Kayaba Type 4 "Katsuodori" Ram-Jet Fighter by Meng
Kit no. DS-001
Decals: Two versions - Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy
Comments: Engraved panel lines; includes two complete kits
The Kayaba Type 4 Katsuodori was a Japanese ramjet fighter, developed from a similar glider airframe, that was still on the drawing boards when World War II came to an end. Had the war continued, the Japanese planned to employ the Katsuodori as a high-altitude point defense interceptor against the American B-29 formations that attacked Japan with increasing frequency in 1944-45, in much the same way that Germany used the rocket-powered Me 163 Komet against Allied bombers over Germany. The key difference was that the Katsuodori was powered by a ramjet, and had to be released from an already-airborne mother ship, whereas the Me 163 took off under its own power. The Katsuodori's ramjet propulsion system could not get a stationary aircraft airborne by itself, but it would have been safer than the Me 163, whose dual fuel propellant system, causing spontaneous combustion on contact, could blow both plane and pilot to bits before they left the ground.
About half the length of conventional fighters, the dimunitive Katsuodori had a thin, swept-back, razor-like wing, with correspondingly limited fuel capacity. Since ramjets cannot produce thrust at zero airspeed, they cannot move an aircraft from a standstill. Had the Katsuodori entered service it would have been taken aloft by a larger, twin-engine aircraft such as a Mitsubishi "Betty" bomber, and released once moving at sufficient speed for the ramjet to produce thrust, and then only when visual contact had been established with the B-29's. Like the Me 163, its pilot would have had time only for one or two passes at the American bombers, doing as much damage as possible with the plane's two nose-mounted 30mm cannon before expending his fuel and gliding back down to earth
For a more detailed history of the Katsuodori, please see the preview of this kit here.
A potentially deadly sight that -- fortunately -- B-29 aircrews never saw.
Construction is smooth and trouble-free; the fit of Meng's Katsuodori is excellent, and it requires minimal putty/filler. The main challenge came with the two thin, rectangular frames for the ramjet pods (both labelled A25), which are quite delicate and must be both removed from the sprue and sanded with gentle care, otherwise they can easily be damaged.
Care must also be taken when cementing the pods to the frames, to be sure they are facing in the right direction! The design of the one-piece canopy made it easy to simply glue in place and mask for painting. Afterwards, I removed the canopy, stripped off the tape, and dipped it in Future floor wax in preparation for the final cementing.
This head-on profile shows the four supplemental propulson units beneath the wings, and the tubular frames connecting them to the fuselage. These frames are quite delicate and require careful handling. On the actual Katsuodori, the under-wing units were intended to give it an extra burst of speed, either to safely clear the mother ship or to engage the B-29 bombers.
Construction of the airframe was so smooth and swift that the bulk of the time on this kit was spent on the painting. The Katsuodori is painted mostly in Gunze Sangyo acrylics, in the Imperial Japanese Army camouflage scheme of Dark Green (H59) over Gray (H62). The exhaust is a Model Master buffing metallizer color, Burnt Iron, with Tamiya acrylic flat yellow for the leading edge de-icing boots on the wings. The cockpit interior was airbrushed in a Vallejo acrylic, No. 70833, referred to in the kit instructions as "cockpit color (Nakajima mode)" but which Vallejo calls "German Camouflage Bright Green," -- at any rate, it matches the paint code called for in the instructions.
For the mottling effect, I used a small brass paint mask for 1/72 scale aircraft made by Airwaves (Part No. M01) which was very effective. Although intended for Luftwaffe aircraft, it did a fine job. The mottling has sharp delineations on the flat surfaces where the stencil could be held flush against the model, and has more of a feathered look on the aircraft's curved surfaces. It was necessary to mask both the canopy and the exhaust, which had been airbrushed prior to assembling the fuselage. Finally, a light wash of flat black brought out the detail of the panel lines.
The only kit decals I used are the tail and victory markings, since the red Hinomaru provided in the kit looked far too dull and flat. For these national markings, I drew from an aftermarket set of Hinomaru decals from Techmod (No. 72116) for all six positions on the fuselage and wing surfaces. The Techmod markings are highly recommended as the Hinomarus come in multiple sizes in 1/72 scale. Also, they are high quality, being thin, strong enough to hold up well against decal solvent, and have bright and believable coloring.
This is a great kit of what would have been a late-war Japanese ramjet fighter from a relatively new manufacturer, Meng of China. It is notable for its simplicity, ease of construction, modicum of detail, and unusual subject. It is interesting that the powered version of the Katsuodori was under development in the 1944-45 period (the Japanese equivalent of Luft '46, for it would likely have entered service had the war dragged on), yet was never intended as a Kamikaze weapon. Since the kit includes two complete aircraft, the next one will be the plainer Imperial Japanese Navy version, painted in overall IJN Grey. The only drawback is the kit's markings, most of which are best replaced with aftermarket decals.