Fighters with Pakistan Air Force: F-86 Sabre
- Role: Fighter aircraft
- National origin: United States
- Manufacturer: North American Aviation
- First flight: 1 October 1947
- Introduction: 1949, with USAF
- Retired: 1994, Bolivia
- Primary users United States Air Force; Japan Air Self-Defense Force; Spanish Air Force; Republic of Korea Air Force
- Number built: 9,860
- Unit cost: US$219,457 (F-86E)
- Developed from: North American FJ-1 Fury
- CAC Sabre
- Canadair Sabre
- North American F-86D Sabre
- North American FJ-2/-3 Fury
- North American FJ-4 Fury
- North American YF-93
- North American F-100 Super Sabre
The North American F-86 Sabre, sometimes called the Sabre jet, was a transonic jet fighter aircraft. Produced by North American Aviation, the Sabre is best known as the United States’ first swept wing fighter that could counter the similarly-winged Soviet MiG-15 in high-speed dogfights over the skies of the Korean War (1950–1953). Considered one of the best and most important fighter aircraft in that war, the F-86 is also rated highly in comparison with fighters of other eras.
Although it was developed in the late 1940s and was outdated by the end of the ’50s, the Sabre proved versatile and adaptable, and continued as a front-line fighter in numerous air forces until the last active operational examples were retired by the Bolivian Air Force in 1994.
Its success led to an extended production run of more than 7,800 aircraft between 1949 and 1956, in the United States, Japan and Italy. Variants were built in Canada and Australia. The Canadair Sabre added another 1,815 airframes, and the significantly redesigned CAC Sabre (sometimes known as the Avon Sabre or CAC CA-27), had a production run of 112. The Sabre was by far the most-produced Western jet fighter, with total production of all variants at 9,860 units.
Development: The North American F-86 Sabre was the first American aircraft to take advantage of flight research data seized from the German aerodynamicists at the end of World War II. This data showed that a thin swept wing could greatly reduce drag and delay compressibility problems that had bedeviled even prop-powered fighters such as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning approaching the speed of sound. By 1944, German engineers and designers had established the benefits of swept wings based on experimental designs dating back to 1940. Study of the data showed that a swept wing would solve their speed problem; while a slat on the wing’s leading edge that extended at low speeds would enhance low-speed stability. After good results were obtained in wind tunnel tests, the swept-wing concept was eventually adopted. Performance requirements were met by incorporating a 35° swept-back wing, using NACA 4-digit modified airfoils, using NACA 0009.5–64 at the root and NACA 0008.5–64 at the tip, with an automatic slat design based on that of the Messerschmitt Me 262 and an electrically adjustable stabilizer, another feature of the Me 262A. Many Sabres had the “6–3 wing” (a fixed-leading edge with 6 inches extended chord at the root and 3 inches extended chord at the tip) retrofitted after combat experience was gained in Korea. This modification changed the wing airfoils to the NACA 0009-64 mod at the root and the NACA 0008.1–64 mod at the tip. Delays caused by the major redesign meant that manufacturing did not begin until after World War II. The XP-86 prototype, which would lead to the F-86 Sabre, was rolled out on 8 August 1947. The maiden flight occurred on 1 October 1947 with George Welch at the controls, flying from Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards AFB), California. The United States Air Force’s Strategic Air Command had F-86 Sabres in service from 1949 through 1950. The F-86s were assigned to the 22nd Bomb Wing, the 1st Fighter Wing and the 1st Fighter Interceptor Wing. The F-86 was the primary U.S. air combat fighter during the Korean War, with significant numbers of the first three production models seeing combat.
The F-86 Sabre was also produced under license by Canadair, Ltd as the Canadair Sabre. The final variant of the Canadian Sabre, the Mark 6, is generally rated as having the highest capabilities of any Sabre version made anywhere.
