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Ki-21-1b Sally (48195) 1:48 Japanese Heavy Bomber


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Ki-21-1b Sally (48195)

Japanese Heavy Bomber

1:48 ICM via H G Hannants Ltd




The Sally, as she was known by the Allies during WWII was a heavy bomber designed by Mitsubishi as a replacement for the Ki-20, in competition with Nakajima, who although they lost out on the design of the aircraft, were given the contract for the power plants, as their HA-5 engines were found to be superior to Mitsubishi’s offering that was originally installed in the winning design.  A small number of airframes were also built by Nakajima, with a total of just over 2,000 built between them.  It first flew in 1936 and was intended for long-range bombing missions against Soviet and Chinese opponents, first entering service in 1938 in operations against China.  Initial experience showed that the design was lacking in some respects, extending to the crucial oxygen system that was initially found to be unreliable.  The Ib was intended to address most of the issues, including the lack of armament and changes to the flying surfaces.  It also had a remote tail gun installation, and could mount an additional fuel tank for extreme range missions.


The type was pretty much obsolete by 1940, and mounting losses prompted the type’s withdrawal from front line service, and the sale of some of the superfluous airframes to nations that remained friendly to the Japanese Empire.  Uses were still found for the type with the Japanese forces however, and the remaining aircraft were used until the end of the war as cargo transports, trainers, troop transports and communications hacks.  The later variants had improved engine performance with new Mitsubishi units, some with alterations to the greenhouse behind the cockpit, which was changed to a turret on some, and removed entirely on transport variants.



The Kit

This is a brand-new tool from ICM, who continue to produce new kits despite the difficult circumstances in their home country.  We’ve been reviewing its smaller 1:72 sibling kit that was relatively recently released by ICM, and up until today I was quite jealous that this kit wasn’t available in my preferred scale.  That’s now been rectified, and I couldn’t be happier unless I was given a big bag of free money.  The kit arrives in a top-opening box that has a captive top flap on the bottom tray.  Inside are seven sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue in a separate bag, decal sheet and the instruction booklet, which is printed in colour with profiles for painting and decaling on the back pages.  Detail is thoroughly modern, and extends to ribbing on the interior of most of the fuselage, restrained fabric depiction on the flying surfaces, full representation of the engines and a nice cockpit, plus a set of crystal-clear glazing parts.





















Construction begins with the fuselage halves, which have the armed tail added to the rear on a keyed flange, a lozenge-shaped detail insert to make the wing root recess flush, and the side windows, ammo drums dotted around the interior, plus multiple well-detailed equipment boxes inserted in the cockpit area, and later a line of trunking that extends from the trailing edge of the wing to the tail.  The mid-upper gunner’s compartment is built from a series of steps that are glued to a base with another step, which is then glued to a bulkhead at the front that forms the rear bulkhead of the bomb bay, and has ribbing along its lower portion.  Fire extinguishers are lined up in pairs on the port interior over the bomb bay, then the bomb bay roof is fitted out with eight bomb shackles before the sides and front bulkhead are installed, and it is then populated by four bombs that are each made from two halves, plus twin braces to each side of the stabilising fins at the rear.  The bomb bay is joined to the underside of the cockpit floor, and in the recess that is part of the forward floor, detail is moulded into the top of the bomb bay, and it accepts one pilot’s rudder pedals that fit into pairs of holes in the deck.  A seat with cushion is suspended over the recess, then another more substantial seat is attached to the floor at the port side with a lever to the side of it, adding a side console, throttle quadrant and two bow-tie control columns before the front bulkhead is fixed to the cockpit, plus a pair of two-part fuel tanks further back over the wing along the starboard wall, with a small equipment installation just forward.  The cockpit assembly can then be inserted into the port fuselage half, adding the bomb-aimer’s position with a choice of two glazing parts, one with a cushion and vertical column, one bare, slotting into the cut-out under the nose.  More ammo cans are dotted around the upper gunner’s stepped compartment, adding a clear porthole in the floor, and an internal ladder below the crew access door in the port side.  The reason for the ammo cans includes side-firing and ventral machine guns, with a choice of weapons that have a plate magazine over the breech, or Type 89 machine guns, gluing the floor-mounted glazing panel into one side of the lower fuselage before it is closed.  In the front, a rack of four O2 bottles are inserted in the roof of the nose, then the starboard fuselage is prepared in a similar manner as the port, fitting the wing root insert, adding glazing, instruments, machine gun ammo cans, a jump seat and the afore-mentioned trunk down the wall of the fuselage.  The fuselage halves are closed around the instrument panel that has a pair of decals to depict the dials, a short coaming, and centre throttle quadrant, plus the upper gunner’s seat that is suspended on four moulded-in struts that locate on corresponding depressions in the fuselage wall.  You have a choice of posing the bomb bay open or closed, using a single part to depict it closed, or the four individual door parts that fold to the side in pairs with the help of a pair of retraction jacks at either end, which are all included on the sprues.  The dorsal gunner’s fuselage insert is prepped by making the gun mount from two parts, a dump bag that is also two parts, and the twin guns mounted over it, which have a pair of half plate magazines fitted to the top of the breech, and a semi-circular pivot that flex-fits into recesses under the dorsal insert, after which you can glue the insert into position in the top of the fuselage, taking care to align it carefully to minimise clean-up of seams.  You have the same choice of two gun types for the nose gun that slides through a hole in the nose glazing, gluing into the nose while the canopy and dorsal glazing are fitted, being careful to paint the deck under the dorsal glazing before you add glue.






