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North American F-86D/K/L (Sabre Dog)

All-Weather Jet-Powered Interceptor


The North American F-86 Sabre Dog was a further interceptor-minded evolution of the classic F-86 Sabre fighter airframe.

Detailing the development and operational history of the North American F-86D/K/L (Sabre Dog) All-Weather Jet-Powered Interceptor.  Entry last updated on 5/24/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The F-86D "Sabre Dog" (also known as "Dog Sabre") belonged to the family of single-seat, single-engine F-86 "Sabre" jet-powered fighters which made their combat debut in the Korean War (1950-1953). The D-model became an extensive reworking of the production A-model airframe in an effort to produce an effective all-weather, radar-equipped interceptor to rapidly counter a growing Soviet bomber threat. The result was an aircraft that shared no more than 25% with its sisters as the Sabre Dog integrated a nosecone (shrouding its radar fit) as well as an dimensionally larger fuselage with new, more powerful afterburning turbojet engine and enlarged tail surfaces. All this made for an aircraft with a broadened mission scope possessing excellent anti-bomber firepower, more internal volume, better performance, and improved controlling.

With a first-flight in prototype form recorded on December 22nd, 1949, the aircraft went on to see production reach 2,847 total units. Such was the importance of the type that it was also used by many NATO players of the Cold War (1947-1991) period. The last Sabre Dog was completed in September of 1953.

The Sabre Dog began life as the developmental "YF-95A" of which two prototypes were built to the standard (production forms were slated to become "F-95") to prove the design sound. North American engineers reworked the nose-mounted intake of the A-model to better fit the radome and its intended radar unit ahead of the pilot's position. Along with this was integrated the Hughes Fire Control System (FCS) which was tied to a retractable ventral (belly) rocket pack containing no fewer than 24 x 2.75" (70mm) "Mighty Mouse" air-to-air Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets (FFARs). The six machine guns of the A-model fighter was completely removed as a result - these having little value in the high-speed, high-altitude interceptor role.

In this single-crew arrangement, the FCS was to direct aircraft and pilot to within 500 yards of the target to which point the ventral rocket pack was automatically lowered and the rockets fired without direct control by the pilot. This was a departure from other interceptor designs of the period which typically involved a second crewman handling the radar direction duties.

Beyond this exceptional trait, the resulting Sabre Dog retained much of the form and function of the original classic Sabre fighter. Its nose-mounted, oval-shaped air intake aspirated the single turbojet installation behind the pilot and this system exhausted through a single port under the tail at the extreme aft of the fuselage. The pilot retained his commanding placement behind the short nose section and under a lightly-framed clear-view canopy. The tail unit incorporated a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes, all featuring sweepback along their leading and trailing edges. The mainplanes were low-mounted along the fuselage sides and swept back for high-speed flying envelopes. For ground-running, there was a conventional, retractable, and wheeled tricycle undercarriage. Each wing supported an optional fuel drop tank for increased operational ranges required of interceptor types.

The engine of choice became the General Electric J47-GE-17B afterburning turbojet offering 7,500lb of thrust. Maximum speed reached 715 miles-per-hour and range was out to 330 miles. The aircraft's service ceiling was listed at nearly 50,000 feet and rate-of-climb became 12,150 feet-per-minute.

North American F-86D/K/L (Sabre Dog) (Cont'd)

All-Weather Jet-Powered Interceptor

North American F-86D/K/L (Sabre Dog) (Cont'd)

All-Weather Jet-Powered Interceptor

The developmental YF-95A was eventually redesignated to "YF-86A" and entered production as the "F-86D" to which followed 2,504 examples were built to the finalized standard. The "F-86G" designation was briefly used to cover aircraft featuring an uprated engine as well as different equipment and these went on to be completed under the F-86D designation (406 built).

The D-model was seen as a fine candidate for export, particularly to NATO players across Europe, so this begat the export-minded "F-86K" which was proven first under the developmental "YF-96K" designation. These Sabre Dogs lost their ventral Mighty Mouse rocket packs and instead took on 4 x 20mm M24A1 automatic cannons tied to an APG-37 series radar unit. While North American contributed 120 to production of this mark, FIAT of Italy delivered some 221 units before the end.

The subsequent "F-86L" Sabre Dogs were F-86D production forms with all-new electronics fitted as well as a revised instrument panel. Changes were also had to the wing mainplane leading edges which also now featured extended wingtip sections. Internally, there was a more powerful engine fitted to help increase performance. Some 981 conversions were ultimately built to this standard.

Global operators were plenty with Denmark receiving a stock of ex-USAF D-models in the late 1950s. France operated FIAT-built Sabre Dogs for a brief time in the latter part of the 1950s. The West German Air Force took on 88 ex-USAF K-models and used them from the middle of 1957 until the middle of 1958. Another ex-USAF F086D operator became Greece which took on a stock of 35 aircraft and these remained available until 1969. Six K-models were delivered to the Honduran Air Force in 1970. FIAT of Italy managed production of 121 K-models for the Italian Air Force and took on the 120 units produced by North American (K-models).

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force operated 122 ex-USAF D-models and used them from 1958 until 1961. The Dutch received 57 K-model Sabre Dogs from the United States and a further six examples from FIAT. Norway used sixty total K-models arriving from the U.S. from 1955 until 1956. The Philippine Air Force received 20 D-models while the South Korean Air Force took on forty of the same mark from June 1955 onward. Twenty L-models made their way to Thailand and 32 F-models were seen in Venezuela with an additional 79 K-models (FIAT-built) handed down from West Germany in time. Yugoslavia received 120 D-models and these remained active from 1961 into 1974.

The USAF gave up use of the D-models by June of 1961 as newer, better interception options had become available by then.


YEAR: 1949
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): North American Aviation - USA
LENGTH: 40.26 ft (12.27 m)
WIDTH: 37.07 ft (11.3 m)
HEIGHT: 14.99 ft (4.57 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 13,525 lb (6,135 kg)
MTOW: 19,952 lb (9,050 kg)
POWER: 1 x General Electric J47-GE-17B afterburning turbojet engine developing 7,500 lb of thrust.
SPEED: 715 mph (1,150 kph; 621 kts)
CEILING: 49,754 feet (15,165 m; 9.42 miles)
RANGE: 329 miles (530 km; 286 nm)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 12,150 ft/min (3,703 m/min)
OPERATORS: Denmark; France; West Germany; Greece; Honduras; Italy; Japan; Netherlands; Norway; Philippines; South Korea; Taiwan; Thailand; United States; Venezuela; Yugoslavia

24 x 2.75" (70mm) "Might Mouse" Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets (FFARs) held in a retractable ventral belly tray.
Variants / Models

• F-86 "Sabre Dog" - Base Series Designation.
• YF-95A - Original prototype of which two were completed.
• F-95A - Proposed production model designation.
• YF-86D - YF-95A redesignated.
• F-86D - Definitive production model; 2,504 examples completed.
• F-86G - Temporary designation; improved engine performance; revised onboard systems; 406 completed (under F-86D designation).
• YF-86K - F-86D export production model; APG-37 series radar; 4 x 20mm M24A1 autocannons in place of the ventral rocket tray; revised Fire Control System (FCS); two examples completed.
• F-86K - NATO variant of the F-86D based in the YF-86K; 221 examples completed by FIAT of Italy; additional 120 examples completed by North American.
• F-86L - Upgraded F-86D with modern electronics, revised mainplane leading edges, more powerful engine, revised instrument panel, and extended wingtip sections; 981 conversions to the standard.

In the Cockpit

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (715mph).

Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the North American F-86D Sabre Dog's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (2,847)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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