North American F-86 Sabre

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F-86 Sabre
North American F86-01.JPG
A North American F-86 during the Oshkosh Air Show
Role Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer North American Aviation
Designer Edgar Schmued
First flight 1 October 1947
Retired 1980, Portugal
Primary users United States Air Force
Royal Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
Portuguese Air Force
Number built 9,860
Unit cost
US$219,457 (F-86E)[1]
US$343,839 (F-86D)
Developed from FJ Fury
Variants Canadair Sabre
North American YF-93
CAC Sabre

The North American F-86 Sabre (sometimes called the Sabrejet) was an American transonic jet combat aircraft. The F-86 was developed in the late 1940s and was one of the most-produced Western jet fighters of the Cold War era. A variant of the F-86 was produced in large numbers in Canada, as the Canadair Sabre; the main variants were considerably modified with more powerful Avro Canada Orenda engines. The Canadair Sabre was acquired by several NATO and other air forces. U.S. variants were also built in Italy and Japan. A significantly-redesigned variant was built by CAC in Australia as the CAC CA-27, also known as the Avon Sabre.

Design and development

Initial proposals to meet a USAAF requirement for a single-seat high-altitude day fighter aircraft/escort fighter/fighter bomber were made in late 1944, and were derived from the design of the straight wing FJ Fury being developed for the U.S. Navy.[2] Performance requirements were met by incorporating a 35 degree swept-back wing with automatic slats (Messerschmitt Me 262 airfoil and Me 262 HG II wing swep)[3][4] into the design. Manufacturing was not begun until after World War II as a result. The XP-86 prototype, which would become the F-86 Sabre, first flew on 1 October 1947[5] from Muroc Dry Lake, California.[6]

The USAF Strategic Air Command had F-86 Sabres in service from 1949 through 1950. The F-86s were assigned to the 22nd Bomb Wing, the 1st Fighter Wing and the 1st Fighter Interceptor Wing.[7]

The F-86 was produced as both a fighter-interceptor and fighter-bomber. Several variants were introduced over its production life, with improvements and different armament implemented (see below). The XP-86 (eXperimental Pursuit) was fitted with a J35-C-3 jet engine that produced 4,000 lbf of thrust. This engine was built by GM's Chevrolet division until production was turned over to Allison.[8] The J47-GE-7 engine was used in the F-86A-1 producing a thrust of 5,200 lbf (23 kN) while the General Electric J73-GE-3 engine of the F-86H produced 9,250 lbf of thrust.[9] The F-86 was the primary U.S. air combat fighter during the Korean War, with significant numbers of the first three production models seeing combat.

The fighter-bomber version (F-86H) could carry up to 2,000 pounds (900 kg) of bombs, including an external fuel-type tank that could carry napalm.[10]

Both the interceptor and fighter versions carried six Browning M3 .50 in (12.7 mm) caliber machine guns in the nose (later versions of the F-86H carried four 20 mm cannons instead of machine guns). Guns were harmonized to converge at 1,000 ft (300 m) in front of the aircraft with one tracer bullet for every five rounds. Most rounds used during the Korean War were API (armor-piercing incendiary) bullets containing magnesium, which were designed to ignite upon impact but performed poorly above 35,000 ft as the oxygen levels are insufficient to sustain combustion at that height. Initially fitted with the Mark 18 manual-ranging computing gun sight, later models used A-1CM radar ranging gunsight which used radar to compute the range of a target. This would later to prove a significant advantage against MiG opponents over Korea, and fitted to later supersonic fighters such as the F-100 and F-105.[citation needed]

Unguided 2.75 inch (70 mm) rockets were used on some of the fighters in target practice, but 5 inch (127 mm) rockets were later used in combat operations. The F-86 could also be fitted with a pair of external jettisonable fuel tanks (four on the F-86F beginning in 1953) that extended the range of the aircraft.

The F-86 Sabre was also license produced by Canadair Limited in Montreal as the Canadair Sabre. The final variant of the Canadian Sabres, the Mk 6, is generally rated as being one of the most capable of all Sabre variants built anywhere.[11] The last Sabre to be manufactured by Canadair Ltd. (Sabre #1815) now resides at the Western Canada Aviation Museum (WCAM)'s permanent collection in Winnipeg, Canada after being donated by the Pakistan Air Force.[12]

Breaking sound barrier and other records

Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Canadair F-86 with Chuck Yeager.

The F-86 may have been the one of the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. Although a subsonic aircraft in level flight, like several other subsonic aircraft, it is capable of breaking the sound barrier in a dive. The F-86A set its first official world speed record of 570 mph in September 1948.[13]

Several people involved with the development of the F-86, including the chief aerodynamicist for the project and one of its other test pilots, claimed that North American test pilot George Welch dived the XP-86 through the sound barrier while on a test flight 26 April 1948. [14] (Chuck Yeager went supersonic in the rocket powered Bell X-1, the first aircraft to sustain supersonic speeds in level flight making it the first "true" supersonic aircraft.)[15]

On 18 May 1953, Jacqueline Cochran flying a Canadian-built F-86E alongside Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier.[1]

On 18 November 1952, F-86D-20-NA (SNc.51-2945) set a speed record of 698.505 mph. Captain J. Slade Nash flew over a three km course at the Salton Sea in California at a height of only 125 ft. Another F-86D broke this world record on 16 July 1953, when Lt. Col. William Barnes flying the first F-86D-35-NA (51-6145) in the same path of the previous flight, achieved 715.697 mph.

