I often think the minor versions of well-known aircraft make particularly interesting model subjects and, in the case of the famous Zero, the 2-seat trainer is a version that I've wanted to add to my collection for years.
Based on the standard Type 21 fighter, the A6M2-K was designed at the 21st Naval Air Arsenal. The conversion involved shifting the pilot's cockpit forward to allow a new "office" for the instructor to be squeezed in behind, while maintaining the centre of gravity. The instructor sat under a sliding canopy, but the student's cockpit was left open with small doors either side to make entry and exit easier. Anti-spin strakes were added to the rear fuselage sides.
The type served as a transitional trainer from January 1943 to the end of the war and was also used as a target tug for gunnery practice. 236 A6M2-Ks were built by the 21st Naval Air Arsenal, and a further 272 were built from May 1944 at Hitachi's Chiba plant.
Hasegawa's A6M2-K first appeared as part of the mammoth 15-kit 65th Anniversary Limited Edition Collection, and hasn't been otherwise available, but it has now finally been issued as a Limited Edition in its own right. Great news for the many modellers who either missed or simply couldn't justify buying the original set. The kit arrives in typical Hasegawa style; the main sprues in one bag, and the clear parts and decals together in a second. It comprises:
121 x grey styrene parts (30 not needed)
8 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 3 x aircraft
The reason almost a quarter of the parts will go straight into the bin or the spares box is because Hasegawa have taken their existing A6M2 and added new sprues for the trainer version. The moulding is excellent throughout, with no sign of flash or sink marks, and the surface finish is a subtle blend of finely engraved panel lines, with a few raised panels and details, plus quite lightly done fabric surfaces. The modified panels around the new cockpit are very nicely depicted.
The results of adding new parts to an existing kit aren't always as successful as one might hope, but here there are no problems. The new fuselage slots into the old wing nicely and the original tailplanes fit perfectly. The only modification required is to remove the trim tabs from the ailerons. This will mean a slight compromise in the surface detail as the moulded ribs don't cover the area.
The 2-seat cockpit cockpit comprises 21 parts with nicely detailed controls, floor and sidewalls, and slightly different style seats for the pilot and instructor. The standard fighter instrument panel is used, with a new part for the instructor's. From the instructions, it looks as though the rear face of the instructor's panel will be hidden by the pilot's seat and the top decking between the cockpits, but it might be a good idea to check before closing everything up and, if need be, add some instrument backs and wiring to busy things up. Both panels have excellent bezel details and there are decals provided for the instrument faces. No seat harnesses are provided, but Hasegawa have included a pair of neatly moulded multi-part figures.
The new fuselage has a separate tail cone that can be left off to reveal the interior structure, plus a new tailwheel with a larger inflatable tyre compared to the solid rubber type used by carrier-based Zeros.
A pair of target drogue canisters are provided, along with nicely moulded wing racks.
The new canopy parts are quite thin and crystal clear with precisely defined frames. The instructor's canopy is a separate part, but isn't designed to be posed open, as it will sit too high. It looks like a standard Zero canopy, so an aftermarket vacuform canopy such as those provided by Falcon/Squadron could well fit.
Instructions and decals
You can seldom go far wrong with Hasegawa's instructions and these are no exception, with beautifully drawn diagrams in a logical sequence. Gunze Sangyo paint matches are indicated throughout.
Decals are included for 3 main schemes, along with a selection of tail numbers if you want to depict other aircraft:
1. A6M2-K, Tainan Naval Flying Group, summer 1944, camouflaged with orange or grey undersides.
2. A6M2-K, Kounoike Naval Flying Group, autumn 1944, painted orange overall apart from a black nose and cowling.
3. A6M2-K, Tsukuba Naval Flying Group, autumn 1944, camouflaged with orange undersides and tail fin.
The decals are custom-printed by Cartograph and look excellent quality; thin and glossy, precisely in register, and with minimal carrier film.
Hasegawa's A6M2-K is a great kit for anyone looking for a Zero "with a difference". I hope sales are sufficient to justify its remaining in production or at least making regular appearances in the catalogue and, just maybe, convince Hasegawa to produce the trainer versions of some of their other WW2 fighters such as the Spitfire, Bf 109 and Fw 190... Recommended. Now, where's that orange paint?
I bought my A6M2-K at Model Hobbies
who, as usual, offer a useful discount over the standard UK price.
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