1/48 Nichimo Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia

Gallery Article by Mark L. Rossmann on Mar 31 2011


The Ki-51 was the Japanese Army Air Forces truly all around aircraft. Designed in 1938, as a ground attack plane, it remained in service throughout the war, even when over taken by more modern aircraft. Thanks to its great features; sturdiness, reliability and maneuverability made it virtually unaltered during the war. Even an attempt to replace the aircraft in 1941 by three prototypes of the Ki-70, showed the improvements did not justify it to go into production. The aircraft placed emphasis on crew protection, and the possibility of operating from airstrips close to combat operations. Production of the aircraft began in 1940 and ceased at the war’s end with no fewer than 2,385 being produced. It first saw action in China, then throughout the Pacific, finally being used in the suicide plane.

Click on images below to see larger images




The “Sonia” as designated by the allies, was an all metal low wing monoplane having a long glazed canopy that housed two, a gunner/bombardier/navigator and pilot. Having a maximum speed of 260 mph @ 6500 ft, weighing in at 6000 lbs, able to carry 440 lbs of bombs, three machine guns with two 7.7-mm wing guns(later 12.5-mm) and a 7.7-mm in the rear cockpit. The engine was a Mitsubishi Ha-26-II, 14 cylinder radial, air cooled with 940 h.p. 

This kit was introduced before 1990, yet with fine detailed engraved lines and rivets along with a reasonably detailed cockpit with two crew figures and detailed rear machine gun make it an exceptional model to build. The kit contained several bomb options, including “flash” bombs for reconnaissance photos, 50 kg lb bombs, radio equipment, engine, camera plate and mount and camera, oxygen tanks and masks, oil reservoir and more. I used the decals for a 67th Independent Air squadron, also included 49th and 71st Independent air squadron and Independent Air Corps 48th squadron.

The kit was straight forward, with no problems of fit. Used Testors Silver metallic Spray paint. Tamiya acrylic colors for the pilots, interior and hand painted camouflage spots. Instructions are in Japanese, but a separate English monologue is provided. Please note the relative scale size of the Ki-51 to “Madam Wham Dam” of the 506th FG out of Iwo Jima. 

With the price of plastic models going sky high from the elite model companies, and you know who they are, the older models available and the US based companies models are quite appealing in price and quality, and build up quite nicely. Maybe it’s time to start pushing back and not pay the high prices.


  • Kit Instructions

  • World War II Combat Aircraft – by Enzo Angelucci and Paolo Matricardi

Mark L. Rossmann

Photos and text © by Mark L. Rossmann