The F-86 Sabre was the product of the North American Aviation Company based in served a pivotal role in the Korean War by winning back air superiority for the NATO allies, going toe-to-toe with the impressive Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot". Though its standard armament of 6 x machine guns were no match for the cannon-power of the MiG-15's, pilot training and tactics made all the difference in the long run, particularly when Sabre pilots were veterans and aces from World War 2 while

North Korean and Chinese pilots were relatively green when it came to jet-powered dogfights. Only Soviet-piloted MiG's presented a serious threat, and this was proven in the early months of the conflict. Nevertheless, the F-86 Sabre went on to become a war winner, making aces out of many more pilots to come and eventually forcing the stalemate in the Korean Peninsula.



By this time in history (in a post-World War 2 world), North American had already

made a grand name for itself with the success of the P-51 Mustang. The company, like

others around it, then began to look to the future of flight - namely jet-powered

aircraft - and in 1944 started development of an in-house design. This design featured

a stout cockpit, straight-wing, nose-mounted intake, bubble canopy and a single

turbojet engine. The design was eventually showcased to - and accepted by - the

United States Navy on January 1st, 1945 with the designation of FJ-1 "Fury".

Prototypes followed in late 1946 and the original 100 production examples was

curtailed to just 30.


Nevertheless, experience garnered in the development of the Fury led North

American to look into a larger version of the aircraft for possible marketing to the

USAAF (later to become the USAF in 1947). In May, 1945, three of these XP-86

prototypes were ordered featuring straight wings but in all respects resembling her



Fury pedigree.

The fall of the Third Reich in 1945 allowed American aircraft engineers (and engineers

of other nations for that matter) to unprecedented access of German swept wing

design studies. Swept wings were then added to a revised XP-86 design. The USAAF

ordered 30 production models without so much as a completed prototype and added

another 158 afterwards with some requested revisions and eventually increasing this

total to 554 P-86A models. By this time (1948) the USAAF had become the USAF and

the naming convention of "P" for "pursuit" gave rise instead to "F" for "fighter". As

such, the F-86A was born. Deliveries to the USAF in three initial batches began in

February of 1949 and the name designator of "Sabre" was officially bestowed to the

system after a naming contest was held.



Though the initial design featured straight wings, the revised design and eventual

production models were all seen fitted with swept-back wings and tail surfaces. The

monoplane wings were low-mounted onto the fuselage sides with slight dihedral to

each. Wings were placed forward in the design and extended rearwards, giving the

Sabre its noticeable silhouette. The fuselage was not a true cylindrical form though it

was rounded at the edges when viewed from the front. The front edge was snipped off

and was made up of the air inlet duct feeding the engine. The duct, engine and

exhaust system ran the length of the fuselage to the very rear and base of the

empennage. The pilot was afforded good vision from his forward-located cockpit

which featured a hinged jettisonable canopy and large curved and frameless glass

surface - only the forward portion of the canopy had framing. The cockpit was located

just forward of the wing root and just aft of the air inlet duct. Accommodations

amounted to one pilot seated in an ejection seat. The single engine powerplant was

ocated in the center of the design. The empennage was of a traditional type,

featuring a single vertical tail fin and horizontal surfaces with noticeable dihedral. The

undercarriage was a traditional tricycle arrangement with two main single-wheel

gears retracting inwards with a nose gear fitted with a single wheel retracting

backwards under the cockpit.



XP-86 was the original designation of the Sabre, though this was later changed to the

XF-86. North American targeted this design as model NA-140.

The XF-86 was the prototype day-fighter designation to which three prototypes were


YF-86A was the first prototype to mount the General Electric J47 series turbojet



The F-86A became the initial Sabre production model and was the first to be delivered

to the frontlines in the Korea War. First flight was achieved in May of 1948. Power was

derived from a 1 x General Electric J47 turbojet engine of 4,850lbs thrust. These were

progressively uprated in a series of four upgraded J47 engines, eventually topping

5,200lbs thrust. Armament consisted of 6 x 12.7mm machine guns with an optional

offensive punch of 8 x 5" rockets or 2,000lbs of bombs held underwing. Performance

of the model included a top speed of 685 miles per hour, a range of 1,200 miles and a

combat ceiling of 49,000 feet. Production of the F-86A completed in December of

1950, to which 554 total examples were delivered. An F-86A model set the first Sabre

world speed record in September of 1948, reaching a top speed of 670 miles per hour.

