The Ki-27 (allied code-name “Nate”) was the primary front-line fighter of Imperial Japanese Army Airforce in the late 1930s. The maneuverable little fighter saw extensive service over the skies of northern China, Manchuria and Mongolia from 1937-1940, where it outclassed the Nationalist Chinese Air Force, flying mostly Polikarpov biplane fighters.
I built this model to represent an aircraft flown by the the 64th Sentai, in Manchuria, during the summer and fall of 1939. This particular aircraft is said to have been flown by Major Tateo Kato, who would go on to claim 18 victories. In Early 1942, Kato was shot down by a Bristol Blenheim gunner, over the Bay of Bengal.
The kit is a golden oldie. The kit was first released in the 1970s by a Japanese company called Mania. In 1975 Hasegawa bought Mania, and began re-releasing all of their toolings under their own label. Hasegawa periodically re-releases the kit with new decals, and a fresh hip modern price tag. I got this one from a very generous trader on ARC, and he included a sheet of Life Like decals and some resin. More on these later.
The kit has very fine recessed panel lines, and is festooned with tiny recessed rivets, much like the surfaces of modern kits from China. The kit is pretty simple. There are less than 100 pieces total, the cockpit is rather spartan, and engine details are simplified. Nevertheless, things look reasonably accurate. One major drawback, at least for me, was the canopy. It is thick, and slightly textured, which gives it a semi-opaque quality. It also cannot be posed open. Options in the kit are limited to two types of canopy, a set of external fuel tanks, and an over-the wing device, which I think is a gun-camera.
The Life Like decal sheet titled Type 97 Fighters, Part 2 (48-021) features six schemes. Five of these were for aircraft in overall IJA-Gray finish, and one for a gray and green flight school machine. All six schemes provided, are very colorful and flashy.
Construction of the kit began with the cockpit. I used the basic kit cockpit, which is simple, but more than adequate, as very little will be seen through the small opening, and even less through the poor clear parts. I did replace the kit seat with a much nicer looking resin part I had.
The instructions call out for a navy blue color. I researched this and the Nate cockpit was in-fact a grayish blue. I mixed up a color from Tamiya paints and sprayed it on, then painted details by hand, using Vallejo acrylics.
The fuselage halves were glued together and the cockpit was installed through the bottom. Then I glued the upper wing halves to the fuselage. I did this to minimize fit problems at the wing roots. An earlier dry-fit showed that if the whole wing had been assembled and then glued to the fuselage, it would create pretty deep steps at the roots. Using this approach, I just had to fill a small step behind the flaps on the bottom wing, and fill in some gaps along the leading edges.
With the wing assembled, I added on the tail parts and the cowl ring. The diameter of the cowl ring was a bit smaller than the fuselage just aft of it, so out came the bondo. Once dry, I dry fit the cowl ring, and sanded everything down. I then rescribed lost panel lines, and used my Trumpeter ponce wheel to repair the lost rivets.
I tried to improve the canopy by polishing it with a fine abrasive paste and then dipped it in Future. This helped a little bit, and I masked the canopy using my usual method of adhesive chrome foil. I had to bevel the bottom inner edges of the canopy a bit to get it to fit to the fuselage. If I was ever to build this kit again, I would replace the canopy with a vaccuformed piece.
With the canopy on, I glued together the wheel spats. These needed a bit of putty along the leading edges. The spat assemblies are sided, so make sure you keep track of which one goes with which side.
I also decided to attach the balloon-like drop tanks. These look very unique, as they’re more like the RAF slipper tanks, than the tear-drop shaped drop tanks of most other contemporaneous aircraft. I recall seeing something once, that the Ki-27 drop tanks were the first ever engineered. Not sure that is true.
With the airframe all assembled it was time to paint. I began by priming everything in black. Once the black primer dried, I started spraying on very thin coats of Tamiya IJA-Gray, with a few drops of white added. I made sure to build up the semi-opaque coats of paint in such a way, that the color was never entirely uniform. This method has been around for a while, but the guy who runs Doog’s Models blog, has really popularized it. He calls it “black basing”, but I try to avoid the term, as I hate buzz-words.
Once the paint dried, I clear coated the model and applied the decals. The Life Like decals worked very well. The colors are very vibrant and opaque. The decals work best in hot (but not boiling) water. I used Mr. Mark Softer on decals going over compound curves and deep recesses. A few days after the decals had dried, I noticed that some of the larger ones, including the yellow fuselage band, one of the hinomarus and the arrows on the tail, had long thin splits. I don’t know if this was a reaction to the Mark Softer, or if the decals had cracked slightly while they were still on the sheet. In either case the fractures were very thin, so I applied more setting solution onto them (Micro’s stuff this time) and clear coated them once dry.
The black primer method ensured that panel lines and rivets were already somewhat visible, but I decided to accentuate selected lines with some brown oil washes. I focused on areas which would tend to get dirty – like around engine access panels, and around the flaps and belly, where oils tend to leak. Everything was sealed with a satin clear coat, and the final details were added.
I glued in the engine parts and painted them using Vallejo metallic colors. I am really impressed by these. Vallejo paints were also used for other small details. Exhaust stubs were painted with my trusty old dual coats of Model Master Enamel exhaust metallizer and rust. The finishing touch was the aerial wire, made from black EZ-Line glued down with aquarium super-glue.
I’m very happy with the result. The kit was a simple and quick build. All told, I probably spent no more than 20 hours on this model. It looks really attractive with its brightly colored stripes, and I love the look of the spats, drop tanks, and two bladed prop. It is a marriage of old and new technologies of the 1930s. I thoroughly recommend this kit, if you can find an older pressing on second-hand discount. Don’t pay Hasegawa’s current asking price, as it is comically high for a 45+ year old model. I also heartily recommend Life Like decals. I’ll be getting more of their sheets for future projects.
Accuracy (shape and dimensions) – 5
Detail/Finesse of Parts – 4
Build Options – 2
Fit – 4
Decals (Life Like Sheet 48-021) – 5
Price/Value – 5 (if found used)
Overall – 4.2