History Podcasts

F-86 Sabre - History

F-86 Sabre - History


Manufacturer: North American Aviation

Engines: 5,970lb GEJ47

Speed: 688 MPH

Range: 1,317 miles

Ceiling: 50,000ft

Wingspan: 42ft

Length: 365ft

Weight: 17,000lbs

First Flight: 10/1/1947

Last Delievery: 1955

Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum News

Just as World War II began to come to an end, initial plans for the Sabre were being drawn up. It was the straight winged North American FJ-1 Fury that provided the basis for developing the F-86. Howevere, when the completed aircraft left the factory in 1947, however, bared very little resemblance to what was initially proposed.

On the 18th of May, 1945, the F-86, initially named NA-140, passed the proposition stage. The problem, however, was that the F-86 would be required to pack a top speed of at least 600 mph (965.4 km/h). The prototype drawing would only be capable of a maximum speed of about 582 mph (936.4 km/h).

The following month, the team responsible for building the prototypes analyzed the design of the suggested F-86, and the research that was put into the aerodynamic design of the body. Very quickly the verdict was reached that the required speed could be made easily if, rather than building it straight winged, they made use of swept back wings. By sweeping the wing, it will delay the onset of shockwaves as the aircraft approaches the speed of sound. This reduces drag, allowing the aircraft to go faster.

The brand new NA-140, renamed the F-86, rolled out in August of 1947. The Sabre very quickly gained the admiration of everyone there to see it. The swept back wings, sleek body, and several other features new to aircraft gave it an image which impacted very positively on all.

After being moved to the High Desert in September, the Sabre made its first flight on October 1, 1947, with George Welch as the pilot. Welch was to make the flight last no longer than 10 minutes, however, this plan did not last, when Welch tried to lower the landing gear. Both back wheels of the plane worked well enough, but the nose wheel light in the cockpit didn’t light. After flying past the control tower, the operators could see that the front wheel was only halfway down. After 40 minutes of working at trying to bring the wheel down all the way, Welch said he would attempt to land with the nose up, so as to cause the least possible damage. He was lucky, however, for when the back wheels hit the runway, the jolt loosened the nose wheel, and it dropped down all the way, locked in position, and the landing was made successfully, without any damage.

Through out the duration of the Korean War, the F-86 Sabre made itself a place in the warplane hall of fame. The Sabre reached this standard of excellence due mainly to the high percentage of enemy planes shot down.

The Sabre also played its part in NATO, after soon finding its way overseas, where it was most noted for its use with the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE). Overseas production, however, was started by Canada, who were anxious to obtain more modern equipment in order to meet its commitments to NATO. However, the Sabre would go on to fly with many of the NATO Airforces, and Air Forces of other countries as well. In fact, some F-86 Sabres remained in front line service with Third World Countries until the Late 1970’s early 1980’s.

Total Canadair Production

Sabre Models Serial Number Range Quantity Produced Additional Information
Sabre Mk. 2 19102-199 98 RCAF
2 19201-452 252 Including 60 F-86E-6- CAN to USAF as 52-
2833/892 and three to RAF
Sabre Mk. 3 19200 1 Orenda-powered prototype
Sabre Mk. 4 19453-890 438 All for RAF including US-funded machines with US identities 52-
Sabre Mk. 5 23001-370 370 Including 75 for Luftwaffe
Sabre Mk. 6 23371-760 390 RCAF
6 2021-2026 6 Columbian AF
6 350-383 34 South African AF
6 1591-1815 225 Luftwaffe

Total Quantity 1,815

Information on this page was collected from Classic Warplanes – North American F-86 Sabre.

F-86 Sabre - History

By Christopher Miskimon

The F-86 Sabre was the iconic American fighter of the Korean War era. The struggle was the first war that pitted jet fighter aircraft against each other. F-86 pilots were credited with 800 kills of enemy aircraft during the war. One of the first went to Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton, who downed a Soviet-built MiG-15. He and his flight of four Sabres lured some MiGs into a dogfight by simulating the flight characteristics of the less-capable F-80. The communists detected what they thought were inferior planes and quickly responded, intent on easy kills. They got more than they bargained for as Hinton and his wingman chased three enemy jets. He shot up one with his nose-mounted .50-caliber machine guns and saw it begin to trail smoke. The American pilot doggedly kept after the MiG, pouring fire into it until the plane was a veritable sheet of flame falling from the sky. It was the beginning of the classic struggle of the air war over Korea, F-86 versus MiG-15.

That conflict in the skies was the largest air-to-air war fought during the jet era. It pitted the United States, the most powerful country in the world, armed with not only advanced conventional weapons but also a monopoly on atomic bombs, against China and North Korea, second- and third-rate powers supplied in part by the Soviet Union. Although it would not become public knowledge until years later, Soviet pilots were secretly flying some of the communist aircraft, a clandestine confrontation of the early Cold War.

Central to the United Nations Command’s achievement of air superiority was the F-86 Sabre. The Soviet-built MiG-15, introduced in 1950, was a formidable jet fighter that outclassed most Western aircraft. Up to that point the United Nations Command’s air forces had ruled the skies and rained destruction upon North Korean ground forces, achieving decisive results. The MiG-15 changed that, downing fighters and bombers in large numbers. Something had to be done to turn the tide back in the United Nations Command’s favor, and that solution was the F-86.

The Sabre was technologically advanced and flown by brave pilots with aggressive leadership. This combination soon achieved air superiority, allowing other United Nations Command aircraft to resume their campaigns of close air support and bombing without undue fear of the killer Russian jet. It also kept the communist air power from having any real effect on the war, aside from a few nuisance raids.