Operational history

Korean War

Sabre at NASM in livery of 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing

The F-86 entered service with the United States Air Force in 1949, joining the 1st Fighter Wing's 94th Fighter Squadron "Hat-in-the-Ring" and became the primary air-to-air jet fighter used in the Korean War. With the introduction of the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 into air combat in November 1950, which out-performed all aircraft then assigned to the United Nations, three squadrons of F-86s were rushed to the Far East in December.[16] The F-86 could out turn and out dive the MiG-15, but the MiG-15 was superior to the F-86 in ceiling, acceleration, rate of climb, and zoom (especially until the introduction of the F-86F in 1953); MiGs flown from bases in Manchuria by Chinese, Korean, and Soviet VVS pilots, were pitted against two squadrons of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing forward-based at K-14, Kimpo, Korea.[16]

Many of the American pilots were experienced World War II veterans while the North Koreans and the Chinese lacked combat experience, thus accounting for much of the F-86's success.[17] However, whatever the actual results may be, it is clear that the F-86 pilots did not have as much success over the better trained Soviet piloted MiG-15s. Although Soviets piloted the majority of MiG-15s that fought in Korea, North Korean and Chinese pilots increased their activity as the war went on.[18] [19] The Soviets and their allies periodically contested air superiority in MiG Alley, an area near the mouth of the Yalu River (the boundary between Korea and China) over which the most intense air-to-air combat took place. The F-86E's all-moving tailplane has been credited with giving the Sabre an important advantage over the MiG-15. Far greater emphasis has been given to the training, aggressiveness and experience of the F-86 pilots.[17] Despite rules-of-engagement to the contrary, F-86 units frequently initiated combat over MiG bases in the Manchurian "sanctuary."[18]

51st FIG "Checkertails" at K-13 air base (Suwon, South Korea) are prepped for a mission

The needs of combat operation balanced against the need to maintain an adequate force structure in Western Europe led to the conversion of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing from the F-80 to the F-86 in December 1951. Two fighter-bomber wings, the 8th and 18th, converted to the F-86F in the spring of 1953.[20] No. 2 Squadron, South African Air Force also distinguished itself flying F-86s in Korea as part of the 18 FBW.[21]

By the end of hostilities, F-86 pilots were credited to have shot down 792 MiGs for a loss of only 78 Sabres, a victory ratio of 10 to 1.[22] Postwar totals officially credited by the USAF are 379 kills for 103 Sabres lost,[23] amounting to a ratio of nearly 4 to 1. Modern research by Dorr, Lake and Thompson has claimed the actual ratio is closer to 2 to 1.[24]

The Soviet claims of downing over 600 Sabres [25] together with the Chinese claims[26] are considered exaggerated by the USAF.[citation needed]. Recent USAF records show that 224 F-86s were lost to all causes, including non-combat losses.

Of the 40 USAF pilots to earn the designation of ace during the Korean war, all but one flew the F-86 Sabre.

1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis

The Republic of China Air Force of Taiwan was one of the first recipients of surplus USAF Sabres. From December 1954 to June 1956, the ROC Air Force received 160 ex-USAF F-86F-1-NA through F-86F-30-NA fighters. By June of 1958, the Nationalist Chinese had built up an impressive fighter force, with 320 F-86Fs and seven RF-86Fs having been delivered.[citation needed]

Sabres and MiGs were shortly to battle each other in the skies of Asia once again in the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. In August of 1958, the Chinese Communists of the People's Republic of China attempted to force the Nationalists off of the islands of Quemoy and Matsu by shelling and blockade. Nationalist F-86Fs flying CAP over the islands found themselves confronted by Communist MiG-15s and MiG-17s, and there were numerous dogfights.

During these battles, the Nationalist Sabres introduced a new element into aerial warfare — under a secret effort designated Operation Black Magic, the US Navy had provided the ROC with the AIM-9 Sidewinder, its first infrared-homing air-to-air missile, which was just entering service with the United States. A small team from VMF-323, a Marine FJ-4 Fury squadron with later assistance from China Lake and North American initially modified 20 of the F-86 Sabres to carry a pair of Sidewinders on underwing launch rails and instructed the ROC pilots in their use flying profiles with USAF F-100s simulating the MiG-17. The MiGs enjoyed an altitude advantage over the Sabres as they had in Korea and Communist Chinese MiGs routinely cruised over the Nationalist Sabres, only engaging when they had a favorable position. The Sidewinder took away that advantage and proved to be devastatingly effective against the MiGs.[27]

The combat introduction of the Sidewinder took place in a battle on 24 September 1958 when ROC Sabres succeeded in destroying ten MiGs and scoring two probables without loss to themselves.[citation needed] In one month of air battles over Quemoy and Matsu, Nationalist pilots tallied a score of no less than 29 MiGs destroyed and eight probables, against a loss of two F-84Gs and no Sabres.[citation needed]

Malayan Emergency/Vietnam War

In 1958–60, Avon Sabres completed numerous ground attack sorties against communist insurgents, during the Malayan Emergency, with No. 3 Squadron RAAF and No. 77 Squadron RAAF in Malaya. They remained following in Malaysia following the Emergency, at RAAF Butterworth.

