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F-86F "Sabre"

The F-86F incorporated the J-47-GE-27 turbojet engine, which had a military rating of 5,910-1b thrust (a 700.1b thrust increase over the -13 engine of the F-86E), and 200-gallon, droppable fuel tanks (replacing the 120-gallon tanks of the F-86A and E models). The F-86F also featured the so-called "6-3" solid-wing leadingedge (later modified to reintroduce deleted slats), with small boundary layer fences fitted for the first time.

The Korean War precipitated a kind of blanket decision. The F86A and E day fighters (called for by the May 1945 GOR) could double as escort fighters or dive bombers, but the Air Force now wanted mainly a fighter-bomber. Overriding efforts were then underway to enhance the performance of all F-86s-war-committed or earmarked for combat in Korea. Hence, it was mid-1952 before final configuration changes were established, after production of the urgently needed aircraft had already begun. Nonetheless, the F-86F eventually satisfied the USAF fighter-bomber requirements. Equipped with four underwing pylons, it could carry bombs and external stores at the same time. Other configuration changes added 5" High Velocity Aircraft Rockets (HVARs) and various tactical nuclear stores.

This F-86F and 77 other first productions barely differed from the F-86E. They were equipped with the J-47-GE 27 engine which, if available, would also have powered the F--86E. First acceptance of the aircraft occured on 27 March 1952 with the delivery of 8 aircraft. Under the impetus of the war, North American opened a second F-86 plant in Columbus, Ohio, where the F-86F was the first model built. Beginning in April 1952, after completion of the 396th and last F86E, F-86Fs were also manufactured in Los Angeles. The new F-86F began serving with the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing in Korea within 3 months of being first accepted by the Air Force.

A second production batch of F-86Fs featured for the first time larger fuel tanks that increased combat radius to 402.6 nautical miles-115.6 nautical miles farther than the F-86A and E fighters. The F-86F's external fuel tanks could also be dropped. Extra care helped eliminate tank hangups that too often had kept F-86s from air-to-air combat. In effect, each F-86F variance included additional improvements, the nature of which had been determined through combat experience in Korea. Replacement of the A-1 gunsight by the simpler A-4 was followed by a revised cockpit arrangement, a modified radio system, and better armor protection for the tail-plane control system. Another group of F-86Fs introduced dual-store provision and even more fuel tanks that stretched combat radius another 100 miles (87 nm). The last F86Fs produced for the Air Force carried a LABS computer, a 1,200lb tactical nuclear store, more conventional bombs, and two 750-1b Napalm tanks (or eight 5" HVARs). After combat-testing the 20mm cannon, the F-86Fs again retained the deficient M-3 machineguns of early F-86s.

More than half of the Air Force F-86Fs were retrofitted with the extended, solid-wing leading edges, first tested on the F-86E. Other F-86Fs were produced under this new configuration. In both cases, the results were gratifying. Operating altitude jumped to 52,000 feet (a 4,000-ft gain); maximum Mach went to 1.05; climb exceeded earlier rates by almost 300 fpm; and tighter turns could be made at high altitudes. These reduced the advantages of the highly maneuverable MIG-15-still, the Air.Force sought improvement. After extensive tests, it found it in a reversion to slats, plus a leading edge and wing tip extension. This raised the F-86F's combat capability over the two original configurations-the first slat-equipped, short-wing leading edge F-86Fs (subsequently re trofitted), and the extended wing leading-edge F-86F productions in which all slats had been eliminated. The combination slat extension improved the aircraft handling at low speeds, extended combat radius, increased maneuverability at high altitudes, and reduced landing and take-off speeds. The slats also added 200 pounds to the 17,000-1b F-86F, but it was well worth it. In March 1955 the Air Force directed retrofit of all F-86Fs with the new, slated leading edge.

Despite the higher thrust of the F-86F's new engine, early F-86Fs demonstrated no marked combat superiority over modified F86Es. Yet, they outperformed their predecessors in acceleration and rate of climb below 30,000 feet. Ensuing F86F variances with their built-in improvements increased the gap and, by March 1953, F-86Es were being withdrawn from combat in favor of the new model. In the fighter-bomber role, F-86Fs also proved their effectiveness quickly. In mid-1953, after but a few months in combat, the Fifth Air Force described the aircraft as "the most suitable fighter-bomber employed in Korea:" The F-86F "displayed a superior ability to survive, was a stable gun and bomb platform, had no airfield or operating problems not peculiar to other jets, and possessed satisfactory stability when carrying external ordnance at high altitudes."

