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The Canadair Sabre Mk. V

Converting the Hasegawa F-86F to a Sabre V

By John P. McElwain



Since the end of World War Two the Royal Canadian Air Force has had a policy of buying the best equipment available and adapting it to fit Canadian conditions and requirements. The Canadian Government, seeking "industrial offsets," has often undertaken the construction of American designed aircraft in Canada. So it was with North American's superlative Sabre. Canadair Ltd. of Montreal built nearly two thousand Sabres culminating in the Sabre VI. Many former Sabre pilots, including some from the USAF, say that the Sabre VI, with its powerful Canadian designed and built Orenda engine, was the best dogfighter of them all.

The Conversion

Late models of the Sabre V, with an Orenda engine and the "6-3" wing, were approximately equivalent to the USAF's F-86F. I decided to use Hasegawa's 1/48 F-86F-30 as the basis for my Canadair Sabre V. The kit has been reviewed elsewhere so I'll stick to the detail changes necessary for the conversion.

The detail differences between an F-86F and a Sabre V are the result of the installation of the Orenda engine. Engine access doors and cooling vents are in different locations for the Orenda, though located in the same panels on the airframe. The Sabre V has a small, square vent on the starboard side just above the leading edge of the flap.

The kit's vents and panel lines were filled and sanded smooth. Then I cut a small (2mm x 2mm) hole where the square vent would be centered and filed it square with a 1.5mm file. This done, I inserted a piece of thin plastic card 2mm X 6mm into the leading edge of the square vent to form the inward sloping intake ramp. I then re-scribed the outline of the engine access door in the panel.

Farther aft on the starboard side, just below the trailing edge of the wing, Hasegawa have molded a rectangular air scoop that isn't present on either the "F" or the Sabre V. I cut this out, filled the hole with some thin plastic card super glued in place, filled it with Squadron White Putty, and sanded it smooth. I briefly considered detailing the kit's ejection seat but chose instead to replace it with a resin seat from Kendall Model Corporation. I also decided to use bulged tires from True Details. When these are used it's necessary to be very careful about the hang of the inner main gear doors. If you don't hang them high enough they'll touch the ground.


The RCAF had Sabre Mk.V's finished in both natural metal and camouflage. European-based Sabres were generally camouflaged in a Dark Green disruptive pattern over Dark Sea Grey uppers. The undersides were painted in PRU Blue. Similar to British RAF practise, the demarcation lines between the colours are masked clean with no overlap or feathering.

The cockpit interior appears to have been Medium Sea Grey, including the upper fuselage ìturtle deckî exposed when the canopy is all the way aft. I used Xtracolor X4, RAF Dark Sea Grey; X1, RAF Dark Green; and X8, RAF PRU Blue. These paints seem to be designed to be sprayed on in very thin coats, and can take some time to dry. The colours are accurate but Aeromaster also makes these colours and seems to be more available in North America as well as easier to work with. After I sprayed them I set the model aside for seven days to allow time for drying and curing. Then I sprayed the entire model with Future Wax.


In 1955 the RCAF 1 Air Division in Europe formed a Sabre V equipped demonstration team called the "Sky Lancers". Their aircraft were finished in standard RCAF glossy camouflage with the addition of the "Sky Lancers" insignia on each side of the fuselage. Arrow Graphics produces a decal sheet that provides for finishing any of the 1955 team's aircraft. I chose to build AX 062 of 429 Squadron. These are very thin and accurate decals. They must be carefully trimmed from the backing sheet and don't need setting solutions. It should be noted that the RCAF maple leaf roundels are not oriented exactly fore and aft on the upper wing surfaces. Close checking of reference photos is necessary here.

Final Finishing

After allowing the decals to dry for a week I washed the model with dish soap and warm water. Then I sprayed it with a final coat of Future Wax. Little or no weathering is appropriate because the RCAF ground crews kept these display airplanes immaculate. In my opinion the RCAF Sabre in camouflage was the most attractive of them all and I'm happy with the way this model turned out. It looks great beside the Tamiya MiG-15 on my shelf.


"The Canadair Sabre," by Larry Milberry
"A History of the Royal Canadian Air Force," by Chris Shores.
"F-86 Sabre In Action," by Squadron Signal.

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