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Tamiya Gekko

A comprehensive construction look at Tamiya's new 1:48 scale Gekko.

by Christopher A. LeClair

In 1938 Japanese forces had been well into a war with China. This of course included an air campaign. The Imperial Japanese Army had a bomber with excellent range but lack a escort fighter that could span the same distances. Inspired by the French Proze 630, a long range twin engine fighter attack plane was called for, and development of the J1N1 Type 13 was commenced by Nakajima Aeroplane Company. By 1941 the J1N1 had made its maiden flight.

When US intelligence first learned of the J1N1 it was still being developed as a escort fighter. It was appropriately code named Irving (Male) after Irving Schwartz, a friend of with one of the coding team members. At the same time Mitsubishi was in developing of the A6M Zero, which would be infamously known as the most widely used IJN fighter and escort. Consequently the J1N1 was redesigned as a reconnaissance aircraft in 1942.

By 1943 daylight and night bomber attacks were being carried on in the Pacific. Something had to be done to address this. The Mitsubishi Zero was capable of dealing with incoming raiders in the daylight, but at the night the Zero was not sufficient in this role. The idea to this problem came from Commander Yasuna Kozono who salvaged a few J1N1, brought them to Rabaul and mounted the twin 20mm oblique cannons in the dorsal, and the Gekko (Moonlight) was born. The Gekko was the first IJN plane to implement these oblique gun arrangement and was carried on to other planes.

A handful of pilots with these field modified Gekkos used cleaver techniques in pursuit of enemy, B-24 and B-17s. They would fly close to the ground and wait for a formation of Allied bombers to approach and gradually gain altitude, blending in with the formation on Allied radar screens. When in range they would pick their target(s) and go in for the kill. This tactic proved to be highly successful and mystified the Allies.

The Allies, not aware that these Gekkos were stationed in Rabaul, thought originally the growing number of B-24 and B-17s were being downed by mechanical failure. It was, in fact, these Rabaul based Gekkos that had been knocking Allied bombers down with great success. One Gekko ace in particular had scored 10 victories before the Allies figured out it was Gekkos shooting these bombers down and not mechanical failure.

Although, radar had been implemented in some Gekkos most had the heavy and cumbersome radar equipment removed keeping only the radar dome and antennas intact. However, the radar-less Gekko remained successful as a night attack plane.

The Gekkos were moved out of Rabaul, once the Allies caught on, to other "unknown" locations and remained in service until the end of the war. In the Solomon Island the Gekkos was used with a degree of successfulness as well shooting down in the neighborhood of 30 Allied bombers in the area. This harassed the nights sky for the Allies and boosted moral for the Japanese troops.

As the end drew in closer for the Imperial Japanese Navy suicide, Kamikazes, grew into alarming proportions. All makes, models, and types of Japanese aircraft were used and the Gekko was employed in these techniques likewise. In 1944 Yoshimasa Nakagawa and Isamu Osumi successfully rammed their Gekko into a B-24 and paved the way for the wide spread use of Kamikaze tactics as a rule and not the exception.

In all 486 Gekkos were produced. Many were converted J1N1-R reconnaissance types and some were built by Nakajima as night fighters. Even though it was few in numbers, the Gekko is a significant Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft and an important part of aircraft history. The Gekko is a fascinating and interesting airplane with alluring lines and a welcome addition to Tamiya’s 1:48th scale line up.

Click on the link below for Finished Gekko pictures.

Gekko Gallery

Construction Pictures

Text for build up in the progress.

Updated Part I Cockpit
Part II Fuselage
Part III Wings
Part IV Damage
Part V Engine
Part VI Engines
Part VII Wheels How To
Part VIII Components
Part IX Under
Part X Tail Wheel
Part XI Together
Part XII Weathering
Part XIII Canopy
NEW Part XIV Markings
NEW Part XV Finishing


Other things to come