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Drones - Airplanes and Rockets

Sakai's "Claude" Mitsubishi Type 96
January 1962 American Modeler Article

January 1962 American Modeler

January 1962 American Modeler Cover - Airplanes and Rockets Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

Accompanying the article "Sakai: Japanese Ace" is a building article with plans for Sakai's "Claude" airplane. It is designed by none other than Walter Musciano, with a 36" wingspan for use with an OK Cub .19 engine. The elliptical wing planform is reminiscent of Britain's beautiful Supermarine Spitfire. There is an interesting arrangement of three bellcranks used for the control line configuration in order to accommodate the wing's 3-piece section for dihedral.

See accompanying article, "Sakai: Jappanese Ace."

 Another example of Walter A. Musciano's fine scale detailed plans and construction article appeared in the December 1947 edition of Air Trails, for a DC-3 / C-47 titled "Build Your Own Douglas C-47 World's Most Famous Plane," oh, and "Chance Vought "Corsair" F4U-1a."

Sakai's "Claude" Mitsubishi Type 96

Ensign Sakai in Claude fighter (3-107) with wingman - Airplanes and Rockets

Ensign Sakai in Claude fighter (3-107) with wingman. Full size drawings for Mitsubishi Type 96 are on Hobby Helpers' group plan #162 (85 cants, from them).

Ensign Saburo Sakai, the leading living Japanese Ace of the second world war, is the only one who never lost a wing man during five years of aerial combat and more than 200 aerial engagements! Sakai never over-shot a landing or crash-landed any of the fighters he flew even when man and/or machine sustained extensive damage. Among his 64 official victories were these planes: Curtiss P-36 and P-40; Bell P-39; Grumman F4F, F6F and TBF; Lockheed Hudson; Brewster Buffalo; Boeing B-17 and B-29; North American B-25; Martin B-26; Douglas SBD.

Although Sakai on several occasions shot down four planes in one day - and three fighters in fifteen seconds - he never received a decoration from his Government. This pilot saw action over China, the Philippine Islands, Rabaul, Formosa, Lae, Guadalcanal, Tainan, Surabaya, plus dozens of other famous battle areas in the South and Central Pacific. Ensign Sakai has photographs and collaborating witnesses to indicate that he shot down Captain Colin Kelly's B-17 Flying Fortress. This disputes our wartime claim that Kelly gave his life by diving into a Japanese battleship!

Sakai was born on a tiny farm near Saga City on the Japanese island of Kyushu on August 26, 1916. His family belonged to the Samurai class - professional warriors dedicated to the defense of Japan.

In 1929 young Saburo moved to Tokyo to live with his uncle and attend school. When 16 he joined the Imperial Japanese Navy and served as an apprentice seaman on the battleship Kirishima. In 1937, Petty Officer Sakai was accepted for pilot training, soon designated the outstanding student pilot of the year, receiving the Emperor's silver watch. With the rank of Naval Aviation Pilot, Second Class, Sakai went into action over China flying the standard Japanese Navy Mitsubishi Type 96 fighter. This is best known by its Allied code name "Claude." His first victories came when Sakai shot down a Russian-built fighter and twin-engine bomber.

After Dec. 7, 1941, Sakai saw action as part of the Japanese advance towards Borneo and New Guinea. Now flying the new Mitsubishi "Zero," his "confirmed" list increased steadily. Saburo Sakai never wore a parachute because it hindered his movements in the cockpit. He removed radio equipment from his plane to increase performance. Most of his fellow pilots followed this practice - they considered it cowardly to bail out and be taken prisoner. Any pilot who did not return to his base was presumed dead.

In August 1942 a powerful United States amphibious force landed on Guadalcanal Island near New Guinea. Sakai was based on Rabaul 560 miles away. His squadron was ordered to fly to Guadalcanal and back as bomber escort without stopping to refuel. This was a rough assignment because it meant that each fighter would fly for over two hours, attack any intercepting USN "Wildcats," then return to base - total flying distance, about 1,300 miles. It was customary for these Jap Navy pilots to carry lunch and a bottle of soda during such long range assignments.

