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Sabre Walkaround — an F-86 with bigger teeth

26 October 2012

Sabre Walkaround — an F-86 with bigger teeth

26º 08′ 01″ N / 80º 08′ 08″ W

North American F-86H Sabre at War Memorial Auditorium Fort Lauderdale — photo by Joseph May

This North American H-model Sabre sits atop a plinth, in excellent shape, along the verdant avenue leading to War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale FL. This Sabre display is dedicated to those who served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces and lies within Holiday Park also having the Parker Playhouse as a neighbor along with the auditorium. It is a fitting place of prominence for this important monument, possibly the only municipal aircraft display to be seen on the Southeast Coast of Florida (West Palm Beach to Miami) where several million people live.

The Saber on its plinth — photo by Joseph May

Wingman’s view of this F-86H — photo by Joseph May

Observers will note a pair or gun ports on each side of the nose instead of the original three. The simple explanation is the change in armament from the original Sabre’s 6 x 0.50 caliber Browning machine gun six-pack to the Hotel model M39 4 x 20mm cannon suite. Early Sabre’s were rushed into the Korean War effort (the F-86A was barely more than a prototype) and so had the standard fighter WW II fighter machine gun weapons of the U.S. Armed Forces (though 20mm cannon appeared on late model Corsairs and the Black Widow). Later, in the early 1950s, as the F-86 matured it evolved into a more capable fighter as well as attack aircraft.

A detail view showing the left pair of gun ports for the M39 20mm cannon — photo by Joseph May

The F-86H seen at  the  War Memorial Auditorium was armed with four M39 single barrel cannon making it more than capable of quickly dispatching an opposing fighter ir bomber. But this Sabre’s lethality, as well as deterrence factor, was significantly increased with the addition of the Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) making this model a nuclear strike aircraft. LABS allowed for a spectacular, though some pilots would say idiotic, weapons delivery by aggressively pulling up into a half-loop once over the target — the pilot keeping LABS purpose only needles centered — until a computer commanded the weapon’s release for it to continue upward in a ballistic arc. The pilot would quickly roll out into an Immelman-like maneuver, to continue on the original course and escape the shock wave of the explosion.

Underside of the Sabre — photo by Joseph May

Let us review. Fly over the target, zoom upward in a graceful and predictable arc exposing your tail for several thousand feet until the bomb is released, then begin to scoot away at a substantially slower airspeed. It does not seem to be a recipe for success much less survival of the combat crew. I have not read tactic manuals but when I read about this maneuver I do not observe anti aircraft suppression efforts. Perhaps they occur prior to the arrival of the nuclear strike F-86H? I cannot imagine them being concurrent with the F-86H, though they could be, as that would mean having the suppression aircraft exit the area as quickly and no later than the same moment as the strike aircraft. Or, perhaps, no suppression aircraft at all?

En echelon aspect of the F-86H, a rare type of display in SE Florida — photo by Joseph May

Slot view of the Sabre with Parker Playhouse on the right — photo by Joseph May

The F-86H showed the early Cold War years had their own taste of risk taking given the needs and equipment of the time.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 26 October 2012 06:59

    A wonderful setting for one of the most “attractive” aesthetically and aerodynamic aircraft in the world!! I really like the straight-line feel of a strafing run before pulling up at the other end of the opening! Even though not the best day for photography, it is easy to see how beautifully the colors on the plane integrate into the landscape.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      26 October 2012 09:12

      Yes, this Saber is wonderfully presented, I agree with you :) The light was tough that day — flat and intense — but you noticed that the green does become vibrant under those conditions, pleasing and unusual in southern Florida. I’ll get back there for late afternoon light within a month or so to get images lit more dramtically :)

  2. ChesBayCruiser permalink
    25 December 2012 22:47

    Great shots. I spend lots of time hunting for F-86H’s. My dad was a pilot in the 386th FBS / 312th FBW at Clovis (Cannon) AFB in New Mexico 1954-57 and flew the “Hog”. I’m always hoping to find a surviving example of one of the aircraft he he actually flew, (sadly, 53-1225 isn’t one,) although based on my research it seems doubtful that any still exist.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      27 December 2012 12:07

      We sincerely wish you luck in your quest to honor your father. Give us a week and perhaps we can find some leads for you, with luck they may be ones you have not explored yet.

  3. Steve permalink
    6 May 2014 17:53

    I grew up in Fort Lauderdale and when I was a little kid back in the 1950’s that same F-86 was in the kiddy playground in Holiday Park right next to where it’s now on display. Back then it was at ground level and as kids we were allowed to actually crawl thru the length of it since the engine had been removed. I can still remember the inside of it’s fuslage was that yellowish green color from when it was built. Great photos!

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