Hasegawa 1/48 Mitsubishi A6M2a Zero Type 11

Kit # 09142                                        MSRP $29.98
Images and text Copyright © 2004 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
       The Mitsubishi Zero in its various forms was the definitive Imperial Japanese Navy fighter aircraft of World War 2. It was designed for speed, range and maneuverability, and it had no match at the start of the war. Armed with two 20 mm cannons and two 7.7mm machine guns, she could cruise for up to 8 hours with a drop tank attached. The Zero was the most mass produced fighter aircraft coming out of Japan during the war and was used in all theaters from the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War and at Pearl Harbor right through to the closing days of the conflict.
       Many times referred to as a “Zeke” by the Allies in Japan she was officially know as is "reishiki-kanjo-sentohki" or "rei-sen". In 1937 the Imperial Navy issued specifications for the 12-Shi (12th year since Emperor Hirohito's reign started in 1926) carrier-borne fighter as a replacement for the A5M "Claude". These specifications demanded speed, rate of climb and armament beyond anything produced anywhere in the world at the time, coupled with unheard of range and exceptional maneuverability. As the specification called only for attack, safety devices such as pilot armor and self-sealing fuel tanks were ignored. Sixteen months before Pearl Harbor, the Zero flew its first combat mission in China. Such was the superiority over the Chinese fighters that the Chinese refused to fight. Only two Zeros were lost to enemy activity in this period, shot down by anti-aircraft fire. However, the light armament and armor of the Zero became its Achilles heel once opponents such as the F6F Hellcat entered the scene.
       The third prototype and first actual production Zero was the A6M2 type 11 of which only 64 units were made before the type was modified. It was strictly a land-based aircraft and did not have the naval modifications such as a tail-hook and folding wing tips seen on later versions. Once these modifications were carried out the type was changed to 21, which became the most common version of the Zero produced. Over the war years many modifications were introduced to increase the power of the plane, adjust it’s armament or wing configuration. With each engine change the final number would change such as A6M5 and various armament, wing and landing gear configurations lead to different tag letters and subvarient numbers like the A6M2-N “Rufe” that was a float plane version of the Zero. The final version of the Zero, which was called the "the best Zero model" by the Japanese test pilots who flew it, was the A6M8c. This aircraft had a much larger cowl to accommodate the Kinsei 62 engine. This led to the deletion of all fuselage-mounted guns. The aircraft never made it into production as the war ended before the first model made it off the line. The production model would have been known as the A6M8 Model 64.
       Entering into the conflict as a virtually undefeatable opponent, it was soon outclassed and out gunned by newer technologies produced by the Allies. Lack of pilot armor and self-sealing fuel tanks took a deadly toll on the ranks of experienced pilots resulting in a vicious cycle that ended in August 1945.

The Kit
       While I talked about Zeros in general in the Development History section of this review the kit that we are looking at is the type 11 Zero without the folding wing tips. The kit is a fairly typical contemporary Hasegawa production with fine, crisp recessed panel lines and rivet details. The plastic is a light to medium gray and does not appear to be brittle or unusual in any way. There is no evidence of flash on any of the parts and there are minimal injector pin markings and mold separation lines. All the gray injection molded pieces were packaged in a single large poly bag and seem to have shifted quite a bit during shipping as I have found many fine scratches across the top surfaces of the wings. Some light sanding should fix this problem. The clear parts were sealed in their own poly bag and did not take any shipping damage. You can click on the image to the right to view a larger picture of the parts trees.
       Some items of interest with this kit are in the cockpit, this area is comprised of thirteen individual pieces and gives a good impression of a busy front office. The landing gear bays display some nice detail as well. The lower air intake includes part of the landing gear bay and makes for a slightly different assembly from the typical model construction. During a dry fit session I found that the parts fit together well other than a slight bit of warpage in the fuselage tail. The engine is another place of fine detail. This is a two-bank engine assembly with alternative crankcase pieces and a well detailed exhaust collective. The kit includes a total of 67 gray injection pieces and 9 clear pieces. The clear pieces include wingtip lights and a spare canopy that is for a different version of the aircraft.

Decals and Instructions
        The instructions are a full sized eight panel fold-out that begins with a pretty comprehensive historical background. Included is a paint chart that lists colors by the Gunze-Sangyo and Mr. Color paint numbers and by color name. Three panels consist of large exploded view construction steps, which is adequate for the kit as it is not a very complex model. There is a parts map and exterior painting and decal placement instructions for four different aircraft.
        The decal sheet is fairly extensive showing good print registry and color density. The decals appear to be thin and include a few service stencils and data plates. Three of the aircraft covered are in a two-tone Mitsubishi Green and one is in overall green. While the color chart does identify these colors are green the color artwork on the box certainly looks gray to me.

        An interesting an seemingly easy model to build, the parts are well made with no flash or obvious errors. The decals are nice and comprehensive and the directions are clear and well organized. The issue with the exterior color is odd but I am not an expert on Japanese aircraft and have not been able to find a color chip of Mitsubishi Green to confirm the color. A bit of help from fellow modeler Alan C. indidactes that the color codes have been mislabled and that Mr Color 35 is "IJN Gray (Mitsubishi)" so take that into account when building this kit and, as always, check your reference material. Overall it is a well made kit of a cleanly designed little aircraft.
        There are lots of aftermarket items out there that can be added to this kit; Cutting edge offers paint masks, a resin replacement seat and flaps, Eduard has several detail sets available, Engines and Things offers a replacement engine and E-Z Mask has canopy mask set as well.

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