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KIT REVIEW


Eduard SE.5a Wolseley Viper - Weekend Edition
1:48 Scale

Often considered as the analog to the Supermarine Spifire of WWII, the Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5 was one of the most consequential British biplane fighters of WWI.  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, and here, we look at their 2018 issue of a Weekend Edition of their SE.5a kit fitted with the Wolseley Viper powerplant.   

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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 SE.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.5a’s 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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Eduard’s 1:48 scale SE.5a Wolseley Viper Weekend Edition 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.  About 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 14 pages in very clearly illustrated and manageable step-wise fashion.  Two rigging diagrams are also provided.  The decal sheet provides markings for two Vipers:

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 (if not a little ‘boxy’) biplane fighter.  All the good things I mentioned about the ProfiPACK edition of the Hispano-Suiza powered SE.5a (see our review HERE) are applicable to this kit as well.  It’s an instant classic, and the best SE.5a in this scale.
This is a very appealing kit.  The engineering and parts breakdown in the kit are 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.    
The two schemes in this issue of the kit are equally appealing – the bright red RAF machine or the American postwar fighter.  Decals appear to have been printed in-house by Eduard, and they look great (and opaque) on the decal sheet.  Colors are great, most everything is perfectly in-register (see below), and beautifully printed.  As a Weekend Edition kit, instrument dial faces and pilot harnesses are represented as decals.

Weaknesses:  the only critique that I can offer is that red circles at the centers of the U.S. national insignias is just ever so slightly out of register and off-center.  You have to really eyeball them for a moment to see the error – it’s not too obvious.   

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Eduard did a great job on their 1:48 scale SE.5a, and this is the best of its kind in 1:48 scale.  They also produce more aftermarket resin and brass detail sets, and scale modelers can add even more detail to this outstanding 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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** Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger image.**


   

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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

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings Series



Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 1: Atlantic
Coast Squadrons
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Colors & Markings of the F-102
Delta Dagger

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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 2: Pacific
Coast Squadrons

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