Royal Aircraft Factory
Designed by Henry Folland and John
Kenworthy in 1916 for the British RFC, the WW1 RAF SE5a biplane fighter proved to be a superb
fighter. Unfortunately, due to initial propeller gearbox problems, the
RAF SE5a did not come into service until early 1917, and even then
in nowhere near the numbers desired by the WW1 allied air forces. In
1918, once a significant number of them had become operational, the
RAF SE5a fighters helped the more
numerous Sopwith Camel to end the German aerial dominance
German Luftstreitkräfte had achieved.
RAF SE5a Fighter Performance
The RAF SE5a had the enviable capability of being manoeuvrable while
also representing a stable gun platform and possessing excellent
high altitude performance. In reality, these features were highly
sought after but rarely achieved in this era. The fact this fighter
was faster than any WW1 German fighter was also a very valuable
The RAF SE5a
in WW1 US Service
The RAF SE5a fighter's performance also made it
desirable to the American Air Force. They purchased 38 aircraft
to equip several squadrons, then decided to have the
RAF SE5a fighters
mass produced by Curtiss, under licence, in the USA. To facilitate
this they purchased 60 RAF SE5a fighters in "kit form" and shipped them home.
abrupt ending of WW1 resulted in the cancellation of the project
after only 57 aircraft had been produced, all but one from the kits.
However in 1922 fifty of the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a aircraft,
that had been assembled by Curtiss, were converted
into trainers by Eberhart Steel Products Co. and re-designated SE-5E for use by the USAAS.
Famous RAF SE5a
This fighter aircraft was flown by many of the period's Victoria Cross fighter aces
Albert Ball, James McCudden, Billy Bishop and Mick Mannock.
models, model kits and plans of this aircraft have been available in
the market place.
RAF SE5a Crew: Pilot only
RAF SE5a Length: 20 ft 11 in (6.38 m)
RAF SE5a Wingspan: 26 ft 7 in (8.11 m)
RAF SE5a Height: 9 ft 6 in (2.89 m)
RAF SE5a Wing area: 444 ft² (22.67 m²)
RAF SE5a Maximum takeoff weight: 1,988 lb (902 kg)
RAF SE5a Engine: Single 200 hp (150 kW) V8 Wolseley Viper
RAF SE5a Maximum speed: 138 mph (222 km/h)
RAF SE5a Maximum Range: 300 miles (483 km)
RAF SE5a Service ceiling: 17,000 ft (5,185 m)
Single .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers
machine gun firing through the propeller arc using interrupter gear,
Single .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun mounted on the upper wing via a