Tamiya 1:48 Nakajima A6M2 Rufe
When I was a kid I lived on Monograms from Kmart. But after staring at a Tamiya Rufe in a local hobby store, my imagination got the better of me, I weighed a 3 for 1 value trade, and I bought the model. It became a favorite in my collection, not only because I just love float planes, but because it was like nothing else my model-building buddies had built. It was one of my last models to go when it was time to move away to college.
Fast forward 35+ years and as I got back into things, I decided to revisit the Rufe as an essay in the craft. The model is straightforward with no complications other than the airbrush work on an atypical undercarriage, but since those were the skills I wanted to improve I thought it a good choice. Besides, I did that one all those years ago in the light gray, and it was time to do a green and gray scheme.
This model is the second model I have done after that long time away (my first is a Wildcat I may post later; my third was the previously posted P-51B). It went together without a hitch, as most Tamiyas will. I primed the plane in silver so I could experiment with the technique of scraping away paint for a weathered look. I liked it OK but have switched to a primer coat as a matter of course and can only imagine myself priming in silver under very special circumstances. Paints are acrylic Tamiya. I didn’t like the decals so I ordered others that lay down better.
On the historical note, I wondered as I built why the U.S. didn’t convert some of its bread and butter fighters into float planes like the Japanese had with the Zero. It turns out they did experiment with a Wildcat prototype (with two floats; very funky looking bird)…
…but it turns out they never needed to use it. Why not? Henderson Field, that’s why. It turns out that the widespread use of float planes is a sign of weakness. In a conflict fought with an ocean as its battlefield, the military that can conquer and keep islands for bases just doesn’t need fighter float planes the way one that one that loses those islands does. The Rufe was ship-based as well, but it seems that had the Japanese been able to keep islands and maintain airstrips on them, they would not have needed to reduce the performance of their best fighter by 20%; they did it because they had no other choice–it was the Rufe that could land in water or deal with fewer planes in the air flying from more distant bases.
Rufes were used from the beginning of the conflict with the U.S. until the end of the War, and served from the Aleutians to the Solomons to the Indian Ocean.
7 additional images. Click to enlarge.