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North American F-86 Sabre

North American F-86F Sabre jet, 1953. The F-86F-35-NA had the capability of carrying a nuclear weapon. The 1200-pound Mk 12 "special store" (as the atomic bomb was euphemistically called) with a yield of up to 12 kT was carried under the port wing, while droptanks were attached under the starboard wing. The nuclear bomb was delivered by use of the Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS), in which the pilot approached the target at low altitude, pulled up to begin a loop, released the bomb near the top of the loop to throw the bomb away from the flight path, and then escaped the blast by climbing away with an Immelmann turn. The F-86F-35-NA was equipped with a computer for determining the exact instant of bomb release, along with a set of controls for arming and disarming the "special store" in flight. Conventional weapons that could be carried included a pair of 1000-pound or smaller bombs, two 750-pound napalm tanks, or eight 5-inch HVAR rockets. The F-35 was otherwise similar to other F-86Fs.
North American F-86F Sabre jet, 1953. The F-86F-35-NA had the capability of carrying a nuclear weapon. The 1200-pound Mk 12 “special store” (as the atomic bomb was euphemistically called) with a yield of up to 12 kT was carried under the port wing, while droptanks were attached under the starboard wing. The nuclear bomb was delivered by use of the Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS), in which the pilot approached the target at low altitude, pulled up to begin a loop, released the bomb near the top of the loop to throw the bomb away from the flight path, and then escaped the blast by climbing away with an Immelmann turn. The F-86F-35-NA was equipped with a computer for determining the exact instant of bomb release, along with a set of controls for arming and disarming the “special store” in flight. Conventional weapons that could be carried included a pair of 1000-pound or smaller bombs, two 750-pound napalm tanks, or eight 5-inch HVAR rockets. The F-35 was otherwise similar to other F-86Fs.

The first swept-wing airplane in the U.S. fighter inventory, the F-86 scored consistent victories over Russian-built MiG fighters during the Korean War, accounting for a final ratio of 10-to-1. All 39 United Nations jet aces won their laurels in Sabres.More than 6,000 F-86s were manufactured by North American Aviation’s Los Angeles, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio, divisions. Four models of the craft (F-86A, E, F and H) were day fighters or fighter bombers, while the F-86D, K and L versions were all-weather interceptors.

Successive models of the daylight versions — all designed to destroy hostile aircraft in flight or on the ground — were equipped with more powerful engines and armament systems that ranged from bombs and rockets to machine guns and cannon. All were rated in the 650-mph (1046 kph) class with a 600-mile (966-kilometer) combat radius and a service ceiling of more than 45,000 feet (13,716 meters).The three interceptor versions sported black radome noses, replacing the yawning jet intakes of the other models. The K model, manufactured in Turin, Italy, by Fiat, was flown by NATO forces. The F-86L had added equipment for use in conjunction with the U.S. Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) defense system.

A three-ship North American F-86F Sabre formation during the Korean War in 1953. (USAF - USAF website photo 070727-F-2911S-580)
A three-ship North American F-86F Sabre formation during the Korean War in 1953. (USAF – USAF website photo 070727-F-2911S-580)

Forerunner of the operational Sabre was the XF-86, first flown Oct. 1, 1947, by North American Aviation test pilot George Welch. A few months later, Welch became the first pilot to fly the plane at Mach 1 in routine flight. Although technically rated as subsonic, the Sabre was no stranger to supersonic speeds.Various models of the Sabre held world speed records for six consecutive years, setting five official records and winning several National Aircraft Show Bendix Trophies. In September 1948, an F-86A set the Sabre’s first official world speed record of 570 mph (917 kph). This mark was bettered in 1952 by an F-86D that flew at 698 mph (1123 kph). The D became the first model of a fighter to better its own record, in 1953, with a run of 715 mph (1151 kph).The F-86E and subsequent models incorporated a unique control system, developed by North American, called the “all-flying tail.” The F-86A contained a booster control system that called for the pilot to do part of the work of controlling the aircraft, whereas the newer system added full power-operated control for better maneuverability at high speeds. An “artificial feel” was 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. U.S. production of the Sabre Jet ended in December 1956. (Source www.boeing.com).

On October 1953 the team goes under the command of 48th Figter Bomber Wing which flew F-84G based in Chaumont airbase, France. In the next year 48th Figter Bomber Wing moved to F-86F Sabre and with them the Skyblazers in May 1954 transited to specially painted Sabres.
On October 1953 the team goes under the command of 48th Figter Bomber Wing which flew F-84G based in Chaumont airbase, France. In the next year 48th Figter Bomber Wing moved to F-86F Sabre and with them the Skyblazers in May 1954 transited to specially painted Sabres.

The “Skyblazers” were the USAF demonstration team representing the United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) from the late 1940s through the 1950s. This team was formed in early 1949 by a group of 22d Fighter Squadron pilots from the 36th Fighter Wing at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base in Germany. At this time they were flying Lockheed F-80B Shooting Stars. The unit transitioned to the F-84E in 1950, the F-86F in 1955 and the F-100C in 1956. Two of the original Skyblazer team members, identical twins C.A. “Bill” and C.C. “Buck” Pattillo, went on to become members of the first Thunderbird team.

Unlike the Thunderbirds, the Skyblazers seldom appeared outside of the realm of USAFE operations in Europe. The Skyblazers were disbanded in January 1962 when their home squadron was rotated back to the United States and their assigned aircraft transitioned to the F-105 Thunderchief.

Doug Matthews the F-86 flying over the Florida skies. (Photo by Luigino Caliaro)
Doug Matthews the F-86 flying over the Florida skies. (Photo by Luigino Caliaro)

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