The F-86 deserves its status as icon, but there is more to its story than a few dogfights. It is a drama that spans the course of the war. That inspiring tale of courage mixed with technology is revealed in Sabres over MiG Alley: The F-86 and the Battle for Air Superiority in Korea(Kenneth P. Werrell, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2018, 318 pp., maps, photographs, notes, bibliography, index, $24.95, softcover).

Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton as the first F-86 pilot to shoot down a MiG-15.

The volume is written with attention paid to the creation and design of both Sabre and MiG along with the narrative of the pilots who flew them. Chapters are dedicated to how both planes were created and how they compared to each other as combat aircraft. Also included are accounts of those pilots on both sides who became aces and the political considerations that often curtailed attempts by the American flyers to decisively defeat the MiG menace. Attention is also paid to those who were shot down and the fates of the men who survived that experience.

The author is a veteran United States Air Force pilot who, as a young academy cadet listened to the stories of former F-86 pilots, many of whom shared their experiences with the would-be flyers. He never forgot their tales and has gathered the accounts of 60 Sabre pilots to shed new light on the subject. The book is engaging and detailed. It deftly pulls the reader in with battle stories of pilots in combat. Moreover, it recounts the larger course of the war and how the Sabre pilots fit into the larger scope of the conflict.

Deadly Sabre Dance

When you’re preflighting an airplane that has just rolled out of the factory, you expect it to be perfect. But every pilot knows that perfection is elusive in aviation, and simple mistakes can snowball into disastrous mishaps within seconds. First Lieutenant Barty R. Brooks found that out the hard way on January 10, 1956.

That afternoon Brooks and two other U.S. Air Force pilots reported to North American Aviation Corporation’s Palmdale, Calif., factory and signed acceptance papers for three shiny new F-100C Super Sabres. The three men, members of the 1708th Ferrying Wing, Detachment 12, based at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas, would be flying the “Huns” to their new duty station at George Air Force Base, barely a 10-minute hop to the southeast, at Victorville. For the ferry pilots, who routinely trained to deliver new planes across oceans, the day’s assignment must have seemed like a walk in the park.

Brooks walked around the jet, checking for the usual signs of trouble: leaking fluids, unlatched fasteners, underinflated tires and the like. Since he was new to the F-100, like most pilots in 1956, he may not have known that when ground crews towed the plane they disconnected the torque link from the nose gear scissors by removing the pivot pin, which had to be reinserted and secured before flight. Brooks didn’t notice the pin wasn’t secure. Completing his inspection, he mounted up with the others.
All three pilots started their engines, and the leader, Captain Rusty Wilson, checked the flight in on the radio. The third pilot in the group was Lieutenant Crawford Shockley. They took off at 1512 hours, undoubtedly expecting to make happy hour at the George officer’s club.

The Making of a Jet Pilot
Brooks was born into a farming family in Martha, Okla., in 1929. His family later moved to Lewisville, Texas, northwest of Dallas. Bart studied at Texas A&M, where he joined the Cadet Corps. At 6-feet-3, Brooks towered over most lowerclassmen, to whom he became known as “Black Bart.”

By the time Brooks graduated in 1952 with an agriculture degree, flying had captured his fancy. After collecting his ROTC commission, he headed to Columbus, Miss., for basic flight training. John Wilson, Bart’s friend and classmate at Columbus, reflected that because of his training at Texas A&M, Bart was a model officer: “He wore the uniform well. He was well liked and represented the Air Force as well as any officer. He was just a super person.”

Brooks went on to Laredo, Texas, for jet training, then reported to the 311th Fighter-Bomber Wing in Korea, where he flew Republic F-84s and North American F-86s. Although he arrived in Korea too late to see combat, Brooks gained a profound sympathy for the Korean people in the aftermath of the fighting. He joined an organization that cared for Korean orphans, supporting a girl and three boys.

After Korea, Brooks was assigned to the 1708th as a ferry pilot. The idea was to get the planes from factories to bases without interrupting the training routines of operational units, just as the WASPs had during World War II. Former ferry pilot Joe Hillner recalled that Bart Brooks was one of about 100 pilots in the outfit. “We were required to maintain currency in at least two jet fighters,” he said, “and as many [propeller] planes (such as the F-51, L-20, T-6, B-25, B-26, etc.) as we wanted.”

Brooks went to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for his F-100 checkout. The ferry pilots were given a short course because they had been previously qualified as mission-ready in older fighters. So when Brooks took off from Palmdale that fateful day in January 1956, he had only logged a bit more than 40 hours in the Super Sabre.

Brooks had already had one brief brush with fame. While he was still in gunnery school at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, he was one of three trainees featured in an article in The New York Times Magazine’s May 2, 1954, issue, “The Making of a Jet Pilot.” Describing Brooks as “very tall and blond,” author C.B. Palmer added: “His height and spareness give an impression of awkwardness. His physical movements are slow but they cover the ground. He is rough-cut in appearance, very open and simple in his responses to questions.” Following the trainees through a day of briefings, gunnery practice, academics and time off, Palmer described them all as “acceptable men and the only concern here is to make them the best possible.”

Emergency Diversion to Edwards
The flight of three Super Sabres roared over George Air Force Base late that afternoon, sequentially breaking to the downwind leg. Then all three slowed and lowered their gear—and that’s when the trouble started.

One of Brooks’ flight mates noticed that his F-100’s nose wheel scissors was disconnected. The unsecured pivot pin had worked loose and fallen out, causing the scissors assembly to fall open and allowing the nose wheel to swivel at random. Fearing his aircraft might swerve off the runway on touchdown, Brooks powered up and went around. He decided to divert to nearby Edwards Air Force Base, home to the USAF Flight Test Center.

Fighter pilots never allow one of their own to fly alone if he is in trouble. Wilson escorted Brooks to Edwards, whose 15,000-foot runway provided a wide safety margin and whose fire and rescue crews were accustomed to emergencies. Brooks’ decision to go to Edwards set the stage for arguably the most famous film footage in aviation history.

