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KIT REVIEW


Eduard SE.5a Night Fighter ProfiPACK Edition
1:48 Scale

The Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5 was a British biplane fighter that emerged in the last few years of WWI, and it was one of the most consequential aircraft in the Great War.  The SE.5a was the Spitfire of WWII In many ways.  It outperformed the Sopwith Camel and was key to attaining Allied air superiority over Europe to the end of the war.  Yet, there have not been too many kits of this very consequential airplane over the years, and Wingnuts Wings has at dominated the market with their awesome 1:32 scale SE.5.  In 2017, Eduard began to release a line of SE.5 kits in 1:48 scale, and here, we look at their 2018 release of a ProfiPACK edition of the SE.5a night fighter. 

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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 the new 150 hp Hispano-Suiza 8a V8 engine that, while promising, was initially quite unreliable.  While the first two prototypes were lost in fatal crashes related to airframe failures, resultant design changes led to production examples being among the most stable and toughest airplanes in the war.  This inherent stability made the SE.5 an excellent air-to-air gunnery platform and a forgiving aircraft 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 in its construction, resistant to battle damage and could soak-up high-G maneuvering and high-speed dives that would have made the wings fail in some 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 Unites States Air Force in Ohio, and three flight-worthy replicas exist in New Zealand.  

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Eduard’s 1:48 scale SE.5a Hispano Night Fighter 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.  This ProfiPACK edition comes with an additional five cast resin parts, 104 photoetched metal parts on two frets, and a self-adhesive, pre-cut masking set.  The full color instruction booklet details the build in very clearly illustrated and manageable step-wise fashion.  The decal sheet provides markings for four SE.5a night fighters:

Strengths: Since I was young, the SE.5 has been among my favorite WWI-era airplanes.  At least to me, it’s such an interesting, historical, and sharp-looking biplane fighter.  While the Wingnuts Wings kit of the SE.5 is objectively an excellent kit and the best SE.5a in 1:32 scale, the Eduard kit appears to me, by far and away, to be the best Hisso in 1:48 scale.  Since it came out in 2017, it has proven to be an instant classic.

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.  I am particularly impressed by the quality of the raised detail, from the stitching on the fuselage, wing and control surface ribbing, and 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.  A rather complete Hispano Suiza and Wolseley 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.     

Speaking of photoetched metal parts:  the kit cockpit parts are okay, but the PE parts in this ProfiPACK edition are exceptional and will really make your build of the SE.5a something special.  The pre-painted parts include the shoulder harnesses, lap belts, instrument panel, and instrument dial faces.  They are just beautiful.  Other PE parts include additional cockpit details, from the trim wheel to the gun’s aiming reticle. The finest of the fine parts here are the exquisitely fine aileron actuators.  They are eye-wateringly delicate – but gorgeously made. 

The night fighter variants of the Se.5 often went after airships and Gotha bombers that flew nighttime raids on London and other targets.  They were modified with flame dampeners and given high-viz (for night flying, at least) schemes.  Here, the resin flame dampeners and other various photoetched metal parts provide the night fighter configuration.  The kit also pays heed to the difference in the markings options that were fitted with the Hispano Suiza powerplant (markings options A.C, and D) and the Wolseley Viper-powered airframe (markings option B).  The parts also capture the three different styles of flame dampeners across the four markings options.  The attention to detail is clear.        

The decals were printed in-house by Eduard, and they look just perfect on the decal sheet.  The night fighters were colorful to help increase their visibility to friendly eyes, and all the schemes are very busy and attractive to the scale modeler.  Colors are great, everything is perfectly in-register, and it’s all beautifully printed.

Weaknesses:  There’s almost nothing that could be called a weak point in this kit.  Only two observations come to mind.  First, to get the raised instrument dial face effect, the pre-painted instrument dials themselves are individual parts that need to be glued upon the instrument panel.  It’s more work than most Eduard photoetched instrument panels, but it works.  Just be careful.  The smallest of these parts are really small!  Yet, alternative decals are supplied for instrument dial faces, too.

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Eduard did a great job on their 1:48 scale SE.5a night fighter, and like the rest of their SE.5 kits, it's a little gem!  Eduard also produces more aftermarket resin and brass detail sets, and scale modelers can add even more detail to this kit if they wish.       

We extend our sincere thanks to Eduard for the review sample.  You can visit them on the web at http://www.eduard.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EduardCompany/.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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