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In-Box Review
Folland's Fighter with a Hisso
  • 1/32 SE 5a Roden 602

by: Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]

Originally published on:

This kit's place on our shelves

Roden has carved out another in scale kit of a long neglected variant. Dealing with minor discrepancies she makes up into a great build. While the big companies have ignored us (because WWI aviation makes up less that 10% of all modelers world wide) ‘Roden’ appears to have the pulse of what most of us are looking for. Somebody must be buying them or newer, modern companies would not produce them. With multiple kits sold to a few and singles sold to many, 10,000 potential kit sales world wide is nothing to turn your back on. ‘Roden’ puts out good, inexpensive, well detailed kits. Possibly one of the best allied fighters of 1917-18 and we had to wait this long because ‘Devell’ or ‘Tamigawa’ didn’t see the big dollars in it. When will they figure it out? New toolings keep us coming back looking for that most illusive quarry of all...the perfect kit.

History of the original

The brain child of H. P. Folland and Major Frank Widenham Goodden, the SE 5 airframe was modified after the initial batch of 24 (A4845 - A4868.) It was in the middle of the second production batch (A8898 - A8947) that design alterations created the new designation SE 5a. Essentially shortened wings and revised aileron controls were incorporated. In the matter of aircraft nomenclature it is of interest to note that the annotation of the Royal Aircraft Factory drawings states that it was modifications to the mainplane that distinguished the SE 5a from the SE 5. But in the Air Board technical notes are headed; (I) SE 5a, 200hp Hispano - Suiza (II) SE 5, 150hp Hispano - Suiza. The first production SE 5a was A8923.

"One of the most successful British fighters of WWI, the S.E.5a was built in 1917 under the direction of the Royal Aircraft Factory's leading designer, H.P. Folland. The predecessor of the S.E.5a was the S.E.5 the first attempt to adapt Hispano Suiza's promising new engine to the British airplane.

The S.E.5 was built in relatively small numbers because the new engine was too unreliable due to various shortcomings. It caused numerous problems in service but in spite of that, the Royal Flying Corps' 56 Squadron gained many impressive successes with the type and one famous British ace of the time, Albert Ball, considered the S.E.5 the best of the best.

The appearance of an improved and more powerful 200 h.p. Hispano Suiza engine allowed designers to revise and develop the design of the aircraft and release its potential. In comparison with its predecessor the outline of the edges of the wings was changed slightly, and the huge glass 'greenhouse' canopy gave way to a standard windscreen. The nose portion of the fuselage was reshaped to suit the new radiator. Additionally, a new four blade screw was fitted to the S.E.5a.

In comparison with other designs of the time, the S.E.5a was not a masterpiece of elegance, but the outstanding features of the airplane lay elsewhere. The unusual strength of the construction, its high speed, reasonable maneuverability and excellent view from the cockpit very quickly made the S.E.5a a favorite of fighter pilots. Being on the front line until the last days of the war, the S.E.5a was a serious opponent for 'Germany's last chance' - the celebrated Fokker D.VII, and only the famous Fokker Dr.I surpassed the S.E.5a for combat maneuverability.

The success of the type and operational needs resulted in its production under license at other plants - Austin Motors, Martinsyde, Vickers, and Wolseley Motors. More and more squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps re-equipped with the S.E.5a, and later it became the principal machine in the sky of the Western Front. The victory march of the S.E.5a was hindered by one aggravating factor the Hispano Suiza engines, despite all attempts at improvement, quite often failed during flight, which led to tragic accidents and losses due to these particular technical problems.

And on top of that, another severe problem was simple wear and tear to the engines - to a sufficient degree that France's Military Air Corps required most of the Hispano Suizas for its own SPAD fighters, leaving little possibility of satisfying the requirements of allies.
Only afterwards, once British engineers had perfected the Hispano Suiza and initiated its production on the territory of the mother country, was the problem solved, and the new model S.E.5a joined another famous fighter, the Sopwith Camel; only then did His Majesty's Flying Corps acquire an aura of real invincibility.

The most famous aces of the Royal Flying Corps Edward 'Mick' Mannock, Billy Bishop, Roderick Dallas, James McCudden, Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor and others - flew the S.E.5a. It was more than just an airplane in their hands: it was a highly dangerous lethal weapon, which time after time proved the inevitability of allied victory in the sky.
After the end of the war a very small number went to the USA and Australia. Some S.E.5a's appeared by chance even in Russia. However, the principal fame of this machine is connected with its heroic fights in the sky of the Western Front." (From Roden's website.)