Edwards was then in its heyday. Its cadre of test pilots frequently vied to best each other, routinely breaking speed and altitude records, while engineers worked to analyze the data gathered from their efforts. As the afternoon of January 10 was winding down, the base’s film crew was gearing up for yet another test, with camera operators readying their equipment. Suddenly firefighting equipment roared toward the runway, and the cameramen spotted an F-100 coming around the final turn on approach. The crews switched on their equipment and swung their viewfinders toward the incoming jet.

Behind the Power Curve
Brooks’ experience in Korean War–era jets hadn’t fully prepared him for the new generation of fighters, particularly the dicey F-100. The Hun was the result of North American Aviation’s quest to improve on its success with the F-86 Sabre, which established a 10-to-1 kill ratio in Korea. First produced in 1953, the F-100 was bigger than the F-86 and capable of supersonic flight, with a meatier engine, more wing sweep (45 degrees versus 35 degrees in the F-86) and a new device that generated powerful pulses of thrust at the touch of the pilot’s throttle hand—an afterburner.

Early models, the A and C (there was no B), had no trailing edge flaps, which meant their approach speeds were much higher than with previous jets. Hun pilots had to think faster and farther ahead. And because of its highly swept wings, the new fighter had vicious stalling characteristics. At low speeds, the tips stalled first, with the stall progressing inboard. This not only rendered the ailerons less effective but also shifted the center of lift forward of the center of gravity, resulting in a tendency to pitch up—which in turn aggravated the stall.

The Hun had other insidious tendencies. As Curtis Burns, one of Brooks’ friends, pointed out, “The F-100C had…a dangerous tendency to [develop] adverse yaw and roll-coupling at a high angle of attack.” These are complex aerodynamic and inertia forces that interact with each other. A roll at slow speed and a high angle of attack can produce unwanted pitch or yaw. The F-100 was notorious for this. Jack Doub, a veteran of the legendary Misty F-100 squadron in Vietnam, put it succinctly: “Most of us quickly learned to deal with low-and-slow issues—we avoided them!”

But Barty Brooks had not yet learned the F-100’s quirky ways. At 1627 hours Pacific time he rounded the final turn and saw that his descent rate would put him on Edwards’ runway prior to reaching the area the fire trucks had covered with foam. He raised his nose to stretch his approach toward the foam, but he was late adding more power.

His airspeed fell. His wingtips began to stall. The wings rocked. Adverse yaw coupled in, and the nose swayed left and right as Brooks applied aileron pressure to stop the rolling motion. As his airspeed dropped, the oscillations worsened and the nose pitched higher because the center of lift was moving forward. Realizing he was seriously behind the power curve—the “region of reverse command,” where more power is required to sustain flight at lower airspeeds—Brooks lit his afterburner.

The Dance
Footage from the base’s cameras clearly shows a blue plume blasting dirt from the runway and adjacent desert. The raw power of the F-100C’s afterburner blast, coupled with the pitch-up of the creeping stall, raised the Hun’s nose even higher, until it was nearly vertical.

Brooks, however, was by that time too low and slow to be able to safely eject. Unlike modern “zero-zero” ejection seats, the seats of his era had to be used at a minimum airspeed and altitude in order for an ejection to be survivable.

The film shows that Brooks twice lowered the nose to lessen his angle of attack and try to fly out of the impending stall. But each time the nose pitched up again, and each time the burner blasted a fresh spray of dirt from the ground. Moving in a slow, eerie fashion, the Hun waltzed down the runway, then over its perimeter, snout jutting skyward, swaying almost gracefully from side to side. The nearby rescue vehicles gunned their engines to get out of the jet’s path.

As Brooks struggled with the pitch oscillations, the Hun rolled right, then hesitated and rolled steeper to the right. His heading swerved 90 degrees from the runway. The bank angle steepened to close to 90 degrees, and the fighter fell into the ground on its right wingtip. An enormous explosion erupt­ed, spewing out a ball of upward-boiling, pitch-black smoke laced with ribbons of flame. Debris rose, fell and tumbled in all directions. The fire and rescue teams arrived within mere seconds, quickly reducing the inferno to a few isolated fires. They reached Brooks in less than two minutes, but found him dead, still strapped in his seat, which had torn loose from its mounts and rolled free of the wreckage.

Stories have long circulated that Brooks survived the crash only to die of asphyxiation, having suffocated from his own vomit. Not true. His helmet and oxygen mask were not on his head when rescuers found him. Both were found in the wreckage.

The investigating officer concluded that Brooks had been at fault: He had failed to adhere to the landing techniques outlined in the pilot’s flight handbook. Contributing factors were the loose pivot pin and the fact that Brooks had been distracted by “too much emphasis on trying to hit the foam.”

Brooks’ friends and others close to the accident agreed that if he had continued his rate of descent and landed short of the foam, instead of trying to stretch his approach, the outcome would have been far different. In later discussions, several pilots who talked with North American engineers indicated that Brooks’ nose wheel would likely have aligned itself on touchdown.

The film of the accident was soon circulated among Air Force and Navy units for safety training purposes. Bart’s fatal ride was quickly tagged the “Sabre dance.”

Encore Performances
There were many other accounts of similar incidents. Pilot Sam McIntyre, for example, wrote: “In 1961 at Nellis AFB I saw an F-100D do the Sabre Dance. On the take off [his] nose pitched straight up and that’s when the dance began….the right wing dropped and touched the ground, the nose dropped just enough for the pilot to gain some control. He flew it out of the stall, just a few feet above our heads and over the tails of other F-100s….” The pilot who survived that episode flew on to the gunnery range, apparently undaunted, but the incident so unnerved McIntyre’s flight that the men aborted their mission.