By the end of the war, the F-86s-and the F-86Fs in particular had achieved and held air superiority in Korea. The final boxscore showed 14 MIGs dawned for every F-86 lost (818 versus 58).

Fifteen months after delivery of the Air Force's last 40 F-86Fs. All productions accepted by the Air Force after June 1954 were allocated to MAP, the last such lot of 13 aircraft being delivered in December 1956.

The Air Force accepted for its own use 111 F-$6Fs in FY 52, 971 in FY 53, and 877 in FY 54. The MAP F-86Fs were accepted after a 2r year lapse-142 in FY 56 and 138 in FY 57. This was done at a cost of: $211,111.00-airframe, $140,082; engine (installed), $49:,664; electronics, $5,649; ordnance, $3,047; armament, $17,669.

The F-86F had other configurations. The RF-86F was built; as in the F-86A's case, a few F-86Fs were fitted with reconnaissance equipment. The RF-86Fs served in Korea with the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. A trainer version, the TF-86F was built. A two-person version of the basic F-86F, requested by TAC as a replacement for the T-33 trainer. The first TF-86F flew for the first time on 14 December 1953 and was destroyed in an accident soon after. A second TF-86F was completed and flown in the summer of 1954, but the Air Force cancelled the program a few months later.

The F-86F, like the F-86E, left the Air Force inventory after the Korean war. By early 1955, the Air Defense Command had no F86F interceptors. By the end of the year, the remaining 53 F-86F fighter-bombers of TAC's 323d Fighter Bomber Wing and 83d Fighter Day Wing were being replaced by F-86Hs (the F-86F's subsequent model). The Guard inventory, which counted four F86Fs in mid-1957, reached a peak of 25 F-86Fs 2 years later, but these ANG aircraft were also quickly supplanted by F-86Hs. Export of surplus F-86Fs to MAP recipient nations began in 1954. Within 4 years, the F-86Fs had become the Free World's most widely-used jet combat aircraft. TAC used some F-86Fs for training of allied foreign pilots through the early sixties.

Besides the use as a fighter bomber in the Korean War, F-86Fs of TAC's 612th Fighter Bomber Squadron participated in Night Owl, an Air Proving Ground Command project to determine the feasibility of using fighter bombers at night. The F-86Fs convinced the Night Owl observers of their effectiveness. Moreover, necessary modifications would not affect the aircraft daytime capabilities. Pilot training, if closely monitored, also should present no problem. TAC considered the positive results of Night Owl the greatest single development in night operations since the end of WW II. The F-86F was also used in 1954 to test future computer equipment (the M-1 toss-bomber computer was. under development and the "A Box" computer, due in mid-1957). Four F-86Fs were therefore equipped with the basic BT-9 computer-Swedish made, production-limited, and not yet installed in any other aircraft. The tests uncovered technical malfunctions which could also impair the improved M-1 toss-bomber computer. Other countries also had a supply of F-86Fs. One of the first recipients of F-86Fs (either surplus or specifically purchased for the Mutual Defense Assistance Program) was Nationalist China, who also received several RF-86Fs equipped with one K-17 and two K 22 cameras. Most of these aircraft, totaling eventually more than 325 aircraft, were still in operation at the end of 1964. The Spanish Air Force also received a significant number of F-86Fs (some 250). The Republic of Korea gained no fewer than 112 F-86Fs and 10 RF-86Fs; Pakistan received 120 F-86Fs; Norway, 90; Portugal, 50; Thailand and the Philippines, 40 each. Twenty-eight F-86Fs were allocated to Argentina, 22 to Venezuela, and 10 to Peru. A joint production agreement between North American and Japanese Mitsubishi manufacturers provided Japan with numerous F-86Fs--180 completed aircraft were delivered by North American and Mitsubishi assembled a total of 300 F-86Fs from imported components. Before North American deliveries of the F-86F to Japan began, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force received 28 MAP F-86Fs for training operations, the first of these arriving in December 1955.



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