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In-Box Review
172
IJA Type 4 “Ke-Nu”
‘Limited’ Armor Pro Series IJA Type 4 “Ke-Nu” Light Tank
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by: Eddy Nevarez [ BRAILLE ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

History

WWII Japan’s Type 4 ‘Ke-Nu’ light tank was created by a need to bolster and multiply the existing amount of light tanks then available and to provide improved fire support to combat engaged infantry divisions of the Imperial Japanese Army. The direct upgrading of the original Type 97 ‘Chi-Ha’ medium tank, which replaced its short low velocity Type 90 57mm anti-tank main gun turret with a newer longer high velocity Type 1 47mm anti-tank main gun turret to both increase the tanks firepower and crew room, left the now obsolete original ‘Chi-Ha’ turrets surplus.

In 1942 plans were set to begin work on retrofitting these spare ‘Chi-Ha’ turrets to the then obsolete chassis of the Type 95 ‘Ha-Go’ light tank, which originally had been armed with a short low velocity Type 4 37mm anti-tank main gun turret. The resulting modernization added almost a ton to the original 7.5ton weight of the vehicle reducing its already slow top speed of 28mph (43km/h) to just 25mph (35km /h). Approximately 100 of this hybrid light tank conversion project designated the Type 4 ‘Ke-Nu’ were completed in 1944, too late to have any impact on the crumbling Japanese interests in the Pacific theater.

Aside from a few Type 4 ‘Ke-Nu’ light tanks that fought in Manchuria (‘Manchuko’) and Korea in 1945 most late model Japanese tanks saw little or no combat. Sizable portions of these tanks were stationed at Okinawa and Kyushu Japan, retained to protect against the expected Allied invasion. A sole single surviving example captured by the Soviets in August 1945, during the battle in Manchuko, now resides at the Kubinka museum in Russia.

Dragon has gone and done it again in a small way with this recent WWII Japanese armor light tank release. A hybrid of sorts combining the chassis of the Type 95 'Ha-Go' light tank with the turret of the Type 97 'Chi-Ha' medium tank. Well let's go have a look . . .

The Kit

Dragon’s recent 72nd scale limited Armor Pro Series release provides us with yet another WWII Japanese battle tank, this one being a hybrid light tank mating both the chassis of their well done Type 95 ‘Ha-Go’ light tank and the turret from the Type 97 ‘Chi-Ha’ medium tank kits. Upon opening the kit box the first thing you’ll notice is the Dragon card loaded with sealed and zip lock bags containing the DS plastic track runs, two PE (photo-etch) frets, a decal sheet and an entire plastic molded parts sprue taped to the back side of the card holding the suspension, turret and accompanying details of the Type 95. Inside the box are the separately sealed bags with the parts for the Type 97 suspension and the all-important turret, a Type 95 upper hull and its corresponding lower hull. No figure(s) are included. Close to a hundred pieces in all.

The parts breakdown:
Sprue A, 33 parts for the Type 95 suspension, turret, details
Sprue A, 49 parts of the Type 97 suspension, turret, details
Part B, Type 95 upper hull
Part C, Type 95 lower hull
Part Z, 2 DS flexible plastic track runs
2 small PE frets holding 7 parts
1 Decal sheet

Injected molded parts:
The injected molded plastic parts have crisp detail and are virtually flash free with just a noticeable amount of clean up needed on some of the parting seam lines. The three largest multi-sided pieces in the kit box, the upper and lower hull and turret, are all very well detailed throughout on the appearance side of the parts due in large part to the slide molds used to create these individual pieces. There are protruding and recessed injector release pin marks on some of the parts but these are relegated to areas that won’t be seen on the completed model.

The main gun (for the Type 97) and rear idler wheels (for the Type 95) also benefit from slide molding too as these parts come furnished with hole(s) at the end of the main gun barrel and around the wheels with the lightening holes (inner & outer wheel pairs), so the modeler won’t have to fiddle with drilling the holes out on these small parts to add a bit more realism.

The Turret:
Altogether, including two PE parts, there are no more than a dozen parts that are involved in completing the assembly of the Type 97 ‘Chi-Ha’ turret. Two separate parts make up the Commander’s hatch but no option is given in the instructions for positioning the hatch in the open position. And although the main gun is nicely detailed, given the small size of the kits turret in this scale you would hardly be able to see the gun or much of anything inside, so leaving the hatch in the open position would add a little eye-catching interest for the viewer.

