In the late 1940s, being faced for the first time with the possiblity of a strategic bombing attack on the US mainland by Soviet strategic bombers, the US government began a massive effort to develop an effective defense of US airspace. In support of this effort, the USAF had decided on the Northrop F-89 Scorpion as the interceptor of choice that would provide for the aerial defense of North America until the supersonic "1954 Interceptor" (the Convair F-102/F-106) would be ready. However, problems with the XF-89 prototype led the Air Force to consider possible alternatives in case the F-89 project failed. These alternatives included a modified Lockheed TF-80C which evolved into the F-94 Starfire, as well as a highly modified version of the F-86 Sabre.
On March 28, 1949, North American Aviation began engineering design work on an all-weather interceptor version of the F-86. The project was known as NA-164 by the company. The USAF showed immediate interest in the project, and on April 7, 1949 the company felt sufficiently confident that they began work on a production version, which was known as the NA-165.
Up to that time, all-weather jet interceptors had always been two-seaters, and the NA-164/165 was the first attempt to build a single-seat all-weather jet interceptor. An on-board radar-guided intercept system would provide for the all-weather capability, and an afterburning jet engine would be used to provide the extra boost needed to reach high speeds and high altitudes in a hurry, an essential feature for an interceptor. The omission of the second seat made for a simpler adaptation of the existing Sabre airframe. However, the choice of a single-seat format required sophisticated electronic systems to replace the second crew member, making it necessary to employ some of the earliest computers used in aviation.
An afterburning General Electric J47-GE-17 turbojet was selected as the powerplant for the NA-164/165, and was provided with an electronically- controlled fuel scheduling system which was designed to relieve the pilot of the tedious task of having to watch the engine behavior constantly. A single throttle lever control worked through an electronic fuel selector which determined the amount of fuel to be fed to the engine and correlated the entire engine and afterburner behavior for optimal efficiency. In the promotional literature of the day, this engine was referred to as a "blowtorch with a brain".
An AN/APG-36 search radar was to be carried in the nose. In order to fit the search radar into the nose, the nose air intake had to be lowered and reshaped to make space above it for a 30-inch dielectric radome covering the 18-inch antenna of the search radar.
Instead of using conventional cannon armament, plans were made for the armament to consist of a battery of twenty-four 2.75-inch "Mighty Mouse" Folding Fin Aircraft Rockets (FFARs), all mounted in a retractable tray in the aircraft's belly. The FFAR, developed jointly by North American and the Navy, was based on the German R4 rocket of World War II. The use of an all-rocket armament was quite innovative for the time, although a more conventional 20-mm cannon installation was studied as a standby plan.
The rearward-sliding canopy of the F-86A was replaced by a clamshell canopy hinged at the rear. It was anticipated that the clamshell canopy would make for easier and safer ejection in the event of an emergency. The aircraft was to be fitted with an all-flying horizontal tail, and the controls were to be completely hydraulic.
In February 1950, the rocket armament was selected and all plans for the standby 20-mm cannon were dropped.
On July 19, 1949, the Secretary of the Air Force formally endorsed the Sabre interceptor project. A Letter Contract for two NA-164 aircraft and 122 NA-165 aircraft was made out on October 7, 1949. Since the NA-164/165 was a substantially new aircraft with only 25 percent commonality with the original F-86A, the USAF decided to give the new interceptor a new F-number and assigned it the designation F-95. The announcement of the first successful USSR atomic bomb test a short while earlier gave a certain sense of urgency to the F-95 project. A formal contract was approved on June 2, 1950, with 31 more examples being added to the order to bring the total to 153.
Responsibility for the electronic fire control system was assigned to the Hughes Aircraft Corporation. On November 18, 1949, the Hughes company proposed that the system be designed so that the rocket attack on the enemy aircraft would be made from a lead collision course instead of from the traditional tail pursuit curve. Hughes evolved the E-4 system for this purpose. Until the 250-kW E-4 was available, the less-capable E-3 50-kw system would be fitted to the first 37 production F-95 aircraft.
The first NA-164 rolled out of the NAA plant in September of 1949. At that time, it was still known as the YF-95A, and was so labeled on its nose. Oddly enough, the two YF-95A prototypes had serials numbered after the beginning of the production run (the YF-95A had serials 50-577/578, and production F-95s began with serial number 50-455).