When the squadron took off early in the morning the rising sun beating through the canopy made Sakai thirsty. Forgetting that he was at 13,000' Saburo opened his soda bottle...its pressurized contents sprayed the entire windshield and his goggles. The cockpit air vent was open and the soda coating turned into a sticky film. Without water it was impossible to wipe clear goggles and windshield. Despite this Sakai shot down his 59th and 60th victims - a Wildcat and a Dauntless during the fighting over Guadalcanal.

Sakai's "Claude" Mitsubishi Type 96, January 1962, American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsAs the Ace started back to Rabaul he spotted a formation of eight U.S. Navy planes through the smeared windshield and identified them as single-seat Wildcats. He began a surprise attack from below and to the rear of the formation. As he came within firing range Sakai found his targets not Wildcats but Avenger torpedo bombers fitted with rear-firing turrets above and below the fuselage. It was too late for the Zero pilot to take evasive action when eight .50 caliber guns began spitting lead.

Sakai set two Avengers on fire but the Zero's cockpit canopy was shattered and Sakai felt a stabbing pain in his ears. Everything turned red and the Ace passed out as his Zero plunged down through the low overcast. His wingmen followed him until he disappeared into the clouds.

Sakai regained consciousness but could not see. Instinctively he leveled off, horrified to find he could not move his left arm or leg. The slipstream biting at his face through the smashed windshield brought tears to Saburo's eyes. This enabled him to read his instruments. But blood ran down his face from a deep head wound. Sakai tried to pack the wound with first aid bandages but the slipstream ripped them loose. Finally he dropped to his knees in the cramped cockpit to get out of the slipstream and stuffed his silk scarf under his helmet. This staunched the gory flow but then Saburo realized he could see only with his left eye.

Soon drowsiness overtook the homeward bound Sakai. He would awake with a start to find his Zero skidding out of control or flying almost inverted. He slapped his swollen face violently to keep awake. The alternating pain and drowsiness soon took its toll on the flyer's endurance. He decided to die like a Samurai by diving into the first American ship he could find rather than plunge into the lonely Pacific. He flew back to Guadalcanal but could not locate a victim. So somehow he covered the 560 miles back to Rabaul. After circling the airstrip four times Sakai made a dead-stick landing and collapsed as he tried to climb out of the cockpit.

Sakai was hospitalized for months and underwent a series of operations. During his convalescence he was promoted to Warrant Officer. Just as the Americans turned the tide and began forcing the Japanese back toward their home islands, Sakai returned to combat. Based on Iwo Jima in June 1943 Sakai and his squadron mates waited for the U.S. assault.

When early warning radar spotted American carrier craft the Zeros climbed to the defense of the tiny island. In a tremendous dog-fight the one-eyed warrior shot down two Hellcats then found himself surrounded by 15 of these potent Navy fighters. He turned, rolled, dived and climbed to 14,000' in an effort to evade the .50 caliber bullets which seemed to fill the air.

Suddenly he spotted a cloud above the water and dived into it. This was a storm cloud in which the startled pilot and his Zero were tossed and tumbled like a leaf in the wind until they emerged - free of Hellcats. His fighter did not contain a single bullet hole.

As the Japanese forces retreated and our B-29 bombers began to pound their home islands Sakai was assigned to interceptor squadrons. He was promoted to Ensign and flew the high-performance "Raiden." But nothing could stop the Americans and soon the war was over.

The post-war years were a bitter struggle for survival. Sakai could not find employment. His profession was that of a fighter pilot. The occupation rules grounded him. He eked out a bare existence at manual labor. This hard life was too much for his wife. She died and her illness was attributed to poor diet and unhappy times.

Saburo Sakai along with several widows and brothers of his comrades who died in the war, now owns and operates a printing shop in Japan.

The personal story of this outstanding pilot is vividly described in Saburo Sakai's book "Samurai" which was written with the cooperation of Martin Caidin and Fred Saito. It is published by E.P. Dutton of N.Y.C. No World War Two air enthusiast should miss it.

The Mitsubishi Type 96 or A5M series Japanese single seat Navy fighter saw combat service from 1937 through was replaced by the Zero. Allied code name for Type 96 was "Claude." This was the first service monoplane fighter in the Japanese Naval Air Force.

