by: Gary Kato [ ]
Originally published on:
After the early World War II encounters with the Soviets, reinforced later after hearing reports of heavier armored enemy tanks from the Germans, the Japanese Army upgraded their Type 97 Medium tank alternately with better weapons and armor, producing the Shinhoto (47mm high-velocity gun), Type 1 (50mm frontal armor), and Type 3 (75mm gun) tanks. The need for 75mm frontal armor required a brand new hull to carry all the added weight, giving the Type 4 Medium tank.
The subject of this kit, the Type 5, was a further development of the Type 4 Chi To. Thought was given to eventually arm it with an 88mm gun. The hull was lengthened to carry the extra weight along with fitting a larger engine. Sources differ as to whether this experimental tank was ever fitted with the 75mm gun before development was abandoned due to problems just getting the Type 4 into production. Sources also differ as to whether one or two Type 5s were made.
At least one Type 5 was captured by American forces with the main armament removed and was shipped to the US for testing. I have never seen any reference to evaluation reports written by the US. No mention is made as to what became of it so it was probably scrapped or used as a range target. All that is left are some original design documents and some photos taken by US forces before it was shipped to the US.
The kit comes in a rather tall sturdy box. Packed inside are 3 plastic bags of parts, separate upper and lower hulls, a booklet with the tank's history, instructions for building and painting, and a small supplement sheet. There are 14 trees of plastic parts (tan except where noted), one fret of photo-etch parts, and a small decal sheet. There are no figures in this kit.
Tree AA holds 32 parts for the 75mm gun while tree B holds the 26 parts for the turret. There are two tree Cís each with 82 parts for the suspension. Tree D is the lower hull and tree E is the upper hull. There are five of tree F with the dark gray parts for the working tracks. Tree G has clear plastic parts for vision blocks, commander's periscopes, tail light and head light; tree H has 41 parts for other hull parts, tree J has 17 parts for the 37mm armament, and tree K has the photo-etched metal parts for the jack base holder, muffler shield, and trunnion caps. This amounts to a whopping 725 parts.
This is a big kit. It should be about 3.5" wide, 3.5" high, and 9" long when built. The exterior surfaces seem to have a fine rough texture, perhaps to show a lower quality of workmanship on the armor plates at that point of the war. Weld seams are fine. FineMolds has done a wonderful job of avoiding ejection pin marks, with one big unfortunate exception: the track links.
The one piece lower hull is completed by a separate back panel which also forms the rear of the upper hull. The only interior part is the fighting compartment floor with its ammunition lockers. Unusually, the sponson bottoms are made of 4 parts, 2 on each side that attach to the lower hull and interior bulkhead. Care should be taken here to make sure the sponson bottoms not only align with each other, but also with the bottom of the upper superstructure.
There is no provision for rotating wheels although the suspension is broken down in a way to let you position the bogies on something other than a flat surface by judicious use of a knife.
The upper hull is mostly one piece except for the driver's and co-driver's hatches and the front panel of the upper superstructure. The driver and co-driver hatches can be positioned open, but while the 37mm gun has nice breech details, that is all the interior provided for the driving compartment. The 37mm barrel is a single part with a separate end cap with barrel opening. The co-axial machine gun has a slight depression on one side but I doubt if it will be visible. The 37mm gun can be positioned in any elevation and with a little work could be made moveable.
There is a small sink hole in the bottom of the jack base. There is a nice PE part for the muffler screen and a separate part is provided as a mold for bending it. The tow cable can be shown stowed or left off.
The turret is built from 5 major pieces: top/front, 2 sides, rear and bottom. The commander's cupola is quite nice with separate clear periscopes. All visors also have clear vision blocks behind them. Like the hull, while the commander's and gunner's hatches can be positioned open and there is a nice breech for the 75mm, there isn't much more of an interior. The 75mm barrel is in halves with a separate end cap with barrel opening.
The tracks work (except for the last link). The kit needs 100 links per side, but provides you with parts for 40 extra links. Each link is 2 pieces which trap the pins on the next link. The instructions imply that you cut the pins on the last link but if you whittle the pins down, you might be able to get it to snap in instead of using glue.
Unfortunately the care taken to avoid visible pin marks on the other trees was not taken on the links. It could have been done so easily by reversing the sides. There are two pin marks on each part. The two on the exterior part of the link are inside square depressions so you might be able to get away with keeping them. They would be difficult to remove. The two on the interior part are pretty visible and will need to be removed.
The history is all in Japanese but the assembly instructions have English translations for special instructions and for paint call-outs. The paint table has both Tamiya and GS paint numbers for the colors required. The supplement is to give a better view of the tool placement on the starboard fender.
Painting and Markings:
The booklet has the prototype in a Parched Grass base color. The booklet also has an overall Olive Drab and a camouflage scheme that could have been used on later vehicles. Similarly, there were no markings on the prototype, but the decals provide markings you can use for the Army Experimental Unit as well as 1st, 11th, 28th, and 29th Tank Regiments.
How accurate is the kit? One problem is the paucity of pictures of the real thing. I have only seen the same few pictures printed in all of my references. All these pictures seem to be informal photos taken at ground level so it isn't known exactly what the engine deck or the top of the turret looked like. I suppose that the lack of formal documentation by the US is a result of the war being over. It was no longer imperative to evaluate this new tank as it would never be encountered in combat.
It seemed as if Tank Power #12 would be the best reference with its 1/35 scale drawings, however when the kit's lower hull was much narrower than what their drawing showed, I began to wonder which was more accurate. Indeed the width of the drawing does not match the width of the tank as stated in the text. The drawings also show the main gun on the centerline, but the Japanese cut-away views from March 1, 1945 and reproduced in the book show the gun was offset to the left. Also the Tank Power drawings show the rear fenders extending beyond the muffler while the cut-away has the opposite. I decided to use the cut-away as my main reference. The kit matches the stated dimensions for the tank.
If you like unusual tanks (which probably makes you a fan of Japanese tanks anyway), this is a very nice kit. The care taken to avoid ejection pin marks should be something that other manufacturers should strive for. It truly is a shame that there is no supporting interior for those nice gun mounts/breeches and optional open crew hatches. A much larger shame for not taking care to put the pin marks on the side of the track parts where they would not show.
Fine Molds 1/35 Type 5 "Chi Ri" metal gun barrel set.
GSI IJA Tank Color Set #1
GSI IJA Tank Color Set #2
Tank Power #12: Japanese Armor, Vol 4
Osprey New Vanguard #137: Japanese Tanks 1939-45