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Tamiya A6M5c Type 52 Zero Fighter ZEKE

In April 1939, shortly after the first Japanese Zero began test trials, modification drawings were already taking place on the zero in the Mitsubishi design room, to keep pace with the anticipated long air war in the Pacific. After the initial superiority of the Zero over allied aircraft began to wane, due to new U.S. types being introduced, Mitsubishi was hard pressed to maintain a superiority. The introduction of the Grumman F6F and Chance Vought F4U, provided a need for more firepower, armor protection and capability led the combined companies of Nakajima and Mitsubishi to produce the A6M5 series of aircraft.

Total production of the Type 52 series consisted of 10,449 aircraft of which Nakajima produced 6,570. It first entered combat in August 1943 at a time when the Japanese forces were withdrawing from previously held islands in the South Pacific. The type 52c was the last of the A6M5 series, and the most effective against Allied aircraft due to its armament configuration three of 13mm machine guns and two 20mm cannons.

Code named “Zeke” by the Allies, the Type 52c was powered by a 14 cylinder twin row NK1F Sakae 21 engine of 1,130hp, of which later versions were alcohol injected. In addition to the machine guns and cannons, the 52c could also carry four air to air rockets or four 30kg air to air bombs or two 60kg air to ground conventional bombs. The air to air systems were initiated in an attempt to disrupt B-29 operations by firing the rockets or dropping the small bombs on the formations. The bombs were timed to air-burst a certain number of seconds after release from the fighters.

Tamiya 1/48 A6M5c Type 52 Zero Fighter ZEKE

The model kit depicted on this build does not need an introduction. It is already a classic among the aircraft model builders community.  This is none other than the Mitsubishi A6M5c Zero Fighter (ZEKE) from Tamiya kit # 61027. Yes, there are other options on the market from other model kit manufacturers. But for the current price of this kit, it can’t be beat even with a mix of raised and receded panel lines. Considering the date of it introduction, it has a so-so cockpit with a gun sight that could be vastly improved with some TLC.

Although I already have a few Japanese aircraft in my collection including another A6M5c, this was an experimental subject. With it, I did try a few techniques which will be put in practice on the larger, more detailed (and of course more expensive) 1/32 Tamiya A6M5 kit # 60309. With this revisit to the 1/48 A6M5c, I wanted to depict the weathering as seen on many Zeros over the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal where most Japanese aircraft due to the harsh weather conditions were flying wrecks.

On my previous Japanese aircraft model builds, I did use Tamiya Clear Blue X-23 over Tamiya Chrome Silver X-11 for the famous Aotake primer on the wheel wells of the aircraft. This time I used Alclad Duraluminum as a base under the Transparent Blue X-23 and the results are more realistic. Also, while the Alclad Duraluminum was still in my airbrush, I painted the lower to upper fuselage with it (no gloss black primer). The same was done to the engine cowl. Later with a combination of old brushes and toothpicks, I added randomly Resin Liquid Mask from Vallejo (70.523) all over the fuselage  and wings. Once the liquid mask had dried, I painted the lower fuselage with Tamiya JN Gray XF-12. The upper fuselage was painted with Tamiya XF-11 JA Green.

I sprayed a mist of Model Mater Acryl Green Chromate with my airbrush which has a hint of yellow and will help create a faded effect on the green. Over all those layers, a coat of Testors Gloss Cote in spray was added. Once gloss coat got dried, then  it was time to go back and remove the Liquid Mask to reveal the paint chipping effect by showing of the Alclad Duraluminum. The liquid mask was removed with a tooth brush and painters masking tape by simply setting it of the masked areas and peeling it off. Repeat as necessary.

Smoke streaks and fuel stains on the drop tank area was made with Vallejo Smoke 70.939.  This color is very versatile and lends itself for many applications on any build subject.  A Dark Brown Wash (AK 045) from AK-Interactive was applied all over the model. Tamiya Weathering Master (set B) was also used along with a Silver Prismacolor pencil in some areas. With the exception of some soldering wire as ”hydraulic brake lines”, this kit is completely out-of-the box.

My sincere thanks to our friends at Hub Hubby for the killer price on the kit for this project.

George Collazo
George Collazo

George has been hosting review sites and blogging about toy collectibles, travel, digital photography and Nikon digital imaging since 1998. His first model kit build was a Testors 1/35 DODGE WC-54 in 1984.