This rare Sabre rolled in on a flat-bed truck 16 November 1997, transferred from NAS China Lake. In the photo at the bottom, taken 3 January 1998, the nose gear was being attached, and the following week the wings and main gear went on, then the tail section was added at the end of March. Since then was a slow process of repairing damaged areas and locating original parts, and by March 1999 it was fully restored and in its rightful place on our ramp.
Originally a RF-86F, this is one of 18 modified by Mitsubishi in Japan for a then top-secret "Haymaker" reconnaissance program which envisioned penetration of "denied airspace" by the USAF in late-1950s Korea — the bulges beneath the canopy contained the electronic photo-surveillance packages using K-17 and K-22 cameras in an under-fuselage installation. Combat armament consisted of six .50 machine guns in the nose, which were removed when the camera packages were installed. There is only one RF-86F in flying condition worldwide, reportedly still in service to some lesser extent with the Republic of Korea Air Force.
The F-86F was basically a more powerful version of the F-86E, powered by a General Electric J47 turbojet of 5,910 pounds thrust. A contract was approved for 109 F models on April 11, 1951 and was increased to 360 aircraft by June. North American planned to build the F model in a leased facility in Columbus, Ohio, in order to accommodate the increased workload brought on by the Korean War.
By the time the Ohio production line opened, the order was up to 441 aircraft, so the North American factory in California began to produce F models as well. Over its production run, several block improvements were made to the F model, including flat armored windscreens, increased drop tank capacity, a new gun sight, revised flight control systems, increased wing area, provision for nuclear ordnance, and improved fighter-bomber capabilities.
02/01/2013. F-86 is currently undergoing a new exterior paint job. It will be repainted to one of its original unit markings.
s/n BuAero 55-5082
These new capabilities -- especially the new, larger wing -- quickly boosted combat performance in Korea. The F-86F could now match the maximum speed of the MiG-15 all the way up to 47,000 feet, could turn inside the MiG, and could almost match the MiG's rate of climb. Between 8 May and May 31, 1953, F-86Fs with improved wings accounted for 56 MiG kills with only one loss.
On June 20, 1953 F-86F Sabres accounted for 16 aerial victories, the biggest one-day score of the war. The improved fighter-bomber version of the F-86F also proved highly suitable for air-to-ground work in Korea, and could easily take care of itself on the way home if jumped by enemy aircraft.
Following the Korean War, surplus F-86Fs were transferred to various American allies around the world through the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP). Foreign recipients included Taiwan, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa, Belgium, Norway, Spain, South Korea, the Philippines, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Portugal, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia.
Manufactured by North American Aviation Company, Inglewood CA.
* According to F-86 historian Duncan Curtis, this s/n belongs to the rear half — ours is a composite of two -86s — and the front half's s/n is 52-4758 [ex-JASDF 52-7401], the first F-86F delivered to Japan. Click here to see pictures that Curtis sent of our RF-86F "401" during service in Japan, before and after installation of the cameras (note fake "guns" painted on in the bottom photo).