In 1962, a detachment of eight CA-27s, which was later expanded and designated No. 79 Squadron RAAF, was sent from Butterworth to RAAF Ubon, Ubon, Thailand, to assist the Thai and Laotian governments in actions against communist insurgents. During the Vietnam War, 79 Sqn performed air defence for the USAF attack aircraft and bombers based at Ubon.[28] The squadron never engaged North Vietnamese aircraft or ground forces and was withdrawn in 1968.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

PAF F-86 Sabres which took part in the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars

The F-86 entered service with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 1954 with the first batch of 120 aircraft. Most of the aircraft were of the F-86F-40 configuration except for a few F-86F-35s. The F-86 was operated by nine PAF squadrons at various times. During the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 the F-86 became the mainstay of the PAF and provided a qualitative edge against a larger Indian Air Force (IAF).[29]

In the air-to-air combat of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the PAF Sabres claimed to have shot down 15 IAF aircraft, comprising of nine Hunters, four Vampires and two Gnats.[30] India however, admitted a loss of 14 combat aircraft to the PAF's F-86s.[31] The F-86s of the PAF had the advantage of being armed with AIM-9B/GAR-8 Sidewinder missiles whereas none of its Indian adversaries had this capability. Despite this, the IAF claimed to have shot down 13 PAF Sabres in air-to-air combat.[32] This claim is disputed by the PAF who admit to having lost 13 F-86s Sabres during the whole 23 days but only seven of them during air-to-air battles.[30]

The PAF Sabres performed well in ground attack with claims of destroying around 36 aircraft on the ground at Indian airfields at Halwara, Kalaikunda, Baghdogra, Srinagar and Pathankot. [30][33] [34] [35] India only acknowledges 22 aircraft lost on the ground to strikes partly attributed to the PAF's F-86s and its bomber B-57 Canberra.[31]

File:Pafsabres np s.jpg
PAF Sabres pull away after a napalm bombing run.

Pakistani F-86s were also used against advancing columns of the Indian army when No. 19 Squadron Sabres engaged the Indian Army using five inch rockets along with their six Browning M3 .50 in (12.7 mm) caliber machine guns. According to Pakistan reports, Indian armor bore the brunt of this particular attack at Wagah.[36] The Number 14 PAF Squadron earned the nickname "Tailchoppers" in PAF for their F-86 operations and actions during the 1965 war.[37]

During the war, United States barred the sales of the F-86 to Pakistan. Nonetheless, Pakistan maintained its F-86 fleet through sales of around 90 Iranian Sabres and Sabre Mk 6 CL-13s (Canadian-made F-86 Sabres) which formed the backbone of the operations during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.[citation needed] Despite its formidable performance, the F-86 proved vulnerable to the diminutive Folland Gnat, which proved to be fast, nimble and hard to see. The IAF Gnats given the nickname "Sabre Slayer, "claimed to have downed seven PAF Sabres.[32][38][30]

Pakistan Air Force F-86 Flying Ace Sqn Ldr Muhammad Mahmood Alam officially credited with five kills in air-to-air combat, destroyed five more enemy Hunter aircraft in less than a minute, which remains a record till today. Mahmood Alam had a total of nine kills and two damaged to his credit.[39]

1971 Indo-Pakistani War

The Canadair Sabres (Mark 6) acquired from ex-Luftwaffe stocks via Iran, were the mainstay of the PAF's day fighter operations during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, and had the challenge of dealing with the threat from IAF.[citation needed] Despite having acquired newer fighter types such as the Mirage III and the Shenyang F-6, the Sabre Mark 6 (widely regarded as the best "dog-fighter" of its era[40]) along with the older PAF F-86Fs, were tasked with the majority of operations during the war, due to the small numbers of the Mirages and combat unreadiness of the Shenyang F-6.[12] In East Pakistan only one PAF F-86 squadron (14th Squadron) was deployed to face the formidable IAF Soviet MiG-21s and the Sukhoi SU-7 and the numerical superiority of the IAF. At the beginning of the war, PAF had eight squadrons of F-86 Sabres.[41]

File:Sabre capture.jpg
Although 11 Sabres in East Pakistan were disabled by the PAF themselves during the Bangladesh Liberation War to prevent them from being used by the enemy, a few were recovered intact and were flown later by the Bangladesh Air Force. The photo above shows Indian officers standing next to these PAF Sabre jets at Dhaka airport.

