Yet Another Pearl Harbor Aircraft: A6M2b Zero

Four of the major combatants in WW2 came out of the conflict with absolutely iconic military aircraft.  I know someone out there is going to have issues, but after conducting a completely unscientific survey (I asked about a dozen guys at work one day) I’ve come up with a predictable list of THE aircraft associated with each major belligerent; the United States gets the P-51 Mustang, the Brits get the Spitfire, the Germans get the Me109 and Japan gets the legendary A6M Type 0 Carrier Fighter, more commonly known to us in the West as the Zero.  (Yes, I know the Soviets had aircraft too but no one I surveyed could name even one.  There you go.)
Lieutennant Commander Shigeru Itaya in China in 1940.
I modeled this kit to represent the A6M2b Model 21 flown by LtCdr Shigeru Itaya from the First Air Fleet on the carrier Akagi.  Itaya was the commander of the fighter escort on the first wave of the Pearl Harbor attack and was in all probability the first Japanese pilot airborne at 0610 on the morning of 7 December. 
Aircraft number AI-158 on the Akagi.  AI-158 flew with the second wave on 7 December but was configured in all respects identically to Itaya's AI-159 (or 155).
Itaya had served in China with the 15h Kokutai prior to the Hawaii operation and  had become an ace serving on the carrier Ryujo.  He was killed in the Kurile Islands in July of 1944, shot down by friendly anti-aircraft gunners who mistook his plane for an enemy.
The Kit:

Hasegawa aircraft models have a deserved reputation for excellence and their Zero kits are no exception. Hasegawa has produced the Type 21 Zero in several re-boxings over the years. The original kit was released in the 1990s. As with the other Pearl Harbor Hasegawa projects, this was a joy to build. The kit is well thought out and engineered very well. While there are a very few minor fit issues there was nothing a small amount of putty would not easily fix.

The cockpit is well done.  There are many aftermarket sets for the Hasegawa Zero cockpit but when using them the Law of Diminishing Return quickly takes over. 
In my mind, on this kit at least the amount of benefit you get from a resin upgrade set doesn’t warrant the added time and cost.  Others may disagree but that’s how I see it.  
The Build:
For the most part I built the kit stock out of the box. In keeping with my “folding wing” theme however, I decided to cut the wingtips and pose them folded. It was a fairly simple operation as the recessed panel lines gave me an excellent guide. Surprisingly, my research turned up few photos of the details of the interior workings of the Type 21 wing folding mechanism.  As luck would have it however, Tamiya obligingly came out with their A6M5 kit in 1/72 which had an excellent drawing of the feature in the instructions.  I was also lucky to come across the Aero Detail #7 book on the Zero which shows the angle at which the wingtips sit when they are folded.
The Zero's wintips did not just fold straight up.  They folded up and over to overlap the main wing slightly as seen in this head on view.  Many kits miss this detail.
I mixed my own “aotake”, the metallic blue colour used on Japanese aircraft, by mixing X-23 Clear Blue, X-25 Clear Green and a touch of X-24 Clear Yellow. I painted the interior wing surfaces with XF-16 Aluminium first, then the “aotake” mix.

I used Tamiya acrylics almost exclusively to paint the model.  I began by painting and masking the red national insignia and unit markings with Tamiya XF-X Flat Red, darkened just slightly with XF-1 Flat Black.  The base color is Tamiya XF-76 IJN Grey Green.  I post shaded this with the base color thinned and lightened with XF-2 Flat White. I then masked and painted the black cowling.
Aside from a few "no step" markings, the only decals I used on this kit were the tail numbers.  I used the excellent aftermarket set by Aviaeology for these.  The only complaint I had with them is that once in place they are a little too light for my taste.  If I had it to do over again I would touch them up a little with a brush while they are still on the decal paper, seal them and then apply.  Overall though I think they worked nicely.
Researchers disagree on what the tail number of Itaya’s Zero was, though it has been narrowed down to either AI-155 or AI-159.  We may never know.  I flipped a coin and chose AI-159.
After removing the positive masks for the Hi no Marus, wheels and tail stripe I began the weathering process.  Japanese aircraft used in the Hawaii Operation were very well maintained but had been used during rigorous training during the summer of 1941 so some fading was called for.  I used a very light wash of burnt umber and black artists oils for this.  Once this had dried fully I gave the aircraft a light coat of Future to give it the very light semi-gloss look IJN aircraft had during this time period.

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