Neither the rocket armament nor the fire control system were yet available, and in order not to delay testing both prototypes were initially delivered and flown without them. In addition, conventional F-86A controls were fitted, and the sliding canopy and V-shaped windscreeen of the F-86A were retained. An early version of the afterburning J47-GE-17 engine was fitted, limited to 5000 lb.s.t. dry and 6650 lb.s.t. with afterburning.
50-577 went by truck to Muroc on November 28, 1949, The first flight was made on December 27, 1949, the redoubtable George Welch being at the controls. Throughout 1950, North American test pilots made some 74 flights to evaluate engine electronic controls and to check out the function of the afterburner.
The prototype Hughes E-3 fire-control system was received at NAA on May 26, 1950 and was installed in the second YF-95A (50-578) and tested during September. On October 17, 1950, this aircraft went to Hughes for two years of development testing.
The retractable rocket pack with twenty-four 2.75-inch "Mighty Mouse" FFAR (Folding-Fin Aircraft Rockets) rockets was fitted to 50-577 which went to Inyokern, the Navy's rocket range at China Lake, California for firing tests. The 1.75-inch rocket had a 7.55-pound explosive warhead, a velocity of 2500 feet/second at burnout, and a range of 4500 yards. First trials were carried out in February of 1951. The launcher took only a half-second to extend, and the FFARs could be fired in groups or in salvo from the launcher. The stabilizing fins were foldable, being clustered around the aft end of the rocket and snapping into position after clearing the launcher.
For political reasons the designation of the F-95 was changed to F-86D on July 24, 1950. The reasons for the change are sort of murky. North American company officials explained that the reason for the designation change was that separate appropriations must be made by Congress to allocate funds for "new" types of aircraft, but "developments" of existing types come under another budget category, making the F-86D a much easier "sell" to Congress than the F-95A. However, the USAF claimed that that the real reason for the change was the fact that a contractor could justify larger unit costs for a "new" aircraft than it could for a "development" of an existing one. Even though the USAF initially had agreed that the F-86D was substantially a "new" aircraft and designated it F-95A, in order to save the taxpayers some money they convinced North American management to agree that the plane was simply a "logical extension" of the existing F-86 and the designation was changed to F-86D.
The pressure of the Korean War led to fears that a Soviet attack on the US mainland could come at any time, and orders for the F-86D were dramatically stepped up. An order for 188 F-86D-20-NAs under the NAA number NA-177 was approved on April 11, 1951. Another contract for 638 F-86D-25 through D-35 aircraft was approved on July 18, 1951, the company designation for these aircraft being NA-173. A total of 979 production F-86Ds were now on order.
The first production version was the F-86D-1-NA. The first F-86D-1-NA (50-455) was delivered to the USAF in March of 1951. This aircraft had the production configuration--with clamshell canopy, increased vertical tail surface area, and the all-flying horizontal tail which had been lowered slightly. The aircraft also had the production version of the J47-GE-17 engine, which offered 5425 lb.s.t. dry and 7500 lb.s.t. with afterburner. The rear fuselage of the D-1 was redesigned to have a mush smaller exhaust opening than the prototypes, and small vortex generators were added to both the stabilizer and the rear fuselage to break up potential drag in these areas. All D-1s had the E-3 fire control system.
The all-flying horizontal tail had an artificial feel for the pilot. It had more positive longitudinal control than the F-86A's tail, eliminating the phenomenon of control reversal that took place at high subsonic speeds. However, the all-flying tail took a bit of getting used to. It was very sensitive, and when a pilot was flying at high speeds at low altitudes he could inadvertently induce a violent oscillating pitching maneuver. However, the pitching could be halted by the pilot simply releasing the controls. Some system changes helped to reduce this problem, but the F-86D always required some careful piloting throughout its entire career.
The F-86D-1-NA had an empty weight of 13,677 pounds and a combat weight of 16,292 pounds. It had a top speed of 692 mph at sea level and an initial climb rate of 12,200 feet per minute. This was less than the 707 mph promised at the time of the contract in June of 1950. Nevertheless, the F-86D-1 was quite a bit faster than the contemporary Northrop F-89C Scorpion (650 mph) and the Lockheed F-94C Starfire (640 mph). Consequently, the F-86D was chosen for two-thirds of the Air Defense Command's wings, and became the dominant ADC interceptor during the late 1950s.
In the meantime, F-86D-1-NA acceptances were agonizingly slow because of delays in delivery of the Hughes E-3 fire control system, as well as by problems with the electronic fuel controls. The last F-86D-1 was not delivered to the USAF until October of 1952, three years after the original letter contract had been issued.
