The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (flying swallow) was a Japanese WWII fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. It took its first flight in December 1941 and between then and the end of the War in 1945, over 3000 had been built. It was designed as a more lightly loaded and armed general-purpose fighter for use in an offensive, air superiority role at low to medium altitude. It had a maximum speed of 360 mph at 16,000 ft with an armament comprising 2 x 20mm Ho-5 cannons and 2 x 12.7mm Ho-103 machine gun, with an additional option of 2 x 500lb bombs.
The 244th Regiment Fighter Group was one of the units attached to the 10th Hiko Shidan (Air Division) which formed a Ki-61 Special Attack Unit and organised ramming attack flight against the enemy, notably US B-29s, at high altitude. Stripped of their heavy armaments enabled them to attain the necessary ceiling and locate the enemy. It is not surprising that few Japanese pilots survived these ‘kamikaze’ raids, which were relentless.
Chofu Airport is located just north of Tokyo and from 1941 when opened it was used exclusively by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and it hosted the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hen fighters used for air defence against the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombing raids by the USAAF.
Oxford's 1:72 scale model is a replica of one of the Ki-61s from this era, as flown by the 244th Regiment based at Chofu. It is decorated in the signature red and green Japanese Air Force markings with silver underside and bearing a white combat stripe round the rear fuselage and wings incorporating the red disc. On the underside, the number 16 is printed on each side of the front fuselage and a tiny detail sees the Flying Swallow printed in white on each side of the tail fin.