Breaking sound barrier and other records
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of the Canadair Sabre with Chuck Yeager
The F-86A set its first official world speed record of 670 miles per hour (1,080 km/h) on September 15, 1948 over Cleveland, Ohio piloted by Maj. Richard L. Johnson, USAF however this was still some 32 miles per hour (51 km/h) short of Heini Dittmar’s 702 miles per hour (1,130 km/h) unofficial rocket-powered aircraft speed record set with an Me 163B prototype in early July 1944 tests, which itself had a 23.3° wing sweepback angle. Several people involved with the development of the F-86, including the chief aerodynamicist for the project and one of its other test pilots, claimed that North American test pilot George Welch had unofficially broken the sound barrier in a dive with the XP-86 while on a test flight on 1 October 1947. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on 14 October 1947 in the rocket-propelled Bell X-1 during level flight, making it the first true supersonic aircraft. Five years later, on 18 May 1953, Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier, flying a “one-off” Canadian-built F-86 Sabre Mk 3, alongside Chuck Yeager. Col. K. K. Compton won the 1951 Bendix air race in an F-86A with an average speed of 553.76 mph.
North American F-86 Sabre
The F-86 was produced as both a fighter-interceptor and fighter-bomber. Several variants were introduced over its production life, with improvements and different armament implemented (see below). The XP-86 was fitted with a General Electric J35-C-3 jet engine that produced 4,000 lbf (18 kN) of thrust. This engine was built by GM’s Chevrolet division until production was turned over to Allison. The General Electric J47-GE-7 engine was used in the F-86A-1 producing a thrust of 5,200 lbf (23 kN) while the General Electric J73-GE-3 engine of the F-86H produced 9,250 lbf (41 kN) of thrust.
The fighter-bomber version (F-86H) could carry up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs, including an external fuel-type tank that could carry napalm. Unguided 2.75 in (70 mm) rockets were used on some fighters on training missions, but 5 inch (127 mm) rockets were later carried on combat operations. The F-86 could also be fitted with a pair of external jettisonable jet fuel tanks (four on the F-86F beginning in 1953) that extended the range of the aircraft. Both the interceptor and fighter-bomber versions carried six 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M3 Browning machine guns with electrically boosted feed in the nose (later versions of the F-86H carried four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannons instead of machine guns). Firing at a rate of 1,200 rounds per minute, the .50 in (12.7 mm) guns were harmonized to converge at 1,000 ft (300 m) in front of the aircraft, using armor-piercing (AP) and armor-piercing incendiary (API) rounds, with one armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) for every five AP or API rounds. The API rounds used during the Korean War contained magnesium, which were designed to ignite upon impact but burned poorly above 35,000 ft (11,000 m) as oxygen levels were insufficient to sustain combustion at that height. Initial planes were fitted with the Mark 18 manual-ranging computing gun sight. The last 24 F-86A-5-Nas and F-86E were equipped with the A-1CM gunsight-AN/APG-30 radar, which used radar to automatically compute a target’s range, which later proved to be advantageous against MiG opponents over Korea.
Flying characteristics: The Sabre’s swept wings and jet engine produced a flying experience that was very different from the pinnacle generation of propeller-driven fighters that were operational in the early days of jet fighter development in the 1940s and early 1950s.
The transition from props to jets was not without accidents and incidents even for experienced fighter pilots. Early on in the jet age some US manufacturers instituted safety and transition programs where experienced test and production pilots would tour operational fighter squadrons to provide instruction and demonstrations designed to lower the accident rate.
As well, the ongoing technical development and long production history of the F-86 resulted in some significant differences in the handling and flying characteristics between the various F-86 models. Some of the major changes to the design included the switch from an elevator/stabilizer to an all-flying tail, the discontinuation of leading edge slats in favour of a solid leading edge with increased internal fuel capacity, increased engine power and internal missile bay (F-86D).
Each of these design changes impacted the handling and flying characteristics of the F-86 and not necessarily for the better. In the case of the solid leading edge and increased internal fuel capacity, the design change produced increased combat performance, but exacerbated a dangerous and often fatal handling characteristic upon takeoff if the nose was raised prematurely from the runway. This ‘over-rotation’ danger is now a major area of instruction and concern for current F-86 pilots. The 1972 Sacramento Canadair Sabre accident resulting in 22 fatalities and 28 other casualties was a result of over-rotation on takeoff.
Operational history–Korean War
Three F-86s flying in formation over Korea in 1953
The F-86 entered service with the United States Air Force in 1949, joining the 1st Fighter Wing’s 94th Fighter Squadron and became the primary air-to-air jet fighter used by the Americans in the Korean War. While earlier straight-winged jets such as the F-80 and F-84 initially achieved air victories, when the swept wing Soviet MiG-15 was introduced in November 1950, it outperformed all UN-based aircraft. In response, three squadrons of F-86s were rushed to the Far East in December.
