Marushin MARS033 Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony" Fighter - 244th Sentai, "The Defenders of Tokyo", 1945 (1:48 Scale)
"We have resolved to endure the unendurable and suffer what is insufferable."
- Japanese Emperor Hirohito speaking to the Japanese people after the atomic bombings, August 1945
The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien ("Swallow") fighter represented a major departure for Japanese aircraft design in World War II. While other Japanese fighters were designed with air-cooled radials and were optimized for maneuverability, the Ki-61 used a liquid-cooled in-line engine and was designed for speed and power. In fact, the Ki-61 was so different from other Japanese fighters that when the type was first encountered in combat over New Guinea in June 1943, the Allies thought it wasn't a Japanese design at all. At first they believed it was a copy of the German Messerschmitt Me-109, then suspected it was a copy of the Italian Macchi C.202 Foglore or similar Italian fighter. For this reason they gave it the code-name "Antonio", or "Tony", though by the summer of 1943 the Allies were convinced the Ki-61 was in fact a Japanese design.
The Hien proved initially successful in combat against American fighters. As the war in the Pacific ground on, however, the Ki-61 found itself increasingly outclassed, but it soldiered on until the end of hostilities.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of an Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony" fighter that was attached to the 244th Sentai during 1945.
Wingspan: 10 inches
Length: 9 inches
Release Date: October 2008
Historical Account: "The Defenders of Tokyo" - The 10th Hiko Shiden (Flying Division) of the Eastern Defence Sector was responsible for the defense of the Tokyo area. The flying units controlled by the 10th Hiko Shiden were the 18th, 23rd, 47th, 53rd and 244th Sentai, as well as the Army Test Centre.
The 244th Sentai was (initially based at Chofu) commanded by Capt. (later major) Teruhiko Kobayashi from early November 1944 through to the end of the war. The 1st Chutai leader was Capt. Fumisuke Shonon (Dec '44 to wars end), 2nd Chutai commanded by Capt. Goro Takeda (Nov '44 to wars end), the 3rd Chutai by Capt. Takeo Shirai (Oct '44 to wars end) and the Seibitai (Maintenance Unit) Capt. Yasuo Mitani (Nov '44 to wars end).
One of the more successful Sentai's in Japan's Home Defence, the 244th was primarily equipped with various versions of the Ki-61, receiving several Ki-100's from late May '45 onwards. What really made the unit well known in the Japanese press (and successful to boot) was it's outstanding charismatic leader, Teruhiko Kobayashi.
Initially trained as a light bomber pilot in June 1940 he took part in the attack on Hong Kong, and was then sent to a commander's course in 'mid '42. On completion he was posted to the 66th Sentai in northern Manchuria but saw no action. An increasing shortage of fighter pilots led him to being retrained in that field (from November '43 to June '44), whereby he was retained as an instructor until receiving command of the 244th Sentai in November 1944. His leadership and courage were inspirational, and did much to improve the quality, aggressiveness and skill level of the pilots in the Senati, most of whom were fresh out of flight school with very few hours of combat training. Under Kobayashi's training the 244th perfected the head-on attack, no mean feat in a Ki-61.