Scott Van Aken
Once again, I rely on the Roden website for a historical background.
In the Spring of 1917 the RFC received a new fighter, the RAF S.E.5.
This fighter had potentially very good fighting capability, which was
successfully realized by one of the Empire's best aces, Albert Ball, in
numerous air duels with the adversary's planes. The only significant
disadvantage of this plane was its Hispano Suiza V8 engine whose 150
h.p. was insufficient. This engine was being produced in France and
required further improvement. The situation changed shortly after the
appearance of Hispano Suiza's 200 h.p. engine, a powerplant which could
offer the plane significant improvement.
By the end of May in the same year, the third prototype of the S.E.5
with the new engine conducted its first flight. This plane was very
similar to its predecessor, however, a few differences still existed: a
four-bladed propeller appeared, the keel fuel tank was now installed in
the middle of the center section, adjustable radiator shutters were
added, the shape of the exhaust manifolds changed, and the huge
windscreen was replaced by a regular one.
The first test flights proved preliminary expectations to be justified:
speed increased by 29 km/h, and climbing time to 5000 m was cut in
half. The Royal Aircraft Factory started the mass production of the
S.E.5a at its plant in Farnborough even before the test flights were
over. Besides that, seven subcontractor firms received major orders to
build the type.
56 Squadron of the RFC was the first to receive the S.E.5a in 1917. The
unit that had successfully flown the 'regular' S.E.5, welcomed the new
modification of this plane. During its service some insignificant
drawbacks were discovered. For instance, the landing gears turned out
to be not strong enough. Initially they were made of thin steel tubes,
as on the previous aircraft. However, due to the fact that the plane's
weight had increased, their structure was soon over-stressed. Later
build planes had strong thick wooden landing gears.
The engine still continued to be the major problem for the S.E.5a;
French plants were building it in insufficient quantities. Moreover,
the quality of production was still unsatisfactory. As a result, the
engine frequently failed during the flight. Sometimes, such failures
led to fatal accidents.
The British Military Command tried to solve this problem by purchasing
a license for the production of the Hispano Suiza: the engine now went
by the name of Wolseley Adder. However, this engine also did not meet
expectations because it inherited all the negative features of its
predecessor. A very small number of S.E.5a's had this engine. The
situation changed only after the appearance of the new Wolseley Viper
engine whose design was based on the Hispano Suiza, but with all the
Hispano Suiza's drawbacks eliminated. Quite a few planes with Hispano
Suiza engines that arrived at maintenance units had the Hispano Suiza
engine substituted with a new one. However, a significant number of
S.E.5a's fitted with the Hispano Suiza remained in service until the
end of the Great War.
I'm going to do the almost unthinkable and refer you to the earlier
Wolsley-engined preview for a look at
the majority of the sprues and an assessment of the kit itself. I can do
this because there is little difference between the kits. The sprue with
the wings and the one with the fuselage is the same. The biggest change is
the new sprue for the nose of the aircraft. This includes a pair of four
bladed props as well as the different radiator, prop spinner, exhausts and
upper fuselage inserts. The flat, rectangular thing is a new lower fuselage
The instructions are excellent as we have come to expect from Roden,
providing the needed color information as well as any needed differences
required for specific schemes. The colors are referenced to Humbrol paints,
but a generic name equivalent is given to help those of us who do not have
access to Humbrol. Thank you!
There are markings for no less than eight aircraft! One thing about Roden
is that the builder is never lacking for choices of markings! The aircraft
- RAF S.E.5a D3511 (Vickers-built), No.40 Sqn RFC, Major R S Dallas,
Sqn CO, DSO, DSC, Lille, France, May 1918.
- RAF S.E.5a B139 (Martinsyde-built), No.111 Sqn RFC, pilot unknown,
Palestine, January 1918.
- RAF S.E.5a D'351/ "4"(Vickers-built), No.6(Training) Sqn, Australian
Flying Corps, pilot unknown, Minchinhampton, late 1918.
- RAF S.E.5a D5995/"1" (Vickers-built), No.143(HD) Sqn RFC, Lt. L
Lucas, London Air Defence, April/May 1918.
- RAF S.E.5a B507/"A" (Vickers-built), No.60 Sqn RFC, 2/Lt. J J
Fitzgerald, France, October 1917.
- RAF S.E.5a B4890/"C" (RAF-built), No.56 Sqn RFC, 2/Lt. A Dodds,
France, November 1917.
- RAF S.E.5a C9626 (Vickers-built), No.32 Sqn RFC, Capt. S P Simpson,
France, May 1918.
- RAF S.E.5a B4863/"G" (RAF-built), No.56 Sqn RFC, Capt. J T B McCudden,
France, September 1917.
For the most part, they are painted Green upper and Linen lower
surfaces, though the first example is in a pseudo-French camo with Light
Earth and Chocolate Brown added to the upper surface colors. Now I'd be
less than honest to say that Roden decals have been a bit of a challenge to
get to work properly, but I've seen a number of Roden kits built using them
so I'm obviously doing something wrong when applying them.
Roden's WWI kits have been well received and there is no
reason why this one shouldn't do equally as well. If you are into small
scale WWI aircraft, then this is one you should seriously consider.
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