History of the Aircraft
From the beginning of hostilities with China and especially with Russia at Nomohan in 1939, the Japanese Navy had felt the need for a high-speed, quick-climbing interceptor to combat such raids, work began in 1938 on what was to eventually become the Raiden.
(" Thunderbolt ")
Slowed by priority work on the A6M Zero, Jiro Horikoshi's team at Mitsubishi eventually chose to employ the powerful 14-cylinder Mitsubishi Kasei 13 radial engine in the new plane despite concerns about it's large size and high fuel consumption.
To combat the big powerplant's drag, it was decided to mount it deep within a long, tapered cowling, connecting the propeller via an extension shaft and incorporating a cooling fan.
The first prototype flight finally took place in March of 1942, but problems with the engine and its cooling system, poor pilot visibility and sub-specification performance led to numerous modifications. These included replacement of the engine and extension shaft system with the smaller Kasei 23a, resulting in a shorter nose and improved visibility.
Satisfied, the Navy ordered production of the Raiden Model 11 (J2M2) beginning in September 1943. Work also quickly began on the Model 21 (J2M3), which boosted armament from the two 7.7mm machine guns in the fuselage and two wing-mounted 20mm cannon of the Model 11 to four wing-mounted cannon, dropping the MGs completely. This was by far the most-produced variant of the plane. Other minor variants included the turbo Ho-supercharged Model 32 (J2M4) and larger-cockpit, supercharged Model 33 (J2M5). Total production of all Raiden variants totaled approximately 500 aircraft by war's end.
In service, the Raiden -- code-named "Jack" by the Allies -- proved a fine aircraft and it was the preferred bomber-destroyer of IJN pilots late in the war where it frequently faced incoming U.S. B-29s. Nevertheless, confusion over its role in the Navy -- many advocated the faster Shiden in the interceptor role -- and persistent technical problems slowed its production to levels where its impact on the outcome of the conflict was limited.
images below to see larger images
I used the Hasegawa Mitsubishi Raiden J2M3 1/48 Model kit 09667 “ 302nd Flying Group “ and used the following Aftermarket parts used in the construction:
- 2 Eduard PE sets - 48 201 and FE117 - both are essential to buy as they each have etch parts that the other doesn’t offer
- N1K2-J etch set to supply extra handles and switches
- Eduard Express Mask EX 095 and Squadron Vac Canopy 9587
- Fukuya Brass pitot tube
- Airmaster Brass 20mm Cannon Barrels (these are highly recommended as they have hollow ends)
- Moskit Exhausts
The essential super-detail modifications which I made was adding copper wire (taken from a piece of ordinary insulated wire) to construct the 2 Radio Electrical cables, and at the sides of the cockpit, which I found were necessary due to a close study of the cockpit drawings and photos kindly supplied by the Japanese Aviation expert, Mr Jim Long.
The kit pitot tube was replaced by the Fukuya Brass Pitot tube and the Eduard express mask Ex 48 095 was used to mask the canopy frames.
I used the out-of-print 1/48 Decals by Aeromaster “ Empire Defenders Part 4 “ which was the J2M3 belonging to the 332 Naval Air Group based at Naruo Airbase in 1945.
I used Modellers putty to construct the triangular Leather Headrest which the actual aircraft was fitted with, and was delighted with the result.
After I applied the Copper wire at the fuselage sides (fitted to part J6), I then fitted an extra smaller receiver box (scatch built) fitted behind the kit supplied radio (part J14) which the real aircraft was equipped with.
Please note the radio electrical cable emerged in 2 places on the right side of the aircraft (see photos) and went around the radio.
I used 4 extra handles and switches to the rear of part J8 as the actual aircraft was fitted with 4 extra control handles that are not on the Hasegawa parts - or offered by Eduard (see photos)
I used the technique of pre-shading to avoid the purely green boring look to green painted Japanese aircraft and used black Humbrol paint to achieve a weathered look to the Model using my Aztek to apply engine exhaust and cannon barrel staining to the wings and fuselage.
I love the unusual look of this Japanese aircraft.
My only gripe with the model kit is why they don’t supply the kit with a canopy that can be opened, as the Squadron canopy must be purchased to allow you to do this - the same gripe as for the Hasegawa Ki.61/ Ki.100 Tony’s canopy.
images below to see larger images