Despite these challenges, the PAF F-86s performed well with Pakistani claims of downing 31 Indian aircraft in air-to-air combat including 17 Hawker Hunters, eight Sukhoi SU 7 "Fitters", one MiG 21s and three Gnats[42] while losing seven F-86s.[43] India however claims to have shot down 11 PAF Sabres for the loss of 11 combat aircraft to the PAF F-86s. [44] The IAF numerical superiority overwhelmed the sole East Pakistan Sabres squadron (and other military aircraft)[45][46] which were either shot down, or grounded by Pakistani Fratricide as they could not hold out, enabling complete Air superiority for the Indian Air Force.[47]

In the Battle of Boyra, the first notable air engagement over East Pakistan, India claimed four Gnats downed three Sabres while Pakistan acknowledges only two Sabres were lost while one Gnat was shot down.[12]. As per official Pakistan accounts, 24 Sabres were lost in the war: 13 due to enemy action and 11 disabled by PAF forces to keep them out of enemy hands[43], while 28 Sabres were lost per Indian accounts: 17 due to IAF action and 11 disabled by the PAF on the ground to keep them out of enemy hands.[48]. Five of these Sabres, however, were recovered in working condition and flown again by the Bangladesh Air Force.[48][49][50]

After this war, Pakistan slowly phased out its F-86 Sabres and replaced them with Chinese F-6 (Russian MiG-19 based) fighters. The last of the Sabres were withdrawn from service in PAF in 1980.[12] F-86 Sabres nevertheless remain a legend in Pakistan and are seen as a symbol of pride.[citation needed] They are now displayed in Pakistan Air Force Museum and in the cities to which their pilots lived.


North American F-86

File:George Welch.JPG
George Welch, shown here with one of the original XP-86s, was the chief test pilot of the Sabre program.
three prototypes, originally designated XP-86, North American model NA-140
this was the first prototype fitted with a General Electric J47 turbojet engine.
554 built, North American model NA-151 (F-86A-1 block and first order of A-5 block) and NA-161 (second F-86A-5 block)
A few F-86A conversions as drone directors
11 F-86A conversions with three cameras for reconnaissance
188 ordered as upgraded A-model with wider fuselage and larger tires but delivered as F-86A-5, North American model NA-152
original designation for the YF-93A, two built (S/N 48-317 & 48-318)[51], order for 118 cancelled, North American model NA-157
prototype all-weather interceptor originally ordered as YF-95A, two built but designation changed to YF-86D, North American model NA-164
Production interceptor originally designated F-95A, 2,506 built: North American model NA-165 (F-86D-1 through D-15 blocks), NA-177 (F-86D-20 and first order of D-25 blocks), NA-173 (second order of F-86D-25 and D-30 through D-35 blocks), NA-190 (F-86D-45 and D-50 blocks) and NA-201 (F-86D-55 and D-60 blocks). The F-86D had only 25 percent commonality with other Sabre variants, marked by a larger fuselage to house a radome and larger afterburning engine. It had, for the first time for a Sabre, a full control system with a AN/APG-36,15 in. antenna and a J47-GE-17 with A/B. Armament was 24 FFAR 2.75-inch 'Mighty Mouse' with 7.55-pound explosive warhead, 2,500 ft/second at burnout, a range of 4,500 yards. Navigation set was AN/ARN-14. Last F-86Ds had J47-GE-17B with 5425/7500 lb thrust.
Improved flight control system and an "all-flying tail" (This system changed to a full power-operated control with an "artificial feel" built into the aircraft's controls to give the pilot forces on the stick that were still conventional, but light enough for superior combat control. It improved high speed maneuverability); 456 built, North American model NA-170 (F-86E-1 and E-5 blocks), NA-172, essentially the F-86F airframe with the F-86E engine (F-86E-10 and E-15 blocks); 60 of these built by Canadair for USAF (F-86E-6)
Designation for ex-RAF Sabres diverted to other NATO air forces
Designation for surplus RCAF Sabre Mk. Vs modified to target drones
Uprated engine and larger "6-3" wing without leading edge slats, 2,239 built; North American model NA-172 (F-86F-1 through F-15 blocks), NA-176 (F-86F-20 and -25 blocks), NA-191 (F-86F-30 and -35 blocks), NA-193 (F-86F-26 block), NA-202 (F-86F-35 block), NA-227 (first two orders of F-86F-40 blocks comprising 280 aircraft which reverted to leading edge wing slats of an improved design), NA-231 (70 in third F-40 block order), NA-238 (110 in fourth F-40 block order), and NA-256 (120 in final F-40 block order); 300 additional airframes in this series assembled by Mitsubishi in Japan for Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. Sabre Fs had much improved high speed agility, coupled with a higher landing speed of over 145 mph. The F-35 block had provisions for a new task: the nuclear tactical attack with one of the new small "nukes" ("second generation" nuclear ordnance). The F-40 had a new slatted wing, with a slight decrease of speed, but also a much better agility at high and low speed with a landing speed reduced to 124 mph. The USAF upgraded many of previous F versions to the F-40 standard.
About 50 former JASDF F-86F airframes converted to drones for use as targets by the U.S. Navy
Some F-86F-30s converted with three cameras for reconnaissance; also eighteen JASDF aircraft similarly converted
Two F-86F converted to two-seat training configuration with lengthened fuselage and slatted wings under North American model NA-204
Provisional designation for F-86D variant with uprated engine and equipment changes, 406 built as F-86D models
F-86H s/n 53-1308, Restorations,
Wings Museum, Denver, CO
Extensively redesigned fighter-bomber model with deeper fuselage, uprated engine, longer wings and power-boosted tailplane, two built as North American model NA-187
Production model, 473 built, with Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) and provision for nuclear weapon, North American model NA-187 (F-86H-1 and H-5 blocks) and NA-203 (F-86H-10 block)
Target conversion of 29 airframes for use at United States Naval Weapons Center
Single F-86A-5-NA, serial 49-1069, flown with Orenda turbojet under North American model NA-167 - same designation reserved for A-models flown with the Canadian engines but project not proceeded with
Basic version of F-86D intended for export with rocket tray replaced by four 20 mm cannon and simplified fire control system, two conversions
NATO version of F-86D with 120 built by North American and 221 kits for assembly by Fiat, North American model NA-222 (first 50 as F-86K-NF), NA-213 (F-86K-13 through K-19 blocks) and NA-221 (125 F-86K-NF assembled by Fiat) and NA-242 (final 45 F-86K-NF assembled by Fiat). Since the rockets were powerful, but really inaccurate, except for a short range firing against bombers, the NATO night interceptor units needed a different machine. It had MG-4 fire control system coupled with four 20-mm M-24A1, with 132 rpg each. It retained, despite being simpler, the same APG-37 "Sabre-dog" radar
Upgrade conversion of F-86D with new electronics, extended wingtips and wing leading edges, revised cockpit layout and uprated engine with reheat, 981 converted

