North American F-86D Sabre

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F-86D/K/L Sabre
A USAF North American F-86D
Role All-weather fighter-interceptor
National origin United States
Manufacturer North American Aviation
First flight 22 December 1949,
75 years ago
Introduction 1951[1][2]
Primary users United States Air Force
Italian Air Force
SFR Yugoslav Air Force
Japanese Air Self-Defense Force
Number built 2,847
Developed from North American F-86 Sabre

The North American F-86D/K/L Sabre (initially known as the YF-95 and widely known informally as the "Sabre Dog",[3]) was an American transonic jet interceptor. Developed for the United States Air Force in the late 1940s, it was an interceptor derivative of the North American F-86 Sabre. While the original F-86 Sabre was conceived as a day fighter, the F-86D was specifically developed as an all-weather interceptor. Originally designated as the YF-95 during development and testing, it was re-designated the F-86D before production began, despite only sharing 25% commonality of parts with the original F-86. Production models of the F-86D/K/L differed from other Sabres in that they had a larger fuselage, a larger afterburning engine, and a distinctive nose radome. The most-produced Sabre Dog variants (the "D" and "G" models) also mounted no guns, unlike the Sabre with its six M3 Browning .50 caliber machine guns, instead mounting unguided “Mighty Mouse” air-to-air rockets (the "K" and "L" Sabre Dog variants mounted four 20mm M24A1 cannon).

Design and development[edit]

The YF-95 was a development of the F-86 Sabre, the first aircraft designed around the new 2.75-inch (70 mm) "Mighty Mouse" Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR). Begun in March 1949, the unarmed prototype, 50-577, first flew on 22 December 1949, piloted by North American test pilot George Welch and was the first U.S. Air Force night fighter design with only a single crewman and a single engine, a J47-GE-17 with afterburner rated at 5,425 lbf (24.1 kN) static thrust. Gun armament was eliminated in favor of a retractable under-fuselage tray carrying 24 unguided Mk. 4 rockets, then considered a more effective weapon against enemy bombers than a barrage of cannon fire. A second prototype, 50-578, was also built, but the YF-95 nomenclature was short-lived as the design was subsequently redesignated YF-86D.

Rocket tray

The fuselage was wider and the airframe length increased to 40 ft 4 in (12.3 m), with a clamshell canopy, enlarged tail surfaces and AN/APG-36 all-weather radar fitted in a radome in the nose, above the intake. Later models of the F-86D received an uprated J-47-GE-33 engine rated at 5,550 lbf (24.7 kN) (from the F-86D-45 production blocks onward). A total of 2,504 D-models were built.

Operational history[edit]

On 18 November 1952, F-86D 51-2945 set a speed record of 698.505 mph (1,124.1 km/h). Captain J. Slade Nash flew over a three km (1.8 mi.) course at the Salton Sea in southern California at a height of only 125 ft (38 m). Another F-86D broke this world record on 16 July 1953, when Lieutenant Colonel William F. Barns, flying F-86D 51-6145 in the same path of the previous flight, achieved 715.697 mph (1,151.8 km/h).[4]

A Wyoming Air National Guard F-86L in the late 1950s.


The fifth F-86D for the USAF in formation with two other early production aircraft
prototype all-weather interceptor; two built; designation changed to YF-86D (North American model NA-164)
originally designated YF-95A.
Production interceptor originally designated F-95A, 2,504 built.
Provisional designation for F-86D variant with uprated engine and equipment changes, 406 built as F-86Ds.
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; MG-4 fire control system; four 20 mm M24A1 cannon with 132 rounds per gun; APG-37 radar. 120 were built by North American, 221 were assembled by Fiat.
Upgrade conversion of F-86D with new electronics, extended wingtips and wing leading edges, revised cockpit layout, and uprated engine; 981 converted.


