Fine Molds 1/48 Ki-15 Babs
When this kit was announced I was very pleased – not only is it a subject I have been wanting in 1/48 scale, but it was being made by one of my favorite manufacturers! Fine Molds has a small catalog, and they are definitely a niche player, but I really enjoy building their kits and they are close (if not equal) to Hasegawa standards. My builds of FM Ki-10 and Claude are both here on iModeler, and if you have read them, you know my fondness for the company.
Like all of FM’s recent issues, the cockpit on the Babs was really well detailed. All I added was some IJA seatbelts from Eduard. The only canopy option one is given is ‘closed’, so you really can’t see a lot of the cockpit once everything is buttoned up. Still, nice details and I enjoyed putting the insides together.
The molding on all the major components is crisp and fits together fairly well. I used a few bits of putty here and there, but nothing major at all. The horizontal tailplanes have an interlocking mechanism that squares them up perfectly when attached. There is a separate rudder, but all other flying surfaces are molded in neutral position. In retrospect, the gap around the side window inserts is probably a bit large, even thought it does fall along panel lines. I probably would putty that in and rescribe if I were to build another.
The kit’s engine looks very nice and comes alive with a little detail painting and a wash. One slightly tricky part is that the cowling is molded in 2 parts – these come together around and trap the engine in place. I had read of others having issues in this area, but it worked smoothly for me. The issue for me was in painting. There is a bit of a seam that will need to be addressed where the halves meet. I ended up painting the engine, and painting the two cowling halves separately. Then assembled the halves around the engine, masked off the engine face and rear, sanded down the seam, and resprayed the join. Worked out fine. I do recommend leaving the cowling/engine assembly off of the main build until the end.
A nice feature (also present in FM’s Claude) is the slotted wheels. There is a groove/slot molded into the wheels that allows you to easily slide them into location in the wheel pants after all painting is done. Many kits with spatted gear would have you trap the wheel inbetween the two halves of the spat while building. This makes it a bit of a challenge to paint the wheels/tires easily. Not so here – the wheel/tires can be inserted easily at the very end. A nice touch by FM, and realization that they understand the building process.
If anyone might remember the Hasegawa P-40N build I posted on here ages ago, I was very pleased to be able to recreate a scheme on that state of the 1/48 kit that I had done years ago on a 1/72 version of the same airplane. This turned out to be another chance to do the same thing. Many, many years ago I built Hasegawa’s 1/72 Babs, and distinctly remember the camouflage work I did. I had just acquired Don Thorpe’s definitive (at the time) book on IJAAF camouflage and markings. Among the many color profiles was one of a Babs in brown/green camouflage, with thin ribbons of blue separating the colors. Meant to represent the rivers in the Chinese countryside is my understanding. In any case, I had done that scheme on the 1/72 kit, and wanted to do it on this one. Besides the camouflage, the markings were quite simple and consisted of Hinomarus on the wings and the tiger emblem on the fuselage. I have seen photos with and without the white ‘combat stripe’ on the fuselage, and decided to leave it off this one. Some of the information in that book has been outdated by new information, but this seems to be a scheme that is still plausible.
Before painting I applied canopy masks made by Dead Design – that was way too much greenhouse for me to cut by hand! I used Tamiya IJAAF Grey-Green for the topsides (imagining these a/c were originally painted overall in this shade), and Tamiya Earth and Olive Green for the topsides. I started the process by spraying MMP Intermediate Blue in the approximate areas of the color separation. Very thin tape was then applied along what would become the separation lines. I then sprayed the brown, masked it off, and sprayed the green. This system worked pretty well and I got relatively consistent blue lines as I had hoped for. I played around a bit with some lightened and heavily thinned brown and green on top to give a little modulation.
The Hinomarus were painted on using a circular cutter and Tamiya tape for a mask. The tiger decals are from the kit – I understand people have issues with FM decals (I know I did with the Ki-10 build). I have found it helps to use very warm water, and then press them down (once on the model) with a warm cloth. I did this with the tiger decals, followed by some of the Tamiya decal setter. No problems, but then it is one decal. I am not sure how this would work on the “kamikaze” edition of this kit with its elaborate markings.
I used some pastels to give everything a dusty feel, and applied them more heavily on the wheels and spats. Some light paint chipping was done with a Prismacolor silver pencil. The limited photos I have seen show these aircraft in relatively good condition. For the aluminum on the prop I sprayed MMP ‘aluminum’, and then used some old SNJ powder to brighten it up. The antenna is stretched sprue from the kit’s clear parts tree.
I am very happy to have had another Fine Molds kit to work on and looking forward to whatever their next release might be. Can recommend this one without any reservations.
4 additional images. Click to enlarge.