North American FJ Fury

See: FJ Fury for production figures of U.S. Navy versions.

CAC CA-27 Avon Sabre (Australia)

Two types based on the US F-86F were built under licence by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in Australia, for the Royal Australian Air Force. as the CA-26 (one prototype) and CA-27 (production variant).

The CAC Sabres included a 60% fuselage redesign, to accommodate the Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 26 engine, which had roughly 50% more thrust than the J47, as well as 30mm Aden cannons and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. As a consequence of its powerplant, the Australian-built Sabres are commonly referred to as the Avon Sabre. CAC manufactured 112 of these aircraft.

CA-27 marques:

  • Mk 30: 21 built, wing slats, Avon 20 engine
  • Mk 31: 21 built, 6-3 wing, Avon 20 engine
  • Mk 32: 69 built, four wing pylons, F-86F fuel capacity, Avon 26 engine

The RAAF operated the CA-27 from 1956 to 1971.[52] Ex-RAAF Avon Sabres were operated by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (TUDM) between 1969 and 1972. From 1973 to 1975, 23 Avon Sabres were donated to the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU); five of these were ex-Malaysian aircraft.

Canadair Sabre

The F-86 was also manufactured by Canadair in Canada as the CL-13 Sabre to replace its de Havilland Vampires, with the following production models:

Sabre Mk 1
one built, prototype F-86A
Sabre Mk 2
350 built, F-86E-type, 60 to USAF, three to RAF, 287 to RCAF
Sabre Mk 3
one built in Canada, test-bed for the Orenda jet engine
Sabre Mk 4
438 built, production Mk 3, 10 to RCAF, 428 to RAF as Sabre F 4
Sabre Mk 5
370 built, F-86F-type with Orenda engine, 295 to RCAF, 75 to Luftwaffe
Sabre Mk 6
655 built, 390 to RCAF, 225 to Luftwaffe, six to Colombia and 34 to South Africa

Production summary

  • NAA built a total of 6,297 F-86s and 1,115 FJs,
  • Canadair built 1,815,
  • Australian CAC built 112,
  • Fiat built 221, and
  • Mitsubishi built 300;
  • for a total Sabre/Fury production of 9,860.

Production costs

F-86A F-86D F-86E F-86F F-86H F-86K F-86L
Program R&D cost 4,707,802
Airframe 101,528 191,313 145,326 140,082 316,360 334,633
Engine 52,971 75,036 39,990 44,664 214,612 71,474
Electronics 7,576 7,058 6,358 5,649 6,831 10,354
Armament 16,333 69,986 23,645 17,669 27,573 20,135
Ordnance 419 4,138 3,047 17,117 4,761
Flyaway cost 178,408 343,839 219,457 211,111 582,493 441,357 343,839
Maintenance cost per flying hour 135 451 187

Note: The costs are in approximately 1950 United States dollars and have not been adjusted for inflation.[1]