Early variants of the F-86 could not outturn, but they could out dive the MiG-15, although the MiG-15 was superior to the early F-86 models in ceiling, acceleration, rate of climb and zoom. With the introduction of the F-86F in 1953, the two aircraft were more closely matched, with many combat-experienced pilots claiming a marginal superiority for the F-86F. MiGs flown from bases in Manchuria by Chinese, North Korean, and Soviet VVS pilots were pitted against two squadrons of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing forward-based at K-14, Kimpo, Korea.
Many of the American pilots were experienced World War II veterans, while the North Koreans and the Chinese lacked combat experience, thus accounting for much of the F-86’s success. However, United Nations pilots suspected many of the MiG-15 were being flown by experienced Soviet pilots who also had combat experience in World War II. Former Communist sources now acknowledge Soviet pilots initially flew the majority of MiG-15s that fought in Korea, and dispute that more MiG-15s than F-86s were shot down in air combat. Later in the war, North Korean and Chinese pilots increased their participation as combat flyers. The North Koreans and their allies periodically contested air superiority in MiG Alley, an area near the mouth of the Yalu River (the boundary between Korea and China) over which the most intense air-to-air combat took place. The F-86E’s all-moving tailplane was more effective at speeds near or exceeding the speed of sound, so the plane could safely recover from a sonic dive, where the MiG-15 could not safely exceed Mach 0.92, an important advantage in near-sonic air combat. Far greater emphasis has been given to the training, aggressiveness and experience of the F-86 pilots. American Sabre pilots were trained at Nellis, where the casualty rate of their training was so high they were told, “If you ever see the flag at full staff, take a picture.” Despite rules of engagement to the contrary, F-86 units frequently initiated combat over MiG bases in the Manchurian “sanctuary.” The hunting of MiGs in Manchuria would lead to many reels of gun camera footage being ‘lost’ if the reel revealed the pilot had violated Chinese airspace.
The needs of combat operation balanced against the need to maintain an adequate force structure in Western Europe led to the conversion of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing from the F-80 to the F-86 in December 1951. Two fighter-bomber wings, the 8th and 18th, converted to the F-86F in the spring of 1953. No. 2 Squadron, South African Air Force also distinguished itself flying F-86s in Korea as part of the 18 FBW.
By the end of hostilities, F-86 pilots were credited with shooting down 792 MiGs for a loss of only 78 Sabres, a victory ratio of 10:1. More recent research by Dorr, Lake and Thompson has claimed the actual ratio is closer to 2:1. The Soviets claimed to have downed over 600 Sabres, together with the Chinese claims, although these are thought by some to be an over count as they cannot be reconciled with the 78 Sabres recorded as lost by the US. A recent RAND report made reference to “recent scholarship” of F-86 v MiG-15 combat over Korea and concluded that the actual kill: loss ratio for the F-86 was 1.8:1 overall, and likely closer to 1.3:1 against MiGs flown by Soviet pilots. Based on Soviet archival data, 335 Soviet MiG-15s are known to have been admitted as lost by the Soviets over Korea. Chinese claims of their losses amount to 224 MiG-15s over Korea. North Korean losses are not known, but according to North Korean defectors their air force lost around 100 MiG-15s during the war. Thus a total of 659 MiG-15s are admitted as being lost, all but a handful to F-86 Sabres, while USAF claims of their losses amount to 78 F-86 Sabres, of the 41 American pilots who earned the designation of ace during the Korean war, all but one flew the F-86 Sabre, the exception being a Navy Vought F4U Corsair night fighter pilot.
Cold War: In addition to its distinguished service in Korea, USAF F-86s also served in various stateside and overseas roles throughout the early part of the Cold War. As newer Century Series fighters came on line, F-86s were transferred to Air National Guard (ANG) units or the air forces of allied nations. The last ANG F-86s continued in U.S. service until 1970.
