Roden 1/72 Se.5a (Wolseley Viper)




$9.98 MSRP ($8.96 at Squadron)


Four Aircraft


Scott Van Aken




The most successful British fighter of WWI was developed in 1917 right after the severe defeat of the RFC during Bloody April. Its predecessor, the S.E.5, had very good technical parameters, except for an unreliable 150 hp engine Hispano Suiza which did not allow for a full demonstration of this aircraft's potential.

The first flight of the S.E.5a with the more powerful 200 hp Hispano Suiza engine was conducted in May 1917. One and a half months later the first mass-production S.E.5a fighters arrived at the Front. Orders for S.E.5a development were received by several companies: the Royal Aircraft Factory, and eight sub-contractor firms (Austin, Vickers, Martinsyde, Wolseley and others). By the end of 1917, 1300 of these fighters were due to be built; however, only about 800 planes were completed. The Hispano Suiza 200 hp engine turned out to have many drawbacks and its manufacture was continually affected by various problems. Attempts to purchase the engine in France failed because French SPAD fighters also required the Hispano Suiza in large quantities.

Wolseley Motors Ltd. had a license for building the Hispano Suiza in the United Kingdom. Wolseley's version of this engine with the name Adder was installed in a small quantity of S.E.5a's, however without success. Wolseley's engineers modified the design of the 200 hp Hispano Suiza 8A. This engine, given the name Viper, was expected to solve the problems of the S.E.5a. In September 1917 an S.E.5a (B4862) with the Viper engine was tested and received a favorable evaluation - its maximum speed was increased by 7mph, and its rate of climb improved as well. The RFC specified the Viper as the standard engine for the S.E.5a (some previously built planes with Hispano Suiza engines going through major overhaul had their engines changed to the Wolseley Viper). The 'new' S.E.5a differed visually from its predecessor with a radiator of a new straightened form, with two sets of horizontal shutters. The Foster gun mounting now fitted directly onto the upper wing. Several flight accidents that were caused by wing failure led to airframe strengthening.
In the middle of 1918, twenty five RFC squadrons were equipped with the S.E.5a - 15 on the Western Front, 3 in Macedonia, 2 in the Middle East, 1 in Mesopotamia, and 4 squadrons in Home Defence. Some of the most successful aces of the British Empire, including Mick Mannock, James McCudden, Billy Bishop, and Anthony Beauchamp-Proctor, scored many victories flying this type. Thirty eight S.E.5a's were delivered to the American Expeditionary Force.

After the end of the Great War the S.E.5a quickly disappeared from the front line, being replaced by the Sopwith 7F1 Snipe.
The S.E.5a served in the U.S. Army until the mid-1920s. Later, these planes were used in numerous 'flying circuses' and even took part in Hollywood movies like 'Hells Angels'.
Historical information courtesy of Roden's website.




 This is the first Se.5 kit to be done by Roden. Judging from their track record, I'd be planning on seeing other versions of this plane in the near future. As it is a first molding, the parts are all very well done with only a teeny bit of flash (more like slightly oversized mold seams) on a few parts. No ejector pin marks in embarrassing areas and no sink marks. There are all sorts of optional bits and pieces on the sprues but many of them are not used with this boxing. If you haven't built a Roden WWI kit or seen one, you'll be quite surprised by the depth of detail that they provide. It includes a full cockpit with seat, stick, rudder pedals and instrument panel. This means that a lot of the parts are quite small and can be fragile when trying to remove them from the sprue gates, so extra care should be taken during this phase.

This kit has a set of clear bits for the windscreens that are not normally a part of other WWI aircraft. They are really just on a small acetate sheet, but more than accurate enough for this scale. A bit of extra work is required by the builder to get the parts just right, but the instructions are extremely well done and point out any modifications that you'll need to make. Colors are all keyed to Humbrol paints, but generic terms are given as well. There is no rigging diagram, but the box art should be helpful in this area. The only real options for this kit are the choice of prop and windscreen.

There are four decal options for this kit, all in matte green over matte linen. Face it, RFC planes were generally pretty drab. Fortunately, those four schemes cover some pretty important WWI aces.

  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), Northen France, July 1918.
  4. S.E.5A, C1904/Z, No 85 Sqn RAF, flown by Billie Bishop, (72 victories), Summer 1918, France.

The decals themselves are well printed and quite matte. They also appear to be very opaque, which is a good thing.


I think you can safely store away your other 1/72 Se.5 kits and concentrate on this one. If this isn't the version you seek, then just wait a bit for the others to be released!

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