"Claude" took to the air in 1935 with an inverted gull wing. Control problems caused abandonment of this feature in favor of a straight center section. The first production model, the A5M1 Type 96, was fitted with a sliding cockpit canopy. However, test flyers and fighter pilots complained that the canopy hindered visibility, so it was discarded. Subsequent engine and armament modifications resulted in the A5M2a and A5M2b models. These were followed by an experimental ''V'' type liquid cooled engine powered version which did not go in production.

Third and final production model, the Mitsubishi A5M4, had a maximum speed of 280 mph powered with a 710 hp, 9-cylinder, air cooled Kotobuki radial 41 engine. Two 7.7-mm machine guns were fitted in the upper cowl, some also carried two 66-lb bombs under the wing. The plane could reach 16,400' in less than 8 minutes. Its airframe was extremely light; loaded weight was less than 4,000 pounds! Range could be extended through the use of a streamlined drop tank fabricated from "paper-mache" and bamboo.

The last Type 96 was constructed during 1940; at that time almost a thousand A5M aircraft were in service. It saw considerable action in China; during the early campaigns of World War Two it operated from both land bases and carriers.

Our 1" to l' scale copy of Saburo Sakai's "Claude" can be powered by a glow plug or "diesel" engine from .19 to .35 cubic inch displacement. The advanced scaler may prefer the smaller power plant for realistic performance while the novice will find a .29 will produce moderate speeds to keep the model out on the lines.

Construction begins with the wing. Although the original wing was three sectioned we construct ours in one piece to insure adequate strength. Cut spars and joiners to shape, cement together forming correct dihedral. Add ribs, when dry cement lower covering to spars and ribs...due to the dihedral breaks install in three sections.

Bend landing gear struts, attach to plywood supports with "J" bolts. Make hole in lower covering, slip struts through, then cement supports firmly to lower covering, ribs and spar. Check for correct l.g. alignment, apply several cement coats for strength.

To achieve proper vertical location for bellcrank and not interfere with standard fuel tank installations, we place it in outer wing panel. This also hides the lead-out lines. The location means the addition of two smaller bellcranks to transmit control action through wing center section into fuselage. Main bellcrank firmly bolts to hardwood mount which, in turn, is securely cemented to spar. The two secondary bellcranks, not subjected to high stresses, can be held in place with small round-head wood screws on a plywood square cemented to lower covering. A washer goes between bellcranks and mounts.

The bellcrank holes which receive push rods should fit rods exactly. A sloppy fit will result in erratic controls. Install control rods, solder washer to ends to hold in place. Run lead-out lines through holes in ribs. Check controls carefully.

Bevel leading and trailing portions of lower covering to follow upper curvature of ribs. Cement upper covering to spars, ribs and beveled portions of lower covering. This is applied in three sections due to dihedral breaks. Trim where necessary before cementing in place. Rough shape wing tips, drill holes for lead-out wires. After inserting plastic tube cement tips in place. Set aside to dry thoroughly. Sand entire wing smooth with 2/0 sand-paper.

Cut keel, cement in exact center of wing. Cut bulkheads, cement to keel - do not cement bulkheads "A" through "D" at this time. Pass control rod through each bulkhead hole as they cement in place.

Hardwood engine mounts cement in holes in bulkheads. Fuel tank is cemented and wedged in place. Add bulkhead "D" by slipping it over engine mounts. Add plastic tubing filling, vent, engine feed lines to tank connections. Tape all tank openings to keep out dust.

Trace and cut tail surfaces. The experienced flyer can use the scale outlines, but the novice should employ an enlarged stabilizer as illustrated for additional longitudinal stability. Modelers who want a snappy, sensitive performer can enlarge the elevators as shown. Attach control horn to elevator halves. Wrap leading edge with silk or nylon. Hinge elevator assembly to stab. Cement stab into keel slot. Check alignment.

Connect control rod to horn. Begin with lowermost hole; you can graduate later to other holes for greater control sensitivity. Check operation.

Plank entire fuselage with l/8" x l/4" medium balsa strips. Fill cracks with Plastic Balsa, pressing it in place with the fingers. Use plenty of cement. When thoroughly dry sandpaper entire fuselage until it is smooth. Note that balsa bulkhead "D" is rounded on its forward side.

