Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 scale =9139-=9145 Series Kit No.6678; Imperial Japanese Navy Type 2 (Ka-Mi) Amphibious Tank (Combat Version); 257 parts (225 in grey styrene, 23 etched brass, 7 clear styrene, 2 DS plastic track runs); pre-order price US$49.95 via Dragon USA Online
Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in this scale in styrene; pre- molded open hatches makes installation of a full interior a snap; wise inclusion of DS Plastic track avoids frustration with itty-bitty single links
Disadvantages: =93Combat=94 version means no pontoons
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Pacific War modelers and diorama fans
Amphibious tanks per se are a contradiction in terms, for as the old farmer in the joke knows, =93cast iron sinks=94 and so does steel. Items which were created to stop bullets, shell splinters and projectiles from penetrating them also did not need to be 100% watertight to do that job well.
During the 1930s only two nations gave serious thought to amphibious light tanks for scouting purposes: the USSR and Japan. The former did it as an analysis of the terrain of the country said they would encounter a water obstacle which could not easily be forded every 10 kilometers and a river every 50. The latter did it for, as an island nation, they knew they would need to move from island to island if they wanted to defend their empire or expand it.
They took different approaches. The Soviets built small, lightly armored vehicles weighting at best less than 7 metric tons and armed in their extreme versions with only a 20mm automatic cannon and light DT machine gun. The early models, the T-37 and T-38, suffered from flotation problems and were only marginally amphibious (e.g. rivers that were not too wide and with relatively calm waters). The later T-40 was a much better design, but it was too big and bulky to be an effect scout and was too light to defend itself against most opponents.
If you want the vehicle to float well and be =93ocean going=94 amphibious, it has to be large enough and light enough to create a suitable buoyancy reserve, such as the Roebling =93Alligator=94 and its WWII successors. But these were big, bulky vehicles larger than tanks. What to do?
The Japanese tried another approach. While they made their amphibious tanks much larger than their land-based counterparts like the Type 95 Ha-Go, they simply attached large pontoons at the front and rear to give them the sea-going buoyancy they needed. The Type 2 Ka-Mi (a 1942 design) was one of the more prolific ones, with about 185 of them being built during the war. It did mount a 37mm cannon and two 7.7mm machine guns, one of which could only be used when the bow pontoon was dropped. The vehicle weighed 13 tons with the pontoons mounted, and 10 when they were dropped. It was followed by the much larger and heavier Type 3 =93Ka-Chi=94 and Type 5 =93To-Ku=94 amphibious tanks with 47mm guns, but neither one of them was much of an improvement.
Using mechanical components from the land-based Type 95, the Type 2 used a new hull design with pontoons held in place with =93claw=94 type clamps that could be jettisoned from inside the tank when the vehicle no longer needed them. Divided into separate compartments, the pontoons gave excellent buoyancy at sea and proved to be effective. However, like its Soviet counterparts, the tank portion proved to be quite vulnerable to enemy antitank measures and could be penetrated by everything in the US arsenal above .30 caliber. Coming in to service too late to be effective in its design beach reconnaissance and assault functions, the Type 2 tanks were forced to fight on land which was not their strong suit. As a result, they were encounterd by US forces starting in 1943 who quickly eliminated them where encountered. Only a single example captured by the Soviets (with its pontoons!) exists today in the Kubinka Museum in Russia.
Up until the present time, Fine Molds has had a nearly virtual lock on Japanese WWII armored vehicles with the exception of two Type 97 Chi-Ha kits from Tamiya and the 75mm SP version of that tank. Dragon has now entered the fray with this kit. (which while it is dubbed the =93Combat=94 version it only means the one with the pontoons removed for combat, not a production versus prototype meaning as with the German Neubaufahrzeug tank.)
As noted, many modelers are disappointed it did not come with the pontoons, it is the one most frequently encountered in combat by US forces. To that end, DML has done a very nice job of it and while only a minimal interior is provided in the kit, the model comes with all hatches separate for posing positions. Some interior is included, such as the three-piece =93claw=94 connectors and handwheels, what appear to be two either fuel or ballast tanks, and the machine guns and the 37mm gun with mounting.
Assembly begins with making sub-assemblies of the wheel bogies, idlers, clamps, muffler, main engine hatches, and interior tanks. These are installed in Steps 2 and 3, which also cover the assembly of the upper glacis and bow machine gun. Step 4 covers the assembly of the engine deck (which is cemented in place as the kit comes with no engine!) and upper hull details. Step 6 covers cementing the upper and lower hulls together and initial assembly of the 37mm gun.
The gun is a typically over-engineered Japanese weapon of the time and the kit requires 15 parts for it and its coaxial machine gun to form a single unit. As this gun is only about 50mm long on the kit, that=92s a lot of parts for a very small gun.
Steps 8-11 cover the turret and its details, which are many and pretty clunky in design (not DML=92s fault =96 speak to the original managers on that one...) The turret comes with a ring and drive as well as optional choices for the viewers and periscopes. Also a choice of what appears to be an AAMG mount on the rear of the turret is offered.
The tracks mount in the last step and are identical so not a problem in sorting. As with most tracks, DML shows them being installed =93V=94 shape down when looking at them head on. While DS tracks tend to =93run large=94 as most Japanese light tanks are usually seen with loose fitting track this may not be a problem, moreso if used in a diorama and =93burned out=94.
Technical work is credited to Hirohisa Takada and Shin Okada.
Two (to four) marking options are provided: 5th Naval Ground Base Guard (II), Saipan June 1944 (battleship grey with =93Rising Sun=94 flags on the turret); 27th Naval Special Ground Base Guard, Aitape, July- August 1944 (battleship grey with side numbers 601, 602 or 603 on the turret). Decals are a targeted set from Cartograph.
Overall this is a great little kit and fills a gap in WWII history, and is a new venue for DML and one which should be greatly appreciated. Somehow I also suspect a cyber-hobby.com variant with the pontoons will be a later kit as well.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.