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KIT REVIEW


Revell British SE.5a - British Legends Series 1918-2018
1:48 Scale



In 2018, the Royal Air Force celebrated its 100th anniversary.  Events have occurred in the United Kingdom and I got to attend a fly-in at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center outside of Washington, D.C.  A key early RAF aircraft was the Royal Aircraft Factory’s SE.5.  It was one of the most consequential British biplane fighters of WWI, often considered as the analog to the Supermarine Spifire of WWII.  In many ways, it outperformed the Sopwith Camel and was key to attaining Allied air superiority over Europe through to the end of the war.  Wingnuts Wings has dominated the market with their exceptional 1:32 scale SE.5s.  In 2017, Eduard began to release a line of SE.5 kits in 1:48 scale.  Here, Revell has re-boxed and reissued the Eduard kit in their British Legends Series commemorating the RAF Centennial.    

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The SE.5 (Scout Experimental 5) was designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough, England, and first flew in late November 1916.  Its heart was a new 150 hp Hispano-Suiza 8a V8 engine that, while promising, was initially quite unreliable.  The first two prototypes were lost in fatal crashes related to airframe structural failures.  Resultant design changes led to production examples being among the toughest airplanes of the war.  This inherent stability also made the SE.5 an excellent air-to-air gunnery platform and a forgiving mount in the hands of student pilots.  It was also quite maneuverable and very fast, clocking in a maximum airspeed of nearly 140 MPH.

The SE.5a included a range of advanced design features.  It was the first aircraft to be equipped with a pilot-adjustable tailplane and a steerable tailskid.  The cockpit design philosophy emphasized visibility.  As mentioned earlier, the airframe was quite robust, and it was resistant to battle damage.  It could soak-up high-G maneuvering and execute high-speed dives that would have made the wings fail in many of the SE.5’s predecessors.  The S.E.5 was armed with one synchronized .303-inch Vickers machine gun that fired through the propeller in addition to a wing-mounted Lewis gun.  The first powerplant was the Hispano Suiza 8 V8 engine, and SE.5as fitted with this engine were nicknamed “Hisso.”  While it was a major step forward in aircraft engine technology, there were a lot engineering glitches to work out.  Foremost among them were gear reduction system problems that could lead to the propeller and/or the entire gearbox separating from airplane.  The improved Wolseley Viper powerplant, a high-compression, direct-drive version of the Hispano-Suiza 8a, solved these problems and it became the definitive engine for the airplane.
 
Problems with the engine slowed production, and while the SE.5a Hissos were introduced into combat in early 1917, the SE.5a came into its own as the Wolseley Viper engine became available in 1918, and these variants were informally called “Vipers.”  The greater numbers of SE.5s coupled with the reliable engine allowed it to dominate the airspace along the Western Front in combination with the Sopwith Camel until the end of the war.  Twenty-one RAF squadrons and two American squadrons operated the SE.5A, and a total of 5,205 were built.  It was also an ace-maker, with the likes of Albert Ball, Billy Bishop, Edward Mannock, and James McCudden reaching this status in the SE.5a.  Surviving airframes continued on in military and civilian service into the 1920s, and today, a several originals can be found on static display in the U.K., one is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Ohio, and three flight-worthy replicas exist in New Zealand. 

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Revell’s re-issue of Eduard’s 1:48 scale SE.5a kit comes on two medium-gray injection molded polystyrene sprues containing a total of 114 parts. An additional 11 clear parts are present on one clear sprue.  Though the box and instructions do not elaborate on this point or make any distinctions between the Hispano-Suiza or Viper-powered SE.5a, the kit instructions and markings guide are for Viper-powered, two-bladed SE.5a aircraft. That means that 18 parts used in the Hispano-Suiza powered versions of this kit will go unused in this version of the SE.5a. The full color instruction booklet details the build over 50 steps across 20 pages in very clearly illustrated and manageable step-wise fashion.  Two rigging diagrams are also provided.  The decal sheet provides markings guide for two Vipers:

Strengths:  Revell made a great choice in re-boxing the Eduard SE.5a.  The Eduard plastic is a winner.  The engineering and parts breakdown in the kit is relatively simple and conventional.  The injection-molding quality of the Eduard SE.5a is nothing short of awesome.  Shape and size look to be spot-on, and the really distinctive dihedral of the wings is nicely represented.  You will be particularly impressed by the quality of the raised detail, from the stitching on the fuselage, wing and control surface ribbing, to the engine details.  The ailerons are separate parts and are positionable.  The “canvass” that covers wing surfaces is a little grainy.  It’s not poor production quality, but rather, a very subtle representation of fabric texture – and it works. 

A rather complete Viper engine is included on the sprues, but most of it will disappear out of view if you’re following the instructions and choose to place the engine cover atop the powerplant.  The molded detail on the radiator screen at the face of the engine is so good that there’s really no reason to need photoetched metal parts to provide any more detail.

Weaknesses:  the only critique that I can offer is that the seatbelts (prominent visual components of the cockpit) are provided as fairly crude and inaccurate decals.

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Revell’s British Legend’s issue of the 1:48 scale Eduard SE.5a is simple and straightforward but does not sacrifice quality or detail.  Of course, Eduard also produces aftermarket resin and brass detail sets for this kit (including awesome photoetched metal seatbelts), and scale modelers can deck out their Revell RAF Centennial Celebration Viper to their heart’s desire.        

Sincere thanks are owed to everyone at Revell for the review sample.  You can find them on the web at https://www.revell.de/en/home/.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
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