Academy 1/48 North American F-86F Sabre

By Michael Benolkin

Background

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

Academy released this kit a year or so ago, and it caused a pleasant stir in the community. Why? Too many people assumed that it was a copy of the Hasegawa kit released during the same timeframe. Not true at all!

While both kits feature finely scribed panel lines and details, the Academy kit features open gun bays, a load of weapons options, and a complete engine and engine stand. Not bad for a kit that is a few dollars cheaper than the Hasegawa version!

You can read Andrew Johnson's build-up review of Academy's first F-86F release featured in the July 1999 issue of Internet Modeler.

The Hasegawa kit represents the final slatted long-wing configuration, though the slats are molded (up and locked). The Academy kit wing represents the long, unslatted wing. There are a number of flashed-over holes in the bottom of the wing, which enables the builder to do an air superiority bird, or one of the fighter-bomber Sabres.

The kit decals provide your choice of markings for two aircraft of the 39 FIS/51 FIW:

  • F-86F 51-2910, 'Beautious Butch II', the mount of ace Capt Joseph McConnell

  • F-86F 51-12958, 'The Paper Tiger', the mount of ace Capt Harold Fischer

Conclusions

If you are allergic to bare metal paint schemes, then you are in luck! Leading Edge decals has issued set 48.10 which feature camouflaged RCAF Sabres. In addition, numerous other Air Forces around the world camouflaged their Sabres, so you can still feed your Sabre fix and avoid bare metal.

In any case, the award for best F-86F kit in 1/48 scale goes to Academy! My sincere thanks to MRC for these review samples!


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