Current Location: Private Collector
The Kawasaki Ki-61 entered combat for the first time in the spring of 1943 during the New Guinea campaign of WWII. Designated as the "Army Type 3 Fighter" by the Imperial Japanese Air Force, this aircraft was mostly trouble-free while in service. Because of its unusual exterior, allied forces initially believed the Ki-61 to be of Italian origin, a probable reason for its ensuing code name; "Tony".
Despite heavy Japanese losses during the New Guinea campaign, the Tony brought fear among allied pilots who saw their aircraft outclassed in many ways. The Kawasaki Ki-61 was more than a match for the American P-40. In fact, the P-38 Lightning was the only measurably superior aircraft of the time. The Tony was utilized in the South and Southwest Pacific, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Okinawa, China, Manchuria, and in the Japanese metropolitan defense against American B-29 Super Fortresses. Many Ki-61 airplanes were also used in Tokkotai (kamikaze) suicide missions toward the end of the war.
The 1/48 scale Hasegawa plastic model airplane kit was used for this project. This highly detailed set was built to specifications pertaining to the Kawasaki Ki-61 Type I-Hei HIEN variant flown by Corporal Seiichi Suzuki. The entire plastic model airplane was given an overall Natural Metal finish with Green mottling on the upper surface of the wings. The cockpit and wheel well interior was airbrushed Khaki Yellow while Red Brown was used for the propeller and spinner. These colors were typical for Japanese aircraft.
Seiichi Suzuki's operational career is not well known. He was a member of the 244th Sentai (group) and is believed to have achieved some victories in unknown circumstances during the home defense. Documents credit him with victories against three B-29 bombers and damaging a fourth. On February 16, 1945, Seiichi Suzuki was shot down and KIA by F6F Hellcats while flying the aircraft represented by this plastic model airplane.