Kawasaki Ki-102a Kou by Sword
Kit No. 72103
Decals: Two versions – one Imperial Japanese Army Air Force, 1945; one captured and in U.S. markings, also 1945
Comments: Engraved panel lines, detailed cockpit and main landing gear; detailed painting instructions in color
The Ki-102a was a late World War II design by Kawasaki and was initially intended as a replacement for the Ki-45 Toryu (Dragon Killer), a twin-engined heavy fighter, ground attack aircraft, and nightfighter. The Ki-102a was designed specifically to fulfill the high altitude fighter role; the -102b, the ground attack aircraft; and the -102c, the nightfighter. Armed with a 37mm Ho-203 cannon in the nose and two 20mm Ho-5 cannon in the fuselage belly, the Ki-102a was meant to deal with American B-29 bombers, whose raids by mid-1944 began to wreak destruction on Japanese cities. It was powered by two 1500 hp Mitsubishi Ha-112-II Ru radial engines fitted with Ru-102 turbosuperchargers, and was capable of 365 mph with a service ceiling of about 38,000 feet. The Ki-102 flew for the first time in the Summer of 1944. Proving satisfactory, it was ordered into production with only minor modifications, such as a revision of the main armament, which was originally intended to be a 57mm cannon.
Although the first Ki-102a was completed by June 1944, only 15 of them were produced by the end of the war, in part due to a decision to divert resources to production of the Ki-102c, since the Japanese government by that stage perceived a need for a dedicated nightfighter. As a result, the Ki-102a was never put into production. The prototype Ki-102c, which differed considerably from the a and b variants, was completed by July 1945, but its flight trails were interrupted by the end of the war on August 14, 1945, when Emperor Hirohito announced the Japanese surrender via radio broadcast.
While the Ki-102a was heavily armed, and its flight trials indicated it would perform within the desired specifications, it was never put into production to address the B-29 threat. A total of 263 of all Ki-102 types (not including three prototypes) were manufactured during the war. Most were kept in reserve in Japan to execute the Imperial Japanese Army’ s plans to counter the expected U.S. invasion. Only a limited number of Ki-102b’s, armed with the original 57mm cannon, saw combat during the Okinawa campaign in the ground attack role, where the Allied Forces gave it the code name “Randy.”
Sword’s Ki-102a, a high altitude interceptor, is based largely on its newly tooled kit of the Ki-102b ground attack version, as the two airframes were very similar and the kits were released at the same time. The Ki-102a is injection molded in grey and consists of 90 parts on four sprues. The major airframe parts feature engraved panel lines and recessed rivet detail of moderate depth. In the cockpit, the seat is spartan but the main instrument panel is exceptionally well detailed, looking more like a part to be found in 1/48 scale or larger.
A side instrument panel, control yoke and rear pilot armor with headrest are provided as separate parts. The rear cabin for the navigator is also fairly well detailed with front and rear bulkheads, the later being attached to the flooring and including molded on detail. The interior sidewalls of both the cockpit and rear cabin feature raised detail that amounts to little more than internal ribbing, but it is a nice touch.
A noteworthy item is that the kit is devoid of locator pins, but as these can hamper rather than help parts alignment, no harm done. The main landing gear are pretty well detailed, consisting of eight parts each. The instruction sheet is well-illustrated and should be easy to follow, and when you cement the main gear into the nacelles of the lower wing, a forward view schematic is provided to show you what the proper alignment looks like. Two small parts that form the trailing end of the ventral side of the nacelles each have molded into them the turbosuperchargers that helped boost the Ki-102’s performance; their detail is fair, but the attempted representation alone is worth noting.
Based on the instruction sheet, the kit will proceed smoothly, except for two areas that may require extra attention. One is the engine cowlings, which are not a single piece, but are molded in two halves. Using Tamiya Extra Thin Cement or some other liquid adhesive with capillary action may minimize the need for putty and sanding on that step. The other is that the propeller blades look a bit too round based on reference photos of the Ki-102, and may need a bit of sanding for as slightly more tapered look. Four-view color schematics are provided for both versions for which decals are provided, an Imperial Japanese Army aircraft from 1945, and a captured Ki-12 in U.S. Army Air Force markings. Colors are called out using Gunze Sangyo and Federal Standard references. Decals are by Techmod and do not provide much excitement other than the red Hinomarus (without a white border).
Overall the kit appears to be well-engineered, and the build should not present headaches, with maybe a little extra effort in two areas noted above. Highly recommended.
Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War by R. J. Francillon; Copyright 1970, Putnam and Company, London.