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North American F-86H Sabre

EAA’s F-86H

The EAA’s F-86H “gate guard” was acquired from the United States Air Force in 1961. After EAA opened its new headquarters and museum at Oshkosh in 1983, the F-86H was mounted on a pole along the highway that passes the EAA facility.

Although no F-86H ever served in combat, the EAA’s “H” is painted in Korean War colors, in tribute to the pilots and aircrews of that conflict.

The F-86 Sabre was America’s first swept-wing fighter jet. It gained its highest fame during the Korean Conflict (1951-1953) as a “MiG Killer.” Though the Russian-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet fighter was slightly superior to the F-86, Sabre pilots were able to gain the advantage. During that conflict, Sabres shot down 792 MiGs with only 76 Sabres lost—a victory ratio of 10 to 1. All 39 of the United Nations’ jet aces in that conflict were F-86 pilots.

F-86 Production

The F-86 had its roots in 1944, when North American Aviation submitted a design for a swept-wing day fighter. The U.S. Army Air Force ordered two prototypes but their construction was delayed until 1947, after the end of WW II, to allow North American’s engineers to evaluate captured German jet aircraft and apply the data to the XP-86 prototypes.

From 1948 to 1953, F-86 Sabres held several consecutive world speed records, from 570 mph in an F-86A to 715 mph in an F-86D. Sabres also won several National Aircraft Show Bendix Trophies.

During its production life, the F-86 went through several variants. All of them were rated above 650 miles per hour with a 600-mile combat radius and a service ceiling of at least 45,000 feet. The F-86D all-weather/night fighter was the most numerous, with 2,054 units built.

Most F-86s were built by North American Aviation, but several other companies built Sabres under license or assembled them from components supplied by North American. These included Canadair, Ltd (Canada), Commonwealth Aircraft Corp. (Australia), Fiat (Italy), and Mitsubishi (Japan). F-86s were sold to military air arms around the world and several are still flying under government contracts as target drones and research vehicles. There are at least 15 F-86s flying as privately-owned warbirds. A total of 9,502 F-86s were built before production ended in December 1956.

The “H” Series

The F-86H was the last variant of the Sabre. Produced from late 1953 through mid-1955, the “H” embodied the lessons learned in earlier F-86 models and in the skies over Korea. It was larger and heavier than earlier F-86s, and its overall performance was better. Built and deployed as a fighter-bomber, the “H” series never saw combat. But as a Cold War “deterrent,” the F-86H provided the U.S. and its allies with a formidable weapon, capable of delivering a nuclear bomb.

With the advent of the supersonic F-100 Super Sabre, the subsonic F-86H was phased out of Air Force service. By June 1958, all active-service F-86Hs had been transferred from the USAF to Air National Guard (ANG) units. During the 1961 Berlin Crisis, ANG F-86Hs from Massachusetts were deployed to Europe for several months. The last ANG F-86H was retired in January 1972.


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