Curtis Burns, a classmate of Bart’s at A&M, had a hard time watching the film, but he realized that there were valuable lessons to be learned from it. “Our squadron was shown film clips of his crash and it was obvious…what mistakes he made,” Burns said. “I have seen several pilots die in fiery crashes when they made mistakes in handling the F-100.”

Ron Green was one of the pilots who learned from Brooks’ mistakes. “Prior to our first solo flight in a ‘C’ model,” he said, “we watched the film of the Sabre Dance….After watching this I said to myself, if [Brooks] had only applied full [power] and full opposite rudder, and slammed the stick forward when the nose rose and it started to roll, he would have survived.” The next day Green mounted up for his initial solo. Approaching to land, he recalled, “Everything was going good….Then at round-out I must [have]…pulled back on the stick [too much].” The Super Sabre’s nose jumped up so high that Green couldn’t see out front. He applied full power, kicked full rudder opposite the roll and pushed the stick forward. The jet rolled upright and the nose went down. He hit the runway in a three-point attitude, bounced back into the air and slowly accelerated. “It [the Brooks film] saved my life!” he said.

Medley Gatewood got a colossal scare when he was a new instructor, flying in the back seat of a tandem cockpit F-100F, with a student in front. While trying to land, the student raised the nose too high, and the right wing dropped. The student countered with left aileron but didn’t apply rudder. The nose yawed violently right. “At that point,” Gatewood said, “time and motion seemed suspended, and…the famous Sabre dance film flickered through my thoughts.”

Gatewood took over, applied left rudder, lowered the nose and went to military power (maximum power without afterburner). Remembering how Brooks’ use of the afterburner seemed to aggravate the nose-high attitude, he stopped short of engaging it. The Hun bounced out of a three-point landing and slowly climbed out. Gatewood was “shaking like a quaking Aspen tree” when a wingman joined up and informed him that the fairings on both his wingtips were bent upward from hitting the ground. As they came back around the pattern, the student asked to resume control before the landing, but Gatewood refused, using a few very choice words.

Incredibly, at least one pilot intentionally waltzed with the Super Sabre—in front of thousands of awed spectators. In an online forum, Bill Turner recalled a memorable airshow he saw in North Carolina in the late 1950s: “Bob Hoover did a ‘Sabre Dance’ with an F-100. I have never seen anything like it. It seemed to stop in space in front of us and twist and turn like a bird catching a bug. Great plane, greater pilot.” Few would argue with him.

As the years passed, the story of Brooks’ last ride was told countless times in bars and hangars. Inevitably it was also mentioned in a verse of the renowned fighter pilot song “Give Me Operations”:

Don’t give me a One-Double-Oh
To fight against friendly or foe
That old Sabre Dance made me
crap in my pants
Don’t give me a One-Double-Oh

The film of Brooks’ accident undoubtedly saved lives after he died. Generations of fledgling Air Force and Navy pilots—the author included—were shown the legendary film footage in ground school, watching aghast as Bart waltzed toward his death.

In a very different context, many more people would also get to see the Sabre dance: tens of thousands of moviegoers and TV watchers. The dramatic crash footage was incorporated into a handful of major films and television series (see sidebar, above).

Separating the Man From the Legend
Looking back now, it might seem insensitive to use footage of a military man’s death in such a manner. Air Force officials never told Brooks’ parents, both now deceased, about the film. In fact his niece, Kaelan Anderson, only recently learned of the film’s existence when I asked her about it. She said: “I do not want to view these movies [and] I object that they used the film to make money. I will always cherish the memories of my Uncle Bart. He was a special man, and he was loved by all his family and friends.”

Former Super Sabre pilot John Wilson agreed, saying, “I have big problems when I have seen it in the commercial movies.” Wilson, who was supposed to be piloting the plane that Brooks flew that day, explained: “I had planned to go back to New York for the Christmas holidays. When Bart heard that my leave had been canceled and that I had been assigned to fly that mission, he stepped up and said, ‘I’ve been home recently. You go on leave and I’ll take the flight for you.’ So as you can see I’m somewhat emotional about the accident….I loved the guy. He did me a big favor, and it killed him.”

Lieutenant Barty R. Brooks lies in Round Grove Cemetery in Lewisville, Texas. But his legendary Sabre dance will live on, as long as there are pilots left who remember the film of his tragic accident. Anytime they watch it, or replay those ghastly images in their memo­ry, they’ll be silently admonishing Bart to lower his nose and push that damned rudder.

History Of F-86 Sabre Fighter Jet

Considered the foremost military aircraft of the Fifties, the F-86 Sabre was a highly versatile fighter jet as fast as it was lethal.

The F-86 Sabre was a single-seat fighter jet built by North American Aviation (now part of Boeing) in the late-Forties. The aircraft – the first western jet to feature swept wings, as well as one of the first capable of breaking the sound barrier in a dive – saw action throughout the Korean War and Cold War.

Built initially to combat the Russian MiG-15, the Sabre was geared towards flight superiority roles, dispatched to undertake furious high-speed dogfights. Though inferior to the Russian jet in terms of lightness and weaponry, the reduced transonic drag delivered by the swept wings – combined with its streamlined fuselage and advanced electronics – granted it far superior handling. This ability to outmanoeuvre the MiG-15 soon saw it establish supremacy in combat.

Despite overall armament inferiority to its rivals, the Sabre was one of the first military jets capable of firing guided air-to-air missiles and later variants, such as the F-86E, were fitted with radar and targeting systems that were revolutionary for the time. These factors, along with its high service ceiling (ie maximum altitude) and its generous range of around 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles), therefore enabled it to intercept any enemy aircraft with ease.

However, today the Sabre is most known for its world record-breaking performances, with variants of the jet setting five official speed records over a six-year period in the Forties and Fifties. Indeed, the F-86D made history in 1952 by not just setting the overall world speed record (1,123 kilometres/698 miles per hour), but then bettering it by an additional 27 kilometres (17 miles) per hour the following year.

