North American F-86 Sabre History

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.

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