THE F-86H:
"THE LAST OF THE SPORTS MODELS"

The F-86H was the only Sabre developed from the start for fighter-bomber duties It was the culmination of the series and the last model developed. There was no F-86I; the F-86J was a modified "A" with a Canadian jet engine; the F-86K and "L" were dertvatrves of the F-86D; and the F86M were several redesignated Royal Air Force FR-86Fs. Beyond the F-86H lay the F100 Super. Sabre program, the F-86's supersonic sibling.

The F-86H consisted of two North American models, NA-187 and NA-203, which were built at both Inglewood, California (prototypes only) and Columbus, Ohio (production "H"s). The "H" Sabres began with two service test YF-86H prototypes that were included in the May 1951 contract. Both used General Electric YJ734GE-3 turbojets rated at 8,900 pounds of thrust. These two Sabres, serial numbers 52-1975 and 52-1976, were armed with six .50 caliber machine guns, as was the F-86F Production F-86Hs used serial numbers 52-1977 to 52-2124, 525729 to 525753, and 531229 to 531528. A total of 475 were built, including the two prototypes.

The first order for the fighter-bomber F-86H Sabre was placed on March 16, 1951. By late 1952, however, the F-86H was recassified as a day fighter, but with a secondary fighterbomber capability. The firstYF-86H flight ocurred on May 9, 1953 after being delivered earlier in January. Production began in late summer 1953 in Columbus, with the last F-86H flying on September 4, 1953. Production delays during summer 1954 meant the first F-86Hs were not delivered until fall. Production of the F-86H lasted until August 1955, and the United States Air Force received its last "H" model two months later. The "flyaway" cost per aircraft was $582,493.

Production F-86H-1 and F-86H Sabres were powered by General Electric J73-3& 3A turbojets developing 8,920 pounds of thrust, the most powerful jet engine installed in any Sabre model anywhere in the world. Later "H" Sabres used the J73-GE-3D turbojet which required some airframe changes. Yet despite the increased power, maximum speed at sea level remained 692 miles per hour with a cruise of 552 miles per hour, virtually identical to the F-86F. This was because the F-86H was a bigger airplane than the F-86F To allow for the larger J73 turbojet, the fuselage of the "H" added six inches of vertical depth and was strengthened. The air intake opening was noticeably taller. It was no longer rounded as on earlier Sabre Jets. These changes pushed the Sabre's design to the limit. The F-86H at high altitudes was underpowered for its wing loading, and as a result, the "H" was again reclassified in May 1954 as a tactical support fighter-bomber. Further advancements beyond the F-86H, when considering the F-100 was so close behind by 1954, were not feasible. The earliest F-86Hs delivered to Nellis, Cannon and George Air Force Bases were assembled with "hard" wings which gave very little stall warning and required higher final approach speeds. The wingspan on the F-86H was soon increased to 39 feet, 1 inch by adding extended F-40 wing tips along with leading edge slats for improved low-speed handling, similar to those on late model F-86Fs. The fuselage length was 38 feet, 6 inches, and the height was 14 feet, 1l inches. The "H", at 13,836 pounds (empty), climbed to 12,900 feet in one minute. Servicece ceiling was 50,800 feet, up in the MiG15's territory, but the F-86H arrived too late for service in the Korean War.

The F-86H's range was 519 miles, less than the "D", and internal fuel was reduced to 562 US. gallons. Overall fuel with droptanks, however, increased to 1,362 U.S. gallons, better than the "D". The F-86H used a hydromechanical engine fuel controller, which was mechanically linked to the throttle, and a cartridge starter. The "H" had no automatic pilot though, such as on the "D". The "H" did retain the all-flying tail with full-power, hydraulic irreversible control of the ailerons and horizontal tail. It also used an artificial feel system. Another noticeable external feature was the lack of dihedral in the horizontal tail.The windscreen was flat, and the clamshell canopy remained from the "D".

The F86H's wing was designed with a dual stores capacity with four underwing hard points for attaching up to four 200 U.S. gallon droptanks or a variety of ordnance, such as bombs, rockets or missiles. An AN/APG30 radar ranging device was located in the cockpit coupled to an A-4 lead computing gnnsight. The F-86H also had a nuclear bomb delivery capacity and used a LABS tossbombing system. It could carry a 1,200 pound tactical nucler weapon to its target underthe left wifng with droptanks under the right wing.

All production F-86H-1 Sabres, serial numbers 52-1975 to 52-2089, had six .50 caliber machine guns. Beginning with the F-86-H-5, which was the 116th F-86H, and all remaining F-86Hs, were four M-39 20mm cannons replacing the machine guns. The M-39 cannon was developed as a cooperative effort between the Ford Motor Company and the United States Air Force. The M-39 used a revolving-drum feed producing a higher firing rate than many .50 caliber machine guns. Each M39 had 150 rounds per gun and was fired electrically at a rate of 1,500 rounds per minute. Spent cartridges were ejected beneath the fuselage through outlets. The last F-86 model was the F-86H-10.

F-8611 Sabres were first sent to the 312th Fighter-BomberWing at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico in late 1954. The last "H" arrived a year later. They eventually equipped five fighter-bomber wings, the 50th, 83rd, 312th, 413th and the 474th. F-9Hs began phasing out of the regular United States Air Force in 1956 in favor of the supersonic F-100 Super Sabre. Most F-86Hs were transferred to Air National Guard units by mid-1958. They equipped California, Connecticut,

Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and West Virginia. The Massachusetts Air National Guard was called to active duty in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis. They were sent to Europe from October 1961 to October 1962. The New York Air National Guard's F-86H Sabres also served in Europe during this time. They were activated from October 1961 to September 1962. The last active military unit to fly the F-86H Sabre was the New York Air National Guard in late November 1970. Approximately 29 F86Hs were converted by the UnitedStates Navy at China Lake, California for radio controlled target drone duties beginning in the early 1970s. These Sabres were redesignated QF-86H. Other F-86Hs were flown by the Navy to simulate the MiG-17 threat as the F-86H possessed similar flying qualities.

The history of the F-86K and the "L", the only two American Sabre models not reviewed so far, will be covered in future issues of Sabre Jet Classics.


No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.


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