Today no F-86s are still in service in national militaries, but due to their iconic status and reliable handling, many remain in operation in the civilian sphere, with 50 privately owned jets registered in the US alone.

Who was high flyer Jacqueline Cochran?

Born in 1906, Jacqueline Cochran was a pioneering American aviator and one of the most gifted pilots of her generation. This skill in the air eventually led her to become the first woman in the world to officially break the sound barrier -an amazing feat which she performed in a custom-built, one-off F-86 Sabre.

The record was broken on 18 May 1953 at Rogers Dry Lake in California. In her F-86, Cochran racked up an average speed of 1,050 kilometres (652 miles) per hour, breaking the sound barrier with fellow famous pilot Chuck Yeager as her wingman. Cochran would also go on to become the first woman to take off from an aircraft carrier as well as to reach Mach 2.

F-86 Sabre main parts

Wing – Both wings and tail are swept back, with the former fitted with electrically operated flaps and automatic leading-edge slats. The swept wings lend it excellent agility in dogfights.

Fuselage – A tapered conical fuselage is installed with a nose cone air inlet. Air is ducted under the cockpit and delivered to the J47 engine before being expelled at the rear via a nozzle.

Engine – The F-86E uses a GE J47-13 turbojet engine capable of outputting 2,358kgf (5,200lbf) of thrust. This raw power grants it a top horizontal speed of about 1,050km/h (650mph).

Cockpit – The F-86E is fitted with a small bubble canopy cockpit that covers a single-seat cabin. The cockpit is in a very forward position, tucked just behind the nose cone.

Weaponry – The Sabre is equipped with six .50-caliber (12.7mm) M2 Browning machine guns and 16 127mm (5in) HVAR rockets, as well as a variety of freefall bombs and unguided missiles.

Electronics – An A-1CM gun sight in partnership with an AN/APG-3G radar system makes the F-86E one of the most technologically advanced jets of its time. The radar can quickly work out the range to potential targets.

Later Use

In the years after the war, the F-86 was retired from frontline squadrons as the Century Series fighters, such as the F-100 Super Sabre, F-102 Delta Dagger, and F-106 Delta Dart, started to arrive. This saw F-86s transferred to Air National Guard units for use by reservists. The aircraft remained in service with reserve units until 1970.

RAF Sabres

In 1948, the Canadian government decided to re-equip the RCAF with the F-86 Sabre and Canadair was contracted to produce them in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. An initial batch of 10 aircraft was ordered for tool verification. The Korean War changed this to a production batch of 100 aircraft. Canadair slowly built up its production facility to make all components with related equipment obtained from other Canadian suppliers. Canadair gave the Sabre the project number CL-13.

Canadair produced six versions of the CL-13 Sabre. The sole Sabre Mk.1 was essentially the same as the North American Sabre F-86A. It had a General Electric J47-GE-13 turbojet of 5,200 lbf (23 kN) thrust. The Sabre Mk.2 had the same engine, although after the first 20 aircraft were produced, the remainder of the production run was distinguished in having power-assisted controls and an “all-flying” tailplane. The sole Sabre Mk 3 was the first of the Canadian Sabres to use the Avro Canada Orenda turbojet (Orenda 3 with 6,000 lbf (27 kN) thrust). The Sabre Mk.4 retained the General Electric engine and was destined for the RAF and was later passed on to other overseas air forces.

In mid-1952, the Sabre Mk. 4 went into production with the first one flown on 28 August 1952. Apart from some minor structural and systems changes, including improved air-conditioning and gun sight, the Mk 2 and the Mk 4 were identical. Of 438 Mk 4s built, approximately 70 were used temporarily by the RCAF, all surviving examples being passed to the RAF. The other Sabre 4s went directly to the RAF under a mutual aid program, equipping 11 RAF squadrons. The majority served in West Germany with NATO, with two squadrons being based in the UK as part of RAF Fighter Command. The Sabre Mk. 4 served with the RAF until mid-1956 when they were replaced by Hawker Hunters. The survivors were overhauled in the UK, fitted with 𔃶-3’ wing modifications and handed to the USAF (which had funded these aircraft) which in turn passed them on to other NATO members, with the majority going to Italy and Yugoslavia.

Sabre with RAF

It is not widely known, but the Canadair Sabre served with Britain’s Royal Air Force for a brief time. During the early 1950s, the Sabres of the RCAF were actually the only swept-wing fighters available for the defense of Western Europe. At that time, the Royal Air Force was still flying such straight-winged types as the Gloster Meteor and the DeHavilland Vampire while they waited for the swept-wing Supermarine Swift and Hawker Hunter to reach production status. Early in 1953 the RAF somewhat reluctantly decided to acquire the Canadair Sabre to fill in the gap. United States MDAP funds helped to provide 430 Sabre Mk 2 and Mk 4 fighters for the RAF.

Britain obtained three Mk 2 Sabres for the RAF in October 1952. These were loaned in preparation for the delivery of no less than 428 Sabre Mk 4s. Deliveries of Sabre Mk 4s continued from December 1952 to December 1953. They were supplied to the Royal Air Force for use in Germany as Britain’s contribution to the NATO effort. The RAF kept Canadair’s mark numbers, but rendered them in British style as F.2 and F.4. RAF serials for the Canadair Sabres were XB530/550 (21), XB575/603 (29), XB606/646 (41), XB664/713 (50), XB726/769 (44), XB790/839 (50), XB856/905 (50), XB941/990 (50), XD102/138 (37), XD707/736 (30), and XD753/781 (29). One Sabre F.4 (XB551) was procured separately to replace a Sabre F.2 (XB530) which was returned to Canada. The lot XD102/138 was later re-serialled as follows. XD102/105 –> XB647/650, XD106/111 –> XB770/775, XD112/116 –> XB851/855, and XD117/138 –> XB978/999. This ended up causing some duplication of some serial numbers in the XB941/990 branch, which was eradicated by separately having XB901/905 being reserialed as XB912/916 and XB941/990 becoming XB917/977.