The tail is started by adding the elevator fins, which have separate flying surfaces and rudder panel, then the wings are prepared by inserting a two-part bay in each one before joining the upper and lower halves together, adding the ailerons into their slots and landing light lenses in the leading edges.  They are then glued onto the wing root fairings on the fuselage, which have a lip to ensure proper location, and a slot for the short length of spar that extends from the wing to further improve joint strength.  The wheels are installed under the wings before the engines and lower cowling are made up, starting with the tail-wheel slipped into its yoke, and then adding the two-part wheels to the H-frame main strut, which has a two-part support frame fitted to the front, and a long yoke with mudguard and additional V-strut that links the lower leg to the back of the bay.  Four small parts are fixed to the wing inside the bays, and the lower cowlings are made up out of two halves plus a round bulkhead, adding a pair of two-part intakes top and bottom, then sliding the lower nacelle over the completed wheels and mating the edges with the recessed lip of the lower wing surface.  The engines are built-up on bulkheads with the cooling flaps moulded-in, a separate exhaust stack underneath, and a depiction of both cylinder banks, plus the front bell-housing with push-rods moulded-in, hiding the prop axle inside without glue so that the props can spin later, and fitting a wiring loom guide around the bell housing.  The finished engines are covered by two cowling halves and a separate lip, gluing them to the front of the nacelles and finishing them off by adding the three-bladed prop and separate spinner.  The model is completed by installing an antenna post and D/F loop over the canopy, and a curious-looking cranked pitot probe in the leading edge of the port wing.




There are four options on the decal sheet, all but one in light green-grey, differentiated by their unit markings, the final markings having a dense dark green squiggle camouflage scheme over the green-grey.  From the box you can build one of the following:


  • 60th Sentai, China, 1940
  • 60th Sentai, 2nd Chutai, China, 1940
  • Hamamatsu Army Flying School, Japan, probably 1941
  • 25 Hikodan Shireibu Hikohan, Japan, 1943






Decals are by ICM’s usual partner, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness, and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.


As is common now with ICM kits, there is a page of the instruction booklet devoted to the masking of the canopy, using the printed shapes on the right of the page and the diagrams on the left to create your own masks if you wish.  It goes up to 130 thanks to the extensive greenhouse glazing.




A nicely detailed and most welcome new tooling of this short-lived (in front line service at least) heavy bomber, which should put the older vacform tooling from another manufacturer out to pasture.


Highly recommended.


Available in the UK from importers H G Hannants Ltd.



Review sample courtesy of


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