1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis: The Republic of China Air Force of Taiwan was an early recipient of surplus USAF Sabres. From December 1954 to June 1956, the ROC Air Force received 160 ex-USAF F-86F-1-NA through F-86F-30-NA fighters. By June 1958, the Nationalist Chinese had built up an impressive fighter force, with 320 F-86Fs and seven RF-86Fs having been delivered. Sabres and MiGs were shortly to battle each other in the skies of Asia once again in the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. In August 1958, the Chinese Communists of the People’s Republic of China attempted to force the Nationalists off of the islands of Quemoy and Matsu by shelling and blockade. Nationalist F-86Fs flying CAP over the islands found themselves confronted by Communist MiG-15s and MiG-17s, and there were numerous dogfights.
During these battles, the Nationalist Sabres introduced a new element into aerial warfare. Under a secret effort designated Operation Black Magic, the U.S. Navy had provided the ROC with the AIM-9 Sidewinder, its first infrared-homing air-to-air missile, which was just entering service with the United States. A small team from VMF-323, a Marine FJ-4 Fury squadron with later assistance from China Lake and North American Aviation, initially modified 20 of the F-86 Sabres to carry a pair of Sidewinders on underwing launch rails and instructed the ROC pilots in their use flying profiles with USAF F-100s simulating the MiG-17. The MiGs enjoyed an altitude advantage over the Sabres, as they had in Korea, and Communist Chinese MiGs routinely cruised over the Nationalist Sabres, only engaging when they had a favorable position. The Sidewinder took away that advantage and proved to be devastatingly effective against the MiGs.
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965: In 1954, Pakistan began receiving the first of a total of 120 F-86F Sabres. Many of these aircraft were the F-86F-35 from USAF stocks, but some were from the later F-86F-40-NA production block, made specifically for export. Many of the −35s were brought up to −40 standards before they were delivered to Pakistan, but a few remained −35s. The F-86 was operated by nine PAF squadrons at various times: Nos. 5, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 26 Squadrons.During the 22-day Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 the F-86 became the mainstay of the PAF, though the Sabre was no longer a world class player fighter (due to availability of Supersonic Jets). However many sources state the F-86 gave the PAF a technological advantage.
Waleed Karim with his F-86 Sabre Jet
Air to air combat: In the air-to-air combat of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the PAF Sabres claimed to have shot down 15 IAF aircraft, comprising nine Hunters, four Vampires and two Gnats. India, however, admitted a loss of 14 combat aircraft to the PAF’s F-86s. The F-86s of the PAF had the advantage of being armed with AIM-9B/GAR-8 Sidewinder missiles whereas none of its Indian adversaries had this capability. Despite this, the IAF claimed to have shot down four PAF Sabres in air-to-air combat. This claim is disputed by the PAF, which admitted to having lost seven F-86 Sabres but only three of them during air-to-air battles. The top Pakistani ace of the conflict was Sqn Ldr Muhammad Mahmood Alam, who ended the conflict claiming nine confirmed and two probable kills / damaged aircraft.
Ground attack: The aircraft remained a potent weapon for use against ground targets. On morning of 6 September, six F-86s of No. 19 Sqn struck advancing columns of the Indian army using 5 in (127 mm) rockets along with their six .50 in (12.7 mm) M3 Browning machine guns. On the same day, eight F-86 fighters of the same squadron executed an attack against IAF Pathankot.
No. 14 PAF Squadron earned the nickname “Tailchoppers” for their successful attack against the Indian bomber base in Kalaikunda.PAF claims of destroying around 36 aircraft on the ground at various Indian airfields. However, India only acknowledges 22 aircraft lost on the ground to strikes partly attributed to the PAF’s F-86s and its bomber Martin B-57 Canberra.
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971: The Canadair Sabres (Mark 6), acquired from ex-Luftwaffe stocks via Iran, were the mainstay of the PAF’s day fighter operations during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and had the challenge of dealing with the threat from IAF. At the beginning of the war, PAF had eight squadrons of F-86 Sabres. Along with the newer fighter types such as the Mirage III and the Shenyang F-6, the Sabre were tasked with the majority of operations during the war. In East Pakistan only one PAF F-86 squadron (14th Squadron) was deployed to face the numerical superiority of the IAF. PAF F-86s performed well, with Pakistani claims of downing 31 Indian aircraft in air-to-air combat. These included 17Hawker Hunters, eight Sukhoi Su-7 “Fitters”, one MiG 21 and three Gnats while losing seven F-86s. The most interesting of these was a battle between two Sabres and four MiG-21s. One MiG was shot down, without any Sabres lost. This was achieved due better low speed performance of Sabre in comparison to delta winged MiG-21.