Source: Dorr[53]
Acquired 26 F-86Fs, 26 September 1960, FAA s/n CA-101 through CA-128. Sabres not used in Falklands War
Acquired 5 Pakistani Air Force Canadair Sabre 6s, s/n 1608, 1609,1617, 1669, 1723; Dec 1971
5 F-86F Sabres delivered, s/n 51-13202, 52-5305, 52-5362, 52-53-67, 52-5402; no operational unit
Acquired 10 F-86Fs from Venezuelan Air Force Oct 1973, assigned to Brigada Aerea 21, Grupo Aera de Caza 32.
Acquired 12 Canadair Sabre Mark 4s from Pakistani Air Force in the 70s
Canadair Ltd. produced 60 F-86E-6s for the USAF during the Korean War. Also, produced another 60 F-86Es for allied countries, 230 CL-13 Sabre (E-model) Mark 2s for RCAF, 438 CL-13 Mark 4s (428 for Britain), 370 CL-13A Mark 5s (75 to West Germany), 292 CL-13B Mark 6s (six for Columbia and 34 for South Africa), and another 315 Mark 6s (225 for West Germany)
Acquired six CL-13Bs (s/n 2021-2026) from Canadair 8 June 1956, and two F-86Fs from Spanish Air Force (s/n 2027/2028), and one USAF F-86F (s/n 51-13226); assigned to Escuadron de Caza-Bombardero.
Acquired 38 F-86Ds; assigned to 726, 727, and 731 Squadrons.
Acquired 14 F-86Fs in 1960.[55]
Fiat built 62 F-86Ks for France (1956-1957), assigned to EC 1/13 Artois, EC 2/13 Alpes, and EC 3/13 Squadrons. (s/n: 55-4814/4844), 55-4846/4865, 55-4872/4874, 55-4876/4879)
Luftwafe, Germany
Acquired 75 Canadair CL-13A Sabre Mark 5s January 1957, and 225 Mark 6s in 1959. Also, acquired 88 U.S. F-86Ks 22 July 1957-23 June 1958. The Ks were assigned to Jagdgeschwader (JG) 74 and 75 Groups.
Acquired 82 (another source 110) used Canadair CL-13 Mark 2s and 4s from the UK Royal Air Force July 1954; assigned to three squadrons. Also, some U.S. F-86Ds were received in 1961 (no details).
Acquired eight Canadair CL-13 Mark 2s, formerly Yugoslavian, l4 U.S. F-86Fs and five Venezuelan F-86Ks in 1969.
Acquired 18 used CAC CA-27 Sabres in 1973; assigned to No. 14 Squadron. Five ex-Malaysian CA-27s were obtained in 1976.
Acquired unknown number of F-86Fs[55]
Acquired five F-86Fs[55]
Italian Sabre
Japanese F-86F Sabre
Fiat produced 121 F-86Ks for Italy, 1955-1958. Also, 120 U.S. F-86Ks were acquired. F-86s were assigned to the AMI air groups: 6 Gruppo COT/1 Stormo, 17 Gruppo/1 Stormo, 23 Gruppo/1 Stormo, 21 Gruppo/51 Aerobrigata, 22 Gruppo/51 Aerobrigata and 12 Gruppo/4 Aerobrigata.
Acquired 180 U.S. F-86Fs, 1955-1957. Mitsubishi built 300 F-86Fs, 1956-1961, and were assigned to ten fighter hikotai or squadrons, and their Blue Impulse Aerobatic Team. A total of 18 F-models were converted to reconnaissance version in 1962. Some aircraft were returned to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, as drones. Finally, 122 US F-86Ds were delivered, 1958-1961; assigned to four all-weather interceptor hikotai, and Air Proving Ground at Gifu.
Acquired 18 CAC CA-27s in October 1969. Assigned to No. 11 and 12 Squadrons.
Acquired 57 U.S.-built and six Fiat-built F-86K Sabres, 1955-1956; and assigned to three squadrons, No. 700, 701 and 702.
Acquired 60 U.S.-built F-86K Sabres, 1955-1956, and another 115 F-86Fs, 1957-1958; and assigned to seven Norwegian Squadrons, No.s 331, 332, 334, 336, 337, 338 and 339. Also, acquired four Italian-assembled Fiat K-models.
Acquired 102 U.S.-built F-86F-35-NA and F-86F-40-NAs (last of North American Aviation's production line, 1954-1960s. Also, 90 former Luftwaffe Canadair CL-13B Mark 6s were acquired in the late 1960s. They were assigned to PAF's Squadrons: No.s 14 thru 19 and 26.
Acquired 26 US-built F-86Fs, 1 July 1955; and assigned to at least two squadrons.
Acquired 36-40 (not confirmed) U.S.-built F-86Fs and 20 F-86Ds, beginnning 1957; and assigned to the 6th and 7th Tactical Fighter Squadrons (TFS) of the 5th Fighter Wing (FW), and 8th and 9th TFS of the 6th FW, part of the U.S. military assistance package.
Acquired 50 U.S.-built F-86Fs, 1958, including some from USAF's 531st Fighter Bomber Squadron, Chambley, Portugal. Also, acquired 15 CL-13Bs Mark 6s, from West Germany, and spares from Norway. These were assigned to Squadrons Esc. 51 and 52, at BA5 Monte Real (air base).
Acquired 16 U.S.-built F-86Fs in 1958, and 3 Fs from Norway in 1966; and assigned to RSAF No. 7 Squadron at Dharhran.
Acquired on loan 22 U.S.-built F-86F-30s during the Korean War and saw action with 2 Squadron SAAF. In October 1956, the SAAF acquired 34 Canadair CL-13Bs Mark 6, which were assigned to 1 Squadron SAAF: 16 were later transferred to the USAF.
Acquired 122 US-built F-86Fs and RF-86Fs, and 40 F-86-Ds, beginning 20 June 1955; and assigned to ROKAF 10th Wing.
Acquired 270 U.S.-built F-86Fs, 1955-1958; designated C.5s and assigned to 5 wings: Ala de Caza 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6.
Acquired 40 U.S.-built F-86Fs, 1962, and unknown number of the only exported F-86Ls; and assigned to RTAF Squadrons, No.s 12 (Ls), 13, and 43.
Acquired 15 used U.S.-built F-86F in 1969.
Acquired 102 Canadair CL-13 Mark 2s, 1954-1958; and assigned to THK Squadrons, No.s 141, 142 and 143. Also, acquired 12 U.S.-built F-86Fs and 50 F-86Ds, and finally 40 F-86Ks.
Acquired three Canadair CL-13 Mark 2s and 428 Mark 4s, 8 December 1952-19 December 1953; assigned to RAF Sabre Squadrons 3, 4, 20, 26, 66, 67, 71, 92, 93, 112, 130, 147 and 234. During 1956-1958, 302 RAF Sabres returned to the USA in both USAF and RAF markings in camouflage colors and redesignated as F-86E(M); then which 121 were then sent to Yugoslavia and 179 to Italy.
Yugoslavian F-86D Sabre
See: List of Sabre and Fury units in US military
Acquired 30 U.S.-built F-86Fs and 74 Fiat-built F-86Ks, October 1955 - December 1960; and assigned to one group, Grupo Aerea De Caza No. 12, three other squadrons. Finally, the FAV acquired 51 US-built F-86Ks from West Germany.
Acquired 121 modified Canadair CL-13 Mark 2s and 4s, 1956, from Britain. Unknown number of F-86Ds were purchased.

