F-86 Sabre

The single-seat North American F-86 Sabre entered service with the USAF in February 1949. Powered by a single 7,500 lb thrust General Electric J-47-GE-179 (or -33) turbojet the F-86 had a maximum speed of 707 mph at sea level with a range of 835 miles. The F-86 saw considerable service in the Korean War where, despite having a marginal inferior performance to the opposing MiG-15, was able to gain superiority over its adversary by virtue of the superior training and experience of its pilots.

An XP-86 Sabre, flown by George Welch on October 1, 1947, as well as on October 14, the same day that Chuck Yeager was to attempt supersonic flight, broke the sound barrier in a steep dive. To justify the investment in the X-1 program, The Pentagon allegedly ordered the results of Welch's flights classified and did not allow North American to publicly announce that the XP-86 had gone supersonic until almost a year later. The Air Force still officially denies that Welch broke the sound barrier first. However, in the film that the USAF made about Yeager's flight the narrator says that Yeager was the first man to "fly faster than the speed of sound in level flight". Welch's flights were unofficial and not tracked by NACA measuring equipment, making verification impossible (pitot tubes of the day suffered from compressibility effects near the speed of sound).

The F-86 was also built under license (or from kits supplied by North American) in Canada, Australia, Italy and Japan.

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