F-86 Sabre N86FS, at the time owned and operated by
Photo by Max Haynes - MaxAir2Air.com
History: In 1944, North American Aviation
submitted a design for a swept-wing day fighter which could also be used as a dive-bomber
or escort fighter. Two prototype XP-86s were contracted in late
1944, but were not built until after WWII due to the incorporation of several design
modifications which were prompted by German research data. The first XP-86 prototype flew
on 1 October 1947, powered by a 3,750-pound thrust G.E. J35 engine. After it was
re-engined with a more powerful G.E. J47 turbojet the following spring, it was
re-designated the YP-86A, and exceeded the speed of sound in a
shallow dive. The first production model was initially designated the P-86A,
but became the F-86A in June 1948. By the time the new fighter
entered US Air Force service in 1949, it had gained the name "Sabre."
Many variants were produced throughout the Sabre's life, the most numerous being
the F-86D, an all-weather/night fighter, or which 2,054 were
built. In addition to the Sabres built by North American, Canadair Ltd. in Montreal built
60 F-86Es for the US Air Force, plus at least 1,750 Sabre
Mk 2/3/4/5/6s for the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. The
later Sabres were powered by various models of the native Orenda engine. Construction of
the Sabre was also undertaken by Australia's Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, which
modified the aircraft design to accept two 30-mm Aden guns and a Rolls-Royce Avon 26
engine. Similarly, Fiat in Italy assembled at least 220 F-86Ks
from component kits provided by North American, and Japan's Mitsubishi company assembled
approximately 300 more.
An offshoot of the F-86 program began when the US Navy and Marine Corps submitted a
request for an evaluation variant of the F-86E Sabre, which they designated the XFJ-2
Fury. This new airplane had an arresting hook, an extended nose gear, and a
catapult hitch. Later variants of the Fury improved on these features. The FJ-2
had folding wings, the FJ-3 had a deeper fuselage and more
powerful engine, and the totally-redesigned FJ-4 and FJ-4B
attack aircraft bear only a passing resemblance to their predecessors. [Editor's Note:
See our photo coverage of EAA AirVenture 2003 for a photo of
an FJ-4 Fury.]
The F-86 saw extensive action in the Korean war, where it was often pitted against
the slightly superior MiG-15. Despite the imbalance of capability in their airplanes,
Sabre pilots were able to gain superiority over the MiGs. F-86s were exported to many
nations around the world, and several live on as target drones, test and research aircraft
and, of course, privately-owned warbirds. There is also one
Nicknames: Sabredog; Dog; Dogship
(F-86D); Cheesefighter (Dutch F-86Ks, named after the former
Amsterdam Superintendent of Police, a Mr. Kaasjager, whose name
translated to "Cheesefighter" or "Cheesehunter").
Engine: One 7,500-pound thrust afterburning General Electric J47-GE-17B or -33 turbojet
Weight: Empty 12,470 lbs., Max
Takeoff 17,100 lbs.
Wing Span: 37ft. 1in.
Length: 40ft. 4in.
Height: 15ft. 0in.
Maximum Speed at
Seal Level: 707 mph
Range: 835 miles
Armament: 24 69.9-mm (2.75-inch)
Number Built: 9,502
Number Still Airworthy:
F-86 Cockpit Photos:
(Click for larger)
"Sabre Shoot" -- Associate Editor Job Conger
covers a memorable air-to-air photo shoot of Mike Keenum's beautiful F-86.
Duncan's F-86 Sabre Website
"Airspray" Sabre Photos
MiG vs. Sabre Anatomy -- NOVA
North American F-86 History
Sabre Pilots Association
Sabre Pilots Association of the Air Division
(SPAADS) -- RCAF
USAF Museum Sabre page
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