NEAM's Sabre


North American Sabre F86D The North East Aircraft Museum's aircraft ( 51-6151 ) was purchased from the Greek Air Force and transported to Britain by road. It is the only F-86D in a British museum.

Sabre Knights aerobatic display team. Craig Blundred has obtained accurate schemes for the aircraft during this period, and it is planned to re-paint the aircraft in these colors.



The Sabre was the archetypal example of a second generation jet aircraft (along with the Mig 15). It was originally ordered by the US Air Force in August 1944, but the schedule was delayed to allow the incorporation of 35o swept-wings and tail, an innovation which had been pioneered by the Germans and was now being made available to the Allies. It was introduced into the US Air Force on 20. May 1948 and at the time of the Korean War could outfly any aircraft except the Mig-15.



The aircraft had its origins in the NA-134 project of late 1944, which was intended for the Navy as the XFJ-1.

When the USAAF issued a requirement for a medium - range day fighter, a modified design of the XFJ-1 was put forward in November 1944, the NA-140. In May 1945, USAAF authorized the purchase of three NA-140s (as XP-86)

Nevertheless, it seemed unlikely that that this aircraft would meet the standards required, but it was saved by the new technology from Deutschland, which was now becoming available to the Allies, particularly the concept of the swept wing. A swept wing of 35 degrees was incorporated into the design on 1. November 1945, followed later by a swept tail. Wind tunnel tests in September 1945 had confirmed the usefulness of swept-wings.

The XFJ-1 itself was developed into the FJ Fury for the US Navy.



First flight of the XP-86 prototype was on 1. Oct 1947, at Muroc, which became a bit extended because of some "excitement" with a nosewheel that had stuck. The test pilot was George Welch, a World War 2. ace, who had actually seen action in Hawaii on 17. December 1941, shooting down four Japanese. He had been with North American Aircraft since 1944 (and also features in the F-100 Super Sabre story). Aside - the first Mig-15 flew on 30. December 1947.

By going into a dive the Sabre was able to break the sound barrier for the first time in a conventional production aircraft and inhabitants of Los Angeles started to experience the booms in 1948 (the North American factory being situated on a site which has now been incorporated into Los Angeles Airport).

George Welch had gone through the sound barrier on April 26 1948. Officially this was the second American aircraft to achieve this, after the rocket-powered X-1 flown by Chuck Yeager on October 14, 1947. I say oficially, because there are stories around that maybe the P86 did go supersonic first, unofficially.

In June 1948, in line with the new designation for fighter aircraft the P-86 became the F-86.

On September 15, 1948, it set a new world record of 1079.836 kph, at Muroc Dry Lake. The record was previously held by a Douglas Skystreak with a speed of 1047.352 kph.

A previous attempt elsewhere, on 5. September, had been witnessed by a crowd of approximately 80.000 people, the only time that such a vast crowd observed such a proceeding. The speed achieved of 1077.420 kph was not officially recorded because of a few technical problems. Before long, production aircraft were routinely exceeding this speed.

The F86 was first delivered to USAF in February 1949, and received the name of Sabre on 4. March, apparently because one of the early aircraft had had a knife-like object painted on its tail.

The last aircraft was assembled in Japan in 1961. It was flown by 38 airforces, and license-built in four countries.

A naval version, the FJ Fury, was built for the Navy and Marines.



The Korean War started on 25. June 1950. Although it appeared to be over fairly soon, when North Korea was overrun, the situation was reversed when Chinese troops crossed the Yalu River in late November.

Mig-15s had actually been first sighted earlier, on 1. November 1950, and the first jet-to-jet encounter was on November 8. 1950 when an F-80-C shot down a Mig-15. On 9. and 10. November, 2 B29s were shot down.

On November 8, 1950, the Sabre was ordered to Korea, but, before it arrived, Chinese ground troops had entered the war on November 26. 1950. The first Sabre mission took place on December 17, when one Sabre was downed, but as China pushed South, they had to retreat to Japan, from 2. January 1951, where they were also out of range of the Yalu River and the "Mig Alley" area.

The Sabres had been based at Kimpo, 30 km. west of Seoul. The first mission on December 17. resulted in a Mig being downed on, but as an indication of the nature of the Mig, it apparently took about 1800 rounds of ammunition to achieve this feat. The first Sabre was shot down on 22. December 1950.

