Nakajima Ki-43-II “Oscar”

The Japanese Army’s newest fighter at the start of the Pacific War, the Ki-43 remained in service to the end of the war.  Long past it’s obsolescence.

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Let’s look at a late war Oscar.

The Ki-43, like the Japanese Navy’s A6M Zero, stayed in production through the whole war because of a failure to build enough of a next generation fighter.  It needed to be replaced by 1943, but only saw a minor upgrade of about 200 hp to go from just below to just above 1000 horse.
Parallels between the Oscar and Zero abound.  They were both designed around a philosophy of maneuverability being the single most important characteristic for a front line fighter.  The Oscar pushed this even further than the more famous Zero, it was capable of shocking twists and turns at the expense of speed, durability and firepower.  Its hardly surprising allied pilots often could not tell the two apart, even to say (guess) the majority of Oscars encountered were recorded as Zeros.
This often went to comical extremes with Zeros being reported en masse at locations that were completely under the domain of the Japanese Army.  Or even worse, on occasion large mixed formations were reported.  Never mind that the Japanese Army and Navy were more aggressively at odds with each other than any two branches in any national military.  They were very territorial about areas of operation.
I’ll even guess a mixed formation of US Army Air Force and RNZAF bombers escorted by Marine fighters was more likely than any mixed formation of Japanese Army and Navy types!

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Love that factory finish!

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This particular Oscar was flown by Major Toshio Sakagawa in the spring of 1944.  Maj. Sakagawa was commander of the 25th Sentai based in China.  Japanese commanding officers often did not fly with their units, indeed often were not even pilots.  Pilots were most often enlisted men and regarded more like technical specialists than professionals.  But Sakagawa was an experienced and capable pilot.  He flew in the China incident and against the Russians over Nomonhan (Mongolia).  He continued to fly combat late in the war, long after his rank made it uncommon, because he felt his experience and effect on morale were needed for his young pilots.  Sakagawa was promoted to Lt Col and claimed 49 victories before he was killed on a transport flight in December of 1944.
Most historians credit him with 15 kills.  His claims to fame being a B-24 shot down on his first burst on August 21, 1943 (the Oscar only had two 12.7 mm machine guns, so that’s remarkable shooting) and three Mustangs destroyed on May 6, 1944 (in this aircraft).

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Its hard to imagine bringing down an American heavy bomber with just two 12.7 mm machine guns, but Maj Sakagawa managed it.

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Oscar and Zero.  Both the Japanese armed services were using the same standard fighter from the beginning of the War to the end, and with much less modification as British or German types that endured.  Its easy to see why the two types are easily mistaken for each other, this particular Oscar carrying tactical number 00 doesn’t help the situation!

This is the Hasegawa kit with Aeromaster decals.  The kit was simple with no problems.  The paint scheme was exciting!  Japanese camouflage was fairly complex, but it was painted on the cheap with no primer.  Late in the war, the paints were of pretty poor quality too.  That makes pristine looking finishes an extreme rarity.  So I made this the scruffiest looking plane I’ve done to date.  For me, that is serious fun.

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In China the Japanese Army would have regularly fought Mustangs in the last 18 months of war.  Although the Oscar should be considered outclassed in almost every way, it did always have the advantage in a close in turning sort of dogfight.  Maj Sakagawa demonstrated this on May 6, 1944 when he dispatched three Mustangs in a single fight.  This model is of the plane he used in that fight.

Nakajima, Ki-43, Hayabusa Peregrine Falcon Oscar Jim Army Type 1 Fighter

[photo from historynet.com]

Related Post: Nakajima Ki-43-I Oscar

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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14 Responses to Nakajima Ki-43-II “Oscar”

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    We were talking about experience and training overcoming equipment, I guess this can be seen as another example

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah absolutely. Skill can clearly make up for equipment limitations. Of course you know they still WANT the best.
      I know right after Midway Cdr Thach wrote a scathing review of the Wildcat. He and his six Wildcats kept 30 Zeros busy for a key period. But it was obvious the plane itself was a huge limitation on what they could do.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Yeah, early war tactics and tacticians made a huge difference in a lot of ways. I’ll leave at that.

  2. jfwknifton says:

    You’ve done a fantastic job of making it look scruffy! I’m currently reading “Fire from the Sky” by Robert C. Stem about the kamikaze campaign. It’s a little bit repetitive but well worth the read. American casualties were dreadful. The fighter of choice was the Zero with the occasional Oscar and the occasional Tony, but perhaps there were more Oscars than realised. As you say, they are certainly very similar aircraft.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t think I’ve read that one.

      The number that seems to stick in my mind is 60000 dead? Obviously a serious challenge.
      But I do know the Japanese Navy launched far more such attacks than the Army did, so there would have been more Zeros involved. That might have changed some if we’d actually tried to invade Japan.
      Also, I believe the Army didn’t actually call them “Kamikaze”. “Floating Chrysanthemum” or something like that was the Army name. The Japanese do like poetic names!

  3. Great model work. And thanks for the look at the Oscar.

  4. Ernie Davis says:

    I’ll just add this as a discussion point. As I’ve read more of the Pacific war a few things have struck me. In Japan the services were more like gangs than branches of a unified government, and the Army remained more interested in a continental war in China than the Americans relentless Island hopping campaign till very late

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah that’s exactly right. And for all the pitfalls of the China War, it at least kept a couple million troops out of OUR hair for most of the war.
      Although, by the end, they had clearly drawn most of their best forces into the Pacific. It’s just good they didn’t do that in ‘42!

      I think you identified Japan’s biggest problem in the War years quite nicely too; it was essentially a country run by two competing gangs.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      It was not something I was really aware of till recently, and I will say your blog has lead me to look into a lot of this. I was not a pacific war person till I started reading a lot of your posts

  5. That’s another fabulous model. There’s a lot of Japanese aircraft I know so little about.

    • atcDave says:

      Its a frustrating thing as a modeler that the Japanese types are less well represented as well, especially bombers. Its an odd thing since the two most prolific companies in this scale and time period (Tamiya and Hasegawa) are BOTH Japanese companies! Go figure…

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