Canadian Warplanes 6: North American F-86 Sabre

North American F-86 Sabre

The North American F-86 Sabre, sometimes called the Sabrejet, is a transonic jet fighter aircraft. Produced by North American Aviation, the Sabre is best known as the United States' first swept-wing fighter that could counter the swept-wing Soviet MiG-15 in high-speed dogfights in the skies of the Korean War (1950–1953), fighting some of the earliest jet-to-jet battles in history. Considered one of the best and most important fighter aircraft in that war, the F-86 is also rated highly in comparison with fighters of other eras. Although it was developed in the late 1940s and was outdated by the end of the 1950s, the Sabre proved versatile and adaptable and continued as a front-line fighter in numerous air forces.

Its success led to an extended production run of more than 7,800 aircraft between 1949 and 1956, in the United States, Japan, and Italy. In addition, 738 carrier-modified versions were purchased by the US Navy as FJ-2s and -3s. Variants were built in Canada and Australia. The Canadair Sabre added another 1,815 aircraft and the significantly redesigned CAC Sabre (sometimes known as the Avon Sabre or CAC CA-27), had a production run of 112. The Sabre is by far the most-produced Western jet fighter, with a total production of all variants at 9,860 units.

The fighter-bomber version (F-86H) could carry up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs, including an external fuel-type tank that could carry napalm. Unguided 2.75-inch (70-millimeter) rockets were used on some fighters on training missions, but 5-inch (127 mm) rockets were later carried on combat operations. The F-86 could also be fitted with a pair of external jettisonable jet fuel tanks (four on the F-86F beginning in 1953) that extended the range of the aircraft. Both the interceptor and fighter-bomber versions carried six 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M3 Browning machine guns with electrically-boosted feed in the nose (later versions of the F-86H carried four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon instead of machine guns). Firing at a rate of 1,200 rounds per minute, the 0.50-inch guns were harmonized to converge at 1,000 ft (300 m) in front of the aircraft, using armor-piercing (AP) and armor-piercing incendiary (API) rounds, with one armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) for every five AP or API rounds. The API rounds used during the Korean War contained magnesium, which were designed to ignite upon impact, but burned poorly above 35,000 ft (11,000 m) as oxygen levels were insufficient to sustain combustion at that height. Initial planes were fitted with the Mark 18 manual-ranging computing gun sight. The last 24 F-86A-5-Nas and F-86Es were equipped with the A-1CM gunsight-AN/APG-30 radar, which used radar to automatically compute a target's range, which later proved to be advantageous against MiG opponents over Korea. (Wikipedia)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4818176)

F/L Earnest A. (Ernie) Glover, RCAF (1922-1991) flew North American F-86 Sabre fighters while attached to the USAF during the Korean war. On 23 Jan 1953, while attached to the USAF in Korea, F/L E.A. Glover destroyed three MiG-15’s and damaged two others. He was the leading Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) scorer, and was awarded the Commonwealth Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1953. He was also awarded the American DFC.

On 8 Oct 1952, F/L Glover was flying number four position when a two-ship element of MiG-15s was intercepted. The F-86 flight closed, but in the evasive action the MIGs made a hard-right turn which the number one and two men were unable to follow. Flight Lieutenant Glover, being in a more advantageous position, fired, observing immediate hits. The MIGs dived from 40,000 to 15,000 feet and during one violent pull up, the number two MIG went out of control and plunged into the ground. The lead MIG with Flight Lieutenant Glover still firing reached the sanctuary of the Yalu River. By this demonstration of tactical skill Flight Lieutenant Glover destroyed one MiG-15 and inflicted damage on another. He destroyed another MiG-15 on 9 Oct 1952, and a third MiG-15 on 16 Oct 1952.

Ernie Glover entered air combat during the Second World War flying night fighter missions in a Hawker Hurricane. Gaining valuable combat experience in Hurricanes, Ernie soon moved into the more powerful and formidable Hawker Typhoon, flying fighter missions into occupied Europe. On one such mission in 1943 over France, Ernie was blasted by German flak that downed his Typhoon forcing him into the hands of the Germans and a Prisoner Of War.

RCAF pilots in USAF marked Sabres flew over 900 combat missions with 9 confirmed MIG kills. Ernie happened to down 3 of those nine MIGs, the highest score of any RCAF pilot in Korea making him a distinguished combat pilot. Flight Lieutenant Ernest A. Glover, joined the USAF’s 334th Fighter Squadron at Kimpo (Seoul) in June 1952. Up until 26 Aug 1952, he never saw a MiG; from then until the end of September he saw them nearly every day. He was ultimately credited with three MiG-15s destroyed, and two damaged, for which he was awarded both the American and Commonwealth DFC. (

(USAF Photo)

North American F-86 Sabre pair.

(NMUSAF Photo)

North American F-86 Sabre cockpit.

If you found this valuable, consider supporting the author.