The next production version was the F-86D-5-NA, which was the first to be equipped with the E-4 fire control system. The first production Hughes E-4 fire control system was received in December 1951, nearly three months late. The E-4 was five times as powerful as the E-3 system, but the first few examples of the E-4 that were delivered had extremely poor quality control, with serious defects like incorrect wiring, wrong vacuum tubes, loose hardware, and the like. It was not until July of 1952 that the first E-4 equipped aircraft, the F-86D-5-NA (serial number 50-492) was delivered for testing.
The 26 F-86D-5-NAs were followed by 36 F-86D-10s which introduced a power-operated rudder without a trim tab.
The 54 F-86D-15s introduced a single-point ground refueling receptacle for faster mission turnaround times. Other changes on the D-15 included installation of the AN/ARC-27 command radio. This completed the first (NA-165) contract.
The second contract (NA-177) began with the F-86D-20-NA, which added a fuel filter deicing system. 188 of these were built between May and December of 1953.
The 88 F-86D-25-NAs introduced provisions for using the 120-gallon drop tanks for combat missions rather than simply for ferrying.
The F-86D-30-NA introduced an automatic approach coupler control, and the manually-operated rudder with trim tab reappeared. 200 were built.
The F-86D-35-NA introduced omni-directional radar ranging--the RC-103 Zero Reader of earlier versions was replaced with the AN/ARN-14 Omni-Directional Ranging Set. The last 97 of the production F-86D-35-NA aircraft had an afterburner fitted with a new fuel flow amplifier and an inner ceramic liner of the exhaust to provide for better protection against excess heat. A total of 350 D-35s were built. However, recurring problems with the E-4 fire control system, with the electronic fuel control, and with the new AN/ARN-14 ranging set, kept the last of the planes from being completed until late December of 1953.
During the early 1950s, North American Aviation was turning out F-86Ds at a faster rate than they could be supplied with engine controls and electronic equipment. At one time during the winter of 1952-53 there were no less than 320 F-86Ds parked outside the factory at Inglewood waiting for various electronic systems such as radar, E-4 fire control systems, autopilots, or engine controls. Deliveries were eventually made of the electronic equipment and the F-86Ds eventually moved off the strip outside the Inglewood factory and out to squadron service. All the D-15s were delivered by March of 1953, and the D-20s, 25s and 30s were delivered to the USAF by June of 1953.
The USAF was anxious to show off its hot new interceptor to the public. On November 18, 1952, F-86D-20-NA serial number 51-2945 set a new world's air speed record of 698.505 mph. The record-setting plane was flown by Captain J. Slade Nash over a 3-km course at the Salton Sea in California at a height of 125 feet. This record was broken on July 16, 1953 by Lt. Col. William Barnes flying the first F-86D-35-NA (51-6145) over the same Salton Sea course, averaging 715.697 mph. Both record-breaking aircraft were standard production F-86Ds with full armament and electronics. The faster speed of the second aircraft was made possible by a higher ambient temperature and by the addition of a ceramic liner around the exhaust nozzle. This innovation was added to the last 97 D-35 production aircraft.
The advanced performance of the F-86D won it two more contracts. The first of these new contracts, the NA-190, was approved on March 6, 1952 and called for 901 F-86D-40 to -50 aircraft.
The 300 F-86D-40-NAs were powered by the J47-GE-17B of 5425 lb.st. dry and 7500 lb.st. with afterburner. They had a new glide path indicator and had an exhaust temperature gauge added to the instrument panel.
By December of 1953, problems with the electronic fuel control system had gotten so bad that the Air Force was forced to ground its entire F-86D fleet after the loss of 13 aircraft due to engine fires and explosions.
Long landing runs had been a problem for the F-86D ever since its introduction, and to cure this problem a 15.6-foot ribbon drag parachute was tested on F-86D-15-NA serial number 50-544. This reduced the landing roll from 2550 feet to 1600 feet. The success of this installation led to the installation of drag parachutes to all production aircraft from F-86D-45-NA onward. The first D-45 appeared in April 1954. The D-45s could be distinguished from their predecessors by the presence of the braking parachute housing with a straight fairing immediately above the exhaust tailpipe which replaced the curved fairing of previous blocks. Installation of the drag chute was made necessary by the introduction of the F-86D to bases in Japan, Formosa, and Okinawa where the runways were much shorter than those normally used by the F-86D at bases in the continental USA.
