Japanese warships have always been given very poetic names. Destroyers were named after winds, tides and other weather events. Even more conventional naming practices, such as naming battleships after provinces has a lyrical quality, as the province name generally also has a literal meaning. Such is true with the two most well known and striking Japanese aircraft carriers, Akagi and Kaga. They were not the first carriers, as Hosho was the first Japanese carrier. They were not the best, as Shokaku and Zuikaku probably held that position. However, the pair were the most visually imposing.

  Under the terms of the Washington Treaty, just as the USN was allowed to convert two battle cruisers into large aircraft carriers, so too was Japan allowed to do the same. Two battle cruiser hulls were to be converted to carriers but one hull was wrecked in the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. This left Akagi, which under the cruiser naming conventions was named after a mountain, as the surviving battle cruiser conversion. As a substitute for the destroyed battle cruiser hull, a battleship hull was chosen as the second ship, the Kaga, named after a province. However, both names also had literal meanings, as Akagi meant Red Castle and Kaga meant Increased Joy. Well, that is all fine and good but how does this help the modeler. Simply because there are two new products that will increase the joy of any modeler building either or both of the pair.


Akagi - Red Castle
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The Hasegawa 1:700 scale kits of the Akagi and Kaga have always been the most popular of the Japanese aircraft carrier kits. Produced over thirty years ago, the carriers have held up well, compared to other subjects of the period that have been replaced with kits of new tooling. However, even these favorites are somewhat long in tooth. For the Chicago IPMS convention, I participated in a group build of the Japanese Pearl Harbor Strike Force. My contribution was Kaga. I had never built this Hasegawa kit before but was very pleased with how photo-etch punched up the detail. However, nothing could be done with the raised lines of the flight deck, other than sanding everything flat. Now, Akagi and Kaga have received new leases on life because of the release by Midship Models of brass photo-etch flight decks for both the Akagi and Kaga.

The Midship Models decks are designed to be laminated on top of the deck provided in the kit. To achieve a flush fit, the raised detail on the plastic deck should be sanded smooth. For the Akagi MPK820 is the Midship Model product number. The large brass deck is very finely detailed. The first things that jump out are the rows of aircraft tie-down points. The planking on the deck is very delicate and finely done. It extends almost the length of the deck but at the aft end is the round down, which is finished flat. Two other smaller areas on the deck are also finished smooth, both are at wind deflector screens. Just in front and aft of the forward elevator are two windscreens that could be raised protecting elevator operation from wind damage in rough weather. These screens were not solid but were a fine open grid in design. Midship also supplies the two screens, which are done in the open grid fashion. With this brass sheet you get not only the deck but also 18 other brass parts. In addition to the two windscreens, the sheet has all three elevators, eight separate arrestor cables in three different lengths, and five radio antennae.


Kaga - Increased Joy
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For the Kaga MPK821 is the Midship Model product number. Of course the deck itself is very different in outline, elevator location and other detail from that of Akagi. However, the quality of the detail for the Kaga deck is of the same excellence as that of Akagi. Although the deck may be different in shape and the elevators in different positions, the tie down points and deck planking are equal in fine detail between the two. With the Kaga sheet there are an additional 19 parts included with the deck. Kaga had one wind deflector mounted in front of the second elevator, so only one of the open grid deflectors comes on this sheet. However, although there is one less windscreen on this sheet, there are ten, rather than eight arrestor cables. Also in variance from Akagi, these cables are of the same length. The sheet also contains three elevators and five radio antennae.

Verdict
Just as warships were rebuilt and refitted to increase their effectiveness and stay in step with evolving technology, so to do these brass photo-etched decks allow their 1:700 counterparts to achieve today’s standards in detail and fidelity. The Hasegawa Akagi and Kaga may be over 30 years old but a refit with the Midship Model photo-etch deck will allow either of them to maintain fleet speed into the 21st Century.

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