The Chassis:
The upper hull is a newly tooled item designed specifically with a larger diameter turret ring opening to accommodate the Type 97 turret. Together the upper and lower hull parts make up the entire chassis. What I found amazing about these two hull parts is the wealth of crisp molded surface detail, both recessed and protruding, crammed onto such a tiny area of plastic and all realistically rendered to scale . . . ‘Dragon we are not worthy, we are not worthy!’ (‘Ok, we can all stop bowing down and come up for some air’.)

Completing the Type 95 chassis the modeler will attach a jack, stowage bin, headlamp, machine gun, machine gun ball mount face plate, muffler and its accompanying PE exhaust mesh screen and an integrally fine molded pick and shovel. ‘That’s right, 10 parts in total’.

Suspension:
All 20 of the suspension components, including the flexible DS tracks, are faithfully reproduced to match the real counterparts down to the 19 toothed drive sprockets. The track guide wheels and rear idler wheels are molded together in pairs. The road wheels are also paired up but not alongside each other, two wheels are joined together on each opposing suspension crank arm making up one half of a bogie wheel set. The modeler will need to build four of these bogie wheel sets. This helps to both reduce the building time of the suspension and keeps the wheels aligned with each other and on this thumb sized model that’s a big plus in my book!

On the bottom of the third page of the assembly instructions is a note concerning the desired length (130mm) for the pair of flexible plastic DS track runs. I went ahead and measured my examples and found them both to be at the given dimension. As the DS plastic is flexible the modeler could very carefully stretch them just enough to provide for a little track sag.

Assembly instructions:
The detailed assembly instructions are printed on a four-section page fold out color sheet, with each page being the same size as the kit box, and the last page providing the Painting & Markings guide. The needed parts to complete the kit are broken down into 5 separate assembly steps all laid out in the usual Dragon 3D CAD black line drawing format with the part number call outs highlighted in blue for the Type 97 items or black for the Type 95 items with the assembly note symbols in blue. Personally I like this type of format over the color photographed kit diagrams sometimes found in some of their kit releases, but that’s just me. There is only one painting option included for any one of the three separate markings on the decal sheet.

Conclusion

This is a must have for those interested in collecting all WWII Japanese armor. It’s a very well molded and detailed kit, for its rather small size, representing one of the later and somewhat obscure tanks in the Japanese army’s inventory. Although the kits parts count is high for such a small sized tank, half the parts will end up in the spares box, so this appears to be a good starter kit for the beginner or less experienced modeler and a seasoned modeler will have a gem quality museum piece with a little effort. I’m glad Dragon has chosen to present us with a line up of WWII Japanese vehicles and hope this trend will continue and grow.

References used for this review:
New Vanguard 137 ‘Japanese Tanks 1939 – 45’ by Steven J. Zaloga

A Build log has been started on the forums.
SUMMARY
Highs: Well-detailed crisp molded parts all realistically rendered. An excellent addition to any small-scale armor collection.
Lows: Only one painting option, no figures. No option given for rendering the Commander’s hatch in the open position.
Verdict: War-gaming kit parts count but with the added benefit of creating a museum quality model via the very high detailed parts molding, PE, DS tracks and decals.
Percentage Rating
89%
  Scale: 1:72
  Mfg. ID: 7404
  Suggested Retail: $17.95
  Related Link: Dragon USA Item Page
  PUBLISHED: Nov 14, 2012
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.33%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.19%

Our Thanks to Dragon USA!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.
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About Eddy Nevarez (Braille)
FROM: CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES

I started out modeling anything plastic, that I could get my hands on, back in the last century and been loving it ever since. I have been an Electronic Assembler for most of my life, but it puts food, beer and pizza on the table and model kits and accessories in the stash. My wife knows where I'm...

Copyright ©2017 text by Eddy Nevarez [ BRAILLE ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.


