After the greatest news that our beloved Empire of Japan Group Build will continue strong, here is my latest entry!
The FIAT BR.20 “Cicgogna” (Italian: “stork”) was a low-wing twin-engine medium bomber that holds the distinction of being the first all-metal Italian bomber to enter service. At the time, it was regarded as one of the most modern medium bombers in the world.
Japan acquired 82 BR.20s and put them to good use, during the second Sino-Japanese War, progressively withdrawing them, due to obsolescence, from September 1939 onwards. They were not used operationally during WWII.
The Italeri kit has its origins back in 1972, molded absolutely without any changes ever since! That said, it looks like a very good kit, nice and solid! Panel lines are, of course, raised (no problem for me).
Here’s a look at the sprues:
Transparencies are many, as to deal with different nose configurations. They look a bit thick:
Instructions are the typical “pamphleted” Italeri, very nice!
Decals look perfect;
printed by Zanchetti Buccinasco, current (I think) supplier of Italeri kits decals, they are perfect registered. I have used them in the past and, all I can say, is they are “Cartograf”.
I am going to depict the “splinter” style scheme that is posted on top of this topic;
a scheme I loved at first sight (in fact, I could not believe my eyes when I took notice of it, as I sneaked into the kit half a year ago). I so wished to tackle it within the EoJ GB. To my absolute joy, I can do it now!
If you can spare a couple of more minutes, please read below a quick (praise wiki) operational history of the Japanese BR.20s.
Cheers, GREAT EoJ GB!
The BR.20s in Japan
In July 1937, when Japan entered into full-scale war with China (the Second Sino-Japanese War), the Japanese Army Air Force found itself short of modern long-range bombers, pending the delivery of the Mitsubishi Ki-21 “Sally”, which was undergoing prototype trials at the time, and thus required the interim purchase of aircraft from abroad. Italy was willing to give priority to any Japanese orders over its own requirements, and offered both the Caproni Ca.135 and the BR.20 bombers in order to meet their needs.
Following an evaluation of both aircraft by the Japanese, it was determined that while the Caproni could not meet the Japanese requirements, the BR.20 closely matched the specification. In addition, the BR.20 had acquired a positive reputation as a relatively fast and durable aircraft in combat during the Spanish Civil War. Accordingly, during late 1937, an initial order was placed by Japan for 72 BR.20s; this was soon followed by another order for a further 10 bombers.
During early 1938, the first BR.20 were shipped to Dalian, Liaoning, in Japanese-controlled Northeast China, after which they were transported on for assembly and flight testing purposes. In Japanese service, the BR.20 (designated the I-Type (Yi-shiki)) was used to supplement and eventually replace the obsolete Mitsubishi Ki-1, equipping a pair of bomber groups (the 12th and 98th Sentai) located in Manchuria. The I-Type was heavily deployed on long-range bombing missions against Chinese cities and supply centers during the winter of 1938–39. The BR.20s were operating with no fighter cover at the extremes of their range and consequently incurred heavy losses from Chinese fighters, as did the early Ki-21s that shared the long-range bombing tasks.
The fabric-covered surfaces were viewed as vulnerable, even if the main structure of this aircraft was noticeably robust. Apostolo stated of the negative coverage: “This may not have in fact been true, as the BR.20s had a metal-skinned wing and not fabric covering as claimed in the Japanese Press at the time”. Amongst Japanese pilots, the aircraft was considered to possess unsatisfactory range and defensive armament; however, the first Ki-21s that entered service were not much better, except for their all-metal construction and the potential for further development when better engines became available (both types initially used two 746 kW/1,000 hp engines).
The 12th Sentai was redeployed to the Mongolian-Manchurian border to fight in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, but when this conflict ended, in September 1939, the BR.20s were progressively withdrawn and replaced by the Ki-21.Despite having been phased out from operational service, the BR.20 was allocated the Allied reporting name “Ruth”.
More to come!