Some Sabres were sent to Taegu, in the very South of Korea, on 14.January 1951, where they were expected to fulfill a role as fighter-bombers, something for which the F86-A had not been intended. In early spring, the battle lines appeared to stabilize, although apparently the Chinese were actually planning a Spring Offensive. In March, Sabres were able to be send to Suwon base, and by August, they were inhabitating several bases which were consiered to be secure, including Kimpo.

The Mig was never actually used in ground battles, the fights in the air were therefore limited to the North of the country, with the Migs able to escape to their bases in China, if required. It was noticed that Migs tended to go into uncontollable spin, due possibly to unexperienced pilots, although this situation improved in 1953. Definitely the Mig had a higher ceiling - if they remained at height, they were immune from the Sabres ( the F86 could reach 12.800m, while the Mig cruised at 15.250m ).

Official figures say - 78 Sabres lost and 792 Migs. Many sources claimed that the Americans were better trained.

F86-D, Dog Sabre


From March 1949 work began on an all-weather interceptor. This particular design was originally designated as a completely new type - the F95, because it only retained the wing and landing gear of the original Sabre (there was only 25% commonality). However, in July 1950, it reverted to being the F86-D, apparently to avoid the Congressional scrutiny of a new type.

The first flight was on 22. December 1949, flown by George Welch. And he also flew a fully-equipped aircraft on 8. June 1951.

Heavier and more complex, it had an extremely advanced radar developed by the Hughes company with the scanner contained within a large radome above the air inlet. In its belly, in place of guns, there was a retractable pack of 24 Mighty Mouse rockets which could be fired against a moving target in a few seconds. To handle the extra weight an up-rated J-47 was fitted with an afterburner boosting thrust to 3470kg. It was to be piloted by one man, whereas previously this type of aircraft required two crew - the F86D was the first single-seat all weather (or night) fighter, and was the first in regular service to dispense with guns in favor of missiles.

It was delivered to USAAF in December 1951, but in reality, the radar system caused problems, which took some time to sort out properly. It was April 1953 before the aircraft could be used usefully.

The F-86D was the most numerous of all Saber types (2504 production aircraft were built).

In 1952, a Dogship flown by Captain J. Slade nash, raised the world speed record to 1124.1 km/hr, and on 16 July 1953, another Dogship flown by Lieutenent Colonel Barnes, raised the world speed record to 1151.8 km/hr.

The aircraft experienced early problems which persisted. In 1953 the entire US fleet of F86Ds was grounded. After this period, the F86-D began to suffer engine failures. The USAF determined that projects to modify and update the F86D were not worthwhile and phase-out began in 1957.

Originally the F86D was considered too secret to be exported and the F86K was constructed as an alternative all-weather fighter that could be exported.



Axial flow engine - straight thru flow, nose intake.

35 degree swept wing



  • F86A initial problems, but from F86A-5 problems solved.

  • F86C 2 test aircraft only. Used the Pratt and Whitney J48 - license built version of the Rolls-Royce Tay.

  • F86D all weather interceptor, see above.

  • F86E incorporated a flying tailplane , Oct 1951 to Korea. First flown by George Welch 23. September 1951. Entered USAF service on 9. February 1951.

  • F86F contained refinements resulting from experience of war. Built in Columbus, Ohio, at a factory formerly owned by Curtis-Wright (production was started here because of the pressure of the war). Appeared in 1952. Sent to Korea from 1952, with a definite improvement. In addition to its air-to-air role, first version to be widely used as a fighter-bomber. 1539 built.

  • F86H 9. May 1953. Fighter Bomber. Final US production version. Designed from the beginning as a fighter-bomber.

  • F86K All-weather interceptor, produced for export ( Originally the F86D was considered too secret to be exported ).

  • F86L upgrade of F86D

Other Countries


The Sabre was only exported from 1958

Argentina 28 F86-Fs from 1960. Saw action opposing an attemped coup in 1962. In April 1982, trials were held to see whether they could be operated from Port Stanley in the Falklands / Malvinas, but this idea was abandoned as impractical. Sabres did not participate in that particular dispute.

