by: Russ Amott [ ]
Originally published on:
Imperial Japan, like most other nations, began looking at mechanized infantry in the years following WWI. Initially developing the type 89, a large, slow moving tank with a 57mm gun for infantry support, the military demanded a more capable vehicle, meaning one that could keep up with rapid infantry advances and support mobile operations. In 1933 work began on a new prototype light tank, restricted to less than 8 tons, with a speed of at least 40kmh/25mph. The design was formally accepted in 1935 (Imperial year 2495) and accepted as the light tank of year 95, or the type 95.
Main armament of the tank was initially the type 94 37mm gun, with two type 91 6.6mm light machine guns. It was powered with a Mitsubishi engine giving 110hp. A bell crank suspension was used, which provided for a very rough ride. The small, hand cranked turret was operated by the commander, who worked the main gun and the turret machine gun, with was positioned at an angle approx 120 degrees to the right, around the side of the turret. The driver and co-driver/hull MG operator sat in the front of the tiny tank. After the first production batch of approx 100 tanks a new Mitsubishi engine of 120hp was installed and the main armament was switched to the type 98 37mm gun with a longer barrel and the two machine guns were replaced with the type 97 7.7mm light machine gun. The infantry felt the armor was too thin for the tank but cavalry units felt the light weight and speed were an excellent combination. In the planned jungle operations it was felt that larger and heavier tanks were not needed. In comparison with other contemporary tanks, the Type 95 was as good as or better armed than the Vickers light tank, German Panzer I and II, US M2A2 and M2A4 and Soviet BT-5.
In the Nomonhan incident, where Japanese and Soviet forces faced off in 1939 the light armor of the Type 95 was clearly demonstrated as a significant weakness, but in the early battles of WWII, the Type 95 appeared in areas considered unsuitable to tank warfare and played a significant role in the early Japanese victories, particularly in Malaya. Vulnerable to even rifle fire at close range, the tank was quickly outclassed and many were expended in later battles in useless suicide charges. As Imperial Japan's most produced tank, with some 2300 built, the Type 95 was encountered in almost every battle in the Pacific.
Dragon has followed on their previous release of the Type 2 Ka-Mi amphibious tank with another outstanding model release of the Type 95 light tank. I don't know the difference in their design teams, but simple observation of the kit parts shows significant care and attention to detail with this kit. I will state here at the beginning of the review that even if you are not a fan of Japanese armor, a kit of this detail is worth getting.
The medium-large box has artwork of two Type 95 tanks in Malaya, with Type 97 between them. The artwork is attractive but I did not see the artist's name. The box is more than large enough for the contents, 11 sprues, upper and lower hull, etch sheet and DS single length tracks. Looking over the kit parts, all show the highest level of engineering and attention to detail, with no sink marks, broken parts or other deformities.
Sprue A is the front and rear hull decks, hatches, muffler and tools. The rear hull plate is given as two options, one with styrene parts molded in place and the other with optional styrene or styrene/photo etch detail for the fuel port. The inspection hatches are also included as either pre-molded parts or positionable handles to show in either open or closed mode. Engine hatches have pre-molded louvers that are see-through. The muffler also has optional parts with the brackets pre-molded or separate. The tools are delicate, and the shovel is actually concave on the underside. If you desire, you could remove the molded on clamp and have it positioned in use or loose on the tank. The muffler end and various attachments are slide molded for optimum detail.
Sprue B, x2, is the suspension system. Detail on the road wheels is almost too tiny to see, but the bolt retention wires on the rims are present, as is lettering on the wheels, although my understanding is that the lettering is a collection of random Japanese symbols and means nothing. The drive sprockets have carefully molded support ribs present. The bell crank system is well represented and bolt heads are molded onto the sprue to add detail to the parts. The spacer for the road wheel pairs and tow cable ends are carefully molded to allow rim detail and hollowed out ends. Two headlight options are given, one facing forward and the other facing backwards (Japanese tankers would turn the lights around in battle to prevent them from getting broken) and two options for the machine gun ball mound are provided, one with an open sight hole. The type 97 machine guns are included on this sprue, with pre-bored muzzle. Detail on these guns is exceptional and it seems a shame to hide them in the hull of the tank.
Sprue C has the turret base and ring. There are no locking tabs so when the kit is completed the turret will need to be treated with care so it is not lost. The main gun is on this sprue, again with the pre-bored muzzle. Two gun mount options are provided, either a two piece part that will allow the gun to elevate, or a second three part that will also allow the gun to move left to right, independent of the turret, a unique feature on the real tank. Two options are also provided for the right hand hatch lid, with pre-molded styrene detail or optional photo-etched part. The hatch lids are a little thick as the actual tank part was very thin metal, but for styrene it works well enough. Maybe an aftermarket company will release the part in etch for proper scale thickness. The rear turret hatch is also in two parts, one with optional etch insert. Of note here is that the tiny vision slit is open on these parts.