Another speed record was set on November 19th, 1952, hitting 698.505 miles per

hour and then again on July 16th, 1953 - this time topping at 715.697 miles per hour.


The F-86A spawned the DF-86A drone director conversions. Likewise, eleven A-models

became the RF-86A three-camera reconnaissance aircraft.

The F-86B followed. The USAF ordered 188 of the type as an upgrade to existing

F-86A models but the order eventually turned these aircraft into F-86A-5 models



The F-86C was the original designation of the YF-93A which began life as a design

intended to fulfill the USAF "Penetration Fighter" bomber escort competition

requirement. The F-86C developed into such a different aircraft that the new YF-93A

designation was assigned to it. The aircraft squared off against a McDonnell XF-88

(eventually to become the F-101 Voodoo) and a Lockheed XF-90 (never produced).

Though the Penetration Fighter program was eventually abandoned, the USAF still put

in an order for 118 F-93A models but this order was itself cancelled with the

promising results of the Boeing B-47 Stratojet project - a new high-speed bomber with

no need for an escort.


The YF-93A was designed as two prototypes as S/N 48-317 and S/N 48-318. The first

prototype sported two flushed air inlet ducts along the fuselage sides, a departure

from the Sabres underslung intake. This arrangement allowed for avionics to be

placed in the fuselage between the two parallel intake ducts. The second prototype

featured more conventional intakes though both sported a newer and more powerful

nose landing gear to take on the added weight of additional fuel stores. Power was

derived from a 1 x Pratt & Whitney J48 series turbojet engine of 8,750lbs with

afterburner. Performance was reported with a 708 miles per hour top speed, 1,967

mile range and a service ceiling of 46,800 feet. The proposed armament of the

aircraft was certainly something special and would have consisted of 6 x 20mm

cannons. Despite the work put into these machines, they became test platforms for

the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and were eventually



F-95 was the original designation of F-86D "Dog Sabre"/"Sabre Dog" models.

Prototypes were made up of aircraft S/N 50-577 and S/N 50-578. These prototype

aircraft began as YF-95A prototypes but were then designated as YF-86D and

ultimately becoming theF-86D. As such, production D-models were originally

designated as F-93A fighters but this was changed to F-86D before the production

lines had started launching the model.


The original F-95A had been designed as a day/night, all-weather interceptor. The

aircraft featured swept back wings and tail surfaces, an underslung air inlet duct

fairing, external fuel tank provisions, an all-moveable horizontal tail, hydraulically-

powered irreversible controls and an F-5 automatic pilot system. The cockpit was of a

5.0psi differential pressurization and featured anti-G suit controls along with an

integrated cooling and heating system. The YF-93A featured wing flaps were single-

slotted electrically operated types. Speed brakes were hydraulically operated and

fitted to the aft portion of the fuselage. Two YF-95A prototypes were produced. These

models became the YF-86D. Of course no Sabres were ever produced with the F-95A

designation but some 2,500 F-85D models were.


The F-86D "Dog Sabre" was essentially an "all-new" Sabre model. This production

model was based on the YF-95A prototype and the prototype YF-86D achieved first

flight on December 22nd, 1949. However, the D-model was not featured in the Korean

War while the A-, E- and F-models were - their designation order was not chronological

with introduction into service as might be expected. The F-86D was an all-weather

interceptor and - for all intents and purposes - a "bomber destroyer". Two YF-86D

systems existed and led to approximately 2,506 total F-86D production models. The

D-model was quite a different beast from previous Sabre variants - it was bigger,

more powerful and shared just 25 percent of the previous form's parts. The nose

radome was a discernible feature of the model type.