Australia Australia license-built the Sabre F86F as the CA-27, built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Company (CAC). 112 were built. This version was powered by Rolls-Royce Avons of 3.400 kg thrust, which was also license-built by CAC. Incidentally, Australia had favored this aircraft over the Hawker Hunter, among others. The prototype (CA-26) first flew on 13. July 1954, the production CA-27 first flew on ?? 1954 and it entered the Australian Air Force on 18. August 1954. Deliveries continued until 1961. From 1965-71, the Sabre was replaced by the Mirage 3.

The engine required extensive alterations to the airframe - it needed more air, was shorter, wider and lighter. In the end there was only about 60% commonality with the original aircraft.

By analogy with the Hawker Hunter, this type initially experienced engine surges when the guns were fired.

Bangladesh Inherited ex-German Canadair aircraft from Pakistan.


Bolivia Approximately 10 F86-Fs ex-Venezuala from 1973. In service until 1996.

Britain Received 428 Canadair Mark 4s (plus 2 Mark 2s) between 1956 and 1958. At the end of their service 302 of these were transferred to the the USA (of these 121 went to Yugoslavia, 179 to Italy)

Burma 12 Canadair, third-hand from Pakistan

Canada Canadair received a license to build Sabres (based on F86E) in Cartierville, nr. Montreal. 1815 were built, and apart from the Canadian forces over 40% were exported : 428 went to Britain, 300 to West Germany, 34 to South Africa, 60 to the USAF in 1952 (for use in Korea), and Colombia.

Latter versions used the Canadian-designed Avro Orenda axial flow turbojet.

The Sabers received by Britain were 428 from the total production of 438 of the Mark 4. These were powered by the General Electric J47, and the aircraft were known in the RAF as the Sabre F1. This supply was financed with help from the United States, and was due to delays with the Hunter and Swift .

Colombia 6 Canadair . 2 F86F ex-Spain.

Denmark 56 (38??) ex-USAF F86D. First time this aircraft was exported.


France 60 F86-Ks maufactured by Fiat, September 1956.

Germany 300 aircraft from 1957. Also 57 F86-K from 1960.

Greece 82 Canadair Mk4s from Britain from July 1954. In 1961 No. 343 Squadron re-equipped with the F86-D. 50 ex-USAF F86D (equal to Turkey). Details are sparse.

Honduras 13 of various types.

Indonesia 18 former Australian, plus 5 from Malaysia (which were also ex-Australia).

Italy Produced and part-assembled about 240 F86K (by Fiat). Also operated 179 Canadair Mk4s , which had originally been operated by Britain. Five aircraft were used in the UN action in the Belgian Congo, operated by the Philippines Air Force.

Japan Major user. Also 106 ex-USAF F86D. Mitsubishi license-built 300.

Korea 122 from 1955 to 1958. ex-USAF F86D

Malaysia From 1969, received 18 ex-Australia (5 of which went to Indonesia in 1976).


Netherlands 57 NAA, 6 Fiat F86K

Norway 60 NAA F86K, 115 F86F

Pakistan 102 F86-F. Used in the war against India in 1965. Later received 90 ex-German Canadair Mark 6s.

Phillipines ex-USAF F86D



Saudi Arabia 16 F86F in 1954, plus maybe 3 more fron Norway.

South Africa No. 2 Squadron received Sabres on loan in 1952, whilst stationed in Korea. In 1955 SOuth Africa received 34 Canadair Mk 6s.

Spain From 1955, 270 F86F. To replace their Messerschmitt F109s

Taiwan Received the F86F. These were used in disputes with China, in the Taiwan Straits, fighting Mig 15s, 17s and 19s. On 24. September 1958, Sabres which had been newly equipped with the GAR-8 Sidewinder claimed to have shot down 10 Migs at least, without loss.

Thailand 40 F86K

Tunisia Approximately 15 F86F in 1969.

Turkey In 1954, received 102 Canadair Mk2. Later, approximately 100 NAA Sabres. 50 ex-USAF (equal to Greece)

Venezuala 300 F86. 74 NAA/Fiat F86K. Four Sabres joined a revolt of 1. January 1958, strafing the presidential palace and the Ministry of Defense.

Yugoslavia From 1956, 121 Canadair Mk4 (former RAF). 130 ex-USAF F86D. In a border incident in the late 1950s, a Sabre Mk4 shot down a Hungarian Mig-15.



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