The SPAD S.XIII was a French biplane fighter aircraft of World War I, developed by Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) from the earlier highly successful SPAD S.VII. It was one of the most capable fighters of the war, and one of the most-produced, with 8,472 built and orders for around 10,000 more cancelled at the Armistice.
The S.VII had entered service in September 1916, but by early 1917 it had been surpassed by the latest German fighters, leading French flying ace, Georges Guynemer to lobby for an improved version. SPAD designer Louis Béchereau initially produced the cannon-armed S.XII, which had limited success, and finally the S.XIII.
The S.XIII differed from its predecessor by incorporating a number of aerodynamic and other refinements, including larger wings and rudder, a more powerful Hispano-Suiza 8B engine fitted with reduction gearing, driving a larger "right-hand" clockwise-rotation propeller, and a second 0.303 Vickers machine gun for added firepower. The sum of these improvements was a notable improvement in flight and combat performance. It was faster than its main contemporaries, the British Sopwith Camel and the German Fokker D.VII, and was renowned for its ruggedness and strength in a dive. The maneuverability of the type was however relatively poor, especially at low speeds. A steep gliding angle and a very sharp stall made it a difficult aircraft for novice pilots to land safely.
The SPAD S.XIII first flew on 4 April 1917, and in the following month, was already being delivered to the French Air Service. Other Allied forces were quick to adopt the new fighter as well, and nearly half of the 893 purchased for the United States Army Air Service were still in service in 1920. It was also exported to Japan, Poland, and Czechoslovakia after the war.
The kit comes in a nice looking top opening box, with a picture of the aircraft in the middle of a dogfight. On opening, all the parts are well protected in a poly bag. The three sprues of parts in light brown styrene are nicely moulded with no flash and only one or two pips on the larger parts. There is also a small sprue of clear parts, a small etch fret and paint masks.
The build starts in the cockpit which has some very nice detail in the form of separate parts for the bulkheads and sidewalls. The cockpit floor also is in one piece onto which several parts, such as pipework and joystick and compass are fitted. Once fitted, the fuselage can be closed up. Next is the shoulder height shelf, on which the instrument panel and several separate instruments are fitted, made up of both plastic and etched parts making up into a very detailed area. The rest of the construction follows in the usual fashion with the cowling, radiator etc added to the front bulkhead, followed by the addition of the two machine guns, exhaust, carburettor bulge, cheek vents and a choice of three types of windscreen. The wings come next along with their associated struts, including, what I presume to be representations of the aileron control brackets. Finally the undercarriage assembly is built up and fitted and the rigging can be carried out, (the instructions of which could be a little clearer), but with some careful interpretation should be ok.
The very nicely printed decal sheet gives four options of aircraft to be modelled, two French, Escadrille 3 and 48, 23 Sqn RFC and an Italian Air Force example from 91a Sqn.
This is a very nice looking model and with the etched parts, very detailed. Time and care with the painting and rigging will pay dividends.