Type 2 HO-I

Kit: Finemolds FM 24Detail Sets: Friul Tracks ATL-70

The armored force of the Imperian Japanese forces is generally considered as inferior compared to the armored forces of their enemies. Before the outbreak of WW2, many countries realized the importance of tanks and similar armored vehicles and began modernizing their armored forces accordingly, while Japan lagged behind. According to the Japanese strategy, tanks were instruments to support infantry forces, rather than weapons of war that operated on their own. As a result, Japanese tanks at the initial stages of WW2 were rather inadequate in terms of both armor and armament. At the beginning of the battles in the Pacific Front, the Japanese tanks were effective against the weak Chinese Army (of course, the Chinese Army at that time). When confronting Russian and then American forces as the war progressed, Japanese tanks proved to be helpless against enemy tanks. I should also clarify that these enemy tanks were rather light vehicles such as the Russian BT-7 or the American M3 Stuart.

The experiences of Manchuko made the Japanese command realize the importance and potency of tanks, as well as the inadequacy of their own vehicles. They started making plans to modify their existence vehicles with faster and stronger guns, better armor and engines to counter large stationary targets and enemy anti-tank vehicles. Despite the intentions, improvement work was always of a secondary importance, as all available resources and labor were being redirected to projects like building larger battleships and more aircraft. In the late stages of the war, supply bottlenecks, heavy aerial bombardments and the collapse of infrastructure rendered the production of larger and heavier tanks impossible.

The medium class Type 97 Chi-Ha can be considered as the father of all Japanese tank development projects. Chi-Ha was the main battle tank of the IJA’s (Imperial Japanese Army) early period and there were many vehicles either planned or produced based on its platform. One of the first such vehicles was the Type-1 Chi-He and it, in turn, is the origin of the subject of this article, the HO-I. Things might seem confusing as to who originated from who and all those names, but it’s a simple story of evolution. A Side Note: The prefixes in Japanese vehicle names designate the class of the vehicle (Chi: Middle, HO: Assault Gun, Ka: Light, etc), while the suffix show the production order according to the Japanese alphabet.

The HO-I can be compared to early Panzer IV tanks in terms of its 16-ton weight and 75 mm main gun. If you take into consideration how the Panzer IV has improved during the war and how heavier German tanks like the Panther or Tiger came out, you might get an idea about how the Japanese tanks lagged behind during the war.  It is assumed that there were about 30 examples of HO-I produced and all were situated in the main Japanese islands against an American invasion. As Japan surrendered after two atomic bombs, the HO-I tanks completed their combat service without seeing any battle at all.
 
The Kit and Assembly

Until recently, WW2 era Japanese tanks did not interest many of the plastic model producers. Tamiya had a number of kits dating back to 1970s, while FineMolds had a lot of WW2 era Japanese tanks in its catalogue. Recently, other manufacturers like Dragon Models slowly began including Japanese vehicles in their catalogues (Dragon first issued a Ka-Mi, now a Ha-Go). The kit I will build was produced by FineMolds, with box number #FM24. This is actually a hybrid kit with various sprues from different kits, with an additional new sprue for the turret that was specific to this vehicle. At a first glance, the kit looks nice, with sharp and good details, a good quality modern product. The only downside seems to be the vinyl tracks. Of course, compared to old generation vinyl they are very nice, but to make a good quality model after-market tracks will be required. My choice was using metal tracks from Friul, namely ATL-70. In addition, I will be using Eureka’s tow cables.

The assembly of the model starts off easy without problems and keeps going on like that. After a fairly short time, the lower-upper hulls, road wheels and the main components of the turret are assembled and ready. With a few more hours of work, you can complete the basic assembly of the kit to reveal the overall lines of the completed vehicle. When the final small details were added and the tracks attached, the model was ready for paint. All was done in a short time without problems. The only point worthy of note is the anti-aircraft MG placed on the turret. The necessary MG mount is provided in the kit, but there’s no machine gun. The mount is provided in many FineMolds kits, but it’s very hard to find the machine gun itself. As a result, I obtained the machine gun from Tamiya’s old Chi-Ha kit. This part is molded with old technology, but it’s still usable especially when it’s age is considered. Finally, I touched up the very smooth surfaces with a mixture of thinner and Mr Surfacer to simulate metallic sheet texture to complete the assembly stage.

