NA F-86D Sabre (6171)

NAHR category - Significant

Aircraft History

The Sabre project began in 1944 and was very different from the final aircraft design. The original design featured a straight wing and it wasn't until German research on swept wings was passed to the allies after the war that the design was changed in favour of a swept wing layout. In the Spring of 1948 the prototype XP-86 exceeded Mach 1 then on the 15th September 1948 a Sabre set a new world speed record of 670.98mph. Deliveries of the aircraft to operational Squadrons started in February 1949.

The F-86D development also started in 1949 and was designed for all weather attack and interception. The nose was extensively modified to accommodate an APG-36 radar for the Hughes E-4 fire control system for collision course attacks. The powerplant was a J47 engine with afterburner. Armament consisted of a 'Mighty Mouse' pack of 24 69mm air-to-air unguided rockets which was housed in the nose under the cockpit. This variant was very successful with some 2,054 aircraft being built. The first of which was delivered in March 1951. On 19th November 1952 a F-86D set a new world air speed record at 698.50mph. As well as equipping the USAF, F-86D's were supplied in numbers to other NATO members. From 1956 onwards 981 'D' models were modified to the 'L' variant for use in the daytime fighter role and included the installation of more sophisticated electronic equipment. The F-86 was produced under license in Canada, Australia, Japan and Italy.

(51-)6171 History

Our F-86 Sabre was manufactured at Inglewood, California and was delivered to the US Air Force as 51-6171 on 8th September 1953. The aircraft joined Air Defence Command and assigned to the 37th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Burlington Airport, Vermont. During October 1954 the aircraft went to the Sacremento Air Material Area in California for work before it joined the 325FIS at Hamilton AFB. It was while serving with the 325FIS that the aircraft flew with the Sabre Knights aerobatic team, the colours of which the aircraft is displayed in today.

During August 1955 the aircraft was re-assigned to the 83FIS at Paine AFB, Washington but by October the aircraft had returned to Sacremento AMA. In February 1956 the aircraft moved to the Mobile Air Material Area at Alabama prior to assignment in Europe. By March, the aircraft was with Shorts Brothers in Belfast for preparation for UK service.

In May 1956 the aircraft was assigned to the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) with the 512FIS (Fighter Inteceptor Squadron) who along with the 513FIS & 514FIS formed the 406FIW (Fighter Inteceptor Wing) based at Bentwaters, Suffolk. While at Bentwaters in 1957 the 512th  won the Hughes Trophy for being the best Fighter Interceptor Squadron in the US Air Force, The competition was based on several criteria, mission performance, organizational readiness, inspection results, training exercise participation, unit and individual achievements and unit incentive programs. Each year the squadron would fly aircraft, equipment, personnel for approximately 3-4 weeks of rocket practice at theWheelus AFB Tripoli Libya range.

In March 1958 the 406th wing was deactivated and the three wing squadrons were transferred to the 86th Fighter Interceptor Wing at Ramstein West Germany. The 512th squadron with 51-6171 was assigned to Sembach AF Base West Germany. In July 1958 the squadron deployed aircraft to Adana Turkey to provide air defense capability for the Marines during the crisis in Lebanon. The 512th was awarded the “Air force Outstanding Unit” in October 1958. During June 1959, the aircraft was flown to the 3131st Aircraft Repair Squadron at Chateauroux, France, then in November to Fiat in Turin, Italy for maintenance prior to it joining the Military Aid Program.

In May 1960 the aircraft was removed from the USAF inventory and transferred to the Greek Air Force (as 6171). Unfortunately, not much is known about its service history while in Greek service.

We received the aircraft in 1987 after approx five years of negotiations!.

Squadron print of 51-6171 while flying for the 512FIS (Duncan Curtis).