Reviewed: Mar 2023
Eduard's third limited edition release based on their new 1:48 A6M Zero tooling is a dual combo entitled "Samurai".
This release focuses entirely on the second generation Zero, the A6M3 Type 22, 22a and 32.
As the main difference between the Type 32 and 22 was the wings, Eduard have provided two distinct wing sprues in the box allowing you to build one of each type. This boxing includes 12 marking options covering Zeros in service between 1942 and June 1944.
This dual combo boxing includes:
The Mitsubishi Zero became the symbol of Japanese air power during WWII. The A6M3 Type 32, introduced by the Japanese Naval Air Force in 1942, was initially considered a new type of aircraft by the Allied forces. It was soon followed by the launch of the A6M3 Type 22. Both versions of the Zero went through the most difficult phase of fighting in the South Pacific.
The first re-designed model in the A6M series, the A6M3 Model 32 had an up-rated Sakae 21 engine (1130hp) with two-speed supercharger to enhance speed and high altitude performance. The wing span was shortened to improve roll rate with the folding wing tips of the A6M2b being eliminated and the wing tips squared off. In service it was found that the aircrafts range was largely reduced to 2380km (compared to 3350km for the A6M2) due to the increased fuel consumption of the Sakae engine and the reduced fuel capacity. Despite these insufficiencies the Japanese Navy considered A6M3 as serviceable and adopted it as the Type 0 Mark 2 Carrier Fighter.
In order to bring back the manoeuvrability lost in the much disliked Model 32, the Model 22 restored the wing, with folding wingtips, to its previous 12m span. As such the aircraft can viewed as a Model 21 with an upgraded engine, although it had the same A6M3 designation as the Model 32. Mitsubishi were the only manufacturers of the Model 22, completing 560 examples through the end of the summer of 1943. The planes were primarily deployed to carrier air units and land based units in the Solomons.
Shortly after the introduction of the A6M3 into operational units, the Japanese Navy revised its designation system for operational aircraft. For the Zero, this meant abandoning the A6MX naming system and replacing it with the two-digit model number system. Under this system, the A6M3 become the Model 32, the A6M2b the Model 21, and the A6M2a the Model 11. The system was simple, with the ones digit representing the number of engine changes, and the tens-digit the number of structural changes. For example, Model 32 indicates that the engine had been changed twice, and the body modified three times since the original design. As such, the model numbers were read as two single digits, e.g. "three-two", not "thirty-two".
Under this system, one can determine that although both the Model 32 and Model 22 (with its wing restored to the longer 12m span) had the same A6M3 designation, the Model 22 had the same body, but a different engine than the Model 21. Following introduction of the Model 52, minor changes in features like armament and the like were indicated by adding characters such as "Koh", "Otsu", and "Hei" to the end of the name.
As with all the Limited Edition boxings, Eduard makes an extra effort to provide the modeller with well researched background information and period photos for the subject at hand. For "Samurai" the included color assembly booklet includes two pages covering the development of the A6M3 and its use in Guadalcanal and during the defense of Rabaul. For an equally informative read I would recommend the October 2022 issue of Eduards INFO magazine which covers the Tainan Kōkūtai, one of the most successful and well known of all the land-based Japanese Naval Fighter Groups. This unit had among its ranks some of the highest scoring Japanese pilots of the Second World War.
Standard in Eduard Profipacks is the inclusion of photo-etch details. Two identical sets are included in "Samurai" and these are focused mainly on the cockpit with pre-painted parts for main instrument panel, side consoles and seat harness.
Another standard inclusion for these Limited Edition Dual Combo's is pre-cut masks for both kits. The Zero uses a heavily framed canopy which results in a lot of small panes of glass that need to be masked. By my count 27 sections in total for the Zero canopy and windshield, and thats just the outside, so having a precision Eduard mask is a welcome convenience.
The Americans who first encountered the Model 32 thought it a completely new machine and even gave it a new name: "Hamp". To the Japanese, however, it was little more than a reminder that their aircraft didn't need folding wings anymore because their carriers had been sunk. The A6M3 did have the advantage of a more powerful engine, but many Zero pilots would nevertheless continue to prefer the earlier A6M2s until the end of the war.