Painting

Revell Matt 47 was sprayed over the entire model as primer before painting commenced. The HO-I is a typical late-period IJA vehicle, so it will have to receive a late-period camouflage pattern, which means a tri-colored camouflage pattern with soft edges. The three colors are very similar to the German vehicles of the period, dark yellow-red brown and green, only in different shades of these colors. Mr Hobby has produced a set for the late-period vehicles, which includes all three colors in enamel (#CS603). I have used this set in my previous IJA builds and liked it, but found the yellow a bit too dark for my taste (although historically this dark shade is more accurate). As a result, I will be using my own choice of yellow instead of the color in the set. The remaining brown and green will be the Mr. Color set colors.

The lightest color of the camouflage is yellow and I will start the painting stage with this color. I chose to use Tamiya’s XF-60 overally, then added some Tamiya XF-57 Buff into this color to obtain a lighter shade of yellow. This lighter yellow was sprayed on areas that would reflect more light and this helps to increase overall contrast. After this, Mr. Hobby colors, TC 13 Tochi-Iro (earth) and TC 14 kodlu Kusa-Iro (Grass green) were next. Since these are enamel colors, I used Mr. Hobby’s own thinner to thin these. Keep in mind that these colors can be mixed with other enamel colors to obtain different shades for tonal variation. I applied UHU-TAC masks and then sprayed the green color on. After this the masks were rearranged and the brown was sprayed. The details on the vehicle were painted using acyrilic paints and a fine brush. The only decal of this vehicle was applied at this stage at the front. The white star that comes on this decal was hand-painted using a ready-mask and the entire model was sprayed with Tamiya’s semi-gloss varnish to prepare it for weathering.

WeatheringI began weathering with the application of filters. Several layers of filters were applied using dark brown oil colors thinned with Diluent N from Schmincke. This thinner is odorless and dries very fast. This allows the modeler to apply several subsequent layers pretty quickly.
After the filters, I applied a pin wash using MIG’s Dark Wash. I used a fine brush to touch small details and let the wash flow around these. The semi-gloss surface allowed the wash to easily flow and fill these areas. After allowing the pin-wash to dry for half an hour, the excess wash was cleaned with MIG thinner.

Now it’s time for oil paints. Different shades of different colors were first put on a piece of cardboard to soak the excess oil in them. Then small dots of each color were placed on the model randomly and these dots were blended on the surface using a dampened brush (the brush should nearly be dry). The areas where I wanted a darker look received more dots with darker oil colors, while lighter areas received lighter color dots.

Afterwards, I used a fine brush and Vallejo and AK Interactive paint to simulate chipped paint.

Now it’s time to make the lower hull dirty by simulating dust-dirt and mud.  I mixed AK Interactive’s Dark Mud and MIG’s Dark Mud Pigment and applied this to the lower side walls of the hull using an old brush. After this application was dry, this time only pigments were applied dryly.

The tracks are next for weathering. They were first painted with a mixture of black and dark brown. Then different earth colored pigments were sprinkled over the tracks and fixed in place using pigment fixer. When dry, the tracks were attached on the model.

Onto the final stage of weathering… I will use MIG pigments and AK Interactive products. I applied different colored earth and dust colored pigments on the models, where some areas received a lot of pigments and on some areas I only brushed the pigments lightly. These were fixed in place using small amounts of pigment fixer with care and I made sure the fixer did not flow.

I used the darkest color available from AK Interactive, Fresh Mud, and made mud splashes on the tracks by dipping a hard brush into the color and the removing the excess before blowing air on the brush. I made oil leaks, streaks and similar effects using AK Ineractive paints. The tracks and other metallic surfaces received were touched up with a graphite pencil and ModelMaster’s chrome silver to enhance their metallic look, completing the model.
Conclusion

FineMolds´ HO-I is a pleasure to build and it is a relatively easy kit. It might be a good introduction into building Japanese tanks, which I believe will be becoming popular soon. While I think IJA fans must have already built this kit, modelers who are seeking something different to build might find this kit an attractive choice.

Thanks to Emre Efli for the translation of this text.

Click the image for final photos.