India however claims to have shot down 11 PAF Sabres for the loss of 11 combat aircraft to the PAF F-86s. The IAF numerical superiority overwhelmed the sole East Pakistan Sabres squadron (and other military aircraft) which were either shot down, or grounded by Pakistani fratricide as they could not hold out, enabling complete air superiority for the Indian Air Force.
After this war, Pakistan slowly phased out its F-86 Sabres and replaced them with Chinese F-6 (Soviet MiG-19 based) fighters. The last of the Sabres were withdrawn from service in PAF in 1980. They are now displayed in Pakistan Air Force Museum and in the cities in which their pilots lived.
Guinea-Bissau War of Independence: The Portuguese Air Force (FAP) deployed some of its F-86F Sabres to Portuguese Guinea in 1961, being based at AB2 – Bissalanca Air Base, Bissau. These aircraft formed “Detachment 52”, initially equipped with eight F-86Fs (serials: 5307, 5314, 5322, 5326, 5354, 5356, 5361 and 5362) from the Esquadra 51, based at the BA5 – Monte Real Air Base. These aircraft were used in the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence, in ground attack and close support operations against the insurgent forces. In August 1962, 5314 overshot the runway during emergency landing with bombs still attached on underwing hardpoints and burned out. F-86F 5322 was shot down by enemy ground fire on 31 May 1963; the pilot ejected safely and was recovered. Several other aircraft suffered combat damage, but were repaired.
In 1964, 16 F-86Fs based at Bissalanca returned to mainland Portugal due to U.S. pressure. They had flown 577 combat sorties, of which 430 were ground attack and close air support missions.
Philippine Air Force: The Philippine Air Force first received the Sabres in the form of F-86Fs in 1957, replacing the North American P-51 Mustang as the Philippine Air Force’s primary interceptor. F-86s first operated from Basa Air Base, known infamously as the Nest of Vipers where the 5th Fighter Wing of the PAF was based. Later on, in 1960, the PAF acquired the F-86D as the first all weather interceptor of the PAF. The most notable use of the F-86 Sabres was in the Blue Diamonds aerobatic display team, which operated eight Sabres until the arrival of the newer, supersonic Northrop F-5. The F-86s were subsequently phased out of service in the 1970s as the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter and Vought F-8 Crusaders became the primary fighters and interceptors of the Philippine Air Force. The most notable F-86 pilot of the PAF is Antonio Bautista who was a Blue Diamonds pilot and a decorated officer for his actions on 9 January 1974.
Soviet Sabre: During the Korean War, the Soviets were searching for an intact U.S. F-86 Sabre for evaluation/study purposes. Their search was frustrated, largely due to the U.S. military’s policy of destroying their weapons and equipment once they had been disabled or abandoned; and in the case of U.S. aircraft, USAF pilots destroyed most of their downed Sabres by strafing or bombing them. However, on one occasion an F-86 was downed in the tidal area of a beach and subsequently was submerged, preventing its destruction. The aircraft was ferried to Moscow and a new OKB (Soviet Experimental Design Bureau) was established to study the F-86, which later became part of the Sukhoi OKB. “At least one F-86 … was sent to the Soviet Union, the Russians admitted, and other planes and prizes such as U.S. G-suits and radar gun sights also went.” The Soviets studied and copied the optical gunsight and radar from the captured aircraft to produce the ASP-4N gunsight and SRC-3 radar. Installed in the MiG-17, the gunsight system would later be used against American fighters in the Vietnam War. The F-86 studies also contributed to the development of aircraft aluminum alloys such as V-95. Reports in 2012 from newly declassified documents confirmed that the Soviets had acquired some US aircraft technology.
In several accounts by American pilots from late 1951 into 1952, at least one F-86 was in operation under Soviet control during the Korean War. The pilots report having come under fire from US planes, including from the F-86.
Feather Duster: The old but nimble MiG-17 had become such a serious threat against the Republic F-105 Thunderchief over North Vietnam that the U.S. Air Force created project “Feather Duster” to test which tactics supersonic American fighters could use against fighters like the MiG-17. Air National Guard F-86H units proved to be an ideal stand-in for the Soviet jets. One pilot remarked that “In any envelope except nose down and full throttle”, either the F-100 or F-105 was inferior to the F-86H in a dogfight.
