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F-86 Sabre

From Academic Kids

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F-86 Sabre at Oshkosh, 2003

The first proposals for the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre were made in 1944, but construction was not begun until after World War II. The XP-86 prototype, which would become the F-86 Sabre, first flew on October 1, 1947. Some people contest that the XP-86 broke the sound barrier on this flight, 14 days before Chuck Yeager went supersonic in the Bell X-1 making test pilot George Welch the first pilot to achieve this milestone.

The Sabre was the first U.S. production aircraft to be fitted with ejector seats. The seats were fitted with an explosive charge which ejected the pilot at a high speed from the aircraft.

The F-86 was manufactured as both a fighter-interceptor and fighter-bomber. As such, several variations of the F-86 Sabre jet were introduced over time, with improvements and different armaments implemented. Early models such as the F-86(A) had thrust of only 5,200 lbf (23 kN) while later models such as the F-86(F) had as much as 10,000 lbf (44 kN) from its single engine. F-86(F)'s were the main fighter variation that saw action during the Korean War.

The fighter-bomber version (F-86H) could carry up to 2000 pounds (900 kg) of bombs, including an external fuel-type tank that could carry napalm. Both the interceptor and fighter versions carried six Browning M3 .50 in (12.7 mm) caliber machine guns in the nose (Later versions of the F-86H carried four 20 mm cannon instead of machine guns). Guns were harmonized to converge at 1000 feet (300 m) in front of the aircraft with one tracer bullet for every five rounds. Most rounds used during the Korean War were API (Armor-piercing incendiary) bullets containing magnesium which ignited upon impact. Unguided 2.75 inch (70 mm) rockets were used on some of the fighters in target practice, but 5 inch (127 mm) rockets were later used in combat operations. The planes could also be fitted with an external ejectable fuel tank that added a few more hours of air time.

Sabre at museum
Enlarge
Sabre at museum

Action in the Korean War

The F-86 Sabre entered service in 1949 and was the primary United States Air Force jet fighter used in the Korean War. It often was placed in combat against a nearly equal Soviet MiG-15.

Superior US pilot training versus Korean and Chinese training accounted for some of the US success in the air war with a reported kill ratio of 14 to 1 by the Air Force in MiG Alley. MiG Alley was a hotbed for air-to-air combat near the Yalu River between the boundaries of Korea and China.

Other factors included Soviet pilots' reluctance to engage Americans over battlefields for fear of being captured. Technically the Soviet Union was not involved in the Korean War and, as such, could not afford captured pilots. So-called "black-nosed" MiG's often had Soviet or Chinese instructors at the controls and were well-known by American pilots. In one case a MiG was shot down over South Korean airspace by a Sabre and the Soviet pilot commited suicide to avoid being captured.

Review of recently released Soviet documents that had been classified top secret until the fall of the Soviet Union shows that the American pilots claimed to shoot down more than twice the number of MiG-15s than ever served in Korea, though discounting these extra kills the kill record would still be in the Sabre's favour. The disparity between Soviet and American accounts of the air war is startling. Neither side's loss records can confirm the majority of the victories claimed by the other side. Many of the air engagements reported can actually be corroborated by both sides, but then each would claim several victories and neither would show any losses. Soviet sources claim a very favorable kill ratio: over 1,300 MiG-15 victories against only 345 MiGs lost, though some sources even within the USSR acknowledge this figure is inaccurate. It should also be noted this figure includes aircraft other than fighters, such as bombers.

Triple-jet aces flying the F-86 in the Korean War included Captain Joseph C. McConnell who later died as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in the crash of an F-86H. Colonel James Jabara at Kimpo Air Base was also a triple-jet ace. Famous astronaut John Glenn also flew an Air Force F-86 during the war as a Marine Corps exchange pilot; his plane was painted with the name "MiG Mad Marine."

