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Canadair CL-13 Sabre

Single-Seat, Single-Engine Jet-Powered Fighter Aircraft

The Canadiar Sabre line of swept-wing, jet-powered fighters were Canadian variants of the storied North American F-86 Sabre series.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 7/5/2018
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1950
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Manufacturer(s): Canadair - Canada
Production: 1,815
Capabilities: Fighter; Interception; Ground Attack; Close-Air Support (CAS);
Crew: 1
Length: 37.50 ft (11.43 m)
Width: 37.14 ft (11.32 m)
Height: 14.76 ft (4.5 m)
Weight (Empty): 10,615 lb (4,815 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 17,560 lb (7,965 kg)
Power: 1 x Avro Canada Orenda 14 turbojet engine developing 7,275 lb of thrust.
Speed: 710 mph (1,142 kph; 617 kts)
Ceiling: 54,003 feet (16,460 m; 10.23 miles)
Range: 1,271 miles (2,045 km; 1,104 nm)
Rate-of-Climb: 11,800 ft/min (3,597 m/min)
Operators: Bangladesh; Canada; Colombia; West Germany; Greece; Honduras; Italy; Pakistan; South Africa; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States; Yugoslavia
After World War 2, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) joined other major air services around the globe in re-equipping its fighter fleet with jet-powered types in an effort to replace stocks of outgoing, propeller-driven frontline interceptors and fighters. While Germany and Japan were defeated as the primary world threats, the Soviet Union took over as the global enemy to the West and this pushed development of evermore capable machines to thwart expected invasions and all-out war. For the Canadians, the battlefront would have been home soil against marauding Soviet bombers from the west and in Europe with Soviet forces invading from the East.

While the in-development Avro Canada CF-100 "Canuck" was to become Canada's new jet-powered interceptor, it still lacked a viable replacement for its inventory of World War 2-era fighters. The soundest solution came in 1948 to adopt the newly-minted North American F-86 "Sabre" jet fighter of the United States Air Force (USAF) as the next Canadian fighter mount. The F-86 represented a high-speed, single-seat, agile and stable gun platform that would go on to find success in the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953). Canadair was setup to locally produce the aircraft under license as the CL-13 "Sabre" for the RCAF and this was through a facility arranged in Montreal.

First flight of a Canadian Sabre was on August 9th, 1950 with introduction set to begin by the end of the year. A first batch of ten aircraft served to prove the Canadair lines in Montreal sound and this set the stage for the first mark to originate in the Sabre Mk 1. Only one aircraft was built to this standard with the design faithful to the original F-86A production model. Power was served through the General Electric J47-GE-13 series turbojet engine which outputted at 5,200lbf thrust and armament remained 6 x 0.50 caliber Browning machine guns in two banks of three guns along each side of the nose.

What followed was the first true RCAF production batch as the Sabre Mk 2 of which 350 were manufactured to the F-86E standard. The RCAF received 287 of this group while 60 were shipped to the USAF and a further three went to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Britain. The Mk 2s began life with largely the same features as the Mk 1 until after the 20th example which then the series went on to include an all-moving horizontal tail surface and power-assisted controls (as in the USAF F-86E).

Canadair then constructed a Sabre form with the local Avro Orenda 3 turbojet engine in the Sabre Mk 3 variant. A single airframe was used to prove the mating sound and this required some slight alterations to the airframe to suit the new engine installation. By and large, the aircraft retained its form and function when compared to the Mk 2s prior.

From this test-minded Mk 3 was born the Sabre Mk 4 variant of which 438 total aircraft emerged from production. However, 428 of this stock was shipped for service with the RAF with only ten retained for the RCAF. Based on the F-86F Sabre, the subsequent Sabre Mk 5 was fitted with the Canadian Orenda turbojet - 370 of this mark were all delivered to the RCAF for service. Numbers were further strengthened through the 655 Sabre Mk 6 models that followed - 390 going to the RCAF.

By the end of her evolution, the Canadair Sabre was cleared to carry its standard machine gun battery and had a rocket launching provision added as well as support for conventional drop ordnance and missiles. The 6 x 0.50 caliber guns fed from an ammunition load of 1,602 rounds and the guns were buried in the sides of the fuselage along the nose-mounted ductwork aspirating the engine within. Only the oval gun ports were visible as the guns were wholly shrouded by the side panels on the aircraft. The aircraft could be outfitted with 2 x Matra rocket pods each holding 18 x 68mm SNEB rockets for a broadened tactical battlefield role. Bomb loads were limited to 5,300lbs of weight collectively across four hardpoints under the wings. The wings' internal hardpoints were additionally plumbed for the carrying of jettisonable fuel tanks for increased patrol ranges. The Sabre was also cleared to carry nuclear-tipped drop ordnance and a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles.

The RAF recognized the Mk 4 as the "Sabre F.4". The West German Luftwaffe was a primary recipient of many ex-RCAF and new-build Canadair Sabres through 75 refurbished Mk 5 fighters and 225 all-new Mk 6 fighters. These served from 1957 into 1964 with the final trainer form not retired until 1983. Other ex-RCAF mounts went to Pakistan (the last retired in 1980) and elsewhere. Operators ultimately included (beyond those already mentioned) Bangladesh, Colombia, Greece, Honduras, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.

Total CL-13 production was 1,815 fighters. The Canadian fighter requirement then fell to the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter" line which was operated by the RCAF as the "CF-104". Some two-hundred were - again - built locally and under-license by Canadair.


6 x 12.7mm Browning M3 heavy machine guns in nose.

2 x Matra rocket pods (18 68mm rockets each).
2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range, air-to-air missiles.

Up to 5,300lb of conventional drop ordnance across four hardpoints.

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of aircraft aerial rockets
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

Variants / Models

• CL-13 "Sabre" - Base Series Name
• Sabre Mk 1 - Single prototype based on the F-86A production model.
• Sabre Mk 2 - Based on F-86E; 350 produced.
• Sabre Mk 3 - Orenda 3 jet engine test aircraft.
• Sabre Mk 4 - Combat fighter; 438 completed.
• Sabre Mk 5 - Similar to F-86F; powered with Orenda jet engine; 370 completed.
• Sabre Mk 6 - Combat fighter; 655 completed.
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