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In-Box Review
F-86F/E[M] Sabre.
North American F-86F/E[M] Sabre.
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by: Tim Hatton [ LITESPEED ]

Originally published on:


The North American F-86 Sabre was a transonic fighter. The Sabre is best known for its role in the Korean War, where it was pitted against the Soviet Mig-15. Although developed in the late 1940s and outdated by the end of the 1950s, the Sabre proved adaptable and continued as a front line fighter in air forces until the last active front line examples were retired by the Bolivian Air Force in 1994. Its success led to an extended production run of more than 7,800 aircraft between 1949 and 1956, in the United States, Japan and Italy. It was by far the most-produced Western jet fighter, with total production of all variants at 9,860 units. Variants were built in Canada and Australia. The Canadair Sabre added another 1,815 airframes, and the significantly redesigned CAC [Commonwealth Aviation Company] Sabre Sometimes known as the Avon Sabre or CAC CA-27, had a production run of 112.
The F-86F had a uprated engine and larger 6-3 wing without leading edge slats. 6-3 wing refers to the fact that the wings of the F had extended chord width of 6 inches at the root and 3 inches at the tip. Sabre F's had much improved high speed agility, coupled with a higher, hotter landing speed of over 145 mph (233 km/h). The F-35 block had provisions for a new task: the nuclear tactical attack role with one of the new second generation nuclear ordnance ''small nukes". The F-40 had a new slatted wing, with a slight decrease of speed, but also a much better agility at high and low speed with a landing speed reduced to 124 mph (200 km/h). The USAF upgraded many of previous F versions to the F-40 standard. F-86E(M) was the designation for ex-RAF Sabres diverted to other NATO Air Forces.

The F-86 entered service with the USAF in 1949, joining the 1st Fighter Wing, 94th Fighter Squadron "Hat-in-the-Ring" and became the primary air-to-air jet fighter used by the Americans in the Korean War. With the introduction of the MiG-15 into air combat in November 1950, which outperformed all aircraft then assigned to the UN, three squadrons of F-86s were rushed to the Far East in December. Early variants of the F-86 could not out turn, but they could out dive the MiG-15. The MiG-15 was superior to the early F-86 models in ceiling, acceleration, rate of climb, and zoom. With the introduction of the F-86F in 1953, the two aircraft were more closely matched, with many combat-experienced pilots claiming a marginal superiority for the F-86F. MiG's flown from bases in Manchuria by Chinese, North Korean, and Soviet pilots were pitted against two squadrons of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing forward-based at K-14, Kimpo AB, Korea. Many of the American pilots were experienced World War II veterans, while the North Koreans and the Chinese lacked combat experience, thus accounting for much of the F-86's success. However, whatever the actual results may have been, it is clear that the F-86 pilots did not experience definitive superiority over the World-War-II-experienced, Soviet-piloted MiG-15s in Korean airspace. According to former communist sources, Soviets initially piloted the majority of MiG-15s that fought in Korea. Later in the war, North Korean and Chinese pilots increased their activity. The North Koreans and their allies periodically contested air superiority in Mig Alley, an area near the mouth of the Yalu River, the boundary between Korea and China. Over which the most intense air-to-air combat took place. The F-86E's all-moving tailplane has been credited with giving the Sabre an important advantage over the MiG-15. Far greater emphasis has been given to the training, aggressiveness and experience of the F-86 pilots. American Sabre pilots were trained at Nellis, where the casualty rate of their training was so high they were told, "If you ever see the flag at full staff, take a picture." Despite rules of engagement, F-86 units frequently initiated combat over MiG bases in the Manchurian. The hunting of MiGs in Manchuria would lead to many reels of gun camera footage being 'lost' if the reel revealed the pilot had violated Chinese airspace. The needs of combat operation balanced against the need to maintain an adequate force structure in Western Europe led to the conversion of the 51st Fighter Interception Wing from the F-80 Shooting Star to the F-86 in December 1951. Two fighter-bomber wings, the 8th and 18th, converted to the F-86F in the spring of 1953. No 2 Squadron, SAAF also distinguished itself flying F-86s in Korea as part of the 18 FBW. By the end of hostilities, F-86 pilots were credited with shooting down 792 MiGs for a loss of only 78 Sabres, a victory ratio of 10:1. More recent research by Dorr, Lake and Thompson have claimed the actual ratio is closer to 2:1. The Soviets claimed to have downed over 600 Sabres, together with the Chinese claims. A recent RAND report concluded that F-86 vs. MiG-15 combat over Korea, the actual kill:loss ratio for the F-86 was 1.8:1 overall, and likely 1.3:1 against MiGs flown by Soviet pilots; however, the report has been under fire for various misrepresentations. Of the 41 American pilots who earned the designation of Ace during the Korean war, all but one flew the F-86 Sabre, the exception being a Navy F4U Corsair night fighter pilot. Notable F-86 pilots were:
Colonel Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, USAF test pilot and Apollo 11 astronaut.
Colonel Francis S 'Gabby' Gabreski, top American European Ace in WWII.
Major John Glenn, first American in space.
Lt. Col Virgil 'Gus' Grissom, astronaut in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects. Died in the pad fire of Apollo 1.
2nd Lt. Gene Kranz, NASA flight director of Gemini and Apollo projects.
Cpt James Horowitz, author that wrote 'The Hunters' under the pen name of James Salter. The film 'The Hunters' is a one to inspire while building your Airfix F-86.


