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Wingsy Kits Mitsubishi A5M2b "Claude"

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/48 scale plastic model aircraft kit
Despite being the first all-metal monoplane in the Japanese navy, the Mitsubishi Type 96 A5M had fixed landing gear and an open cockpit. (Later versions featured an enclosed cockpit.) New Ukrainian kit maker Wingsy Kits’ freshman offering is a 1/48 scale A5M2b with a 640hp Kotobuki 3 engine in a NACA cowl. The Allies referred to the aircraft as “Claude.”

The light gray plastic parts show excellent engraved panel lines, a detailed cockpit, and multipart engine and cowl. A small photo-etched (PE) fret provides cockpit details, including the instrument panel and small airframe parts. Clear parts include the canopy and wingtip and taillight lenses.

Options include two 30kg bombs, centerline drop tank, and a tail hook. The rudder and ailerons are separate; the former can be posed offset, but it would take extra work to pose the ailerons.

The instructions comprise clear assembly diagrams and painting directions. Decals provide markings for four Claudes.

You have options for the instrument panel including: painting a plastic panel and applying a decals for the dials; using a PE panel over film instruments; or, as I did, applying the decal to the plastic panel and cover it with the PE part.

The cockpit consists of separate sides, floor, rear frame with seat, and the instrument panel/gun assembly. I sanded the exterior slightly to close the fuselage around it. I dry-fitted the engine bulkhead (Part A6) and upper forward fuselage panel (Part A2) to align the fuselage.

One of the engine pushrods broke as I removed it from the tree, so I replaced it with stretched sprue. I had to fill minor gaps between the main cowl halves (parts A3 and A5), but the front and rear section fit perfectly. I forgot the PE cowl support but managed to finagle it into place past the front of the cowl with careful persuasion and colorful language. I masked the engine with a disc of tape and airbrushed the cowl with Tamiya NATO black.

The wings-to-fuselage fit is good, but I added a little putty to blend the rear of the lower wing and fuselage.

I airbrushed decanted Tamiya spray paints for the airframe: bare-metal silver (AS-12) and bright red (TS-49). I darkened the latter with a drop of gloss black.

The decals were the most troublesome aspect. Printed on thin, clear film, several were slow to release from the backing — I had to wait 5 or 6 minutes in some cases. The clear film on the stencils disappeared, a helpful feature on the metal finish. But the national insignia obscured detail.

After a coat of semigloss clear, I added the windscreen, engine, and details.

I spent 24 hours on my Claude, split evenly between assembly and finishing. Overall fit and the level of detail impressed me, but experience handling small parts and bare-metal finishes will be beneficial. Well done, Wingsy! What’s next?

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2017 issue.
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