The F-86D became the first USAF aircraft to mount an all-rocket armament in an

ventral weapons "tray" containing 24 x 2.75" "Mighty Mouse" Folding Fin Aerial

Rockets (FFAR) - hence the "bomber destroyer" classification above. As another first,

the solo F-86D pilot was charged with the operation of the aircraft while manning the

advanced Hughes Aircraft Company collision-course radar fire-control system - most

designs with this level of complication usually dictated the need for a dedicated

second crew member in a two-man cockpit. To fit this interception radar and fire

control equipment, the F-86D model featured a distinct "nose" cone extending out

over the upper portion of the existing Sabre air inlet duct opening at the front of the


With the fire control computer and radar, the aircraft could literally "fly itself" to a

computed targets position. Once within 500 yards of said target, the aircraft would

lower its retractable rocket tray and spray the target (expected to be enemy

bombers) with 24 x 2.75" Mighty Mouse missiles - with all actions handled

automatically by the computer.


Power for the F-86D was derived from a 1 x General Electric J47-GE-33 turbojet of

5,550lbs and (eventually) up to 7,650lbs of thrust with afterburner. Performance was

reported with a top speed of 761 miles per hour, a range of 800 miles and a combat

ceiling of 50,000 feet. Production of D-models officially completed in September of

1953. The type spawned the F-86G, YF-86K, F-86K and F-86L forms.

The F-86G was based on the F-86D but featured an uprated engine with some internal

systems changes. Though 406 of this type were eventually produced, the designation

of F-86G was not used. Instead, these aircraft were delivered as F-86D models



Two YF-86K models were modified from existing F-86D models. This model became

the production F-86K and differed mainly by replacing the all-rocket armament (and

applicable armament tray) with 4 x 20mm M-24A1 cannons. Additionally, these

aircraft were fitted with the APG-37 series radar and MG-4 fire control system. One

hundred and twenty of these Sabres were produced as the F-86K along with more

appearing under license production elsewhere. The F-86K models became a NATO



The F-86L was an upgraded conversion model of the F-86D. Between 800 and 981

F-86D models were converted to this standard featuring lengthened leading wing

edges, lengthened wingtips, uprated engine and new electronics. The instrument

panel was also revised in these models. F-86L's were fielded in quantity around the

globe (including in the US), intended to defend against a Soviet air attack.


The F-86E was an "improved" F-86A model and featured power-operated controls and

an adjustable "all-flying tail" unit. The development of this all-flying tail system is

partly the reason for the Sabre successes over the MiG's in the Korean War. Eight

hundred examples were produced and saw action in the Korean War. Canadian built

models of this version made their way into the Canadian Air Force, the Royal Air Force

and the West German Luftwaffe. Despite the E-model designation, the aircraft actually

followed as second in operational service to the A-models.


F-86F's were also improved Sabre models, though these were based on the F-86E

models. F-models were fitted with General Electric J47-GE-27 engines of 5,970lbs

thrust. Later production models featured a "6-3" type wing sans leading edge slats.

2,500 examples of this type were delivered and saw combat action in the Korean War.

These followed the E-models and were third achieving operational status. Provision for

the carrying of nuclear weaponry was introduced in this model.


F-models were converted into several other useful forms. Among them were the 50

QF-86F target drones for use by the US Navy. At least 18 were converted to a


camera-laden reconnaissance model in the RF-86F. Only 2 twin-seat TF-86F trainer

aircraft were produced. This model of course featured a lengthened fuselage to make

room for the second pilot.


Two YF-86H prototypes appeared from the F-86F model. This Sabre was redesigned as

a dedicated fighter-bomber. Wings were lengthened, the fuselage deepened and a

new tailplane was implemented. This set the stage for production F-86H models.

