The SE-5E is an American-built version of the WW I S.E.5a designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory in Britain. The prototype S.E.5 first flew in December 1916 and deliveries of production S.E.5s began in March 1917. S.E.5a deliveries followed in June 1917.
The S.E.5a, noted for its strength, stability and speed, is said to have rivaled the Sopwith Camel as the most successful British fighter of WW I. The American Expeditionary Force bought 38 S.E.5a’s in Britain and the design was selected for U.S. production.
Orders were placed with the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motors Corp. but the Armistice halted production and only one Curtiss S.E.5a was completed. Fifty-six more were completed from components shipped from Britain. In the 1922-1923 period, 50 versions of the S.E.5a, now known as the SE-5E, were assembled in the U.S. by the Eberhart Steel Products Co. from spare parts it had produced. the Air Service used SE-5Es primarily for training.