As the USA entered its third year of war with Japan, reports of a new enemy Navy fighter began to emerge. At first confused as a new modification of the A6M Zero, it would later proved to be the Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden. Considered as the finest Japanese Naval fighter of the war, it is hard to imagine that the aircraft finds its roots as a floatplane design. Designed with a central pontoon it was meant that the aircraft would work from forward bases constructing at atol’s where no airstrips where available. But by the time this floatplane entered service, Japan was already forced to fight a defensive war. The aircraft was redesigned as a land based version which made the construction considerably easier. Though it was a formidable weapon against the Allies, it would suffer from engine problems throughout its entire career.
The machine presented here is from 341 Hikotai. It was in fact the first air group that traded in its Zero aircraft for the brand new N1K1-Ja. Despite the upgrade in performance, several problems with the landing gear and engines caused the group’s combat effectiveness to drop considerably. Nonetheless they were send off to Luzon where the group faced a constant onslaught of American forces. By the 9th of January 1944 the unit was completely exhausted of usable aircraft and no longer able to fly any mission.
I managed to pick up this Tamiya kit for a mere 5 bucks at the Belgian National IPMS Convention. Some of the parts had been cut lose and it was unknown wether all parts were available. I decided to give it a try as a test mule for painting and luckily no parts were missing. Given its Tamiya pedigree it only took me a short two months to build the kit with a set of aftermarket decals from Yellowhammer. These were the best decals I have ever used and I hope to find and use more of their products in the future. The kit itself builds mostly without much of a hitch, though it did not seem to be as good as other Tamiya kits I had build before. The landing gear was misaligned by default and some areas did require some putty. Yet despite this the overal quality of the kit is still miles better than what most other manufacturers can offer today.