Source: Dorr[5]
Danish North American F-86D Sabre
A West German Air Force F-86K in 1965.
North American F-86K Royal Netherlands Air Force
North American F-86K from Royal Norwegian Air Force.
F-86D of the Philippine Air Force.
Received 59 ex-USAF F-86Ds 1958-1960; assigned to 723, 726 and 728 Squadrons.
Fiat built 62 F-86Ks for France (1956-1957), assigned to EC 1/13 "Artois", EC 2/13 "Alpes", and EC 3/13 "Auvergne" Squadrons. Serials were 55-4814/4844, 55-4846/4865, 55-4872/4874, 55-4876/4879.
 West Germany
Acquired 88 U.S. F-86Ks 22 July 1957–23 June 1958. The Ks were assigned to Jagdgeschwader 75/renamed 74.
Acquired 35 F-86Ds from the US. Were received in 1961 and retired in 1967 but kept as back up until 1969. F-86D was the first all weather fighter in Greek Air Force. F-86Ds were assigned to 337 and 343 Squadrons. Until 1964 they were in natural metal. Until after retirement they were in NATO camo.
A former Honduran F-86K in Honduran Aviation Museum in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Acquired Six Venezuelan F-86Ks in 1970.
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 122 US F-86Ds, 1958–1961; assigned to four all-weather interceptor Hikōtai, and Air Proving Ground at Gifu.
Acquired 57 U.S.-built and six Fiat-built F-86K Sabres, 1955–1956; and assigned to three squadrons, No. 700, 701 and 702. Operated until 1964.
Acquired 60 U.S.-built F-86K Sabres, 1955–1956, and four Italian-assembled Fiat K-models.
Acquired 20 F-86Ds, assigned to 8th Fighter Interceptor Squadron "Vampires" beginning 1960; part of the U.S. military assistance package.
 South Korea
Acquired 40 F-86Ds, beginning 20 June 1955.
 Republic of China (Taiwan)
Acquired 20 F-86Ls.
 United States
Acquired 32 US-built F-86Fs, October 1955–December 1960; 1965 acquired 79 Fiat-built F-86Ks from West Germany.
Acquired 130 U.S.-made F-86Ds and operated them between 1961 and 1974. 32 of these were modified into a reconnaissance variant utilizing 3 Kodak K-24 cameras mounted in place of the FFAR rockets, the IF-86D.[6]

Surviving aircraft[edit]

A F-86L of the RTAF on display at the Royal Thai Air Force Museum

Specifications (F-86D-40-NA)[edit]

North American F-86K Sabre.

Data from Combat Aircraft since 1945,[3] The American Fighter[7]

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Length: 40 ft 3 in (12.27 m)
  • Wingspan: 37 ft 1.5 in (11.31 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 0 in (4.57 m)
  • Empty weight: 13,518 lb (6,132 kg)
  • Gross weight: 19,975 lb (9,060 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × General Electric J47-GE-17B , 5,425 lbf (24.13 kN) thrust dry, 7,500 lbf (33 kN) with afterburner


  • Maximum speed: 715 mph (1,151 km/h, 621 kn) [8]
  • Maximum speed: Mach .93
  • Range: 330 mi (531 km, 290 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 49,750 ft (15,163 m)
  • Rate of climb: 12,150 ft/min (61.7 m/s)


  • 24 × 2.75 in (70 mm) Mighty Mouse FFAR rockets in ventral tray


  • AN/APG-36 all-weather radar

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Wilson 2000, p. 111.
  4. ^ "William F. Barns Archives". This Day in Aviation. February 21, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  5. ^ Dorr 1993, pp. 65–96.
  6. ^ "IF-86D". Achtung, Skyhawk!. Retrieved 2022-04-18.
  7. ^ Angelucci and Bowers 1987, pp. 346–47.
  8. ^ Boyne, W.J. (1998). Beyond the Wild Blue: A History of the U.S. Air Force, 1947-1997. Thomas Dunne. St. Martin's Press. p. 380. ISBN 978-0-312-18705-7. Retrieved May 14, 2019.


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  • Angelucci, Enzo and Peter Bowers. The American Fighter: the Definite Guide to American Fighter Aircraft from 1917 to the Present. New York: Orion Books, 1987. ISBN 0-517-56588-9.
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  • Robinson, Robbie. NATO F-86D/K Sabre Dogs. Le Havre, 2018, 120 p. ISBN 978-2-9541818-3-7.
  • 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.
  • Westrum, Ron. Sidewinder. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1999. ISBN 1-55750-951-4.
  • Wilson, Stewart. Combat Aircraft since 1945. Fyshwick, ACT, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2000. ISBN 1-875671-50-1.

External links[edit]