The F-86H fighter-bomber appeared after the armistice in the Korean War. Actual

combat experience was used to make this a "perfected" Sabre platform. Thousands of

sorties were flown with F-86A, F-86E and F-86F models and, in that way, each

preceding model had a direct hand at the relative level of perfection achieved in

these newer H-models. Though it arrived with a higher overall weight and was

physically larger than the models before it, the F-86H surpassed these early models in

overall performance. Its F-86F origins basically made the F-86H an "improved"

F-model. H-models were fitted with the Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) to fulfill

their fighter-bomber role classification. Production of the F-86H began in late 1953

and went on through August of 1955. Total production of H-models ended with 473



Though the first two arriving production H-models fitted no armament, Blocks 5 and

10 saw implementation of 4 x M-39 20mm cannon armament while Block 1,

comprising 113 aircraft, was fitted with the standard 6 x 12.7mm machine gun

armament. 8 x 5" rockets, 2,000lbs of bombs and a nuclear weapon were all optional

to this model. Power stemmed from the General Electric J73-GE-3E series turbojet of

9,070lbs thrust. Maximum speed topped 693 miles per hour with a range of 1,050

miles. A combat ceiling of 51,400 feet was reported.


Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation of Australia produced the Sabre under license.

There were three models known as Mk 30, Mk 31 and Mk 32. Mk 30, of which 21 were

produced, featured the Avon 20 series engine and wing slats. The Mk 31 was also

powered by the Avon engine, was fitted with the 6-3 wing and saw 21 of the type

constructed. Mk 32 production totaled 69 examples and were fitted with the Avon 26

engine and four underwing pylons. These Avon powered Sabres eventually found their

way into the inventories of Malaysia and Indonesia after serving with the Royal

Australian Air Force.


Canadair of Canada handled license production of the Sabre as well. These were built

in six marks beginning with Mk 1. Mk 1 represented a prototype of the F-86A model.

Mk 2 followed with 350 examples produced (based on the F-86E). Deliveries of this

initial production model were sent to the USAF and RAF as well as the Canadian Air

Force. A single Sabre Mk 3 model was built as used as a test platform for the Orenda

turbojet engine. The Sabre Mk 4 saw 438 examples produced. Only 10 served the

RCAF while 428 of these were delivered for RAF use (known in the RAF inventory as

the Sabre F 4). Sabre Mk 5 was based on the F-86F model but fitted with the Orenda

engine. 370 of this type were built with a bulk going to the RCAF and 75 to the West

German Luftwaffe. Sabre Mk 6 was the final production model for Canadair, to which

totaled 655 examples split between the RCAF, the West German Luftwaffe, South

Africa and Columbia.


In order of "activation", the Sabre came online as follows: F-86A; F-86E; F-86F; F-86D;

F-86H; F-86K; F-86L. Broken down even further, the A-, E-, F- and H-models all fell into

the classification of fighter or fighter-bombers while the D-, K- and L- models were of

the all-weather branding.



Standard armament for the F-86 was a battery of 6 x 12.7mm heavy caliber machine

guns. Though her Soviet (and German) counterparts had long focused on cannon

armament to bring down enemy bombers, US armament was still generally relegated

to the World War 2-era mentality of an all-machine guns platform. This was not wholly

unfounded ,however, as the rate of fire of machine guns was vastly superior to that of

cannons. The issue being that newer aircraft were better armored, requiring more

ammunition from these guns to maim the enemy aircraft.


The six 12.7mm machine guns were split into two groups, three machine guns to a

fuselage side, with a somewhat staggered placement for these just forward of the

cockpit. Some variants (F-86H) were eventually fitted with 4 x M-19 20mm cannons

and 2 x 30mm cannons (Australian license-produced Sabres by CAC). Later versions

of the Sabre were also designed around 5" rockets and one (F-86D "Dog Sabre")

designed entirely around a 2.75" rocket armament. Underwing hardpoints could

mount up to 2,000lbs of bombs or fuel in place of a bombload.



Introduction to NATO forces meant that the Sabre would have an expansive and long-term global reach. Operators (NATO and otherwise) included Argentina, Belgium,

Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, West Germany, Greece, Honduras, Indonesia,

Iran, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Taiwan, Saudi

Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United

States, Venezuela and Yugoslavia (see full list at right)done everything in. Taiwan

became one of the first foreign receivers of the Sabre beginning December of 1954.

