1/72 S.E.5a Viper model kit

Available from from Hobby shop

Product Article by Steve Bamford on Aug 27 2003




Flown by the greatest Allied aces during the First World War - such as Billy Bishop, James McCudden and Edward Mannock, the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 (Scout Experimental #5) was without doubt the most successful British fighter of WW1.  

The S.E.5 had an unreliable 150hp engine.  The later S.E.5a used a more reliable 200HP Hispano-Suiza engine, which permitted this single-seat biplane with dihedral wings to finally be used to it's full potential.  The S.E.5 was a fairly forgiving aircraft for relatively inexperienced pilots due to it's excellent handling characteristics.  Thanks to the efforts of the engineers, this aircraft was as almost as maneuverable as its contemporary, the Sopwith Camel, but was noticeably faster and quieter and a fighter with formidable capabilities. Toward the end of the War, some SE 5a's were employed in close support missions, armed with light bombs. The combined production of the SE.5 and the SE5a reached 5,205, including some modified as two-seaters.

The plane was used in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Palestine, and also on the Salonica Front. Many were assigned to the air defense of British territory, with unimpressive results.

American aces who flew the SE 5a included: Hilbert Leigh Bair, Louis Bennett, Jr., Charles A. Bissonette, Sydney M. Brown, Alvin A. Callander, John O. Donaldson, John S. Griffith, Frank A. Hale, Duerson Knight, Howard Kullberg, Willaim C. Lambert, Jens F. Larsen, Reed G. Landis, Frederick E. Luff, Frances P. Magoun, Bogart Rogers, Oren J. Rose, and Harold G. Shoemaker.

The S.E. 5a was also employed by American military aviation. Plans for manufacture for the US Army, under license by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, were drawn up. The cessation of hostilities, in November 1918, ended these projects. Only one example was built by Curtiss, which accepted moreover the components needed to assemble 56 more units coming from Great Britain. Another batch was produced after the war by Eberhart Steel Products, in the United States.

The kit

This kit is comprised of 3 sprues of off white styrene.  The molding is very well done with no flash and plenty of delicate detail that shows up very well.   

The parts break down is logical and assembly looks like it won't be too difficult.  Wing rigging isn't shown on the instructions but it is clearly laid out on the box art for those people that like to string rigging on 1/72 Bi-Planes.  The cockpit consists of a decent little seat, a control stick and a flat panel for you to affix your instrument panel decal.  there is alsoa  ridge around the cockpit opening representing the leather padding ridge....a bit of paint will set this detail off well.  cockpit side wall detail consists of a few frame pieces molded to the inside of the fuselage sides as well as one large sink mark that might be  hidden when everything is assembled.

Click on images below to see larger images

general view of parts

Radiator and engine covers

There are 3 cockpit fuselage openings included, but two are not needed and the instructions clearly show which one to use.  

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It is difficult to capture the wing can almost feel the cloth over the wing spars....simply lovely and good to see such detail....especially in 1/72.  The machine gun is one of those "over the wing" jobs and has fantastic detail.  Subtle drybrushing will be the key here.  Two props are included and they both appear to be identical.

There is also a small acetate sheet including the tiny windscreen....actually a few windscreens depending on which version you are building.

The 8 page instruction booklet includes....S.E.5a history, parts breakdown of the sprues, 6 pages of assembly and decal instructions.  the line drawing for the assembly instructions are well done and very easy to follow.  There is also colour drawing/paint instructions on the back of the box.  Painting instructions include Humbrol paints.
Decal options are for 4 different high scoring aces including
  1. S.E.5a D6856 No. 84 Sqn RAF, Capt A. Beauchamp-Proctor (54 victories) 1918
  2. S.E.5a F5910/A No. 41 Sqn RAF, Lt. W.G. Claxton (39 victories) 1918
  3. S.E.5a E1295/A No. 74 Sqn RAF, Major Edward "Mick" Mannock (73 victories) July 1918
  4. S.E.5a C1904/Z No. 85 Sqn RAF, Billie Bishop (72 victories) summer 1918 in France.

This is a great little kit of this famous fighter and I highly recommend it and Roden kits in general to anyone wanting to build some WW1 aircraft. 

Special thanks to Hobby Shop for sending me this review sample.   I've ordered kits from them and their service was excellent.


Photos and text by Steve Bamford