The included sprues are mostly doubled up for each of the two kits as much is common between the Type 32 and 22. Two different wing sprues, M for the Type 32 and N for the Type 22, are required as the wings are the one part where the two A6M3 variants differ.
A Mitsubishi A6M3 Type 22 Zero wreck abandoned at Munda Airfield, Central Solomons, 1943 (USN)
A comparison of the two upper wing sprues highlights the different wingtip between the squared off Type 32 "Hamp" and the retrofitted wingfold Type 22 "Zeke". The Type 32 wings were redesigned to reduce span, eliminate the folding tips, and square off the wingtips. The inboard edge of the aileron was moved outboard by one rib, and the wing fuel tanks were enlarged accordingly to 420 L (110 US gal).
The two 20 mm wing cannon were upgraded from the Type 99 Mark l to the Mark II, which required a bulge in the sheet metal of the wing below each cannon. The wings also included larger ammunition boxes and thus allowing 100 rounds per cannon. Other than the wingtip the detail on the lower wings is very similar between the Type 32 and later 22. Eduard could have gone down the path of providing separate interchangeable parts for the tips only (like Kitty Hawk would have done for sure) but I am glad they took the better option and tooled whole new single piece wing sprues.
The Zero was an all metal construction and the Eduard designers have gifted us with super sharp panel and rivet. The one thing I feel that sets Eduard toolings apart from the competition is that everything is nicely to "scale" with the rivets and panel lines being realistic and not over stated. The fuselage halves are included on a new sprue H, which as can be seen is specific to the Type 32/22/22a only. This was necessary to account for the Sakae 21 engine which was slightly heavier and somewhat longer due to the larger supercharger, which moved the center of gravity too far forward on the existing airframe. To correct for this, the engine mountings were cut back by 185 mm (7.3 in) to move the engine toward the cockpit. This had the side effect of reducing the size of the main fuselage fuel tank (located between the engine and the cockpit) from 518 L (137 US gal) to 470 L (120 US gal).
A6M3 Model 32 Zero fighters resting at an airfield with the crew meeting nearby, date unknown
The new Sakae engine was slightly heavier and somewhat longer due to the larger supercharger. To account for this the cowling was redesigned to enlarge the cowl flaps, revise the oil cooler air intake, and move the carburetor air intake to the upper half of the cowling. Eduard includes new cowling parts on the A6M3 specific sprue H along with the fuselage halves and horizontal tail parts. I'm a little surprised that no option is provided for open cowl flaps, perhaps these will be done in PE or 3D printed later.
Parts that Eduard considers common across all the A6M Zero variants (A6M2 to A6M5) such as the engine, cockpit and wheel wells are contained on sprue D. Based on other hints found on the name plate for sprue V it seems that Eduard intend to continue their Zeke kits up until at least the A6M5b (and hopefully beyond to the Sakae 31a powered A6M6 and 7).
A replica of an A6M3 Model 22 (NX712Z) belonging to the Commemorative Air Force / American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum.
More generic parts from sprue D show us the accurate mix of raised and recessed details provided by Eduard. Brassin replacements are avialable for the cockpit but I for one think the kit plastic parts are more than good enough.
To cater for changes in the A6M variants that Eduard intend to produce as kits they have engineered the sprues, such as sprue V, to carry only those parts applicable to certain variants, in this case A6M3/5/5a/5nf and 5b.
This Zero was actually a hybrid assembled by Allied personnel from the wreckage of at least three Zeros captured at Buna Airfield during late December 1942 to early January 1943. The captured Zeros were loaded aboard a barge and shipped to Brisbane then transported to Eagle Farm Field. At Eagle Farm Airfield, this A6M3 Zero Model 32 was reconstructed as a hybrid built from the parts of at least three Zeros recovered from Buna Airfield including: the engine from A6M3 Zero 3028, the main fuselage and wings from A6M3 Zero 3030 and the rear fuselage and other components from A6M3 Zero 3032. Additional parts were used from other Zero wreckage captured at Buna Airfield. At least one external drop tank was repaired and available for testing purposes.
To minimize the number of clear sprues needed for its Zero family, Eduard have placed all the variations of canopies, windshields and other clear parts on a single common sprue. This means for any given kit you will have a lot of parts that are not relevant and can go in the spares box.
