Review: ClearProp 1/72 Ki-51 Sonia

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The Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Army designation “Type 99 Assault Plane”. Allied nickname “Sonia”) was a light bomber/dive bomber in service with the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. It first flew in mid-1939. Initially deployed against Chinese forces, it proved to be too slow to hold up against the fighter aircraft of the other Allied powers. However, it performed a useful ground-attack role in the China-Burma-India theater, notably from airfields too rough for many other aircraft. As the war drew to a close, the Japanese began using them in kamikaze attacks. Total production was around 2,385 units.

On the day Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, two Ki-51s were responsible for the last Japanese sinking of a US warship, sinking USS Bullhead (SS-332) with all hands.

Mania released a 1/72 Ki-51 in 1975 and when the company was bought by Hasegawa they continued using the molds. Hasegawa are the only people who have released a 1/72 Ki-51 and they’re still using the original Mania molds from 1975.

ClearProp has 3 levels of kits, each requiring different skill levels of the builder. This kit is an ‘advanced’ kit which means there is some PE in the box.

The kit comes in a sturdy box made of corrugated cardboard that covers all the sides of the box. On top of the box is a traditional box top made of thin card. Just to be clear the kit is 100% inside a corrugated cardboard box. All the parts are inside a resealable bag with various parts inside their own bags as well. The PE fret has a cardboard backing sheet. The packaging is very good. In the box we have:

  • 170 plastic parts
  • 63 PE parts
  • painting mask sheet
  • decal sheet
  • full colour 12-page glossy paper instruction sheet

The level of detail is very nice and the main parts have fine recessed panel lines. The attachment points are small and they attach to the mating surfaces. There are no alignment pins on the main parts of the fuselage or wings so you will have to take care during assembly. You have a very detailed engine. You have 2 options for the instrument panel, use a decal or use a film and PE panel. Most of the PE parts for part of the build and do not have plastic options to replace them. There are colour call-outs throughout the build.

The kit is built in 33 steps.

  1. Putting together the instrument pilot’s seat from PE.
  2. Putting together s simple rear gunner’s seat from plastic.
  3. Making a simple storage container in the cockpit.
  4. Putting together the instrument panel. Here you have a choice of either using a deco sheet or a plastic film and a photo which sheet.
  5. Adding the pilot’s seat to the forward part of the cockpit floor along with several small parts some of which are fun to watch.
  6. Sending the frame on which the two parts of the cockpit will sit.
  7. Adding the various parts to the rear part of the cockpit floor. This includes the gunners seat, oxygen bottle and storage containers.
  8. Putting together some instrumentation of the cockpit walls. Again you have a choice of using decor is or plastic film with photo etch.
  9. Assembling some instrumentation for the sidewalls.
  10. Adding more detail to the starboard side wall with paint.
  11. Pulling all the various parts for the cockpit together including the sidewalls and from firewall..
  12. Now start assembling the engine with the two rows of cylinders and the rocker shafts.
  13. At Cowling’s to the engine and the exhaust ring.
  14. Putting together the two-part front of the aircraft with radiator.
  15. Assembling the machine gun used by the rear gunner.
  16. Assemble one of the main undercarriage legs.
  17. Assemble the other main undercarriage leg.
  18. Attach the propeller hub to the propeller. If you choose paint scheme number one use a different propeller hub to the other schemes.
  19. Assemble what seems to be an oil or fuel tank stop
  20. sending small bombs that are going to go under the wings stop
  21. assembling larger bombs that go underneath the wings.
  22. Assembling small bombs for the underwing racks.
  23. Adding bombs to the underwing racks.
  24. Adding larger bombs to pylons.
  25. Assembling one of the elevators.
  26. Assembling the other elevator
  27. stop adding parts to what will form the top of the cockpit.
  28.  Join the fuselage halves trapping the completed cockpit in between. Note there are no alignment pins here.
  29. Drill 0.5mm and 0.6mm holes in the wings for the bombs and join the wing top and bottom halves together. Note there are no alignment pins here.
  30. Join the fuselage and wings together along with rudder and elevators.
  31. This is the first option for the arrangement of underwing bombs. You also add the undercarriage and a few other small parts.
  32. This step is the other option to step 31 and is exactly the same except the bombs are different.
  33. The last step has you add the canopy in either the open or closed position, the engine and propeller and a few last small parts.

The painting guide gives you 4 options, 2 camouflaged and 2 mostly one colour. You also get some bonus decals that allow you to do a second aircraft from each of the units so you really have 8 decals options from 4 different units. I’d note that the 2 camouflage options are pretty complicated. The colours are named and called out in Mr Color. Colours are called out as needed throughout the instructions. Your 4 options are:

  • 27th Hikosentai, Burma 1942
  • 6th Hikosentai, Southern China 1942
  • 28th Hikosentai. Manchuria 1940-41
  • Flying School Ibaraki Japan, 1942

This kit is available direct from us here for US$34.00 with free shipping.

Conclusion: This is a very nice little kit with lots of detail. It’s easily the best kit of this aircraft out on the market right now.

Paul Tosney – Editor
HobbyLink International
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