North American F-86 Sabre
America's first swept-wing fighter
ERA: Jet Age
On loan from the National Museum of the Marine Corps
On May, 19, 1944, the USAAF ordered three prototypes of North AAmerican's first jet-powered aircraft and designated them XP-86; this was to lead to the development of one of the best airplanes of the postwar years. Based on German research, which had been retrieved from occupied Germany and handed over to the USAAF, North American's engineers carried out countless wind tunnel tests with swept-wing models; this led them to suggest that a swept-wing should be incorporated in the XP-86. The first test results were positive and on April 26, 1948, test pilot George Welch broke the sound barrier in a dive in the XP-86 (the first American fighter to achieve this).
Sabres had their first taste of action when war broke out in Korea. On December 17, 1950 a Sabre had its first encounter with a MiG-15, the swept wing Soviet fighter which had until then enjoyed air-superiority in the Kore theater. The F-86A survived the encounter having the edge on its adversary due to a better rate of climb and superior maneuverability above 40,000 ft.
The paint scheme of this aircraft is representative of the F-86 flown by U.S.M.C. pilot Major Bolt. Major Bolt was an exchange pilot with the U.S.A.F. when he shot down six MiGs, becoming the only Marine Ace during the Korean conflict. The F-86 proved invaluable throughout the war and flew 87,177 missions. All 39 American aces of the Korean War were Sabre pilots, a record that speaks for itself.