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In-Box Review
G3M3 ''Nell'' Bomber
Mitsubishi G3M3 Type 96 Attack Bomber (Nell) Bomber Model 23 '1st Flying Group' Limited Edition
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:

Hasegawa has released another Limited Edition 1/72 Mitsubishi G3M3 Nell Bomber, this one with a new torpedo and markings for the 1st and 1001st Naval Air Group (Kōkūtai).

G3M history
    In accordance with the expansionist policies of Imperial Japan, the G3M was designed for maximum range and speed. It was intended to project Japanese power from bases in Japan to the Asian mainland and out into the Pacific. Maxing out the range and speed of the "Nell", however, entailed not including protective armor or self-sealing fuel tanks. This lack of protection led to the G3M and the subsequent G4M being excessively vulnerable to damage. - Hasegawa

Before "Nell" was christened "Nell" in mid-1942 by intel officer Captain Frank T. McCoy, she was the Mitsubishi Type 96 Rikujo Kogeki Ki (Land-Based Attack Bomber; "RikKo"), a twin-engined bomber (plus a transport version) of all-metal construction with fabric-covered control surfaces. While G3M had flaps, it was designed with long-span ailerons which lagged behind the trailing edge, held by control horns, the so-called "double wing". It was a very modern aircraft and a civil version flew around the world, sponsored by a Japanese newspaper.

Beginning with the Second Sino-Japanese War in summer 1937, RikKo ranged roughshod far and wide over China, destroying Chinese forces and slaughtering civilians. As modern and high-tech as the sleek bomber was, Chinese biplane fighters inflicted serious losses against RikKos.

Japan frequently improved the type with better powerplants and more defensive firepower. Models 22 and 23 crews increased from five to seven; weapons increased from three 7.7mm machine guns to a 2cm cannon and up to four light machine guns. After Pearl Harbor the bombers were ubiquitous through the first year of the war, attacking the Philippines, Wake Island, Java and the Dutch East Indies, New Guinea, Australia. "Nells" attacked Royal Navy battleship force "Force Z" off Malaya and sank HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse; RikKos damaged USS Houston between Java and Australia. G3Ms bombed Darwin and a year later joined "Bettys" against US naval forces in The Battle of Rennell Island, "Nells" delivering fatal torpedoes into USS Chicago in January 1943. Chicago was the last hurray for "Nell". G3M was rapidly reassigned to second-line roles like submarine hunting and two years later were expended as kamikaze.

G3M3 was powered by the Ha-33 Kinsei 51 1,300 hp engines propelled RikKo more than 3,363 nautical miles with almost 1,400 gallons of fuel. Mitsubishi's Kinsei (金星 Venus) was a 14-cylinder, air-cooled, twin-row radial aircraft engine.

Prototype G3Ms flew in 1935 and RikKo was built into 1943, including the L3Y transport. Fewer than 1,050 G3M types were built. Curiously, Nakajima was the only manufacturer of the G3M3 Model 23, 412 of them. (Mitsubishi busied their Nagoya plant with production of the G4M "Betty", the Navy Type 1 Land Attack Bomber.)

In the box
Limited Edition Mitsubishi G3M3 Model 23 '1st Flying Group' is packed in a traditional lid-tray box. Box art is a majestic scheme of 1st Kōkūtai RikKo en route with torpedoes.

Inside the box is a sheet of decals, instruction sheet, a big bag of gray sprues and a small bag for a clear sprue. Twelve gray sprues and the clear hold:

A. Fuselage, horizontal stabilizers; wing engine nacelles; undercarriage struts and internal structure, gear doors; bomb mount.
B. Left wing halves.
C. Right wing halves.
D. Cockpit and interior parts; 20mm cannon, machine gun pillars; antennas and external apparatus.
E x 2. Engines and propellers; crew area details; vertical stabilizers; mass balances.
F x 2. Cowling.
G x 2. Bombs and fin braces.
J. Type 91 shiki kai 1 torpedo
K. Clear canopies.
P. Caps.

The parts are molded to a high standard without bothersome seam lines, no sinks nor visible ejector circles, and minimal flash (mostly at the prop tips). Parts are thin where visible and sturdier along the main structural parts. Levers and antennas will need careful handling - note the photo with my finger next to some slim parts. Fortunately, Hasegawa made the attachment points small so parting the pieces from the sprues shouldn't be hazardous. Surface texture is smooth. Fine recessed panel lines detail the model. No texture details the fabric control surfaces, although they have raised lines representing the reinforcing tapes. Trailing edges may not be too-scale thin although they are not noticeably thick.

Parts are engineered in a conventional manner except for the retractable gun turret. Three clear parts assemble it. The cockpit glazing features an opening for the separate hatch. Also, a separate belly hatch is provided. The pieces are clear, without distortion, yet thick.