Those Sabres purchased with MDAP funds were assigned USAF serial numbers 52-10177/10236, although they never actually served with the USAF.

The first RAF Squadron to take delivery of the Sabre was No 67 Tactical Air Force Squadron, which became operational in May of 1953. In December No. 66 Squadron became the first RAF Fighter Command Sabre unit. RAF Tactical Air Force Squadrons Nos 3, 4, 20, 26, 67, 71, 93, 112, 130, and 234 reequipped with Sabres and were based in Germany. Fighter Command Squadrons No.66 and 92 remained in Britain with their Sabres.

RAF Sabre XB982 (the 773rd Canadair-built Sabre) was used as a test bed for the Bristol Siddeley Orpheus 801 engine in 1958. It made its first flight on July 3, 1958, and made subsequent flights with upgraded versions of that non-afterburning engine, which produced 6810 pounds of thrust. Had this engine become available earlier, the Orpheus engine may well have been adopted for the RAF Sabre, but by this time the Sabre had reached the end of the line and more advanced aircraft were already entering service.

The service of the Sabre with the RAF was rather brief, the aircraft being seen only as an interim type. By June of 1956, all RAF Sabres based in Germany had been replaced by Hawker Hunters. The ex-RAF Sabres were then transferred to other European air forces, notably Italy (180 aircraft) and Yugoslavia (121 aircraft).

Between 1956 and 1958, 302 ex-RAF Sabres were returned to the USAF. These planes were painted in camouflage, provided with USAF national markings and even given spurious USAF serial numbers (actually their original RCAF serials). These were assigned the designation F-86E(M) for record-keeping purposes, where the M stood for *Modified*.

The Sabre Mk.5 was the next production version, equipped with an Orenda 10 with 6,500 lbf (29 kN) thrust. A change to the Orenda 14 with 7,440 lbf (33 kN) powered the Sabre Mk.6. The designation Sabre Mk.7 was mainly experimental.

The last Sabre to be manufactured by Canadair (Sabre #1815), after being donated by the Pakistan Air Force, is now part of the permanent collection in the Western Canada Aviation Museum (WCAM) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. From 1950 to 1958, a total of 1,815 CL-13 Sabres were built at the Canadair plant in Montreal.

F-86 Sabre - History

During the Gatineau Airshow, Chris Hadfield took to the air in the Vintage Wings of Canada, Golden Hawks "Hawk One" F-86 Sabre! Performing a few high speed passes, one of which includes a wing wave.

Squadron Sabre over Niagara Falls

was a jet fighter aircraft built by Canadair under licence from North American Aviation. A variant of the North American F-86 Sabre, it was produced until 1958 and used primarily by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) until replaced with the Canadair CF-104 in 1962. Several other air forces also operated the aircraft.

In 1948, the Canadian government decided to re-equip the RCAF with the F-86 Sabre with Canadair contracted to produce them in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. An initial batch of 10 aircraft was ordered for tool verification. The Korean War changed this to a production batch of 100 aircraft. Canadair slowly built up its production facility to make all components with related equipment obtained from other Canadian suppliers. Canadair gave the Sabre the project number CL-13.

Canadair produced six versions of the CL-13 Sabre. The sole Sabre Mk.1 was essentially the same as the North American Sabre F-86A. It had a General Electric J47-GE-13 turbojet of 5,200 lbf (23 kN) thrust. The Sabre Mk.2 had the same engine, although after the first 20 aircraft were produced, the remainder of the production run was distinguished in having power-assisted controls and an "all-flying" tailplane. The sole Sabre Mk 3 was the first of the Canadian Sabres to use the Avro Canada Orenda turbojet (Orenda 3 with 6,000 lbf (27 kN) thrust). The Sabre Mk.4 retained the General Electric engine and was destined for the RAF and was later passed on to other overseas air forces. The Sabre Mk.5 was the next production version, equipped with an Orenda 10 with 6,500 lbf (29 kN) thrust. A change to the Orenda 14 with 7,440 lbf (33 kN) powered the Sabre Mk.6.

The last Sabre to be manufactured by Canadair (Sabre #1815), after being donated by the Pakistan Air Force, is now part of the permanent collection in the Western Canada Aviation Museum(WCAM) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. From 1950 to 1958, a total of 1,815 CL-13 Sabres were built at the Canadair plant in Montreal.

The second generation of Canadair Sabre aircraft, and first to be built in quantity, was the Mk 2, with 350 produced from 1952–1953. The RCAF received 290 of these improved aircraft. During the first half of 1952, the remaining 60 Mk.2s were supplied to the U.S. Air Force for use in the Korean War. Most RCAF Mk.2 Sabres were utilized in the air defence role with NATO's No. 1 Air Division in Europe, proving itself to be an outstanding dogfighter. Others were assigned to the training role at bases in Canada. After replacement by the Sabre 5 in RCAF service from 1954, just over 210 surviving Sabre 2s were overhauled and modified in the UK and supplied in roughly equal numbers to the Greek Air Force and Turkish Air Forces.

In mid-1952, the Sabre Mk.4 went into production with the first one flown on 28 August 1952. Apart from some minor structural and systems changes, including improved air-conditioning and gun sight, the Mk 2 and the Mk 4 were identical. Of 438 Mk 4s built, approximately 70 were used temporarily by the RCAF, all surviving examples being passed to the RAF. The other Sabre 4s went directly to the RAF under a mutual aid program, equipping 11 RAF squadrons. The majority served in West Germany with NATO, with two squadrons being based in the UK as part of RAF Fighter Command. The Sabre Mk.4 served with the RAF until mid-1956 when they were replaced by Hawker Hunters. The survivors were overhauled in the UK, fitted with ƌ-3' wing modifications and handed to the USAF (which had funded these aircraft) which in turn passed them on to other NATO members, with the majority going to Italy and Yugoslavia.