Bolivia retired their F-86's as recently as 1994.


F-86A, F-86E and F-86F's Sabres all took part in the Korean War. Sabres took home a

kill ratio of 8:1 while other sources go as high as 10:1 (ten enemy losses for every

single Sabre loss). This of course was probably made more even when facing off

against Soviet-piloted MiG-15's. MiG losses at the hands of Sabres are said to be

between 757 to 792 while a total of some 810 total aircraft of different types were

felled by Sabre guns. Between 76 and 103 Sabres were lost to enemy fighters. Soviet

and Chinese reports have Sabre losses numbering some 600 which, of course, is

denied by the USAF. Forty United Nations aviators became aces in the Korean conflict

with an amazing 39 of these piloting Sabre aircraft.


The first MiG-versus-Sabre confrontation took place in December of 1950 at 25,000

feet. Four MiG's squared off against four Sabres with one MiG being set ablaze. The

actual "kill" is speculative however, as Soviet reports say the MiG had dove to tree top

level - jettisoning its fuel tanks in the process - in an effort to escape the fight and

return home safely.


Sabres and MiG-15's inevitably squared off later that month in a showing of 8 Sabres

versus 15 MiG's. The fight is said to have netted some six MiGs with combat taking

place at altitudes as low as 1,000 and as high as 30,000 feet.


1958 brought about the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis and, along with it, engagements

of Taiwanese Sabres against Chinese MiG-15"Fagots" and MiG-17 "Frescos". Despite

the altitude advantage inherent in the MiG designs, the battles turned in favor of the

Taiwanese as these particular Sabres - with help from the Americans - were now

armed with the capable AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. Each Sabre could carry

two of these infrared-homing systems and the altitude advantage held by the MiGs

was now a moot point. In the first such engagement, 10 enemy MiGs were shot down

with no loss to the Taiwanese forces.


Indo-Pak War of 1965 saw Pakistan field the Sabre against the Indian Air Force. Its

versatility was showcased quite well as the type underwent sorties of interception and

ground attack. Pakistani Sabres held an advantage with their use of the AIM-9B

Sidewinder missile in air-to-air engagements, leaving Indian Air Force pilots alone to

their guns. Sabres made up a large part of Pakistani success in the skies though the

smallish British-designed Folland Gnat proved quite the nemesis. Nevertheless,

Pakistan claims to have destroyed 15 Indian aircraft in the skies and a further 36 on

the ground - numbers naturally disputed by India.


Canadian-built Sabres fought against India once more, this time in the Bangladesh

Liberation War of 1971, again enjoying some level of limited success but the edge

eventually went to the Indian Air Force by conflict's end.



Total production of all Sabre models totaled 9,860 with Canadair (Canada) said to be

responsible for at least 1,815 of that number. North American Aviation numbers report

6,297 production totals of the Sabre with 1,115 examples of its US Navy derivative,

the FJ Fury. Additional manufacturers under-license became Commonwealth Aircraft

Corporation (Australia) building some 112 of the Sabre, Fiat (Italy) building 221 total

examples and Mitsubishi (Japan) accounting for 300 total Sabres. Production spanned

from 1949 through 1956. The vast reach of Sabre production models through NATO

meant that the Sabre was the first taste of high-speed jet-powered flight for many of

these pilots.


The F-86 Sabre was eventually superseded by more capable types and was

followed-up on by the North American F-100 Super Sabre, beginning service in 1954.

Despite its design origins beginning in World War 2, the Sabre led a long and

productive live. Its production total ensured that it would be made a deterrent to

Soviet actions in Europe and around the world. The aircrafts resilience also ensured

that it could be adapted for a variety of roles to suit the needs of the world.


Jackie Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier, this accomplished

in a Canadair F-86E model flying alongside famed American Aviator Church Yeager.

This occurred on May 18th, 1953.