This RikKo 23 features modular parts after Hasegawa's fashion, so other versions can be made. Hasegawa also molded the cowlings as a single part, and molded those trailing ailerons attached to the wings, alleviating the difficulty of attaching and aligning them. (If you have built a Junkers 52, you know what I mean!)

This model RikKo has parts to be armed with the Type 91 torpedo or iron bombs of 60kg and 250kg. (The 250kg bombs are not used.)

Thirteen pieces assemble the cockpit, including a radio stack, bombardier seat, and Navy Type 92 Bombsight. Surface detail is basic. Two bulkheads segregate the cockpit and rear gunners from the retractable gun turret. Basic formers but no longerons are molded into the fuselage interior. The retractable turret can be assembled deployed or stowed.

Five parts build each wing: top and bottom halves; two-piece nacelle extenders; landing gear well structure. The tires are weighted.

Each Ha-33 Kinsei is assembled with nine parts, including the propeller, spinner, air intake, cowling, and retaining cap. The twin-row engines are molded as a single part instead of separate cylinder rows.

Numerous small actuators and apparatus are provided to attach onto the airframe.

instructions, painting and Decal Options
Hasegawa printed a multifold black-and-white line art instruction sheet. Nine easy to follow steps with a few sub-steps guides one through the assembly process. The sheet includes a short history of the G3M and a page displaying the sprue contents. Unused pieces are shaded.

Sharply printed opaque decals for five airframes are included:

1. No.1 Kōkūtai, No.2 Hiko Buntai (Z-325, Z-322, Z-323, and Z-326)
2. 1001st Kōkūtai, tail code: 01-64

A very detailed decal for the instrument panel and the radio faces are included; propeller marking are, too.

A large amount of clear carrier film is present because of the printed unit stripes and numbers. It concerns me that the clear carrier film has a slight frosted appearance.

No.1 Kōkūtai was formed on 10 April 1941, code-named "Z-Ku," and attached to No.21 Hiko Sentai. It opened the war against the Philippines, fighting through Indonesia into the South East Area theater, eventually based at Vunakanau, Rabual. On 10 April 1942, No.1 Kōkūtai was reassigned to No.24 Hiko Sentai at Aur and Wotje in the Marshall Islands. "Z-Ku" began converting to "Bettys" and deployed to Rabual in the autumn of 1942. I can find no information whether No.1 Kōkūtai returned with "Nells" to Rabual, although the unit ceased in November, 1942.

1001st Kōkūtai was a transport unit, formed 1 July 1943. Some L3Y Type 96 transports ("Tina") joined No.1 Kōkūtai in January, 1942, for an airborne operation. 1001st Kōkūtai "Nells" were photographed in Japan in 1945.

Only 13 Mr. Colour and GSI paints are listed. Nakajima colors are listed - remember that Mitsubishi didn't built the G3M3.

The box art shows the RikKo with the yellow leading edge ID stripes and the overall green topside. Early G3Ms wore the brown and green kumogata ("cloud style/pattern") segmented camouflage and Z-322 flew from Vunakanau in kumogata in April, 1942. While it hasn't conclusively been established when the yellow stripe was ordered, "An inter-service notice dated October 6, 1942 was cited (in Model Art No.565) which specified that 'For friend-foe identification, camouflaged planes should have yellow and non-camouflaged planes should have yellow or red leading edges.'" *

Hasegawa makes good models and this Limited Edition 1/72 Mitsubishi G3M3 Nell Bomber upholds their reputation. It features excellent molding, fine small parts, and sharp surface detail. The cockpit has a satisfying number of basic parts although with the clear expansive canopy, the lack of detail will be apparent. Many individual external parts enhance the model. The special torpedo looks good.

The decals look good although there is a matte look to the clear film. Camouflage is ambiguous.

Fans of early war IJNAF aircraft should appreciate this model. I do and I recommend this kit.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.

R. J. Francillon. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. Naval Institute Press. 1979.

Donald W. Thorpe. Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II. Aero Publishers. 1977.

Luca Ruffato, Michael J. Claringbould. Eagles of the Southern Sky. Tainan Research & Publishing. 2012.

* Jim Lansdale. j-aircraft.com. 1 December 2000.
Highs: Excellent molding, fine small parts, and sharp surface detail. The cockpit has a satisfying number of basic parts and clear parts are high quality.
Lows: The decals look good although there is a matte look to the clear film. Camouflage is ambiguous.
Verdict: Fans of early war IJNAF aircraft should appreciate this model.
  Scale: 1:72
  Mfg. ID: 02103
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jul 09, 2014
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

Our Thanks to Hobbico!
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 Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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