Academy 1/72 North American F-86F Sabre

Reviewed by Michael Benolkin


North American developed a derivative version of the USN's straight-wing FJ-1 Fury concept for the Army Air Force. This initial version, dubbed XP-86, was approved in May 1945. Due to the disappointing results in the straight-winged design, and North American's access to Messerschmitt design data after the end of the war, the straight-winged Sabre and Fury were scrapped in favor of a swept design. This redesigned prototype, the YP-86 first flew in October 1947.

The first production version, the F-86A, entered combat when the 4th Fighter Interceptor Group deployed to theater in November 1950. The following day, one of the 4 FIG Sabres scored its first MiG-15 kill. As more aircraft and trained crews became available, the Sabre was able to re-capture and maintain air superiority over the Korean skies.

Based on lessons learned in fighting the MiG-15, North American engineers incorporated improvements into the wings, tail, engines and avionics as supplemental F-86 versions. The F-86F incorporated the J47-GE-27 engine of 5,910 lb thrust and 200 gallon external tanks (compared to the 5,200 lb thrust and 120 gallon external tanks of the F-86E).

The F-86's wing also underwent a series of changes in its life. Most Sabres received the slatted short wing off the production line, and this was replaced with a wing of greater span and no leading edge slats. The performance improvement was dramatic. However, after further testing, the Air Force found that a long wing that included the slats was the best of all configurations.

The Kit

Following on the heels of their 1/48 re-release of their F-86F, Academy has provided the 1/72 world with what is now the best F-86 Sabre kit in this scale. As you might expect, Academy is following the lead of several other companies and has reduced the scale of their existing tooling to offer this great subject. Academy's 1/48 Sabre was easily on-par with Hasegawa's 1/48 Sabre kit, though in some respects it is even better. Now the 1/72 community can share in the great molding and details of the Academy kit.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene (with the exception of the canopy and gunsight), consists of 62 parts (two of which are not used in this version), and is free of flash and injector pin marks in visible locations. The molding is very sharp and features scribed panel lines and details.

The cockpit alone is 14 parts and rests atop of the intake trunk. The rest of the detailing follows suit from the kit's 1/48 scale big brother. Only the engine and engine stand were not replicated in 1/72.

The major parts of the kit fit superbly, with only a little care needed to ensure a solid fit of the win/fuselage joint. The canopy parts are clear and flash-free as well.

The wing represents the hard-winged Sabre, just like their 1/48 scale kit. HOWEVER, the two parts that are not used in this kit are the slats for a slatted Sabre, so we may be seeing another version of this kit with positionable slats!

Markings are included for two aircraft: F-86F-30, 52-4641, flown by Captain Charles McSwain of the 39 FIS/51FIW, Suwon AB; and F-86F, 51-12958, flown by Captain Harold Fischer, also of the 39 FIS/51 FIW.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample.

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