Notable F-86 pilots


Several Sabres are still owned by private owners (most notably actor Michael Dorn[61]), including a handful that still fly at air shows and aviation events.

Specifications (F-86F-40-NA)

Orthographically projected diagram of the F-86 Sabre.

Data from The North American Sabre [62]

General characteristics


  • Maximum speed: 687 mph at sea level at 14,212 lb (6,446.56 kg) combat weight
    also reported 678 mph and 599 at 35,000 feet at 15,352 pounds (6,960 kg). (597 knots, 1,105 km/h at 6446 m, 1091 and 964 km/h at 6,960 m.)
  • Range: 1,525 mi, (1,753 NM, 2,454.18 km)
  • Service ceiling: 49,600 ft at 14,212 lb (6,446.56 kg) combat weight (15,118.08 m)
  • Rate of climb: 8,100 ft/min at sea level (41.15 m/s)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.38
  • Stalling speed (power off): 124 mph (108 knots, 199.64 km/h)
  • Landing ground roll: 2,330 ft, (710.18 m)
  • Lift-to-drag ratio: 15.1
  • Time to altitude: 5.2 min (clean) to 30,000 ft (9,145 m)


  • Guns: 6 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (1,602 rounds)Various bombs (2 x 1,000 lb, 453.6 kg bombs, standard load) e.g napalm canisters, air-to-ground rockets. Four pylons presents, but only two dedicated to ordnances, while the other two were for auxiliary tanks, total load up to 2,400 kg (900 kg bombs and 1500 l fuel), included a nuclear tactical weapon.

Fighter-Bomber H-model

Data from: USAF Museum[63]
  • Span: 39 ft. 1 in.
  • Length: 38 ft. 10 in.
  • Height: 14 ft. 11 in.
  • Weight: 18,683 lbs. loaded
  • Armament: Four M-39 20mm cannon (Blocks 5 and 10; last 360 aircraft built) or six .50-cal. machine guns (Block 1; 113 aircraft built); eight 5-in. rockets, 2,000 lbs. of bombs, or nuclear weapon; *Note: First two F-86Hs had no armament
  • Engine: One General Electric J73-GE-3E turbojet of 9,070 lbs. thrust
  • Crew: One
  • Maximum speed: 693 mph
  • Cruising speed: 550 mph
  • Range: 1,050 miles
  • Combat ceiling: 51,400 ft.