Production history

  • XF-86 — three unarmed protypes, originally designated XP-86, North American model NA-140
  • F-86A — 554 built, North American model NA-151 (F-86A-1 block and first order of A-5 block) and NA-161 (second F-86A-5 block)
  • DF-86A — a few F-86A conversions as drone directors
  • RF-86A — 11 F-86A conversions with three cameras for reconnaissance
  • F-86B — 188 ordered as upgraded A-model with wider fuselage and larger tires but delivered as F-86A-5, North American model NA-152
  • F-86C — original designation for the YF-93A, two built, order for 118 cancelled, North American model NA-157
  • YF-86D — all-weather night-fighter model originally ordered as YF-95A, two built but designation changed to YF-86D, North American model NA-164
  • F-86D — production model of night-fighter originally designated F-95A, 2,504 built, North American model NA-165 (F-86D-1 through D-15 blocks), NA-177 (F-86D-20 and first order of D-25 blocks), NA-173 (second order of F-86D-25 and D-30 through D-35 blocks), NA-190 (F-86D-45 and D-50 blocks) and NA-201 (F-86D-55 and D-60 blocks)
  • F-86E — As F-86A but with an all-flying tail, 456 built, North American model NA-170 (F-86E-1 and E-5 blocks), NA-172 (F-86E-10 and E-15 blocks; also F-86E-6-CAN block for Royal Canadian Air Force - some later to the Royal Air Force)
  • F-86E(M) — designation for ex-RAF Sabres diverted to other NATO air forces
  • QF-86E — designation for surplus RCAF Sabre Mk. Vs modified to target drones
  • F-86F — as F-86E but with uprated engine and extended "6-3" wing leading edge, North American model NA-172 (F-86F-1 through F-15 blocks), NA-176 (F-86F-20 and -25 blocks), NA-191 (F-86F-30 and -35 blocks), NA-193 (F-86F-26 block), NA-202 (F-86F-35 block), NA-227 (first two orders of F-86F-40 blocks comprising 280 aircraft which reverted to leading edge wing slats of an improved design), NA-231 (70 in third F-40 block order), NA-238 (110 in fourth F-40 block order), and NA-256 (120 in final F-40 block order); some airframes in this series assembled by Mitsubishi in Japan for Japanese Air Self-Defense Force
  • QF-86F — about 50 former JASDF F-86F airframes converted to drones for use as targets by the U.S. Navy
  • RF-86F — some F-86F-30s converted with three cameras for reconnaissance; also eighteen JASDF aircraft similarly converted
  • TF-86F — two F-86F converted to two-seat training configuration with lengthened fuselage and slatted wings under North American model NA-204
  • F-86G — provisional designation for F-86D variant with uprated engine and equipment changes, 406 built as F-86D models
  • YF-86H — extensively redesigned fighter-bomber model with deeper fuselage, uprated engine, longer wings and power-boosted tailplane, two built as North American model NA-187
  • F-86H — production model, 473 built, with Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) and provision for nuclear weapon, North American model NA-187 (F-86H-1 and H-5 blocks) and NA-203 (F-86H-10 block)
  • QF-86H — target conversion of 29 airframes for use at United States Naval Weapons Center
  • F-86J — single F-86A-5-NA, serial 49-1069, flown with Orenda turbojet under North American model NA-167 - same designation reserved for A-models flown with the Canadian engines but project not proceeded with
  • YF-86K — Basic version of F-86D intended for export with rocket tray replaced by four 20 mm cannon and simplified fire control system, two conversions
  • F-86KNATO version of F-86D with 120 built by North American and 221 kits for assembly by Fiat, North American model NA-222 (first 50 as F-86K-NF), NA-213 (F-86K-13 through K-19 blocks) and NA-221 (125 F-86K-NF assembled by Fiat) and NA-242 (final 45 F-86K-NF by assembled by Fiat)
  • F-86L — Upgrade conversion of F-86D with new electronics, extended wingtips and wing leading edges, revised cockpit layout and uprated engine with reheat, 981 converted

The type was produced under licence by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Australia, re-engined with the Rolls-Royce Avon, and also by Canadair in Canada. Later improvements led to the F-100 Super Sabre, which was a larger aircraft with more powerful engines.

Approximately 9500 were constructed. According to the Office of Air Force History, the USAF accepted 6,353 F-86s (all models included), 5,893 of them for its own use and 460 ordered into production for MDAP. A breakdown of the USAF total showed three experimental and prototype F-86As, 554 F-86As, 393 F-86Es, 1,959 F-86Fs, two YF-86Hs, 473 F-86Hs, two YF-86Ds and 2,504 F-86Ds (all F-86Ls being converted F-86Ds). The MDAP count was 60 F-86Es, 280 F-86Fs, and 120 F-86Ks. Several are still held by private owners, including a handful that still fly at airshows and aviation events.


Specifications (F-86A)

General Characteristics

  • Wingspan: 37 ft 1 in (11.3 m)
  • Length: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 8 in (4.5 m)
  • Weight: 13,791 lb (6,300 kg) loaded
  • Armament: Six 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and eight 5 in (127 mm) rockets or 2,000 lb (900 kg) of bombs
  • Engine: One General Electric J-47 turbojet of 5,200 lbf (24 kN) thrust.
  • Cost: $178,000
  • Crew: One

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 685 mph (1102 km/h)
  • Combat range: 1,200 miles (1900 km)
  • Service ceiling: 49,000 ft (14,900 m)

See also

External links

Template:Commons

Related content
Related development

FJ Fury - North American YF-93

Similar aircraft

MiG-15 - Dassault Mystre - Saab 29

Designation series

XP-83 - F-84 - XF-85 - F-86 - XF-87 - XF-88 - F-89

Related lists List of military aircraft of the United States - List of fighter aircraft


Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

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