1/72 KYUSHU K11W SHIRAGIKU
THE JAPANESE NAVY'S FLYING CLASSROOM
PAVLA NO. 72007
by Mike Driskill
The Kyushu K11W Shiragiku (White Chysanthemum) was a single-engined trainer designed for coordinated instruction of an complete bomber crew. The long greenhouse canopy housed a pilot and radio operator/gunner, while an instructor, navigator, and bombardier were housed below in a deep "two-story" fuselage. Designed as an economical successor to the obsolete Mitsubishi K3M series, the type entered service in late 1942. The aircraft was nothing if not obscure; never dignified with a catchy Allied code name, it is only superficially described even in Japanese-published references.
To my knowledge, the only previous kit of the K11W was a resin molding from the Japanese cottage industry. Most modelers would hardly describe the Shiragiku as an exciting-looking machine, and probably won't add Pavla's new kit to their list of "must-haves." But its uncluttered lines and straightforward construction are rather appealing, in a form-following- function sort of way, and anyone with an interest in Japanese wartime aircraft, or in trainers of the war era, will want to seek this one out.
Packaging of the kit is exceptional by limited-run standards, the box sporting a well-rendered color profile painting and eye-catching white-over- blue graphics. Contents are protectively bagged, and consist of 26 injection- molded parts on a single tree of light gray plastic, 10 etched brass components, two vacuform canopies to ease the fears of the uncoordinated, film instrument panels, and a spare sheet of clear plastic. The excellent instructions are in the form of a small booklet. They include a short history, exploded drawings of each assembly step, detail drawings to aid in component alignment and detail placement, and small three-view drawings illustrating camouflage and markings.
The molded parts are thick in section, with a fair amount of flash and largish injection gates, though the trailing edges of flying surfaces are commendably thin once cleaned up. The plastic works quickly, but is so soft that one has to be on guard against removing too much inadvertently. Wing, stabilizers, and fin attach via simple butt joints that require careful alignment and significant filling. Ejection pins are gigantic but at least located on out-of-sight interior surfaces. There are no alignment pins on fuselage or wing halves. As noted in "The Styrene Sheet's" September review of Pavla's Q1W "Lorna," parts preparation is much like a vacuform minus the parts cutout stage.
Overall accuracy is acceptable. The kit appears to be based on small three- view drawings from the Czech magazine "Letectvi + Kosmonautika," which in turn borrow heavily from Francillon's classic Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. The better (if still oversimplified) drawings printed in several recent Japanese books seem not to have been consulted. Lines, angles, and proportion are generally very good, though the wingspan is about a scale foot short of the published 14.98 meters. Several detail shortcomings are evident upon close comparison to published photographs. The oil cooler should be rounded on the bottom and have a small opening at the rear; the scoop given in the kit is rectangular and fairs completely into the fuselage. The wing root fairings are overly curvaceous above and below the wing, with no panel line to denote the edge of the fairing. As befits the Shiragiku's simple construction, the real wing butted straight into the fuselage except for a short, non-compound-curved fillet on part of the upper surface.
The wing root fairings are molded solidly to the fuselage, i.e. there is no corresponding hollow in the cockpit area, so they could be removed and reworked by the sufficiently ambitious. The front fuselage immediately behind the cowl should be circular in section but is instead slightly pear-shaped; the thickness of the plastic here will allow correction. Panel lines are finely done and generally accurate, but one vertical line on the port rear fuselage is noticeably out of plumb. A significant portion of the panels will need to be reworked after seam filling. Smaller parts are a mixed bag.
The engine detail is a little indistinct, fortunately a superior rendition of the little Hitachi mill, detailed down to the distinctive crankcase ribbing, is available in the Fujimi Ki-36 "Ida" kits. The prop is encased in flash, but looks usable, and the etched hub is a nice touch. The instructions recommending stretched sprue for attaching the prop in your hand- drilled locating hole, though this job is a natural for telescoping brass tubing. The exposed fixed landing gear struts are overly thick and better replaced from the proverbial spares box, or built-up from plastic rod or metal tubing. The main tires and tailwheel are finely done. Little cockpit detailing is provided outside of the etched instrument panel, intermediate bulkhead (which also contains instruments), rudder pedals, and seatbelts. The seats are a simplified angular shape, but probably usable with a little work. Most troublesome of all are the windows in the fuselage. The four large openings molded into the fuselage sides and bottom need considerable cleanup, and the many smaller windows are omitted entirely. I would bypass the butyrate sheet provided for these, and cut oversize holes to accept thick plastic inserts that could be blended, polished, masked, and painted into shape. The large entry hatch behind the canopy could be replaced with one formed from thin clear sheet with windows masked off. Quicker alternates would be Kristal-Kleer or perhaps even just black or silver rectangles of paint or decal. There are a myriad of minor external features--firewall vents, access panels, scoops and the like--that are omitted from the moldings and so must be added to taste based on reference photos.
Besides the items mentioned, the photoetch sheet includes nice torque links for the gear struts, and a rudder actuator. The excellent decals do not include the Propagteam logo, but are of similar high quality if a little on the translucent side. On my example the white hinomaru borders are a little off-register as well. Markings for three different machines are provided, a dark green over gray China-based aircraft, a green over orange trainer from the Tokushima Kokutai, and an all-white post- surrender transport with green crosses. Pavla kits are not quite of MPM quality, perhaps the current standard-bearers of the limited- run genre, and this kit is quite expensive with a suggested retail in the mid-20's. On the other hand, the K11W is eminently buildable by any modeler of intermediate skill, and is certainly unlikely to be followed by a better effort from elsewhere.
Pavla's Shiragiku is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in this unusual subject.
"Letectvi + Kosmonautika" magazine, vol. 59 (1983), nos. 12 and 15.
Japanese Military Aircraft Illustrated, vol. 3, Bunrin-Do, 1983.
Koku-Fan Illustrated, nos. 38 (1987), 68 (1992), and 83 (1995), Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft.
Koku-Fan Illustrated, no. 50 (1990), Japanese Military Aircraft Illustrated.
Broken Wings of the Samurai, Mikesh (1993).
Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, Francillon (1979)
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