As usual the clarity and finish of the Eduard clear parts is excellent. The included mask set will make the job of preparing these for paint a lot quicker. Whilst Eduard do make a TFace set (with masks for both the outside and inside of the clear parts) these are not normally included in the Limited Edition dual combo boxings.
If you decide that you want to add that something extra to your Zeke build then Eduard certainly has you covered. Everything from replacement cockpits, wing folds, wheels, propellors, undercarriage in photo-etch brass and resin (both cast and 3D printed) are available with more being released each month.
The main attraction of the Eduard Limited Edition boxings is of course the unique set of "subject" focused marking options. Generally the included plastic parts can be found in any number of earlier releases but the thing that makes this kit a "limited edition" is the decals. These specific marking options cannot be found elsewhere in the Eduard catalog and it's the main reason you'd buy this particular release over a weekend or profipack kit.
"Samurai" includes an impressive 12 marking options, split neatly down the middle with six A6M3 Type 32 and six A6M3 Type 22. Many of the included schemes are visually interesting due to the use of "field applied" dark green over top the factory applied "J3 olive-gray".
The subject of Japanese WW2 Aircraft colors is almost a sub-culture within itself and Eduard have provided all their color callouts (as usual) from the Gunze Mr Color range. An interesting read on early Zero colors can be found on j-aircraft.com within this article: ZERO CAMOUFLAGE SCHEMES. For some of the main colors (the J3 olive gray being one) Eduard require you to blend your own mix, however if you prefer to avoid this and paint straight out of the bottle then the AK Real Color range offer pre-mixed paints for all the common IJN and IJA colors.
Ron Coles painting of A6M3 Model 32 'Zero' 3148, on April 18, 1943, it was very likely Zero fighters from Taroa (and quite possibly 3148) that stumbled upon a lone B-24D and shot it so full of holes that it never flew again, though it miraculously made it back to its base. Unknown to the Japanese they'd shot up the aircraft of USAAF Lt. Louis Zamperini, an American Olympian who would go on to be the subject of a best selling book, 'Unbroken', and in 2014 a Hollywood film of the same name.
An A6M3 Model 32 "Hamp" undergoes field maintenance on its Sakae 21 engine.
A colorised photo of Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, the Devil of Rabaul, flying an A6M3 Model 22a over Rabaul, October 1943.
A6M3 Zero (3148) Built by Mitsubishi on September 16, 1942 as the 148th A6M3 Model 32 built. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 0 Carrier Fighter Reisen / A6M3 Model 32 manufacture number 3148. Assigned to the Chitose Kōkūtai (Chitose Air Group) with tail code S-112 and operated in the Marshall Islands. On December 1, 1942 redesignated as the 201 Kōkūtai (201 Air Group) and operated in the Marshall Islands. This Zero operated from Taroa Airfield and was eventually disabled or abandoned on Taroa Island.
Largely intact A6M3 Zero (3028) found abandoned at Buna Airfield with some shrapnel holes or bullet holes in the fuselage from damage sustained in the air or while parked on the ground. Built by Mitsubishi on June 28, 1942. At the factory, painted overall gray with a black cowling. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Navy Type 0 / A6M3 Model 32 Zero manufacture number 3028. This aircraft was assigned a Houkoku Gou (Navy Patriotic Presentation Number). Donated by a civilian volunteer group in Japan. Assigned Houkoku Gou 870 (Patriotic Presentation Number 870) in black on both sides of the rear fuselage.
The decals in this kit are the Eduard printed digital decals. Eduard seem to be incrementally achieving better results with these new digitally printed decals since they were first introduced in 2018/19. Although supposedly "optional", I believe that these new Eduard decals look best with the carrier film removed and even though Eduard have never said you should it just seems obvious to me.
The color saturation and resolution of the decals seems quite good and as I have not used them yet I cannot comment of the opacity, however I have yet to find an Eduard decal sheet where that has been a problem.
Another welcome addition to the Eduard "Limited Edition Dual Combo" family. "Samuari" offers in one boxing the ability to build both variants of the A6M3 variant.
No one could complain about the variety of marking options provided with twelve schemes in the box, covering the spectrum from factory fresh to field applied and chipped finishes. Something for everyone really.
I have no hesitation recommending this new Dual Combo from Eduard.