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Submarine Bombers

Building Tamiya's 1/48 Aichi M6A1 Floatplane

n by Rafi Ben-Shahar

The Aichi M6A1 Seiran stands out as one of the most interesting innovations in the aviation field that answer immediate needs. Created to be stored at and operated from specially designed submarines, up to three of these float-equipped aircraft were able to take off from the sea after being rolled outside the submarine that served as an submersible aircraft carrier. The Japanese I-400 class submarines built to host the Seiran were the largest ever built, only surpassed in 1962 by nuclear-powered subs.

Fitting a high-performance combat aircraft into the confines of pressure-tight hull presented Aichi designers with an enormous challenge. To save space, the Japanese designed a 12-cylinder liquid-cooled Atsuta 32 engine based on the German Daimler-Benz DB603. Also, the entire aircraft could be assembled or disassembled in minutes, due not only to foldable wings, but also tailplanes.

Originally, the aircraft were destined to disrupt shipping traffic in the area of the Panama Canal, but the cessations of hostilities prevented from the Imperial Japanese Navy to show its long reaching arm.

The fine Tamiya 1/48 kit was designed in close collaboration with the restoration work conducted on the only Seiran left at the NASM Garber facility. I had the opportunity to visit the museum when the Seiran was at its initial stages of restoration, which revealed the archaeology of paint layers and internal structures of the wing fold mechanism. The two models are the result of the visit.

Images of M6A1 undergoing restoration at the Garber facility of National Air and Space Museum, USA.
Click to enlarge

In the first, I concentrated on the layout of the aircraft in its stored phase inside the submarine. Not only the wings were folded, but also parts of the tail section. The aircraft were armed while in storage. I added the Edurad photoetched set designed for the kit, separated the canopy components, added a spare CMK DB603 engine and of course, folded the wings and tail sections using scratch made parts.


The second model represents the paint structure of a derelict aircraft. Unlike the camouflage paints that deteriorated in no time, it is known that the Japanese red primer holds on to the aluminium surface for many decades. I applied a Testors Metalizer a red enamel paint and a Tamiya IJN green on top. Then, I scratched the two upper paint layers to various degrees to depict a what if scenario in which the complete aircraft is discovered complete albeit tattered in a remote storing facility.

Additional images, click to enlarge


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