On 30 July 1953, the first Sabre Mk.5 flew with the Orenda 10 engine, which gave it a clear rate of climb and ceiling advantage over earlier variants. Other Mk 5 improvements included a new oxygen system and improved maneuverability and low-speed characteristics achieved by increasing the wing chord by six in (15.2 cm) at the root and three in. (7.2 cm) at the wing tip along with fitting a small vertical wing fence. This modification, originated by North American on the F-86F, dramatically improved maneuverability, though the loss of the slatted leading edge increased landing speed and degraded low speed handling considerably. Canadair built 370 Mk 5s with the majority designated for use in the RCAF's Air Division squadrons in Europe to replace the Mk.2s. A total of 75 RCAF Sabre 5s were transferred to the German Luftwaffe during 1957.

The Canadair Sabre Mk.6 was the final variant and was considered to be the "best" production Sabre ever built. It was equipped with a two-stage Orenda engine developing 7,275 lb (3,302 kg.) of static thrust. Its altitude performance and climb rate was enhanced over the Mk 5 and the reinstatement of the wing leading edge slat gave it excellent low-speed characteristics. The first production model was completed on 2 November 1954 and ultimately 655 were built with production terminating on 9 October 1958.

A total of 390 Mk 6s went to the RCAF with the majority replacing the existing Canadair Sabre Mk 5s at the Air Division squadrons in West Germany and France. The main air threats to NATO in the 1950s in Central Europe were the early variants of the Soviet MiG- the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21. Based on the Korean War experience, the selection of the Mk 6 Sabre to provide an effective opposition to the MiG threat proved to be a logical one. Canada's commitment to NATO was to provide 12 squadrons located at four bases – two in France (Marville and Grostenquin) and two in West Germany (Zweibrücken and Baden Soellingen). Initially, the contribution consisted of only Sabre aircraft however, later it was decided to include the Avro Canada CF-100 aircraft in the defense package to provide a night and all-weather fighter capability.

Though the main use of the Sabre by the RCAF was in Europe, they were also used by RCAF Auxiliary part-time units in Canada, replacing de Havilland Vampire jets. 400 "City Of Toronto" and 411 "County Of York" Squadrons based at RCAF Station Downsview near Toronto, as well as 401 "City Of Westmount" and 438 "City Of Montreal" Squadrons at RCAF Station St-Hubert near Montreal, were equipped with Sabre 5s, as was 442 "City Of Vancouver" Squadron at RCAF Station Sea Island, near Vancouver.

In addition to the RCAF deliveries, 225 Canadair Mk 6 Sabres were exported to the West German Luftwaffe, six were delivered to the Colombian Air Force, and 34 went to the South African Air Force.

In January 1966, Germany sold 90 of its Canadian Mk 6 Sabres to Iran. These aircraft were quickly transferred to Pakistan and became the main day fighter of the Pakistan Air Force.

Canadair Sabres were the mainstay of their respective air forces in the two major conflicts in which they were employed: the Korean War, where F-86 Sabres racked up an impressive 6-1 kill record, and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The diminutive Folland Gnat was its main opponent in the Indo-Pakistan war. By the end of 1971, the Gnat proved to be a frustrating opponent for the larger, heavier and older Sabre. The Gnat was referred to as a "Sabre Slayer" by the Indian Air Force since most of its combat kills during the two wars were against Sabres. Although the Canadair Sabre Mk 6 was widely regarded as the best dogfighter of its era, tactics called for Gnats taking on the Sabres in the vertical arena, where the Sabres were at a disadvantage. Moreover, because the Gnat was lightweight and compact in shape, it was hard to see, especially at the low levels where most of the dogfights took place.

How the Soviets Stole an American F-86 Sabre Jet in 1951

During the Korean War (1950 to 1953) America and her allies sided with South Korea, while Russia and China sided with North Korea. Among their many weapons, the US had the North American F-86 Sabre (also called the Sabrejet), while North Korea used the Russian MIG-15. Both sides were therefore curious to know about the other’s planes. Which is why, the Soviets decided to steal a Sabre.

The US began using F-86s in 1949 as part of the 1 st Fighter Wing’s 94 th Fighter Squadron. Their swept-wing design allowed them to achieve transonic speeds (above the speed of sound at 600 t0 768 mph), leaving their straight-winged counterparts coughing in the dust.

As such, they quickly became the main air-to-air fighters used in the Korean War, though earlier models of straight-winged jets like the F-80 and F-84 were still used. This changed on 1 November 1950 when the Soviets responded to the Sabre with their own Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet fighters.

The F-86 and the MiG-15 were similar in design, especially in their use of swept wings to achieve transonic speeds – but each had strengths and weaknesses.

F-86 Sabre

Sabres could achieve speeds of 685 mph, as well as turn, roll, and dive faster. They were also more aerodynamically stable. Finally, they were equipped with AN/APG-30 radar gunsights. These allowed pilots to quickly aim their six 0.50-caliber machine guns more accurately, even compensating for speed.

MiGs could hit 670 mph, were better at climbing and acceleration rates, could fight at higher altitudes, and were far more maneuverable. Their aim, however, wasn’t anywhere near as good as a Sabre, but they more than made up for it with two 23-mm and a single 37-mm cannon.

Overall, however, the Sabre and the MiG were evenly matched. Most of their battles were fought over northwestern North Korea – a zone called Mig Alley. It stretched between North Korea and China, and spanned the Yalu River all the way to the Yellow Sea.

