1940's -- A North American Aviation Air Force F-86 Sabre jet launches 5-inch rockets equipped to carry 16 HVAR rockets externally on wings and can also carry bombs or combinations of bombs and rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The F-86 Sabre was the Air Force's first swept-wing jet fighter. The aircraft made its initial flight on Oct. 1, 1947. Originally designed as a high-altitude day-fighter, it was subsequently redesigned into an all-weather interceptor (F-86D) and a fighter-bomber (F-86H). The first production model flew on May 20, 1948, and on Sept. 15, 1948, an F-86A set a new world speed record of 670.9 mph.
The F-86 was shipped to Japan in December 1950 with the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, one of the first of the Air Force's Sabre units , and flown in Korea. Most of its combat missions against MiG-15s were flown from Kimpo Air Base near Seoul.
As a day fighter, the airplane saw service in Korea in three successive series (F-86A/E/F). By the end of the conflict, F-86 pilots had shot down 792 MiGs at a loss of only 76 Sabres, a victory ratio of 10 to 1.
More than 5,500 Sabre day-fighters were built in the United States and Canada. The airplane was also used by the air forces of 20 other nations, including West Germany, Japan, Spain, Britain and Australia.
A special model of the F-86, the F-86F-35-NA, had the capability of carrying a nuclear weapon. The 1,200-pound Mk 12 "special store" (as the atomic bomb was 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, 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 1,000-pound or smaller bombs, two 750-pound napalm tanks, or eight 5-inch HVAR rockets.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force has an F-86A on display in its Modern Flight Gallery.
General Characteristics (F-86A) Span: 37 feet, 1 inch Length: 37 feet, 6 inches Height: 14 feet, 8 inches Weight: 13,791 lbs. loaded Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns and eight 5-in. rockets or 2,000 lbs. of bombs Maximum speed: 685 mph Cruising speed: 540 mph Range: 1,200 miles Combat ceiling: 49,000 ft Engine: One General Electric J47 turbojet of 5,200 lbs. thrust Cost: $178,000 Crew: One
Source: U.S. History Support Office and the National Museum of the Air Force