Reviewed by Dan Salamone
In early 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy was in need of a sea based fighter aircraft to be used from areas without airstrips, such as islands in the Pacific. Knowing that the Kawanishi Rex was still a few years from service, the IJN instructed Nakajima to adapt the Type 0 land based fighter (the famous A6M Zero) to meet these needs.
By December 1941 Nakajima had built and flown the A6M2-N that would eventually be given the Allied code name "Rufe". The main differences between the Rufe and its land-based counterpart were the main float, two outrigger floats under the wings and an increased rudder area which also featured a small ventral fillet under the lower fuselage.
Some other well known land based aircraft that were adapted to the floatplane roll were the Spitfire, Wildcat, and Helldiver, but the Rufe actually saw combat from 1942 on in widespread areas such as the Aleutians, South Pacific islands and finally in defense of the Japanese Home Islands, operating from Lake Biwa against B-29 raiders.
Hasegawa finally brings fans of Japanese aviation another variant of their outstanding early Zero series. The kit (JT69) comes in a box featuring a painting by the talented Koike Shigeo showing a Rufe intercepting a B-24. Two decal variations are included, the box top aircraft from the 934th Flying Group in a dark green over green-grey camouflage with a striking yellow lightning bolt on the fuselage, and an overall green-grey aircraft based on the Kamikawa Maru. As per usual Hasegawa standards, all the parts are contained in one large plastic bag, with the clear parts being sealed in a separate bag with the decal sheet.
The parts breakdown includes 8 sprues of which only 3 (including the clear parts) are shared by the land based Zero variants. These sprues contain 9 clear parts as well as 105 grey parts. Of these, 32 parts will not be used as they are exclusive to the wheeled version of the aircraft, including the entire lower wing half. A great kit for fans of spare parts!
Much to their credit Hasegawa seems to have spared no expense in bringing the modeller a true version of the Rufe. As far as the directions are concerned the only change that needs to be made by the builder is to fill some panel lines on the upper wings in Step 6, one near each leading edge of the wing, and the inset tab on each aileron. There are 11 steps in total and they are illustrated in usual clear Hasegawa fashion.
This kit shares the cockpit components from the other early Zero kits and, while not up to the high standards of their recent Ki-84 kit, are still quite nice and other than drilling out the lightening holes in the pilot's seat will build up nicely. The builder has the option of painting the instrument panel details or using the included decal for the panels.
Speaking of the decals, Hasegawa includes a generous amount of red code numbers so the modeller can easily build various aircraft from many different units that flew the Rufe.
The "new" parts in this kit include a true Rufe fuselage that has the larger rudder and lower fuselage fillet. There is a small, but noticeable, seam line about 53 cm from the tip of the tail that needs a bit of attention (circumference of the fuselage). Also, the cowl will need some attention as far as mold lines around the intake, and parallel to the gun troughs. There is also a trolley included that is comprised of 10 parts to allow display of the finished model, as well as an optional ladder that can be mounted on the main float. The only other option is the inclusion of two 60kg. bombs that can be attached to the lower wings. Step 8 calls for 16kg of ballast to be placed in the front of the main float to balance the model once finished.
My copy of the kit shows some minor, yet nagging molding flaws. The pylon on the main float has a few panel lines that are incomplete, the lower wing has some areas that are not as smooth as others and almost all of the sprues containing the new parts appear very dull, much like a limited run kit. It is possible that these issues are unique to my example, and of course they are easily fixed such as with the incomplete panel lines but I felt they were worth mentioning.
A quick word on colors for this kit.
Being that the Rufe was built by Nakajima the cockpit was most likely painted in a shade of green roughly equivalent to either Aeromaster "Nakajima Interior Green", or Gunze Mr. Color 127. The green-grey, or "ame-iro" color used for either overall or lower camouflage colors is very close to FS 24201 or 26350. It should be noted that the colors used by Nakajima and Mitsubishi for A6M production did vary - some relics even show that Nakajima may have actually installed the fabric covered flying surfaces painted in a shade close to FS 16314 or FS 16251. The upper dark green color can be emulated by using a color close to FS 34077. The cowl and the upper decking under the rear canopy can be painted FS 27038.
In the directions, Hasegawa calls for the cockpit to be painted (all Mr. Color) Gunze 127, as well as the upper cockpit decking. The cowl is Gunze 125, dark green upper camouflage Gunze 15 and the green-grey either Gunze 56 (which is a grey- relics show that the camouflage oxidized to a grey) or a mix of Gunze 336/12 to a ratio of 60/40.
Again, there is great debate as to the actual nature of the light color seen on early Zero aircraft. It seems that when applied it was a color that can be described anywhere between green-grey, to olive, to tan or even buff. Relics show that after years of exposure to the elements this color faded to a light, chalky grey, and when buffed the true nature generally shows through.
Sources for the color information include an article in Asahi Journal Volume 2 Number 4 written by James Lansdale, Model Art #510 IJA Fighters, and information discussed at J-aircraft.com.
Overall this appears to be a fine kit of a unique aircraft.
Hasegawa should be applauded for providing such a complete kit, rather than cutting corners and having the modeller perform a lot of surgery on an aircraft that does not have a lot of readily available data. Being that the basic parts breakdown is similar to their earlier A6M2 kits, in theory assembly should be without major pitfalls.
If the mentioned issue of molding flaws is widespread in nature it is only a minor problem that should not dissuade anybody from adding this kit to their collection. I have built the old Tamiya Rufe kit, and while still a nice kit this new release from Hasegawa appears to be a much more "up to date" way to build this aircraft.
Recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in Japanese aircraft, or floatplanes.
Review Copyright © 1999 by Dan