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Joe Bianco
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Tamiya 1/48 Aichi M6A1 Seiran

October 5, 2021 · in Aviation · · 14 · 3.5K

This is a model I built over 20 years ago inspired from a color (not colorized) photo I found on the internet of an Aichi M6A1 sporting a unique paint scheme. The plane was found damaged after the war by US occupation forces. The color scheme appears to be a combination of "trainer" orange on the underside with a typical "operational" green on the top side of the plane. From the photograph I figured the aircraft was once painted overall in the orange and was perhaps used once for training (just an assumption on my part). Anyway, I found the photo intriguing and modeled the plane as I imagined it appeared before it was damaged based on what I could see in the photo.

I won't go deep into the history, but as most know this plane was designed to be folded up and stowed into the enormous (for the day) Class submarine. The intent was to sail across the Pacific and attack targets across the ocean particularly the Panama Canal. Late in July 1945 a force was finally assembled and ready to set off against Panama. However, Japan's increasingly desperate situation led to a change in plan, with the target for the attack, being switched to the American base at Ulithi Atoll where Allied Naval forces were massing in preparation for attacks on the Japanese Home Islands. The flotilla departed Japan on 23 July 1945 and proceeded towards Ulithi. On 16 August, the flagship I-401 received a radio message from headquarters, informing them of Japan's surrender and ordering them to return to Japan. All six Seirans on board the two submarines were catapulted into the sea with their wings and stabilizers folded or pushed overboard to prevent capture.

The model is built straight out of the box. Despite having a nicely detailed interior, the model is built with the canopy closed (the one flaw with the kit is that it comes with only a one piece canopy).

The chipping and paint wear were done "old school" prior to chipping fluids being available (I've seen videos but have never used the product). I mostly used masking tape to pull the green from the orange before paint had set. It worked well with enamel paints back then as they took longer to dry. Not sure how it would work with acrylics. I followed up with some light sandpaper in areas to continue the effect. When first built I used watercolor washes. After 20 years in the case I cleaned it up with a light wash using oil paints prior to shooting photos. One of the photos is of the few I took way back on 35mm slide film that I recently discovered when I had my slides digitized the rest were taken this year using a digital camera.

On a side note, this model won " Best out of the Box" for it's category at the 2003 IPMS National Convention while also taking 3rd place overall in the same category. It's the only model I've ever entered at IPMS National's. It's survived pretty well except for the antenna wire which I didn't bother replacing.

Reader reactions:
24  Awesome 1 

7 additional images. Click to enlarge.

14 responses

  1. Very nice rendition (even if the spinner cap is not green as is the one in the photo) of the Seiran. The weathering and fading of the camouflage green is exquisite. Having built this kit last year (after more than 20 years in the stash) I can feel the pain with the one piece closed canopy… splendid model!
    Joe, hope you don’t mind me showing you how mine turned out

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  2. Nice job, Joe. Love the paint job... Very eye appealing.
    I've been fortunate enough to see the only remaining example at the NASM/Dulles.
    Hope you don't mind me adding a pic of the NASM aircraft.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  3. I highly recommend a book called 'The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor: Operation K And Other Japanese Attempts to Bomb America in World War II' by Steve Horn, published in 2005. I knew Steve - he was a member of my IPMS chapter. He was a fascinating man. He'd joined the U.S. Navy during WWII, only for the war to end while he was bound for the Pacific theater. After he mustered out, he enlisted in the Air Force, going on to fly B-29s, B-47s, and B-52s. He was in a missile silo during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and flew Linebacker missions over Vietnam. After he retired he worked for Lear, as well as working as a journalist. The book is very well researched and full of fascinating details.

  4. That's the best looking Seiran model I have seen. Well done.

  5. Oh, that is exquisite scale modeling @mercenarymodels . Joe, that is really some great work and a wonderful result. It's still easy to see why it was a prize-winner! 🙂

  6. Beautiful work, I love the finish.

  7. Amazing model, Joe!

  8. Awesome result on this one, Joe @mercenarymodels
    Like mentioned above, the paintwork is superb.

  9. That is one excellent job! Love the build, the paint work and the overall look.

  10. Well done. Very realistic signs of use!

  11. Beautiful finish & weathering Joe. Most impressive, even after nearly 20 years!

  12. Very nice, congratulations!

  13. Here's what I think about it: I had already found your website, and downloaded all the pics so I could try to duplicate this in 1/72. It is fantastic work on the paint and weathering, and I really love the oddball paint scheme. I'll have one in my display case soon!

  14. Great job, very successful weathering.

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