The first 238 D-45s were provided with the J47-GE-17B turbojet, but the remaining F-86Ds (52-4136 and subsequent) completed from July 1954 onward had the J47-GE-33 with a dry thrust of 5500 pounds and 7650 pounds with afterburner. For a brief time, the version of the F-86D with the -33 engine was known as F-86G, but the designation was soon changed back to F-86D. The main effect of the more powerful engine was an improvement in speed at 40,000 feet from 612 to 616 mph. Maximum sea level speed was 693 mph, service ceiling was 49,600 feet, and initial climb rate was 12,000 feet per minute.
The J47-GE-33 engine was much more powerful than the -17 engine which powered the earlier versions. In addition, it had better cooling and afterburner ignition, as well as several other improvements which eliminated some of the flaws of the earlier engine. However, crashes caused by engine problems continued. Many of these were caused by engine fuel control malfunctions, by defective engine parts, or by turbine wheel failures.
The final three variants had minor instrument and electronics changes. All were externally similar to the D-45 with the drag chute in the tail. The 301 F-86D-50-NAs rounded out the NA-190 contract. The last production order was placed on June 12, 1953 for 624 F-86D-55s and -60s. These bore the company designation of NA-201. They were all quite similar to each other. The last F-86D-60-NA, 53-4090, was accepted in September 1955. At that time the ADC had twenty F-86D wings.
The F-86D was a very complex aircraft for its day, and was a bit of a handful for a single pilot. It required more pilot training than any other USAF aircraft, including the six-engined B-47. Most of the training for the F-86D took place at Perrin AFB in Texas. Pilot trainees had to spend a lot of time in ground based flight simulators that had a replica of a cockpit duplicating F-86D controls. Flight training included the firing of rockets at targets towed behind B-45 bombers.
By the time that late 1953 rolled around, there was a profusion of many different production blocks of F-86Ds in service, all of them quite different from each other and requiring different sets of spare parts, different instruction manuals, and different maintenance procedures. This made for a maintenance and repair nightmare. In order to make the various production blocks of the F-86D standard throughout the USAF, a decision was made in late 1953 to withdraw all F-86Ds from combat units in stages and subject them all to upgrades so that there would be a more-or-less "standard" F-86D out there in the field, making maintenance and repair much less of a headache. The project was given the name *Project Pull-Out*. One by one, as their periodic maintenance became due, these early-block F-86Ds were taken out of service, returned to maintenance depots or to the North American factory, and subjected to upgrades such as the installation of current electronics or the provision of braking parachutes. By September 1955, the upgrade program was completed.
The last production F-86D (53-4090) was delivered to the ADC in September of 1954. In all, a total of 2506 F-86Ds were built.
In a typical intercept mission, the F-86D's AN/APG-37 radar searched the sky in a forward direction, sweeping back and forth and up and down in a 3.5-second cycle. Targets could be located up to 30 miles away. When the target showed up as a blip on the pilot's radar scope, he locked the radar onto the target and the AN/APA-84 computer determined a lead collision course. The pilot flew this course by keeping the steering dot on his scope inside a reference circle. When the automatic tracking system indicated that there were only 20 seconds to go, the pilot steered more precisely to keep the dot in a smaller circle. The pilot chose whether to fire 6, 12, or all 24 of his rockets, and pressed the trigger. However, the actual firing instant was determined by the computer, not by the pilot, and when the computer deemed the range to be right, the rocket pack was extended and the rockets were fired. The range at which the computer fired the rockets at the target was typically about 500 yards. It took a half-second for the pack to lower, and only a fifth of a second to fire all 24 rockets. After firing, the rockets fanned out in a predetermined pattern reminiscent of a shotgun blast. When the last rocket was away, the pack automatically retracted back into the fuselage belly, and an "8" appeared on the pilot's scope, warning him that the target was only 260 yards ahead and that he had better break away. It was thought that the lead collision course attack would expose the F-86D to enemy defensive fire for the minimum amount of time, and the "shotgun" effect of the rocket pattern would ensure a high probability of a kill.
If, for some reason, the E-4 fire control system went down, there was a stand-by optical lead computing sight provided.
The F-86Ds rockets were meant for use against bombers, not fighters. If confronted by enemy fighters, the tactic was for the F-86D to turn towards its attackers, then use its superior speed to get the heck out of there as quickly as possible.
