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Aichi S3A1 Type 99 (Val) 1:48


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Aichi D3A1 Type 99 (Val)

1:48 Hasegawa

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History

The Aichi D3A, (Val) was a World War II carrier-borne dive bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). It was the primary dive bomber in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and participated in almost all actions, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Aichi D3A was the first Japanese aircraft to bomb American targets in World War II, commencing with Pearl Harbor and U.S. bases in the Philippines, such as Clark Air Force Base. During the course of the Second World War, the Val dive bomber sank more Allied warships than any other Axis aircraft.

In December 1939, the Navy ordered the aircraft as the Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 11. The production models featured slightly smaller wings and increased power in the form of the 746 kW (1,000 hp) Kinsei 43 or 798 kW (1,070 hp) Kinsei 44. The directional instability problem was finally cured with the fitting of a long dorsal fin, and the aircraft actually became highly maneuverable. Armament was two forward-firing 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 97 machine guns, and one flexible 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 92 machine gun in the rear cockpit for defence. Normal bomb load was a single 250 kg (550 lb) bomb carried under the fuselage, which was swung out under the propeller on release by a trapeze. Two additional 60 kg (130 lb) bombs could be carried on wing racks located under each wing outboard of the dive brakes.

The D3A1 commenced carrier qualification trials aboard the Akagi and Kaga during 1940, while a small number of aircraft made their combat debut from land bases over China. Starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the D3A1 took part in all major Japanese carrier operations in the first 10 months of the war. They achieved their first major success against the Royal Navy during their Indian Ocean raid in April 1942. Val dive bombers scored over 80% hits with their bombs during attacks on two heavy cruisers and an aircraft carrier during the operation. During the course of the war, Val dive bombers had to frequently combine their attacks upon enemy warships with the IJN Kate torpedo bomber; consequently enemy vessels were often sunk by a combination strike of bombs and torpedoes. However, there were occasions when just the Vals would make the attacks, or at least score the sinking hits. Discounting the Pearl Harbor strike, which also used the Nakajima B5N used for level bombing and torpedo attacks, Val dive bombers were credited with sinking the following Allied warships.

The Model

Originally released in 2002 this kit has been re-released several times since, with new decals each time. This release is the same, with decals for the Indian Ocean Raid. Inside the attractively printed box are the six sprues of grey styrene and one of clear, along with a small sprue of four poly caps. The mouldings are standing the test of time well, with no sign of flash or imperfections other than quite a few moulding pips on the smaller parts, although being only twelve years old, so they should. Details are nicely moulded, including finely engraved panel lines and slightly deeper lines where necessary. The instructions aren’t quite as clear as some of Hasegawas other re-releases, particularly for the cockpit assembly, but with a bit of care it should all go together ok.

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The build with the construction of the forward cockpit bulkhead and the fitting of the upper machine gun breeches to said bulkhead, along with the instrument panel which has raised details, yet the decal that is meant to be used on it looks like it wouldn’t settle down that easily over them. The modeller can either remove the details on the panel or carefully remove each instrument from the decal and place them with the raised areas finishing them off with a drop of your favourite clear varnish. The side walls are populated with detailed parts, with spare magazines for the rear machine gun, throttle lever, additional instruments and one of the two optional bomb sights fitted to the starboard side, whilst the port side is fitted with additional spare machine gun magazines and mid brace tube. The cockpit floor is the fitted out with the mid bulkhead, pilots seat, joystick, rudder pedals, and the complex rear gunners seat assembly made up of the seat, three machine gun support tubes, cross tube and machine gun, which can be posed either in the firing position or stowed on the gunners left hand side, next to his seat. The cockpit tub is then assembled from the sub assemblies of the floor, instrument panel, port and starboard side walls plus the rear bulkhead and the whole lot sandwiched between the fuselage halves as they are closed up. The centre console, with central compass, interior bracing and additional instrument for the gunner are then attached between the pilot and gunner positions.

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Next it’s on with the wings, which consist of a single piece lower wing and two upper panels. Ensure that you open up the holes in the lower wing if you wish to fit the bombs. The completed wing is then attached to the fuselage along with the two single piece horizontal tailplanes. The single piece engine is fitted with a poly cap and finished off with the fitting of the gearbox cover. The cowling is assembled from two halves and a separate nose section. There are two types of bomb included, the large 250kg which is mounted on the centreline and the two 60kg bombs fitted to pylons on the outer wings. Each bomb comes in multiple parts including pylons, sway braces, fins and the trapeze mechanism for the 250kg bomb. The main wheels are simple fixed affairs and are made of inner and outer spats into which the single piece wheels are fitted.

With all the sub-assemblies built up they can be fitted to the aircraft. Before fitting the engine thought, there are the two separate exhaust stacks that need to be attached on the underside of the firewall. Additionally, there are a pair of dive brakes, landing lamp, aileron trim tab linkages, arrestor hook, tailwheel and arrestor cable guard attached. The single piece three bladed prop fitted with a two part hub assembly then slid into place, to be held by the poly cap previously fitted to the engine assembly. Finally the pitot probe, clear navigation light parts and canopy/canopies are attached, with the option of multiple open panels or single piece closed arrangement, each with the aerial mast fixed on the centre section fixed part.

Decals

The decals provide markings for four aircraft, each of which took part in the Indian Ocean raid.

  • Aichi D3A1 EI-238 flying from Shokaku
  • Aichi D3A1 EII-203 flying from Zuikaku
  • Aichi D3A1 AI-203 flying from Akagi
  • Aichi D3A1 AI-206 also flying from Akagi

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As usual, the decals are well printed with good opacity and in register. There is little or no sign of carrier film, with the exception of the horizontal tailplane stripes on which the film is very noticeable. A good coat of gloss varnish and some good setting and softening solution will go a long way to get rid of any silvering in this area, or you may want to discard them are paint them instead.

Conclusion

Even though it’s another re-release, it’s good to see the Val out again as it is an important part of Japanese Naval Aviation history. There is nothing difficult in the build, in fact some areas are perhaps a little simplified, particularly the engine. Certainly the interior will require a good bit of detail painting to bring it all out, but the simple colour schemes mean that this would make a nice weekend build without any AM getting in the way and will look good in any collection. Highly recommend.

Review sample courtesy of
logo.jpg UK distributors for logo.jpg

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