Cut large headrest from three balsa sheets laminated to obtain width. Shape, then cement to fuselage top. Form Plastic Balsa fillets to fair headrest into fuselage.

Wing fillets are successive layers of Plastic Balsa shaped with the fingers. Make oversize so it can be sandpapered to final shape.

Cut and assemble bulkheads "A", "B", and "C". Cement this assembly to fuselage; smooth with a sanding block.

Fin and rudder are cut, sandpapered, and cemented in place. Note rudder off-set and how fin fairs into headrest.

Add wheels to axles, solder washer to retain them. Cut wheel fairings and fit over wheels and struts. Outer pieces must be hollowed slightly for unrestricted wheel rotation. Inner pieces are cut to clear wheels. A slot for wire strut holds fairing snugly. When dry, streamline wheel cover and strut fairing and sand smooth. Cut "V" notch in rear of fairing to permit wire landing gear to flex without damaging balsa fairing. Be certain wheels rotate freely. Add tail wheel with struts and fairings.

After final light sandpapering, model is sealed with Balsa Filler Coat. Brush several liberal coats over entire plane, sand well after each is thoroughly dry. After fifth or sixth application, switch to 8/0 wet sandpaper, but do not sand through to bare wood when using water.

Cut cowl engine access hatch. Apply Balsa Filler Coat to cowl interior, engine mounts and bulkhead. Engine should be trial fitted and these cowl openings cut out carefully: exhaust port, needle valve, air intake openings. Seal all bare wood surfaces. Remove engine to paint model.

Plane is all light grey except cowl and tail surfaces, which are bright red. So paint the entire model gray, then mask around red portions for painting. After at least four coats, model should be rubbed to rich luster with Aero Gloss Rubbing Compound.

Windshield can be cut and bent from single piece of sheet plastic. Make certain fit is exact before cementing in place. Install seat and instrument panel. Insignia and markings, cut from red and white Wondur-Cal decal sheets, are applied as shown. Control outlines and cowl markings are drawn carefully with thin black dope in a draftsman's inexpensive ruling pen.

Install engine, balance model at point shown. Due to short nose moment arm it should be necessary to add lead weight to extreme front of cowl interior for correct balance. Do not fly model if tail heavy! Use flight lines thirty-five to sixty feet. These must be at least .012 inches diameter. A smooth flying site is needed because of wheel location and wheel covers. At touch-down drop tail quickly to avoid a nose-over.

Sakai's "Claude" Mitsubishi Type 96 Plans (Sheet 1) - Airplanes and Rockets

Sakai's "Claude" Mitsubishi Type 96 Plans - Sheet 1

Sakai's "Claude" Mitsubishi Type 96 Plans (Sheet 2) - Airplanes and Rockets

Sakai's "Claude" Mitsubishi Type 96 Plans - Sheet 2

Mitsubishi "Claude" Materials

(Balsa unless otherwise noted)

One 1/4" x 3" x 36" for fuselage keel; elevator, spar, stabilizer, rudder, wheel covers; (1) 1/2" x 2" x 36" for wing tips, head rest, cowl, fuselage former; (4) 1/8" x 3" X 36" for wing ribs, wing covering, fuselage formers; (12) 1/8" x 1/4" x 36" for fuselage planking; (1) 1/8" x 6" x 12" plywood for bulkheads, landing gear supports, joiners, secondary bellcrank foundations; (1) 3/32" dia. x 18" music wire for landing gear; (1) 1/16" dia. x 36" music wire for control rods, tall wheel strut; (1) 3/8" x 5/8" x 12" hardwood for engine mounts; bellcrank mount.

Miscellaneous: 8 oz. Aero Gloss Balsa Filler Coat; 4 oz. Aero Gloss Light Grey dope; 2 oz. Aero Gloss Stearman Red Dope; can Aero Gloss Rubbing Compound; 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, and 8/0 wet sandpaper; bellcrank and horn; Acme fuel tank; medium size plastic tubing; straight pins; large tube Ambroid cement; red and white Wondur-Cal decal sheets; 3/64" thick aluminum sheet for secondary bellcranks.


The author thanks Ed Ferko and Martin Caldin for their kind cooperation which made this article possible.



Posted April 28, 2013

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