Right thats enough history. The box is top opening and very sturdy and will survive most trips by post. All the plastic contents are placed in a single bag although the two piece canopy is in it's own bag within the main bag for protection, no sign of any damage to the canopy. There are four sprues containing 61 parts moulded in light grey plastic. Surface texture is smooth and matt. I did not detect any flash sink or flow marks at all on the main surfaces, in fact the moulding look very clean. Locating points look very positive as are the stubs for joining the main and tail wings. One pilot figure is provided, but looks a little inappropriate for the era. There is a eleven page instruction manual illustrating the building process in 28 stages. Also included with the instructions are very useful guides to the dithedral for the tail planes. Two pages of the instructions are painting and decal guides. There is one page to aid the placement of stencils. Finally there is a small sheet of decals.

The kit

Sprue A: Has both the fuselage halves split vertically. The vertical tail is moulded as one piece on the starboard fuselage half. Panel lines are not exactly restrained, but the best I have seen on a Airfix new tool in some time. The six machine guns ports are recessed and the fastidious may want to drill them out. The machine gun magazine bay in the lower fuselage by the wing leading edge root can be displayed open. Four magazines are moulded on the fuselage and the other two in the wing root. Some carefully cleaning will be required of the rear magasines as they unfortunately fall on the wing/fuselage joint. The air brakes, which can also be displayed open, have piping and mechanical detail in them. The hinge line on the rudder looks a little over done when compared to photos. The cockpit is a simple affair with a cockpit tub, with side consoles and a separate seat [no harnesses]. Both suffer from moulding marks, that will need filling and sanding. A bit fiddly, but nothing too difficult. The control stick is way over scale in thickness. The cockpit has a rear bulkhead also. which the seat is attached. The bomb fins will benefit from some thinning. The one piece jet pipe looks fine and has the rear turbine spindle moulded into it. There is a pilot figure provided, but his attire does not look very appropriate.

Sprue B: contains one piece nose intake lip and the two piece air intake trunk. The lip of the air looks good shape wise. The lower intake has the front wheel well moulded onto it. The wheel well has some frame work detailed in it. The top part of the nose intake has the lettering 3 grams moulded onto it. To include the nose weight into the design of this model is excellent, particularly with the jets with intakes in the nose. It is always a problem to locate nose weight in such aircraft and who has not in their haste to build a model to forget to place weight. The more experienced modeller might want to replace this whole intake unit with a suitable tube and use their own system of weighting the nose. The under carriage bay looks shallow to me. The fairly complex front under carriage leg and struts are moulded in one piece. I have to say it looks pretty good. There are two options with the nose wheel and both choices as well as the main wheels have weighted tyres. The rather odd looking hubs on the main wheels are portrayed but not very accurately. Each tail planes are moulded as one. Also on the sprue are two sets of under carriage door, one set for gear down. There is some restrained detail on the inside of the doors. The other set of doors are used if you want your wheels on your Sabre retracted. There are also two sets of air brakes one for displaying open and the other for closed. As with the under carriage doors the air brakes displayed open have restrained detail on the inside face.

Sprue C: has the two part upper wing. The recessed panel lines although not subtle are similar in looks to the fuselage. The moulded wing fences will benefit from some light sanding. The roof of the main under carriage bay has some detail. But similar to the nose wheel well, the main U/C bay looks too shallow.

Sprue D: contains the one piece lower wing. The outer wing pylons are already drilled out, although Airfix erroneously would have you place the drop tanks here. In fact the drop tanks should be fitted on the inner wing pylons, which were plumbed for fuel tanks. The sway brace attached to the fuel tank should have an aerofoil cross section and not a circular cross section.

Stores: As previously mentioned the kit comes with two 1000lb bombs and two drop tanks.

clear Parts:The canopy and windscreen comes in two parts allowing the modeller to display the canopy open., The canopy coaming is not deep enough and the slightly blown canopy of the real thing is not depicted.


There are two sets of markings:
F-86F Sabre the Huff flown by Lt. Jim Thompson, 39th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, based at K-13, Suwon AB, South Korea, June 1953.
The aircraft is natural metal overall, with yellow stripes with thin black borders on the wings and fuselage. The tail has natural metal and black checks. The green Huff dragon is on the port side fuselage, just under the cockpit
F-86E[M] Sabre of the 4th Stormo, Aviazone Militaire Italiana, Grosseto, Italy, 1958. this aircraft is finished with olive drab and dark sea grey upper surfaces and PR blue under surfaces.
Paint references are for Humbrol paints.


A small sheet, but there are plenty of decals on their, particularly the stencils. Decals are sharp and matt. It will be interesting to see how the stripe of the Huff will settle down. Included on the sheet is a nice looking instrument panel plus side consoles. The insignia for the fuselage that fits over the air brake comes in two parts to aid placing.


At 6.99 I think this release is very good value and despite the small list of negatives it is a fine representation of the Sabre. Although I think the panel lines are still a bit too obvious, they are a lot better in their execution. If Airfix could really get to grips with the art of depicting panel lines, they would have a sure fire winner. This looks like a very fine accurate representation and will be a very fine kit straight out of the box.

Highs: Simply but effectively designed so should present few problems to build for any modeller however inexperienced. Excellent price.
Lows: Panel lines may put some off.
Verdict: Highly recommended.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:72
  Mfg. ID: A03082
  Suggested Retail: 6.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Dec 16, 2010
  NATIONALITY: United States

About Tim Hatton (litespeed)

Aircraft are my primary interest from WWll to present day.

Copyright 2020 text by Tim Hatton [ LITESPEED ]. All rights reserved.


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