Tests had disclosed that the 2.75-inch FFAR rockets of the F-86D were only marginal in accuracy and effectiveness. In 1955, an F-86D-60-NA (serial number 53-4061) was fitted with underwing fixtures for four GAR-1B Falcon radar-homing missiles. Another example was tested with the infrared homing Sidewinder missile. However, budgetary limitations ended both projects in September of 1957.
In the late 1950s, the F-86D served as the main air defense weapon against Soviet bomber attacks. In retrospect, the Soviet bomber threat was grossly exaggerated, but it cannot be denied that the presence of the F-86D interceptor and its F-94 and F-89 stablemates was an important deterrent. At one time, the ADC had no less than 20 F-86D wings, totaling 1405 aircraft, which made up two thirds of all ADC units. All the F-86D squadrons were under Air Defense Command, US Air Forces in Europe, or Far East Air Force control, with the exception of two squadrons that were transferred to the Strategic Air Command in 1959.
The F-86D served with the following Air Defense Command Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons:
2nd, 5th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 31st, 37th, 42nd, 47th,49th 54th 56th, 60th, 62nd 63rd, 71st, 75th, 82nd, 83rd, 85th,86th, 87th, 93rd, 94th, 95th, 97th, 318th, 332nd, 323rd,324th, 325th, 326th, 327th, 329th, 330th, 331st, 332nd, 354th,413th, 432nd, 440th, 444th, 445th, 456th, 460th, 465th, 469th,496th, 497th (later to SAC), 498th, 518th, 519th, 520th, 538th,539th.
The F-86D served with the following Far East Air Force squadrons:
4th, 16th, 25th, 26th, 39th, 40th, 41st, 68th, and 329th FIS.
The following independent squadrons of USAFE operated F-86Ds:
357th, 431st, 525th, and 526th
Even after Project Pull-Out had been completed, the USAF was still experiencing problems with its F-86D fleet. Engine failures were still all too frequent, and the E-4 fire control system remained unreliable and difficult to maintain. In September of 1957, the Air Force decided to phase out the F-86D as soon as possible and replace it with the F-86L. The F-86L was to be a conversion of existing F-86D airframes so that the aircraft had the capability of working in conjunction with the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) computerized ground-controlled intercept system.
The phaseout of the F-86D from the ADC began in August of 1956, and was essentially complete by April of 1958. As ADC F-86Ds were phased out, some of them were turned over to the Air National Guard (ANG).
The following Air National Guard Squadrons received F-86Ds:
141th, Texas ANG (1957-1960)
120th, Colorado ANG (1960-1961)
122nd, Louisiana ANG (1957-1960)
125th, Oklahoma ANG (1957-1960)
127th, Kansas ANG (1958-1961)
128th, Georgia ANG (1960-1961)
133rd, New Hampshire ANG (1958-1960)
146th, Pennsylvania ANG (1957-1960)
147th, Pennsylvania ANG (1958-1961)
151st, Tennessee ANG (1957-1960)
156th, North Carolina ANG (1959-1960)
157th, South Carolina ANG (1958-1960)
159th, Florida ANG (1956-1960)
181st, Texas ANG (1957-1964)
182nd, Texas ANG (1957-1960)
185th, Oklahoma ANG (1958-1961)
187th, Wyoming ANG (1958-1961)
190th, Idaho ANG (1959-1964)
191st, Utah ANG (1958-1961)
192nd, Nevada ANG (1958-1961)
194th, California ANG (1958-1965)
196th, California ANG (1958-1965)
197th, Arizona ANG (1957-1960)
198th, Puerto Rico ANG (1958-1960)
199th, Hawaii ANG (1958-1961)
Many of the ANG's F-86Ds were quickly supplanted by F-86Ls, and by June 1961, the F-86D no longer appeared on either the USAF or ANG rolls.
So far as I am aware, the F-86D never fired a single shot in anger while serving with the USAF. Perhaps that fact alone is a testimony to its effectiveness as a deterrent.
Throughout much of the 1950s, the E-4 fire control system of the F-86D was considered too sensitive for export to foreign nations. A simplified version, known as the F-86K, was delivered in its stead. It was not until 1958 that it was deemed safe to export the F-86D overseas. By that time, the F-86D was beginning to be replaced in USAF service by supersonic types such as the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger and the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo, and ex-USAF F-86Ds were now freed up for export to Allied nations.