Preserved airworthy F-86A Sabre at Kemble Air Day 2008, England.
- XF-86: three prototypes, originally designated XP-86, North American model NA-140
- YF-86A: this was the first prototype fitted with a General Electric J47 turbojet engine.
- 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, 48–317 & 48–318, order for 118 cancelled, North American model NA-157
- YF-86D: prototype all-weather interceptor originally ordered as YF-95A, two built but designation changed to YF-86D,North American model NA-164
- F-86D/L: Production transonic all-weather search-radar equipped interceptor originally designated F-95A, 2,506 built.
- The F-86D had only 25 percent commonality with other Sabre variants, with a larger fuselage, larger afterburning engine, and a distinctive nose radome. Sole armament was Mk. 4 unguided rockets instead of machine guns. F-86Ls were upgraded F-86Ds.
- F-86E: Improved flight control system and an “all-flying tail” (This system changed to a full power-operated control with an “artificial feel” built into the aircraft’s controls to give the pilot forces on the stick that were still conventional,
- but light enough for superior combat control. It improved high-speed maneuverability); 456 built, North American model NA-170 (F-86E-1 and E-5 blocks), NA-172, essentially the F-86F airframe with the F-86E engine (F-86E-10 and E-15 blocks); 60 of these built by Canadair for USAF (F-86E-6)
- 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: Uprated engine and larger “6–3” wing without leading edge slats, 2,239 built; 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 that 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); 300 additional airframes in this series assembled by Mitsubishi in Japan for Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. Sabre Fs had much improved high-speed agility, coupled with a higher landing speed of over 145 mph (233 km/h). The F-35 block had provisions for a new task: the nuclear tactical attack with one of the new small “nukes” (“second generation” nuclear ordnance). The F-40 had a new slatted wing, with a slight decrease of speed, but also a much better agility at high and low speed with a landing speed reduced to 124 mph (200 km/h). The USAF upgraded many of previous F versions to the F-40 standard.
- F-86F-2: Designation for 10 aircraft modified to carry the M39 cannon in place of the M3 .50 caliber machine gun “six-pack”. Two F-86E and Eight F-86F were production-line aircraft modified in October 1952 with enlarged and strengthened gun bays, then flight tested at Edwards Air Force Base and the Air Proving Ground at Eglin Air Force Base in November. Eight were shipped to Japan in December, and seven forward-deployed to Kimpo Airfield as “Project GunVal” for a 16-week combat field trial in early 1953. Two were lost to engine compressor stalls after ingesting excessive propellant gases from the cannons.
- QF-86F: About 50 former Japan Self-Defense Forces (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 18 Japan Self-Defense Forces (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
- 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, 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 F-86K
- Length:37 ft 1 in (11.4 m)
- Wingspan:37 ft 0 in (11.3 m)
- Height:14 ft 1 in (4.5 m)
- Wing area: 313.4 sq ft (29.11 m²)
- Empty weight:11,125 lb (5,046 kg)
- Loaded weight:15,198 lb (6,894 kg)
- takeoff weight:18,152 lb (8,234 kg)
- Powerplant:1 × General Electric J47-GE-27 turbojet, 5,910 lbf (26.3 kN)
- Fuel provisionsInternal fuel load: 437 US gallons (1,650 L), Drop tanks: 2×200 US gallons (760 L) JP-4 fuel
- Maximum speed:687 mph (1,106 km/h) at sea level at 14,212 lb (6,447 kg) combat weight also reported 678 mph (1,091 km/h) and 599 at 35,000 feet (11,000 m) at 15,352 pounds (6,960 kg). (597 knots (1,106 km/h) at 6446 m, 1,091 and 964 km/h at 6,960 m.)