  1. ^ a b c Knaack 1978
  2. ^ The FJ-1 Fury
  3. ^ Käsmann 1994, p. 33.
  4. ^ Air Force Aircraft of the Korean War
  5. ^ North American F-86 Sabre (Day-Fighter A, E and F Models)
  6. ^ Aviation History On-line Museum
  7. ^ Planes of Perrin, North American F-86L "Dog Sabre"
  8. ^ The History of North American Small Gas Turbine Aircraft Engines By Richard A. Leyes, William A. Fleming
  9. ^ F-86E Through F-86L
  10. ^ North American F-86H Sabre (Fighter-Bomber)
  11. ^ Joos 1971, p.3. Quote: "The Canadair Sabre Mk 6 was the last variant and considered to be the 'best' production Sabre ever built."
  12. ^ a b c d Pakistan Air Force - The Canadair Sabre Goes to War
  13. ^ History of the F-86 Sabre Jet on Boeing's website
  14. ^ Wagner 1963, p. 17.
  15. ^ Aeronautics and Astronautics Chronology, 1945-1949
  16. ^ a b Sabre: The F-86 in Korea
  17. ^ a b Fact Sheet: The United States Air Force in Korea
  18. ^ a b "Bud" Mahurin
  19. ^ Lt.Col. George Andrew Davis
  20. ^ USAF Organizations in Korea, Fighter-Interceptor 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing
  21. ^ The History of No 2 Squadron, SAAF, in the Korean War
  22. ^ Thompson, Warren E. and McLaren, David R. MiG Alley: Sabres Vs. MiGs Over Korea. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2002. ISBN 1-58007-058-2.
  23. ^ The war continues
  24. ^ Dorr, Robert F., Lake, Jon and Thompson, Warren E. Korean War Aces. London: Osprey Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-85532-501-2.
  25. ^ Russian Claims from the Korean War 1950-53
  26. ^ Zhang, Xiaoming. Red Wings over the Yalu: China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 2002. ISBN 1-58544-201-1.
  27. ^ 323 Death Rattlers
  28. ^ Independent Review Panel On Vietnam Campaign Recognition For RAAF Service At Ubon, Thailand 25 June 1965 To 31 August 1968, 2004, "Report To The Minister Assisting The Minister For Defence" Department of Defence (Australia). Retrieved: 14 December 2007.
  29. ^ Pakistan's Defence Journal
  30. ^ a b c d Claims and Counter Claims- PakDef.Info
  31. ^ a b 1965 Losses
  32. ^ a b IAF Kills in 1965
  33. ^ Defence Journal: A Hero Fades Away Feb-Mar. 1999
  34. ^ Defence Journal: Tail Choppers - Birth of a Legend, Dec. 1998
  35. ^ Defence Journal: Devastation of Pathankot, Sept. 2000
  36. ^ Devastation of Pathankot
  37. ^ Tailchoppers
  38. ^ Folland FO-141 Gnat Note: The Pakistan Air Force disputes this claim and accepts the loss of only three F-86 Sabres at the hands of the Gnats.
  40. ^ Canadair CL-13 Sabre - Royal Canadian Air Force
  41. ^ "India and Pakistan: Over the Edge" 13 December 1971, TIME
  42. ^ PAF Kills and claims in 1971 -
  43. ^ a b PAF Losses in
  44. ^ IAF Losses in 1971 - Bharat
  45. ^ Military losses in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war
  46. ^ Bangladesh, The Liberation War
  47. ^ Singh et al 2004, p. 30.
  48. ^ a b Aircraft Losses in Pakistan -1971 War
  49. ^ Bangladesh Air Force History
  50. ^ Virtual Bangladesh:Defense:Airforce
  51. ^ North American YF-93A Fact Sheet
  52. ^ RAAF Museum page on Sabre
  53. ^ Dorr 1993, p. 65-96.
  54. ^, 2007, "A94-RAAF Sabre Mk. 30/31/32 Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-26/CA-27". Retrieved: 14 December 2007.
  55. ^ a b c Baugher's: F-86 Foreign Service
  56. ^ Midland Air Museum: F-86A Sabre
  57. ^ Dorr 1993, p.72.
  58. ^ a b Dorr 1993, p. 91.
  59. ^ Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum: F-86/CL-13 Sabre Mk. V
  60. ^ RCAF Museum: CL-13 Sabre Mk. V
  61. ^ Michael Dorn
  62. ^ Wagner 1963, p. 145.
  63. ^ North American F-86H Sabre (Fighter-Bomber)
  • Allward, Maurice. F-86 Sabre. London: Ian Allen, 1978. ISBN 0-71100-860-4.
  • Curtis, Duncan. North American F-86 Sabre. Ramsbury, UK: Crowood, 2000. ISBN 1-86126-358-9.
  • Dorr, Robert F.F-86 Sabre Jet: History of the Sabre and FJ Fury. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0-87938-748-3.
  • Joos, Gerhard W. Canadair Sabre Mk 1-6, Commonwealth Sabre Mk 30-32 in RCAF, RAF, RAAF, SAAF, Luftwaffe & Foreign Service. Kent, UK: Osprey Publications Limited, 1971. ISBN 0-85045-024-1.
  • Käsmann, Ferdinand C.W. Die schnellsten Jets der Welt: Weltrekord- Flugzeuge (in German). Oberhaching, Germany: Aviatic Verlag-GmbH, 1994. ISBN 3-925505-26-1.
  • Knaack, Marcelle Size. Encyclopedia of US Air Force Aircraft and Missile Systems, Volume 1, Post-World War Two Fighters, 1945-1973. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1978. ISBN 0-912799-59-5.
  • Singh, Sarina, Mock, John, Bennett-Jones, Owen, Yasmeen, Samina and Brown, Lindsay. Pakistan & the Karakoram Highway. London: Lonely Planet Publications, 2004. ISBN 0-86442-709-3.
  • Swanborough, F. Gordon. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909. London: Putnam, 1963. ISBN 0-87474-880-1.
  • Wagner, Ray. American Combat Planes - Second Edition. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1968. ISBN 0-370-00094-3.
  • Wagner, Ray. The North American Sabre. London: Macdonald, 1963. No ISBN.
  • Werrell, Kenneth P. Sabres Over MiG Alley. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2005. ISBN 1-59114-933-9.
  • Westrum, Ron. Sidewinder. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1999. ISBN 1-55750-951-4.

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