Sprue D has the final drive housings and rear idler assembly. The idler housing allows for positionable idler wheels and has all around detail. The driver's vision port/hatch comes again with two optional parts, either pre-molded detail or separate details allowing the vision port to be positioned open and etch parts for added detail. The entire hatch can be positioned open as well. Two small individual track links are included here as spares, although hopefully this will signal the future release of Smart-tracks for those who prefer them. They are tiny, the size of 1/72 scale pz.IV tracks.
Sprue E has the front and rear track guards. They are molded extremely thin and have good detail top and bottom. The front track guards receive two etch parts that act as braces/mud flaps. I have not seen them on other kits of this tank but they are present in photos.
Sprue F is the smoke discharger, with the launchers hollowed out. I believe this is only appropriate for the Malay version, and is marked optional.
Sprue G is the jack, with considerable detail. The neck piece is toothed, the crank sockets are hollowed out and the four piece detail surpasses any similar scale jack I have seen.
Sprue H is an optional breech shield and spent shell bag for the main gun. I have searched through references and I don't know if it is specific to the type 94 or type 98 gun. The parts look the same as on sprue C, but it appears the rear bracket is folded up and the bag hanging at the new angle.
Sprue K is the clear parts sprue, with vision blocks and head lights. Optional vision blocks for the driver's hatch are provided.
Sprue X, the upper and lower hull, came as separate parts in my box. The unique riveted structure of the hull is clearly demonstrated here, along with individual plate detail. The two parts mate very well. The hull is slightly smaller than the Czech 38t.
Sprue Y, also two separate parts, carefully bagged, is the turret and cupola. The turret is tiny, but again shows the excellent plate and rivet detail. The mounting bracket for the smoke discharger is molded in place and will need to be carefully removed if that part is not used. The small vision slits in the cupola are clearly present but don't go all the way through. Aside from the armament, there is no inner turret detail.
The photo-etch sheet has mesh screens for the engine vents, a mesh screen for the muffler that will need to be bent into shape, the flap/braces for the front track guards, various hatch arms and port covers, the base plate for the manufacturer's label and spacers for the road wheels. A rear "license" plate mount is included here for vehicle identifying code.
Two lengths of DS track are included, molded again with the highest level of detail. The guide horns are link ends are hollowed and each link crisply molded. The material is gluable and holds acrylic paint well, although some lacquers may be corrosive to it.
Decals are provided for five tanks and are printed by Cartograf. They are very clear, all in black and white. Tanks represented are as follows:
1st Tank Regiment, Malaya 1941, white 20.
Kwantung Army, Manchuria 1944, white 101 or 103.
Co. 2, 7th Tank Regiment, Philippines, 1942, white 9502, with rear data plate.
12th Tank Regiment, Chine, no number but symbol on side of tank.
Markings for the 7th tank regiment vehicle appear undersized for the hull sides. The box-art showing the 1st Tank Regiment vehicle in Malaya has the Japanese flag painted on the front hull plate. This marking is not shows on the decal sheet. Also missing is a decal for the manufactures plate.
All of the vehicles shown are in a base tri-color scheme listed as wood brown, red brown and IJA green with a flat yellow disruptive stripe. None of the schemes are identical and only side views are shown. The type 95 appeared in a variety of colors and schemes so there is considerable potential here and much can be made of the modeler's imagination. I have searched extensively online concerning the colors of IJA armor, and still don't have any specific or conclusive answer as to whether the colors mentioned here are correct or not.
The instructions are printed in standard CAD line drawings, with assembly in 15 total steps. There are several sub assemblies, and as mentioned many parts are optional. Care will be needed but the kit is not overly complex. If you happen to have a Fine-Molds kit lying around, you should be able to source a few additional decals.
Having mentioned Fine Molds, I will state that the level of molding on this kit greatly surpasses anything that anyone has done previously with this subject. I wish Dragon had paid this much attention to many of their other kits. Every visible detail is carefully done, matches photos and diagrams I have seen and really makes the kit stand out.
One specific note on this kit – a figure is shown on Dragon's web site, but that figure, unfortunately, is only available in Japan. I don't know what kind of agreement that is based on, but it is most unfortunate as there is a lack of well detailed Japanese figures on the market. One can work with the Miniart kit, or the Modelkasten figures if you can get them.
My thanks to Dragon and Armorama for this excellent sample. You can find the kit online in a wide price range, and at many local hobby stores. I advise you to shop around for the best price. I will begin a build review of the kit shortly.