The North American F-86 Sabre Jet was America’s first swept wing fighter and used in combat during the Korean War (1949-1953). The F-86-E was pitted against the high performing USSR MIG 15.
Initially it was said that at outbreak of the war, the pilots were Soviets due to the inexperience of the North Korean and Chinese pilots. Before long however, the MiGs were piloted with Chinese and North Koreans.
Much of the dog fighting took place in what was called “MiG Alley” over the Yalu River near the North Korean and Chinese border.
Early estimates (right after the war) showed the Sabre held a 10:1 kill ratio. In later years the ratio was said to be closer to 2:1.
However the numbers seem to favor the first ratio as 792 MiGs were counted as shot down and U.S. losses of Sabres were 78.
There were 41 American pilots that were honored as “ACE” status (5 shoot downs).
There are still a few “flying Sabres” today. What a thrill it is to see one of these beautiful machines grace the skies.
Much of my time in Grade School was spent day dreaming of flying over Korea and shooting down MiGs instead of studying grammar (can you blame me!) So I became a pilot and not an English Professor.
Design and Development
In early 1945 the Sabre was developed from an earlier North American blueprint called FJ-1 Fury an early transition “prop to jet”.
The Fury was slow, straight winged and lacking in any outstanding attributes. The new design was called XP-86 and was swept wing, capable of speeds near 600 mph.
In 1945 the United States Army Air Force asked North American for 3 designs for a new fighter. The XP-86 was chosen.
In August of 1947 The first XP-86 prototype rolled of the North American hanger and the first test flight was on 01 October 1947.
This prototype became the F-86 Sabre Jet. North American and it’s affiliate Canadair Sabre produced 9,860 F-86s.
On 15 September 1948, the F-86 set it’s first world speed record of 670 mph. Several test pilots in the next few years broke the sound barrier in a F-86. Jackie Cochran became the first female to fly faster then the speed of sound on 18 May 1953.
The F-86 used an General Electric J47-GE-7 engine in about half of the F-86 produced. The other half used a General Electric J73-GE-3. Both engine produced about the same results.
Some of the major changes through the early years were: elevator/stabilizer to an “flying tail”, discontinuing the leading edge slats in favor of a solid leading edge (which could cause “over-rotation”), larger internal fuel tank capacity, increased engine power and internal missile bay.
The F-86 Sabre enter the newly formed United States Air Force (USAF) in 1949 just as the Korean conflict got under way. The straight wing F-80 and F-84 did score some victories in the beginning of the conflict along with the early versions of the F-86.
In 1950 the Soviet MiG-15 a swept wing fighter was superior to all United Nations aircraft as it was flown by Chinese, North Korean, and Soviet pilots.
As mentioned previously, the MiG held superiority in the air as it was faster, more maneuverable, rate of climb, ceiling and acceleration.
However when the F-86F was introduced, the performance difference was virtually nil.
When the F-86E arrived in Korea with the all-moving tailplane was more effective at speeds at or above the sound barrier.
The MiG-15 could not perform very well at speeds past 0.92 mach. This would account for the higher ratio of “kills” in favor of the F-86.
The number of 792 MiG-15 losses was disputed by the USSR and the Communist Chinese sources, but the numbers add up as 335 Soviet MiGs lost while 224 MiGs were lost by the Chinese.
It was estimated that about 100 North Korean MiGs were shot down as the North Koreans would not reveal their losses.
In 1958, the Chinese Nationals who had been outfitted with F-86Fs Sabres, were challenged by the Chinese Communists in an attempt to drive them out of Twain Island. Many MiG-Sabre dogfights took place.
Then secretly, the USN converted the Sabres with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. These missiles had only recently finished being tested and very few were available to U.S. forces.
The MiG-15 and MiG-17 had an altitude advantage over the Republic of China Sabres. However with the new Sidewinder missiles that advantage disappeared in a devastating way.
The F-86 Sabre was used in regional disputes over the years by Pakistani in Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971 .
The Sabre also was used by the Portuguese Air Force and the Philippine Air Force replacing their P-51s with F-86Fs.
In addition to ROC, Pakistani, and Portugal, the F-86 was used by Japan, Spain, and Republic of Korea (South Korea). In fact 20 countries throughout the world have had an North American F-86 Sabre at one time or another in their military arsenal.
F-86s on Display
The following countries have F-86 Sabres of various models on display:
Argentina – Australia – Brazil – Canada – Colombia -Czech Republic – Germany – Greece – Japan-New Zealand – Norway – Saudi Arabia – Yugoslavia – South Africa – South Korea – Spain – Turkey – United Kingdom.
In the United States, there are over 84 F-86 on display at airports and museums through out the country.
Please check with your local air museum for their display.
Tech Specs for the F-86 Sabrejet
Wing Span: 37 ft 1 in
Length: 37 ft 8 in
Height: 14 ft 5 in
Weight: 13,791 lbs
Max Speed: 678-687 MPH*
Cruise Speed: 599 MPH*
Service Ceiling: 48,000 ft
Range: 1,052 miles
Engines: 1 GE J47-GE-13 with 5,200 pounds of thrust
Armament: Guns: 6-50 cal Browning Machine Guns.
Rockets: Variety of launchers. Example: could carry 36 SNEB 68mm rockets.
Bombs: 5,300 pounds.
*Depending on the model and mission.
THANKS, FOR READING! I HOPE THIS WAS INFORMATIVE!