BY NORTH AMERICAN
The North American F-86H Sabre represented the practical application of knowledge gained from thousands of combat missions flown by the earlier F-86A, E and F variants. Primarily a fighter-bomber, the F-86H was larger and heavier than its predecessors, but had better all-around performance.
Development of the H-model started on 16 March 1951 as Project NA-187. The new design included a larger engine with a corresponding larger intake, slightly larger fuselage, increased internal fuel capacity and four underwing stations for bombs or drop tanks. Initially, the United States Air Force (USAF) ordered 150 of these aircraft but a contract finalized on 3 November 1952 was expanded to 175 aircraft. The first two aircraft were built in California and the remainder were built at North American’s facility in Columbus, Ohio.
On 30 April 1953, Joseph Lynch piloted the first F-86H on its maiden flight without incident. However, operational testing was delayed due to accidents. The most notable accident occurred on 25 August 1954 when Captain Joseph McConnell, the leading Korean War ace (16 victories), was killed. Despite the difficulties in test, the USAF purchased an additional 300 aircraft on 11 June 1953. The first production aircraft was delivered to the 312th Fighter Bomber Wing at Clovis Air Force Base (AFB), New Mexico, in the fall of 1954. The last aircraft was delivered in April 1956. By 1957, the USAF started a transfer of the aircraft to the Air National Guard (ANG) in favor of the new F-100 Super Sabre, with the phase out complete by June 1958. The ANG phased out the last F-86H from its inventory on 8 Jan 1972.
The F-86H served with four active duty wings and twelve ANG squadrons. It was never used in combat. In the 1950s, Robins AFB processed over 500 F-86s in preparation for ferry flights across the Atlantic to Europe under Project High Flight. In addition, Robins AFB provided logistics support for armament, communications, fire control and bomb-navigation equipment on all USAF F-86 aircraft worldwide.
The museum’s F-86H Sabre, serial number 53-1511, was manufactured by North American Aviation at Columbus, Ohio, and was delivered to the USAF in March 1956. It served briefly with Air Training Command (ATC) and the Air Force Reserve before being assigned to the Maryland ANG in October 1957. It was retired from the 178th Tactical Fighter Group, Maryland ANG, in July 1970. It then served as an instructional aid at the Columbus Technical Institute in Columbus, Ohio. It was moved to the Museum of Aviation in 1983.
Span: 39 ft. 1 in.
Length: 38 ft. 10 in.
Height: 14 ft. 11 in.
Weight: 18,683 lbs. loaded
Armament: Four M-39 20mm cannon; eight 5-in. rockets, 2,000 lbs. of bombs, or nuclear weapon
Engine: General Electric J73-GE-3E of 9,070 lbs. thrust
Serial Number: 53-1511
Maximum speed: 693 mph.
Cruising speed: 603 mph.
Range: 1,050 miles
Service ceiling: 49,000 ft.