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S.E.5a: First World War Aircraft


The rugged S.E.5a, along with the Sopwith Camel, formed the definitive British fighter partnership of the second half of the war (much as the Hurricane and Spitfire did in WW2). The S.E.5a’s armament consisted of a fuselage mounted Vickers gun (offset to the port side) and an over-wing mounted Lewis gun. The tube in front of the windscreen on this aircraft (as with my Camel project) represents an Aldis gun-sight. This was a device which indicated the amount of deflection required to hit a target moving across the pilot’s field of vision. It looks almost like a telescope, though it did not magnify the target. The physics of the Aldis sight are somewhat mysterious to me, but apparently it was very effective on a first pass at a target, though less so in a dogfight, when the pilot’s attention needed to be on the external environment rather than looking through a tube. German attempts to copy this technology were never successful because they only managed to retrieve broken units and did not realize that the tube had to be filled with inert gases to prevent fogging at the low temperatures associated with altitude.