Review - 1/35 scale Type 2 Ka-Mi with Flotation Pontoons

Kit Review: 1/35 scale Kit No. 69 (Dragon Models
Limited 1/35 scale =9139-=9145 Series Kit No. 6699); IJNavy Type 2 (Ka-Mi)
Amphibious Tank w/Floating Pontoon Early Production - Smart Kit; 362
parts (315 in grey styrene, 31 etched brass, 13 clear styrene, 2 DS
plastic track runs, 1 length of copper wire); pre-order price US$71.99
via Dragon USA Online
Advantages: adds the flotation pontoon to the excellent kit; 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: nothing major noted
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Pacific War modelers and diorama fans
As I noted when the first (non-amphibious) version of this kit was
released, 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.
In order to have true sea-keeping qualities, the vehicle must have a
sufficient buoyancy reserve or it will quickly be swamped even in a
mild sea state (think of the DD tanks at D-Day). The Japanese approach
was to make a larger, roomier hull but add large and bulky pontoons at
the bow and stern. Essentially the Type 2 was a seagoing derivative of
the land-locked Type 95 Ha-Go but with more than enough sea-going
buoyancy. The Type 2 Ka-Mi (a 1942 design) was the most prolific
amphibious tank 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 =93T=
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.
But like all amphibious tanks designed to be amphibious first, it was
thinly armored and quite vulnerable to mines. Few actions were carried
out by Type 2 tanks with their amphibious qualities put to the test,
and most were forced to fight on land which was not their strong suit.
As a result, they were encountered by US forces starting in 1943 but
quickly eliminated. One example captured by the Soviets (with its
pontoons!) exists today in the Kubinka Museum in Russia and several
others are still found where knocked out on Pacific islands.
This kit was well received when released a few months ago other than
many modelers wanted to build it with the pontoons in place. Dragon=92s
boutique affiliate has responded, adding 105 parts to
the original kit but also at a much higher price.
The kit builds on the DML release, which came with a minimal interior
but 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. The new variant concentrates
mostly on the exterior of the vehicle with all of the =93Rube
Goldberg=94 (or =93Heath Robinson=94) gizmos and devices needed to hold the
entire assembly together.
Assembly mirrors the earlier kit through step 7. Initial 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.
Step 7 is when you begin to work on the pontoons. These are complex
affairs and the mold makers have attempted to get it right, but there
is a seam between the left and right halves of the bow pontoon (parts
L1 and L2). The directions are more than a bit confusing here, as the
attachment devices (either parts M8 or B19) are for =93disconnecting=94.
One is the open claw (B-19) and M8 is a closed one, so apparently you
use M8 when the pontoons are mounted and B19 if they are not. You also
mount the engine radiator intake trunk (parts J12-14-18/19) in this
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. However, in step 13 you also install the conning tower which
consists of four parts plus six clear styrene view blocks. It also
requires the copper wire be installed to the rudder control and rudder
yoke at this time.
Lastly are the tracks but as they are DS plastic and identical 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 and Tom
Cockle and Gary Edmundson are the technical consultants.
Three (to six) marking options are provided: vehicle 101, Kwajalein
Island 1944 (grey, halfmoon insignia with white 101); vehicle 105,
Papua, New Guinea 1944 (grey with white 105), or vehicles 601-604,
Papua, New Guinea 1944 (grey with white 601, 602, 603 or 604). Decals
are a targeted set from Cartograph.
Overall while expensive this great little kit does offer the pontoon
fans a chance to built the complete vehicle.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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