A Brief History of the North American F-86D Sabre

By Willie Bodenstein

A development of the F-86 Sabre the North American F-86D Sabre that first flew on 22 December 1949 was a transonic jet all-weather interceptor of the United States Air Force.

Although based on the F-86 Sabre day fighter, the F-86D had a wider fuselage and the airframe length increased to 40 ft 4 in (12.3 m), with a clamshell canopy and enlarged tail surfaces. It was powered by a larger afterburner engine, had a distinctive nose radome and had only 25 percent commonality with other Sabre variants.

The F-86D was the first U.S. Air Force night fighter design with only a single crewman and a single engine. Gun armament was eliminated in favour of a retractable under-fuselage tray carrying 24 unguided Mk. 4 rockets, then considered a more effective weapon against enemy bombers than a barrage of cannon fire.

On 18 November 1952, F-86D 51-2945 set a speed record of 698.505 mph (1,124.1 km/h) when Captain J. Slade Nash flew over a three km (1.8 mi.) course at the Salton Sea in southern California at a height of only 125 ft (38 m). Another F-86D broke this world record on 16 July 1953, when Lieutenant Colonel William F. Barns, flying F-86D 51-6145 in the same path of the previous flight, achieved 715.697 mph (1,151.8 km/h).

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