The next Sabre version in production was the F-86E, which introduced the power-operated all-movable horizontal tail surface, but was otherwise identical to late F-86As with J47-GE-13s. Beginning in February 1951, the USAF accepted 336 F-86Es, plus 60 F-86E-6-CANs from Canadair by July 1952.
A 5,910-pound thrust J47-GE-27 was used by 1,159
F-86Fs, first flown March 19, 1952, and rushed to Korea in June 1952. The first 78 F-86F-1, had two 120-gallon drop tanks, but 200-gallon tanks could be carried on 57 F-86F-5 to F-15 models. Beginning with the F-86F-10, the six .50-caliber guns used an A-4 sight linked to APG-30 radar.
Most Sabres were built in Los Angeles, but North American had leased a Columbus, Ohio, plant in September 1950, and delivered 100 F-86F-20-NH and 600 F-86F-25-NH from September 1952 to March 1954. The F-86F-25-NH introduced fittings for two 200-gallon plus two 120-gallon drop tanks, or two 200-gallon tanks and two 1,000-pound bombs. They were followed by the Sabre’s Navy version, the FJ-2 Fury.
In Los Angeles, deliveries began in October 1952 on 859 F-86F-30-NAs, the first to replace the slatted wing with an extended leading edge to improve speed and maneuverability and had enough combat radius to deliver bombs effectively. This model arrived in Korea in January 1953, serving the 18th and 8th Fighter-Bomber Wings. Kits were shipped to Korea to equip all older F-86s in hand to the new wing shape.
A South African squadron in Korea borrowed 22 USAF F-86F-30s in 1953.
Five F-86E-10 and six F-86F-1s armed with four 20-mm T-60 guns were redesignated F-86F-2s, while two F-84F-1s modified for Oerlikon guns became F-86F-3 airplanes. Called the “Gun-Val” project, they were combat tested in March 1953, and proved the value of heavier gun calibers.
In 87,177 sorties from December 1950 to July 1953, Sabres were credited with 792 MiGs and 13 older aircraft, losing 78 F-86s to the MiGs, 19 to ground fire, 13 to unknown causes, and 114 to non-enemy or non-operational causes. Much of this success was due to the superior experience and skill of American pilots, and in some part to improvements made on the F-86F. Readers can contrast the American and Russian fighter experiences in the detailed books by Dorr and Gordon cited in the chapter notes.
By June 1954, the USAF had 14 F-86F wings in service including the four (lst, 8th, 18th, and 51st) with Korean combat experience. The top aces of that war were Capt. Joseph McConnell, Jr. with 16 victories, Maj. James Jabara (15), Capt. Manuel J. Fernandez (14), and Major George A. Davis, Jr. (14).
More powerful Sabres
Three RF-86F-30 planes modified in Japan with five cameras were followed by eight factory modified with all guns replaced by three newer cameras. These were used by the 15th TRS to secretly photograph Soviet air bases near Vladivostok, beginning on March 22, 1954. Each had two 200-gallon and two 130-gallon drop tanks, and the deepest and last mission was flown to photograph the Khabarosvsk area on February 19, 1955. Another 18 RF-86F camera planes were converted by Mitsubishi for the Japanese and Republic of China forces.
The first Sabre actually designed as a fighter-bomber was the F-86H begun March 16, 1951, which used a larger intake and fuel capacity for a J73-GE-3 engine. A mockup was inspected in July 1951, and the first of two F-86H-1-NAs built at Los Angeles flew May 9, 1953. The Columbus Ohio plant flew its first F-86H-1-NH September 4, and delivered 113 F-86H-ls armed with six .50-caliber guns with 300 rpg, an LABS for a Mk 12 nuclear weapon, or conventional stores. Extended wing tips and leading edges were added, beginning with the 15th aircraft.
Four 20-mm M-39s with 150 rpg armed 360 F-86H-5-NHs and H-10s delivered at Columbus from January 1955 to April 1956. The F-86H entered operational service with the 312th FBW in October 1954, and was used by three wings (50th, 83rd, & 312th) until passed to the Air National Guard by June 1958. Despite the increase in power, airframe limits prevented much increase in speed over the F-86F, but acceleration and climb were better.
Sabres in foreign service
When Turkey began receiving 105 Mk 2 Sabres from Canada in July 1954, they were balanced by 104 ex-RAF Sabres for Greece. After RAF Mk 4 Sabres were replaced by new Hunters in 1956, 180 were passed on to Italy and 121 to Yugoslavia.
Canadian Avro Orenda engines used on the remaining Canadair Sabres were tested first on a NAA F-86J (modified F-86A) in October 1950 and on a single Canadair Sabre Mk 3. Beginning in July 1953, 370 Mk 5 (6,355-pound thrust Orenda 10) and 655 Mk 6 (7,275-pound thrust Orenda 14) were built, with a total of 1,815 Canadair Sabres by October 9, 1958. Most went to the RCAF, but 34 Mk 6s went to South Africa in April 1956, and six to Colombia in June. West Germany got 75 Mk 5s, beginning in May 1957, and the last 225 Mk 6 Sabres.
Other European allies got second-hand USAF F-86Fs, beginning with five allocated to Belgium in June 1955. Spain began receiving 244 in September 1955, Norway got 115 F-86Fs beginning in March 1957, and Portugal 50 in 1958. South American countries sent ex-USAAF F-86Fs were Peru (26 in 1955) and Venezuela (30 from 1955 to 1960), while Argentina got 28 in 1960.
Australia’s Commonwealth Aircraft was chosen in February 1951 to build their own Sabre version, with a 7,500-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon and two 30-mm Aden guns. A prototype built of U.S. components was flown August 3, 1953, and 111 production CA-27 Sabres followed from July 1954 to December 1961. They served five RAAF fighter squadrons until 1969, when 16 were sold to Malaysia, and Indonesia got 18 in 1973.