The North American F-86 Sabre was arguably the most successful and elegant American fighter of the 1950s. Yet this champion of the Korean War, owes its existence not to the U.S. Air Force but rather the U.S. Navy. In late 1945, as World War II was coming to a close, North American developed the straight-winged FJ-1 Fury, the Navy's first jet powered fighter. North American offered a land-based version of the FJ-1 to the USAF and was rewarded with an order for three XP-86s. Shortly afterward, captured German research on the aerodynamic benefits of swept back wings became available and North American responded by fitting a thirty-five degree swept back wing to what was basically a FJ-1 fuselage. The F-86 Sabre was born.
The F-86 was a remarkable performer, although its turn and roll rate dropped off at higher altitudes and speeds. Sabre pilots enjoyed a 360-degree view of the surrounding skies, and the firepower of six M-3 .50 cal. machine guns. The plane proved to be smooth and agile. Initially underpowered with an Allison J35-A-5 turbojet, once the Sabre had the more powerful J-47 turbojet installed Sabre test pilots began to take the F-86A into the relatively unknown region of transonic speeds. The Sabre first “officially” broke the sound barrier in April 1948. The first operational F-86A Sabres entered service in May of the same year.
Little more than two years later, the Sabre would test its mettle against what was arguably the most advanced fighter of the time, the Russian MiG-15. Shortly after the United States became involved in the Korean War, the MiG-15 made its first appearance in the skies over Korea and immediately outclassed every U.S. aircraft in the theater. In response, the U.S. sent the Sabre to Korea, setting up one of the classic aerial confrontations of all time. On paper, the MiG-15 and the F-86A were fairly evenly matched. Following the introduction of the improved F-86E model, the Sabre could easily out fly the MiG at low to medium altitudes and hold its own at higher altitudes. However it was the superiority of the American Sabre pilots that made the difference in what became known as “MiG Alley”. In less than three years of intense combat, often against overwhelming odds, F-86 pilots established a kill ratio of better than 8-to-1 over the MiG-15 and claimed nearly 800 of the Russian-built fighters.
With a proven combat record, the F-86 quickly became the standard fighter for the USAF and many NATO countries. Nearly 10,000 F-86s of all models were produced and operated by such countries as Canada, Britain, Australia, Pakistan, West Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Portugal and Turkey. The Cavanaugh Flight Museum's F-86 is a Canadian-built Mark VI and has a slightly wider fuselage to accept a powerful Orenda 14 engine. The aircraft carries the personal colors of Maj. Gen. Frederick “Boots” Blesse, who flew 123 combat missions and had ten confirmed victories during the Korean War.
|ENGINE||Avro Orenda 14 generating 7,275 lbs. of thrust|
|ARMAMENT||6 -.50 cal. machine guns & up to 3,000 lbs. of ordnance|
|WING SPAN||37 feet, 1 inch|
|LENGTH||37 feet, 6 inches|
|HEIGHT||14 feet, 8 inches|
|MAX TAKEOFF WEIGHT||13,791 pounds|
|MANUFACTURED BY||Canadair Limited|
|MUSEUM'S AIRCRAFT BUILT||1954|
|MAXIMUM SPEED||692 m.p.h.|
|RANGE W/EXTERNAL TANKS||1,200 miles|
|SERVICE CEILING||49,000 feet|