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The S.E.5 was found to be a capable plane, and when the geared 200hp version of the Hispano-Suiza became available, it was mounted, the result being the R.A.F. S.E.5a. The first plane with the new engine arrived at № 56 Squadron in June 1917 and S.E.5a's replaced the S.E.5 in that unit by the end of August. However, there was difficulty in obtaining large quantities of the 200hp engine, both from France and the native Wolseley company. Wolseley was ordered to fall back to making the original ungeared engine, but they chose to improve it to a high-compression version known as the "Wolseley Viper". By January 1918 there were four hundred airframes in storage awaiting engines. In the early months of 1918 the bugs began to be worked out and deliveries from the Mayen firm increased the stock.

R.A.F. S.E.5a
SE5A at Old Warden.jpg
Role Fighter
Manufacturer R.A.F.
Designer H.P. Folland [1]
Introduction June 1917 [1]
Primary user RAF Type A Roundel.svg U.K. (RFC/RAF)
Number built 5,205 [note 1]
Developed from R.A.F. S.E.5
Wingspan 8.10 m (26 ft 7 in) [2]
Engine 200-240hp Hispano-Suiza or
200hp Wolseley Viper
Armament fixed, sync. Vickers and
Lewis on Foster mount[note 2]
Crew 1
Max Speed see chart
Climb see chart
Service Ceiling see chart
Endurance see chart

In combat the S.E.5a was found to be sturdy and reliable. While it was not as hair-trigger maneuverable as the Sopwith Camel, it could be thrown about without fear of crack-up. Since it was a top-line fighter, it served mostly on the Western Front, but small numbers were used on other fronts and in Home Defense.

As 1918 progressed the engines were refined, moving to 220-240hp Hispano-Suiza's and (at last) the 200hp Wolseley Viper.

The S.E.5a was one of the great fighters of World War One. [1]

200hp Hispano-Suiza 1,800 m (6,000 ft) in 6:00[1][2]
3,000 m (10,000 ft) in 10:20[1][2]
6,700 m (22,000 ft) [1][3][2] 3:00 [1]
240hp Hispano-Suiza 217 km/h (135 mph) [1][3]
200hp Wolsely Viper 220 km/h (137 mph) [2][1] 1,500 m (5,000 ft) in 4:55[2][1]
3,000 m (10,000 ft) in 11:00[2][1]
2:30 [1]

For more information, see Wikipedia:Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5.



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  1. Combined SE.5 and SE.5a total.[1]
  2. This allowed the Lewis to be pulled back to a position of firing directly upward.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Updated card
  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Bruce'69, p.445.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Lamberton, pp.214-215.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bruce'89, p.29.
  • J.M. Bruce. British Aeroplanes 1914-18. Great Britain, Funk & Wagnalls, 1957, 1969. ISBN 0370000382
  • J.M. Bruce, Windsock Datafile 10: RAF SE5a. Great Britain, Albatros Publications, Ltd., 1989. ISBN 0-948414-16-2
  • W.M. Lamberton and E.F. Cheesman, Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War. Great Britain: Harleyford Publications Limited, 1960.