MiG Alley

Although the MiGs were officially flown only by North Koreans, Soviet fighters actually did much of the flying, many of whom were WWII veterans. The Americans who flew the Sabres were also veterans of that conflict.

With their aerial superiority gone, the US launched Operation Moolah. They knew that neither the Chinese nor the North Koreans could have developed the MiGs, so the Soviets were obviously involved. With Soviet citizens risking their lives to defect to the West, it was hoped that some Soviet pilots would do the same.

To ensure that they did, secret agents in the Soviet Union created rumors that any pilot who defected with an MiG in tow would receive $100,000 and US citizenship. Little did they realise that the Soviets would beat them at their own game.

On 6 October 1951, 2 nd Lieutenant Bill N. Garret’s patrol engaged the Soviet 324 th Fighter Air Division – some of the highest scoring pilots in WWII. He was hit and ordered back to base while the rest of his patrol continued to fight. Neither side wanted to risk their jets falling into enemy hands, so Garrett obeyed.

On his way back, however, he encountered a patrol of four MiGs headed by Captain Konstantin Sheberstov. According to his interview in the Mir Aviatsii (a Russian aviation journal), Garret’s Sabre was trailing black smoke and making a controlled descent.

Shebertsov climbed to 3,300 feet, and when he closed in with the American at 975 to 1,150 feet, he fired his cannons. They hit the Sabre behind the cockpit, damaging its J-47 engine and also knocking out the pilot’s ejections seat.

Unable to fire back, Garret began evasive manoeuvres, but lost altitude while Shebertsov continued to tail him. The Soviet captain knew his government wanted a Sabre, so he was faced with a dilemma.

A North Korean MiG-15 at the Chinese Aviation Museum in Beijing, China. Photo Credit

Soviets were not allowed to fly into UN-occupied territory, meaning into South Korea. They also couldn’t attack enemy planes up-close to avoid identification. The Soviet Union was not officially involved in the Korean War, after all, so their pilots wore North Korean uniforms. These rules were so strictly enforced that when a Soviet pilot jettisoned over the sea, his fellow pilots strafed him and his plane to avoid capture and identification.

So Shebertsov needed to bring Garret down before the American reached UN airspace, but neither could he destroy the Sabre if he could possibly avoid it. Garret’s slow descent was exactly what he needed, therefore. It would hopefully crash without too much damage.

The Sabre shot toward the coastline of the Yellow Sea, trying to make it as close to friendly territory, as possible. Garret also knew that the Soviets wanted his plane, so he was desperate to ditch it in the water.

He finally reached the coast, but failed to make it into the Yellow Sea. He had crashed into the beach when a rescue pilot found him and got him out but the plane was another matter, entirely. It was stuck in the mud pools. North Koreans fired at him, so Garret and his rescuers fled.

In the skies, a battle raged as MiGs fought to claim their prize, while Sabres tried to fight them off. Then the tide started coming in. Hundreds of Chinese and North Koreans scrambled to disassemble the Sabre before the sea swallowed it completely, but they were constantly picked off by American planes and by US Navy ships sailing off the coast.

Despite losing seven MiGs, the Soviets got their prize and carted the pieces back to the Soviet Union in a convoy of trucks. They had to travel by night because the Americans had followed them into China, attacking the lead truck, which got away. With Soviet and Chinese pilots to harass the Americans, the pieces made their way back to Russia. Days later on October 24, they captured yet another Sabre.

Desperate, the Americans extended Operation Moolah into China and North Korea, broadcasting their offer on the radio and by dumping leaflets out of planes. It paid off. On 21 September 1952, Senior Lieutenant No Kum Sok defected to South Korea by landing his North Korean MiG-15 at the Kimpo Air Force Base.

F-86 Sabre Pilots Association

When the first MiG-15s appeared in the skies over North Korea in late 1950, they were vastly superior in appearance to the United Nations aircraft then in use there. In response the U.S. Air Force rushed three F-86 squadrons to South Korea, later to be expanded to four wings. Vastly outnumbered in the beginning, the Sabre pilots took on their adversaries, flying fighter sweeps along the Yalu River border between China and North Korea, known as MiG Alley, and flying cover for fighter-bombers attacking North Korean targets. The MiGs flew from sanctuary bases in China, which were not allowed to be attacked.

The MiG-15 and the F-86 were roughly equal in air performance. The MiG could climb and accelerate faster and had a more lethal gun package. The F-86 was more maneuverable at high speeds, had a better gunsight and had much longer range. Sabre pilots were better trained, and they adapted to high altitude air combat better than their adversaries, devising air tactics that provided greater flexibility and initiative. By the end of the war the ratio of total confirmed F-86 kills to losses was exceptionally high.

The Sabre Pilots Association honors all who

flew F-86 combat missions in the Korean War. Meriting special recognition are the following Sabre pilots who attained "Ace" status by destroying five or more enemy aircraft in aerial combat during the war.

[Names and numbers of victories listed]

Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Air & Space &bull War, Korean. A significant historical year for this entry is 1950.

Location. 38° 54.682′ N, 77° 26.536′ W. Marker is in Chantilly, Virginia, in Fairfax County. Marker is on Air and Space Museum Parkway west of Localizer Road, in the median. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly VA 20151, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. F-100 Super Sabre Society (here, next to this marker) The Distinguished Flying Cross Society (here, next to this marker) Piedmont Airlines (here, next to this marker) The Flying Tigers (here, next to this marker) The Tuskegee Airmen (here, next to this marker) Sully Plantation (approx. 0.6 miles away) The Sully Farms (approx. 0.7 miles away) Richard Bland Lee: Gentleman Farmer (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chantilly.

Watch the video: The History of The F 86 Sabre Documentary (January 2022).