- Stall speed:124 mph (power off) (108 knots (200 km/h))
- Range:1,525 mi, (2,454 km)
- Service ceiling:49,600 ft at combat weight (15,100 m)
- Rate of climb:9,000 ft/min at sea level (45.72 m/s)
- Wing loading: 48.4 lb/ft² (236.7 kg/m²)
- Guns: 6 X 50 in (12.7 mm) M3 Browning machine guns (1,800 rounds in total)
- Rockets:variety of rocket launchers; e.g.: 2 Matra rocket pods with 18 SNEB 68 mm rockets per pod
- Bombs:5,300 lb (2,400 kg) of payload on four external hardpoints, bombs were usually mounted on outer two pylons as the inner pairs were plumbed for 2 200 US gallons (760 L) drop tanks which gave the Sabre a more useful range. A wide variety of bombs could be carried (max standard loadout being 2 1,000 lb bombs plus two drop tanks), napalm canisters and could have included a tactical nuclear weapon
- Sqn Ldr(later Air commodore) M.M. Alam, Pakistan Air Force, became a flying ace by shooting down five Indian Air Force fighters within one minute in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. He was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat (“The star of courage“) and bar.
- ColonelEdwin “Buzz” Aldrin, USAF test pilot and Apollo 11 astronaut
- MajorRudolf Anderson, Jr. USAF (4028th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron). Shot down in 1962 while flying a U-2 over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- ColonelRoyal N. Baker (13 victories), commander USAF 4 FIW.
- Lieutenant ColonelAntonio Bautista of the Philippine Air Force received the Distinguished Conduct Star for his valor and bravery in providing close air support to ground forces.
- 1st LieutenantJohn M. Conroy, completed “Operation Boomerang” on May 21, 1955, a record setting coast-to-coast and back in one day during daylight hours of 5058 miles in 11 hours, 26 mins, 33 secs.
- MajorGeorge Davis (14 victories), USAF 4 FIW, awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously
- CaptainManuel “Pete” Fernandez, (14.5 victories), USAF 4 FIW
- ColonelFrancis S. “Gabby” Gabreski (six and one-half victories), USAF 51 FIW commander, top European U.S. ace in World War II
- ColonelVermont Garrison (five victories), USAF 4 FIW, ace in World War II and combat veteran of three wars
- ColonelRalph “Hoot” Gibson (five victories), USAF 4 FIW
- MajorJohn Glenn, a S. Marine Corps exchange pilot with the USAF 51 FIW (3 victories). First American astronaut to orbit the Earth, later a U.S. Senator from Ohio.
- Lieutenant ColonelVirgil “Gus” Grissom, astronaut in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, died in a fire during testing for the Apollo 1
- Robert A. “Bob” Hoover, North American Aviation experimental engineering test pilot.
- CaptainJames Horowitz (1 victory), USAF 4 FIW, novelist and author of The Hunters under the pen name James Salter
- MajorJames Jabara (15 victories), USAF 4 FIW
- ColonelJames H. Kasler (six victories), USAF 4 FIW and only three-time recipient of the Air Force Cross
- Flying OfficerWaleed Ehsanul Karim, Pakistan Air Force, youngest Sabre pilot (first flew Sabres when he was 18).
- CaptainIven Kincheloe (five victories) USAF 51 FIW, test pilot selected to fly the North American X-15
- Second LieutenantGene Kranz, NASA flight director for Gemini and Apollo and assistant flight director on Project Mercury– flew with 69th FBS in South Korea
- Squadron LeaderAndy Mackenzie, DFC. RCAF Second World War fighter ace (8.5 victories); taken POW when his F-86 was shot down while flying with the USAF 51 FIW in Korea in 1952.
- ColonelWalker “Bud” Mahurin, USAF 4 FIG commander and World War II ace
- CaptainJoseph C. McConnell (16 victories), USAF 51 FIW, who later died in a crash at Edwards Air Force Base testing the F-86H
- GeneralJohn C. Meyer (two victories), USAF 4 FIW commander and later Vice Chief of Staff of the USAF.
- Brigadier GeneralJames Robinson Risner (eight victories), USAF awarded the Air Force Cross, later Vietnam War POW
- ColonelHarrison R. Thyng (five victories), USAF 4 FIW commander
- Major GeneralHoward Thomas Markey, first chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- Lieutenant CommanderTheodore H Faller, August 13, 1979 – U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Theodore “Ted” Faller lost his life when his QF-86 Sabre suffered an engine failure moments after takeoff. Ted managed to bring the stricken aircraft down in a vacant lot 600 yards south of the Ridgecrest Heights Elementary School, later renamed Theodore Faller Elementary School
By courtesy: Wikipedia.org