First to receive the F-86D was the Kongelige Danske Flyvevabnet, or Royal Danish Air Force. Beginning in 1958, 59 mainly ex-USAFE F-86Ds went to the Royal Danish Air Force, where they equipped Nos. 723, 726 and 728 Squadrons based at Aalborg and Skrydstrup. Another 3 were acquired as spares in 1962. Many were fitted with Martin-Baker ejector seats. These F-86Ds were operated by the RDAF until March 31, 1966. After their withdrawal from service, the surviving aircraft were used as decoys.
Beginning in January 1958, 122 ex-USAF F-86Ds were supplied to the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, equipping the 101st, 102nd, 103rd, and 105th Squadrons of the 3rd Wing. These F-86Ds were taken out of service in October of 1968.
Beginning in November of 1960, the Republic of Korea got sufficient numbers of F-86Ds to equip two interceptor wings. The Ds had all been retired by 1978-79.
The Chinese Nationalist Air Force obtained enough F-86Ds to equip one all-weather interceptor squadron. I have no further details.
In 1958, twenty F-86Ds were delivered to the Philippine Air Force under the provisions of the MDAP. They were withdrawn from service by 1970.
Beginning in 1961, 35 F-86Ds were delivered to the Royal Hellenic Air Force of Greece under the MDAP. They equipped No. 343 Squadron until 1966/67. A few remained as decoys as late as 1993.
And, of course, an equal number of F-86Ds had to be delivered to the Turkish air force, the Turk Hava Kuvvetleri. Whenever you deliver a combat aircraft to Turkey, you have to deliver one to Greece, and vice-versa.
In 1961, the Yugoslavian air force, the Jugoslovensko Ratno Vazduhoplovstvo, obtained 130 F-86Ds. Deliveries of US combat aircraft to what was obstensibly a Communist country caused a lot of political controversy in the USA. For a time, these F-86Ds served in Yugoslavia alongside the Soviet-supplied MiG-21, one of the few situations where Western and Soviet-bloc aircraft served side-by-side. They were finally taken out of service about 1980.
50-455/491 North American F-86D-1-NA Sabre c/n 165-1/37 50-492/517 North American F-86D-5-NA Sabre c/n 165-38/63 50-518/553 North American F-86D-10-NA Sabre c/n 165-64/99 50-554/576 North American F-86D-15-NA Sabre c/n 165-100/122 50-577/578 North American YF-86D-NA Sabre c/n 164-1/2 50-704/734 North American F-86D-15-NA Sabre c/n 165-123/153 51-2944/3131 North American F-86D-20-NA Sabre c/n 177-1/188 51-5857/5944 North American F-86D-25-NA Sabre c/n 173-1/88 51-5945/6144 North American F-86D-30-NA Sabre c/n 173-89/288. 51-6145/6262 North American F-86D-35-NA Sabre c/n 173-289/406 51-8274/8505 North American F-86D-35-NA Sabre c/n 173-407/638 52-3598/3897 North American F-86D-40-NA Sabre c/n 190-1/300. 52-3898/4197 North American F-86D-45-NA Sabre c/n 190-301/600. 52-4198/4304 North American F-86D-50-NA Sabre c/n 190-601/607 52-9983/10176 North American F-86D-50-NA Sabre c/n 190-708/901 53-557/781 North American F-86D-55-NA Sabre c/n 201-1/225 53-0782/1071 North American F-86D-60-NA Sabre c/n 201-226/515 53-3675/3710 North American F-86D-60-NA Sabre c/n 201-516/551 53-4018/4090 North American F-86D-60-NA Sabre c/n 201-552/624
Engine: One General Electric J47-GE-33, rated at 5500 lb.st. dry and 7650 lb.st. with afterburner.
Performance: Maximum speed: 693 mph at sea level, 616 mph at 40,000 feet. Tactical radius: 270 miles at 550 mph. Ferry range: 769 miles (two 120 US gallon underwing tanks). Initial climb rate: 12,000 feet per minute. an altitude of 40,000 feet could be reached in 7.2 minutes. Service ceiling: 49,600 feet. Takeoff distance to clear 50-foot obstacle: 3600 feet.
Weights: 13,498 pounds empty, 18,160 pounds loaded, 19,952 pounds maximum. Dimensions: wingspan 37 feet 1 1/2 inches, length 40 feet 3 1/4 inches, height 15 feet 0 inches, wing area 287.9 square feet.
Armament: 24 2.75-inch "Mighty Mouse" Folding Fin Aircraft Rockets (FFARs), all mounted in a retractable tray in the aircraft's belly.