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Comments

Nice review. I look forward to seeing the build.
NOV 14, 2012 - 10:20 AM
Very good review, Eddy. I must say though, I almost gasped when I saw all the "blued" out spare parts! There's probably enough there for another tank. It's also very nice to hear that Dragon finally got something else right, with the lightening holes in the idlers being opened on both inner and outer wheels (unlike those of their two Chi Ha's that only have them in the outer wheel). It's also interesting to see a sort of firewall in the inside of the lower hull. I too can't wait to see this one being built and hopefully it goes together as smoothly as my Type 97's did. Are you contemplating leaving the hatches open? If so there is a thread here Chi Ha Interior that gives an idea and links to both that tank's turret and info about Japanese tanks. An interior wouldn't be too bad as Japanese tanks interiors were pretty Spartan. For the majority, they didn't even have a turret basket (pity for the turret crew having to stumble over the drive shaft and boxes on the floor during traverse).. Cheers, Jan
NOV 14, 2012 - 11:25 AM
@c5flies – James, thanks for getting this posted up. I really enjoyed doing the research and write up. I hope that Dragon will send Kit Maker a copy of their soon to be released 72nd scale VK45.02 H and you could send that over my way, hint, hint! @russamotto - Russ, thanks for having a look at the review and commenting it is much appreciated. I am currently working on the little plastic parts that make up this tanks chassis and will be posting this over in the Braille forum. I still need to take some photographs, gather up a possible camouflage color plate and prepare a summery, hopefully all by the end of this week? BTW I enjoyed reading through your review on the Type 2 Ka – Mi (1:35) it inspired me to add that vehicle to the stash but in 72nd scale. I also read through a review on the same kit but in the smaller (real scale ) here at Armorama too! @tread_geek – Jan, good to have you stop by and check out the review, I always draw inspiration from your numerous Braille reviews. As a matter of fact you have caused quit a decline on my now tight budget from having obtained most of the kits that you’ve reviewed and some that you’ve linked over to build logs. Sometimes I just don’t get it with the molding process that Dragon uses because some kits have things that could have been implemented in other kits and visa versa. For example the lightening holes on the idler wheels that you mentioned in their Type 97 ‘Chi-Ha’ kits and the deck grates not being open on this kit and open on the Mi-Ha kit. What’s up with that? Yes, there are a lot of parts that will get relegated over to the spares box, a Dragon kit trademark of sorts! Thanks for the link you posted as I have already bookmarked one of the sites mentioned within that link. The interior photographs that Frenchy posted there are great but in this scale you really won’t see much of anything inside of the vehicle with the hatch left in the open position so I won’t be going there with any kind of an interior. Although some of the armor plates were welded together I did note, from Frenchy's pics, the very large sized rivets used to hold most of the armor together onto the chassis frame. These could become quit deadly to the crew if directly hit and dislodged with larger caliber weapons such as a 50cal. I imagine that workers installing these large rivets could easily become death over a short duration of time if, ear protection was not provided by the company when these vehicles were being built? ~ Eddy
NOV 14, 2012 - 05:55 PM
Nice review of what looks like an interestiing and simpler subject. I will definitely be interested to see the blog. Like Jan's Chi Ha's and Russ' Ha Go, this one looks mor my speed. regards, AJ
NOV 14, 2012 - 10:48 PM
Fantastic review Eddy!!! That is a tiny little thing but lots of potential. Thanks for your review buddy. Gary
NOV 15, 2012 - 12:41 AM
Eddy, excellent review! In-depth photo-rich reviews like this are what brought me to Armorama 10 years ago and why I stayed. Is it just me or is the molding on this lil' beast simply incredible? @Jan: thanks for the link to the interior photos. I'd missed that one.
NOV 15, 2012 - 10:46 AM
@weathering_one – AJB, thanks for dropping by and checking out the review. I think this kit can easily be put together without having to fiddle around with added extras via PE or scratch made items and have a well detailed finished article when your done. The biggest effort would be to replicate the multi-colored camouflage scheme. However, the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy had switched over to an overall green paint scheme late in the war so you could render this vehicle with a single color and use one of the three-decal markings in the kit? I may go that way on the build? I’ve already made some progress on the kit, but I’m not building it OOTB, and as soon as I take a few photographs and set up the text I’ll post that over in the Braille forum. See you there soon . . . @BBD468 – Gary, thanks for the kind words and for stopping by, much appreciated master Windu! Yes, it’s a bitty little fellow and at my age I’ll need an electronic high-power microscope to fix things onto it! @JPTRR – Frederick, thanks a heap for the comments it sure helps to keep me going on these reviews. Listen, is that a P-40 that you’ve got yourself strapped into? Thinking of maybe doing a little strafing on some little tanks? Hihi . . . Frederick, the molding is top notch for such a small kit, good to see Dragon taking an interest with these vehicles and going the extra mile to render them with plenty of detail. I do hope they will include many more of both the IJA and IJN vehicles used during and post WWII. Sounds like you might be interested in adding this one to your stash? ~ Eddy
NOV 18, 2012 - 04:16 AM
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