A6M2-N "Rufe" 

Tamiya's A6M2N kit

Kit Kit Manufacturer Scale Price Options Out of Box (OOB) or Modified Rating (1-10 10=best)
Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe"  Tamiya  1/48  $15  Markings, canopy  none   

The A6M2-N Rufe was a modification of the basic Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighter. It was determined that a fighter was needed to defend remote areas where airbases had yet to be (or would not be) constructed. While a dedicated fighter (the "Rex") was being designed and developed, an interim fighter was needed. Nakajima, who was producing the Zero under license from Mitsubishi, stepped forward to with a modified A6M2 proposal, which was accepted. 

They removed the landing gear and faired over the area, added a central float and two supporting wing floats, and put in a reinforced central spar to handle the rough water landings. These modifications lessened the Zero's speed somewhat due to increased weight (offset somewhat by the removal of the landing gear) and the extra floats. Still, the aircraft maintained excellent maneuverability and decent speed, proving itself to still be worthy of caution by opposing aircrew. 

The kit itself is a somewhat earlier Tamiya kit. The excellent moulding we've come to expect from Tamiya is still here, but there is a little filling required in some difficult areas (such as the attachment for the underwing floats, and in the "intake" in the main float.) Not a lot is required, however, and the kit builds very well - due to its nature, it breaks down easily into subassemblies (cockpit, body, wings, floats, accessories) and can easily be built in a weekend. 

The cockpit is an area that many detailers will want to look at. The stocks of the machine guns are represented with plain plastic blocks, and the instrument panel is represented with a decal (nicely done, but noticeable if you leave the canopy open.) It also leads to the question of Japanese interior colors. Tamiya, in this kit, reccomends a metallic blue - green (known as "aotake.") This was a primer/sealant used by the Japanese navy, but normally not seen in crew areas. After following some discussion on rec.models.scale, I decided on a compromise. I painted the fuselage walls (that would be visible in the cockpit) "aotake," and painted the cockpit itself in a light, interior "bamboo" green. The result looks good and adds some visual interest to the cockpit. 

The rest of the kit goes together easily. One point you may want to break away from the instructions at deals with the engine and cowl. Tamiya would have you finish it and attach it to the fuselage. In all variants, the cowl is flat - therefore, I painted it black and left it off the aircraft until the fuselage was painted. It saves masking and overspray problems, and looks fine. 

Finishing - You have six aircraft to choose from. Three are in the overall grey scheme of early Zeroes, and three are in a IJN Grey/Green scheme. You may want to replace the hinoramus supplied in the kit with aftermarket decals, as these are thick and don't settle easily into detail - or conform to the fuselage without some encouragement. All in all, outside of the decals, this is a good kit of a rarely seen Zero variant, and an easily built one at that. You don't need a lot of experience to turn out a nice model, and detail nuts will have plenty to work on to keep them happy.