Nakajima Kikka by MPM

1/72 scale
Kit No. 72139
Cost: $22.00
Decals: One version
Comments: Engraved panel lines, resin parts for cockpit and interior engine detail, photo-etch parts

History

Design work on the Nakajima Kikka began in September 1944, after glowing reports from the Japanese Air Attache in Berlin on the performance of the Messerschmitt Me 262 prompted the Imperial Navy to instruct Nakajima to design a twin-jet, single seat fighter based on the Nazi turbjojet. Although it never saw operational service, the Kikka (Orange Blossom) was to be Japan’s only self-powered turbojet to take flight during World War II. The Naval Staff specifications dictated a top speed of 432 mph (695 kph); a range of either 110 nautical miles with a bomb load of 1,102 lbs., or 150 nautical miles with a bomb load of 551 lbs.; a landing speed of 92 mph (148 kph) and a takeoff run of 1,150 feet (350 meters). Armament was to be two 30mm Type 5 cannon. The Kikka was to have folding wings to enable it to be hidden from Allied bombers in caves and tunnels, and also for ease of production by semi-skilled labor.

Designed by Kazuo Ohno and Kenichi Matsumura, the Kikka resembled the Me 262 externally but was smaller, with a noticeably thicker rear fuselage and a significantly less swept wing. In fact, the trailing edge of the Kikka’s wing was nearly at a right angle to the fuselage, like most conventional fighters of the day. Like the Me 262, the engines were mounted in their own nacelles, one on each wing. Initially the powerplant was to be a pair of Tsu-11 Campani-type engines capable of 441 lbs. thrust (200 kg). These were conventional piston engines that compressed air, which was then mixed with fuel and ignited. While this was a workable means of jet propulsion, it was less efficient than the turbojet which used a series of spinning turbine blades as a compressor.

Nakajima soon replaced the Tsu-11 with a pair of Ne-12 turbojets of 750 lbs. thrust (340 kg), and while these were an improvement, they still did not produce sufficient thrust, and for a time the future of what was designated the Navy Special Attacker Kikka was in doubt.

However, photographs of the BMW 003 axial-flow turbojet, which powered both the Me 262 and the single-engined Heinkel He 162, had been obtained by Eng Aichi Iwaya of the Imperial Japanese Navy. From these photos, Ohno and Matsumura were able to design a similar and far more effective turbojet than the Ne-12, which was designated Ne-20. The Ne-20 developed 1,047 lbs. (475 kg) of thrust, and promised to help the Kikka meet all design specifications. The project to build Japan’s first jet fighter began to progress rapidly, but it came to fruition too late.

The first Kikka made its maiden flight from Kisarazu Naval Air Base with Lt. Commander Susumu Tanaoka at the controls on August 7, 1945 — the day after the American atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima. The flight went well, lasting 20 minutes, causing concern only in the length of the take-off run. Two days after the first Kikka flight, the second atomic bombing at Nagasaki fueled more urgent discussion about possible surrender between Emperor Hirohito and his War Cabinet.

On August 11, 1945, a second Kikka test flight was aborted upon take-off, when the pilot realized that the rocket-assisted takeoff gear (which had not been used for the first flight) had been positioned at an improper angle. The plane never lifted off, ran off the end of the runway and was damaged. A second prototype was nearly ready for flight trials, and 18 additional prototypes were in various stages of construction when on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito in a radio address announced the surrender of the Japanese Empire to the Allies, effectively cancelling the project.

Had Messerschmitt’s Me 262 not been a victim of Hitler’s meddling, and had more of an impact on the war in Europe at an earlier stage, it might have come to the attention of the Japanese Air Attache in Berlin sooner. But the Japanese did not awake to the potential of the Me 262 until the Fall of 1944; owing partly to the difficulties in developing the right powerplant, the first Japanese prototype of the Kikka was not completed until June 30, 1945. At that point, the fighting on Okinawa, the first of the Japanese home islands to be taken by the Allies, had come to an end. It was already unlikely the Kikka would be operational in sufficient numbers in time to alter Japan’s fortunes, even if the Atom Bomb had not been dropped and Operation Olympic, the planned invasion of Japan, had gone forward in November 1945.

After the war, three Kikka airframes were shipped to the United States for evaluation. One of them was taken to the Patuxent River Naval Air Base in Maryland for analysis, and was subsequently sent to the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Kit

MPM’s Kikka is molded in light grey and consists of 30 parts on a single sprue, along with a single clear plastic piece for the canopy. In addition, there are nine resin parts for the cockpit tub, pilot’s seat, two sidewalls, nose wheel well, and engine intakes and exhausts. There are photo-etch parts for the instrument panel (augmented by a clear acetate insert), rudder pedals, seat straps, and other parts for the landing gear. Engraved panel lines adorn the entire airframe. The trailing edges of the wings and ailerons have nicely done stressed fabric effects for the ailerons and elevators, but the one-piece wing is not accurate as far as the angle of the trailing edge in relation to the fuselage. According to schematics of this aircraft in both the kit instructiions and in R.J. Francillon’s Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, the wing of the actual Kikka was slightly swept along its leading edge, but the trailing edge met the fuselage at nearly a right angle, much like many conventional aircraft of the time. MPM’s Kikka on the other hand, shows a trailing edge that angles forward slightly in almost a mirror image of the leading edge.

As MPM initially issued the Kikka without resin parts, this upgraded kit contains the resin additions in their own separate clear plastic bag, and the instructions include an insert detailing the assembly of the resin cockpit components, as well as the resin parts for the engine intakes and exhausts (which are far more detailed than the kit parts they replace, and the nose wheel well.

Conclusion

This is an important kit of a late-war aircraft that lost the race to prevent Allied victory in the Pacific. Like the Me 262 which spawned it, the Nakajima Kikka was too little, too late. Despite its inaccuracy, MPM’s kit is an important addition for those interested in modeling Japanese aircraft of World War II.

Reference

  • Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War by R. J. Francillon; Copyright 1970 Putnam & Company Limited; London
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