Box Contents

The kit includes all parts needed to complete a late model Hispano Suiza powered SE 5a. If you want an early version the ailerons will need to be slightly modified. There are parts included for the Viper but the needed Viper radiator is not present. YET! The early Viper powered SE 5a had the Hispano radiators. When these proved insuffcient for the Viper the more familiar twin block radiator was created.

The engine is a real gem and appears to more than just resemble the 200hp Hispano Suiza motor. I find that the Viper and the Hisso are about 1/8 too tall and too long. The cockpit is reasonably complete with only a minor need to explain the instruments and several other items like a grease fitting.

Fine points
Excellent 200hp geared Hispano - Suiza engine.
Wing ribs are right for the late productio9n variant.
The rib/spar effect on all flying surfaces is very well done.
Wing airfoils, etc, very well done.
Fuselage longerons & stations look good.
Good strut, wheel, etc detail.
Rigging diagrams are included.

Things that will need work
Mold flaws / surface swirls on wing/tail surfaces, can be easily sanded out.
Vickers has a sink hole and should be replaced. but most of it will be hidden anyway..
Instrument panel needs drilling out and gauges added.
Inspection and access panels overthick.
Other than the engine it has basically same parts as 1/48 kit.

The engine is great, and is best displayed out or exposed. We are modelers and this is fertile ground for us to thrive in. An average modeler can overcome all these issues. Copper State Models has some great gauges for the instrument panel. Or you can go whole hog and do the Part of Poland brass fret that has parts for the Hisso or the Viper powered SE 5a.

Plastic parts = 153 pieces

Decal options

RAF S.E.5a D3540, No.40 Sqn RAF, Captain Gwilym Hugh Lewis, Lille, France, May 1918.
RAF S.E.5a D3511 (Vickers-built), No.40 Sqn RAF, Major R S Dallas, Sqn CO, DSO, DSC, Lille, France, May 1918.
RAF S.E.5a D5995/“1” (Vickers-built), No.143(HD) Sqn RFC/RAF, Lt. L Lucas, London Air Defence, April/May 1918.
RAF S.E.5a D'351/ “4”(Vickers-built), No.6(Training) Sqn, Australian Flying Corps, pilot unknown, Minchinhampton, late 1918.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Great details, tight fits, highly detail cockpit and kit motor. Finely engraved, Well laid out instructions. Interesting decals schemes
Lows: Pulley inspection panels very two dimensional. USA contract -style cockpit cowl (with Vickers cooling vent / scoop) can not be used as is and this must be removed.
Verdict: ‘Roden’ puts out good, inexpensive (Believe me it could cost a lot more) well detailed kits of possibly one of the best allied fighters of 1917-18.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:32
  Mfg. ID: # 602
  Suggested Retail: $58.49 USD
  Related Link: RAF SE 5a - Viper powered
  PUBLISHED: Oct 05, 2008
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Roden!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Stephen T. Lawson (JackFlash)

I was building Off topic jet age kits at the age of 7. I remember building my first WWI kit way back in 1964-5 at the age of 8-9. Hundreds of 1/72 scale Revell and Airfix kits later my eyes started to change and I wanted to do more detail. With the advent of DML / Dragon and Eduard I sold off my ...

Copyright ©2020 text by Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


What impecable timing. I purchased this kit yesterday while shopping for evergreen strip for a TOP SECRET project which will be unveiled at a later stage... I am very impressed with the crisp and clean moulding detail. This will be built as an OOB quickie as soon as the F1 is complete and has been issued with all the relevant FAA Certs. Maybe Stephen will let me play in the Big Builds GB Cheers, Hugh
OCT 15, 2008 - 09:08 AM
Hhhmmm. . . I may have to build this SE 5a w/Hisso as well. At least I won't have to do the radiator from Part of Poland bit. They don't have one in brass!
OCT 18, 2008 - 05:49 PM
Excellent news good folk! Mark Hamrick (Guitarlute) has stepped up to the plate and will receive the 1/32 RAF SE 5a w/Hisso.
OCT 19, 2008 - 02:32 PM

What's Your Opinion?

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