The Sabre Jet was assembled in five countries. In addition to being build at North American's plants in Los Angeles and Columbus, Sabres were also assembled under license by the Canadair Division of General Dynamics in Montreal, Canada, as well as by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation In Australia, Flat in Italy, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries In Japan. In this Issue, we will discuss the Japanese Sabres.
Beginning in December 1955, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force received 28 American-built F-86Fs reassigned to them under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. These Sabres were sent to Japan for training purposes before the JASDF received a further 180 completed F-86F-40 Sabres through 1957 purchased by Japan directly from North American Aviation. These American Sabres received new Japanese serial numbers, 52-7401 through 72-7580. The final 45 Sabres, however, were sent back to the United States by February 1959. During this period, the Japanese built another 300 F-86Fs (under a production agreement) from parts Imported from North American. These Japanese built Sabres used serial numbers 62-7701 to 12-7000 and were also operated by the JASDF. These last Sabres were assembled by Mitsubishi.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan established its Nagoya Works in 1917. During World War Two, the Nagoya Works was the largest Japanese manufacturing plant using the most modern equipment. It produced both aircraft and aircraft engines. Mitsubishi is perhaps best remembered for its outstanding Zero fighter which fought in the Pacific throughout the Second World War. From 1956 to 1961, Mitsubishi built 282 F-86F-40s and 18 photo-reconnaissance RF-86F-40s under license at the Nagoya Works. The "RF" models were actually converted during 1961 and 1962 from earlier F-86Fs. These RF-86Fs were flown until October 1979. The Japanese F-86Fs were flown by ten fighter units as well as by Japan's world famous Blue Impulse aerial demonstration team.
The Japanese flew their F-86Fs regularly until 1980. All Japanese "F"s were retired by March 1982. Many were later transferred to the United States. They were modified into QF-86F target drones for the U.S. Navy who used them for missile testing at the Naval Weapons Center in California and other locations beginning in the early 1980s.
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