount the rear cockpit gun until the very last, because the barrel broke off and dropped into my part-eating carpet. I replaced the lost piece with fine steel tubing wrapped with foil and fixed it to the gun breach with super glue.

The flattened tires fit nicely and turn freely in the wheel spats, but the axle stubs on the inside of the spats are short, permitting the wheels to pop out or jam up with little pressure.

Pushing the propeller into the vinyl keeper buried in the engine can be aided by a light sanding of the sharp-edged end of the shaft.

Masking and painting the frames on the five-piece canopy took up much of the 20 hours I spent on this model. I masked with frisket film trimmed with a new No. 11 blade. I first airbrushed a tint made from a drop of my own bamboo blue-green added to a full bottle of thinned AeroMaster clear gloss. Next was a coat of Testor Metalizer non-buffing aluminum. This combination produces the interior frame color of tinted aluminum. The exterior color of Japanese navy green was followed by a coat of Testor clear flat lacquer over the whole model. The frisket stayed in place better than I expected and came off the canopy glazing without leaving any residue.

The finished model scales out a little short in span and a tad long in the fuselage - none of which harms the model's fine appearance. Modelers used to multicolor paint schemes will have no problems with Hasegawa's new kit. My growing collection of World War II Japanese aircraft models is going to be enhanced by this colorful "Val."

- Al Jones

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