The production run of the F-86F Sabre finally ended with the delivery of the last F-86F-35-NA in August of 1954. At that time, it was assumed that this would be the end of the line for the day-fighter Sabre, as plans were already being made for the F-86F Sabre to be replaced in service by supersonic types such as the F-100. However, the USAF was finding that it was impossible to meet its commitments to Asian allies such as Nationalist China and Japan by using the surplus F-86Fs already available from USAF stocks. Consequently, the F-86F was put back into production to meet this demand.
The new model was known as the NA-227 to the company and as the F-86F-40-NA on USAF rolls. A contract for 215 was formally approved on June 27, 1955. USAF serials were 55-3816/4030. 65 more -40s were added to the contract on March 27, 1956, with USAF serials being 55-4983/5047. USAF serials were assigned to these planes because they were purchased with MDAP funds, even though they were not intended for USAF service.
The first F-86F-40-NA (serial number 55-3816) rolled out of the factory in October of 1955. The new F-86F was basically similar to the earlier F-86F Sabres and was powered by the same J47-GE-27 of the earlier Fs and had the fuselage, weapons system, and flight controls of the standard F, but had a different wing. It had the "6-3" extended wing leading edge of the earlier Fs, but leading edge slats were once again fitted in an attempt to improve the low speed handling properties. In addition, the wing tips were extended, increasing the wing area from 302.3 square feet to 313.4 square feet and the wing span from 37.12 feet to 39.11 feet. The original F-86F aileron was part of the wingtip, while the F-40 aileron was separate.
The wing slats and the increased wing area markedly improved the handling, especially at low speeds. The low-speed roll-and-yaw problem which had plagued the "6-3" F-86F Sabres was largely eliminated. Stalling speed was reduced from 144 mph to 124 mph, and 800 feet were shaved from the takeoff ground run. The slat actuators and wingtip extensions added about 250 pounds to the weight, but performance was almost identical to that of a standard F-86F.
These improvements in handling and turning ability led the USAF to decide to upgrade many of their existing F-86F-25 and F-86F-30 Sabres to F-86F-40 standards. North American supplied the Air Force with modification kits containing the new wing leading edge, slat assemblies, wingtip extensions, and new ailerons. Many Sabre-equipped foreign air forces also upgraded their Sabres to F-40 standards through use of these kits. Only the Canadair and Commonwealth Sabres were not equipped with F-40 wing kits, although both types could accept the installation if needed.
The last of 280 California-built F-86F-40-NA (55-5047) was delivered in December of 1956. This was the last of 5035 California-built Sabres. The F-86F-40-NA was designed purely for export, and never served operationally with any USAF units. The following nations operated F-86F-40-NAs:
In late 1953, the Allied nations (minus the USSR) decided to let Japan begin to re-equip its military forces. It was agreed that F-86Fs would be supplied to the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, or JASDF. It was also agreed that most of these F-86Fs would be built in Japan. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (the wonderful folks who brought you the Zero) of Nagoya signed a joint production agreement with North American Aviation on July 13, 1954, under which Mitsubishi would build the F-86F-40-NA under license.
Mitsubishi was not going to build these planes from scratch, but it was to assemble Sabres in Japan from kits made in California. This included seventy sets manufactured under the company designation NA-231 (USAF serials 55-5048/5117), 110 sets built under the company designation NA-238 (USAF serials 56-2773/2882), and 120 sets built under the company designation NA-256 (USAF serials 57-6338/6457). These 300 Japanese-assembled Sabres were all meant for service with JASDF. The first Nagoya-assembled Sabre flew on August 9, 1956, and the last one was completed on February 25, 1961.
The Mitsubishi-assembled F-86F-40-NAs carried JASDF serials 62-7701/7705, 72-7706/7773, 82-7774/7868, 92-7869/7880, 92-7881/7940, 02-7941/7991, 12-7992/7999, and 12-7000 (although it isn't clear why the last plane wasn't assigned the serial number 12-8000). Late in the contract, an additional kit was supplied to Mitsubish which had a set of pylons to carry the Philco-Ford GAR-8 (AIM-9B) Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
Engine: One General Electric J47-GE-27, 5910 lb.st. Dimensions: wingspan 39.11 feet, length 37.54 feet, height 14.74 feet, wing area 313.37 square feet. Weights: 11,125 pounds empty, takeoff weight 15,198 pounds (clean), 18,152 pounds (2 200-gallon drop tanks), 20,611 pounds (2 200-gallon drop tanks plus 2 1000 pound bombs). Maximum speed 678 mph at sea level, 599 mph at 35,000 feet (at 15,352 pounds combat weight). Initial climb rate 8100 feet per minute. Altitude of 30,000 feet reached in 5.2 minutes (clean). 47,000 feet service ceiling. Combat radius 463 miles. Ferry range 1525 miles.
55-3816/4030 North American F-86F-40-NA Sabre 55-4983/5047 North American F-86F-40-NA Sabre 55-5048/5117 North American F-86F-40-NA Sabre assembled by Mitsubishi 56-2773/2882 North American F-86F-40-NA Sabre assembled by Mitsubishi JASDF serials 72-7771/7773, 82-7774/7868,92-7869/7880. 57-6338/6457 North American F-86F-40-NA Sabre assembled by Mitsubishi operated by JASDF as 92-7881/7940, 02-7941/7991,12-7992/7999 and 12-7000. some returned to USA and converted to QF-86F.