Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a

In 1916, the British RAF required a "single-seat with speed, maneuverability, and armament superior to the enemy." Sopwith responded with the Camel and the Royal Aircraft Factory with the S.E.5 (Scout Experimental 5). Although it received a poor initial reaction from veteran pilots as a "bloody awful machine" and suffered a crash of the prototype, killing the test pilot, the plane went on to become one of the most successful and heavily produced planes of the war. It was flown by many of the British aces of World War I. Although less maneuverable than the Sopwith Camel, the plane was much easier to fly, and far more forgiving on novice pilots (of which there were plenty by the time the plane reached production).

The plane was designed around the 112-kW Hispano-Suiza engine in which the War Office had already invested heavily. When a larger, 149-kW became available, the plane was redesignated the S.E.5a. It enjoyed a lengthy production run of over 5,200 planes. Curtiss was also licensed to build the S.E.5 for the U.S. Air Corps, but had only built 1 by the time the war ended. In peacetime, the plane was phased out of RAF service by 1920. However, in 1922-23 56 planes were completed in the United States from parts shipped from Britain, and saw extensive use in the newly fledged business of skywriting.

The plane has an endurance of 2.5 hours. A full load of fuel and ammo (excluding bombs) costs $7.68.


Subassemblies: Recon Fighter chassis +2; Medium Fighter wings with Biplane option +2; 2 fixed wheels +0.

Powertrain: 149-kW aerial HP gasoline engine with 149-kW old prop and 13.4-gallon fuel tank [Body].

Occ.: 1 XCS Body

Cargo: 7.5 Body


Armor F RL B T U

Body: 1/2C 1/2C 1/2C 1/2C 1/2C

Wings: 1/2C 1/2C 1/2C 1/2C 1/2C

Wheels: 2/3 2/3 2/3 2/3 2/3



Aircraft LMG/7.7mm Vickers .303 LMG [Body:F] (500 rounds).

Aircraft LMG/7.7mm Lewis .303 LMG [Wing:F] (500 rounds).*

*Mounted in a High-Angle Foster mount on top of the upper wing.



Size: 27'x21'x9' Payload: 0.21 tons Lwt.: 0.93 tons

Volume: 96 Maint.: 130 hours Cost: $2,383

HT: 7. HPs: 15 Body, 80 each Wing, 8 each Wheel.

aSpeed: 138 aAccel: 4 aDecel: 31 aMR: 7.5 aSR: 1

Stall Speed: 28 mph.

gSpeed: 202 gAccel: 10 gDecel: 10 gMR: 1.25 gSR: 2

Ground Pressure: High. 1/6 Off-Road Speed.


Design Notes:

Historical wing area was 444 sf. Performance calculations were based on the design value of 420 sf to reduce drag; despite this aSpeed had to be increased 38% to the historical. Wing weight (and HPs and cost) were halved to lower design weight. The MG load-outs are a guess; no figures are available; they could be significantly higher with the available VSPs. The Body MG is synchronized, lowering RoF by 10% (see p. W:MP8). Using the calculated gSpeed at 1/6 Off-Road speed (33 mph), the plane can still exceed its stall speed of 28 mph, and could potentially get airborne in a bumpy field, at the GM's discretion.



The S.E.5 (1917) has a 112-kW engine. Only 60 or so were produced before a newer, more powerful engine was available, leading to the SE5a designation.


From the Aerodrome for GURPS

2008 by Jim Antonicic