The best F-86: Canadair Sabre 6 versus CAC Sabre 32

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Hawk One by Peter Handley - cropped 3x5

‘Hawk One’.
Photo: Peter Handley
Vintage Wings of Canada

10th October 2014 | Of the many versions of the very successful North American F-86, many former pilots and historians are of the opinion that the Canadair Sabre CL-13B (Sabre Mk. 6/Sabre 6) is the best of the lineage.

Temora Aviation Museum Sabre Mk 32 Photo Copyright: Gavin Conroy Used with permission.

Temora Aviation Museum’s Sabre Mk. 32.
Photo Copyright: Gavin Conroy
Used with permission.

However, Australians can justifiably contend that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) Sabre (also known as the Avon Sabre or CA-27) Mk. 32 is overall the finest. Since the controversy rages amongst 20th Century Aviation Magazine historians the case, summarised below, is now presented to the readers.

A Valiant Air Command Web page states, “The North American F-86 Sabre was arguably the most successful and elegant American fighter of the 1950s.” Yet, as good as the F-86 lineage was Canadair arguably made the plane even better and possibly produced the ultimate dogfighting Sabre in the Mark (Mk.) 6 version. Gerhard Joos states (page 5) in The Canadair Sabre, “In fact, it was the best version in overall performance of all . . versions built, including the FJ-4 Fury.”

Hawk One by Peter Handley 5x7 VWC_2014-9695

‘Hawk One’
Photo: Peter Handley
Vintage Wings of canada

In North American F-86 Sabre, Stewart Wilson and William Greene and Gordon Swanborough in The Complete Book of Fighters indicate many of the flight performances of the Canadair Mk. 6 and Mk. 32. Admittedly statistics alone do not present a complete picture, but the paragraphs below present a comparative analysis of the two marks.

Relating to the Canadair Mk. 6, the Avro Canada Orenda 14 axial flow turbojet powerplant produces a maximum of 32.3 kilonewtons (7,275 pounds) of thrust. The normal loaded weight is between 6,628 kilograms (14,613 pounds) and 7,450 kilograms (16,426 pounds). The foregoing combination generates a maximum speed of 1,143 kilometres per hour (618 knots/770 miles per hour) at sea level, 1,094 kilometres per hour (519 knots) at 10,000 feet and 998 kilometres per hours (539 knots/620 miles per hour) at 36,000 feet.

Sabre 'Hawk One'.

Sabre ‘Hawk One’
Photo: Gustavo Corujo
Vintage Wings of Canada

The Mk. 6’s initial rate of climb is to 3,597 metres (11,800 feet) per minute or 60 metres per second. Its service ceiling is 16459 metres (54,000 feet). The machine’s tactical radius, in ‘clean’ configuration, is 584 kilometres (316 nautical miles) and maximum range with auxiliary tanks is 2,406 kilometres (1,300 nautical miles).  A Mk. 6’s service ceiling is 16459 metres (54,000 feet).

"Hawk One". Photo: Peter Handley

“Hawk One”
Photo: Peter Handley
Vintage Wings of Canada

Internal armament for the Mk. 6 consisted of six 12.7mm (.50-inch) Browning M3 machine guns, rated at firing 1150-1250 rounds per minute, in the nose with an ammunition capacity of 267 rounds per gun. The muzzle velocity of the Browning is  874 metres (2,870 feet) per second  and the effective range of the 12.7mm round is approximately 2,200 metres (1,651 yards). Projectile weight is 49 grams (1.7 ounces).

In comparison, the CAC Sabre Mk. 32’s loaded weight is 7,273 kilograms (15,940 pounds).  It is powered by the Avon Mk. 26 axial flow turbojet engine which is certified as generating  33.3 kilonewtons (7,500 pounds) of static thrust). It propels the Australian Sabre at a maximum speed of 1,126 kilometres per hour (607 knots/699 miles per hour) at sea level, 1,081 kilometres per hour (583 knots/672 miles per hour) at 3,050 metres (10,000 feet) and 997 kilometres per hour (527 knots/607 miles per hour) at 11,580 metres (38,000 feet). The version’s initial rate of climb is 61 metres per second (12,000 feet per minute).  Its service ceiling is 15,850 metres (52,000 feet).

A94-983 Mk.32 CAC Sabre Construction number CA27-83 at Temora Aviation Museum. Photo by Bidgee Source: Wikipedia

A94-983 Mk.32 CAC Sabre Construction number CA27-83 at Temora Aviation Museum.
Photo by Bidgee
Source: Wikipedia

The Mk. 32’s internal fuel capacity is 1,623 litres (357 imperial gallons) with provision for two 454 litre (100 imperial gallons) droppable overload tanks. This capacity provides for a range of 1,850 kilometres (1,153 statute miles/1,000 nautical miles.)

Internal armament consisted of two ADEN 30mm (1.1811 inch) cannon in the nose, which provided a rate of fire of 1,200-1,700 rounds per minute. Ammunition capacity was 162 rounds per gun.  The Mk. 4 weapon fires a 220 gram (7.76 ounce) projectile at a muzzle velocity of 741 metres per second (2,430 feet per second). Projectile effective range is 1510 metres.

Stewart Wilson, author of North American F-86 Sabre, states (page 47) that the Sabre Mk. 32 (manufactured between 1955 and 1961) was “the final CAC Sabre, and to many analysts the most capable day fighter variant of North American’s original design.” He notably adds (page 48) the following: “The Sabre Mk. 32 differed from its predecessors in that the variant incorporated the Avon 26 turbojet engine with surge-free operation.”

R.Y. Costain, a member of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association and an aviator with experience with both the Sabre 5 and 6, piloted Mk. 5 drones “both as a safety pilot and remotely” at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. He commented that the Canadair planes “were marvellous fighters.” Mr. Costain also added, “The Orenda 14 engine in the Mk. 6 gave us problems, however. We had a number of failures over the years. . . .”

Mk. 6 Sabres of No 421 Squadron. Photo: Canadian Department of National Defence Photo PCN 109

Mk. 6 Sabres of No 421 Squadron. Photo: Canadian Department of National Defence image PCN 109

From a purely statistical standpoint, the Canadair Mk. 6 is slightly faster, possesses a higher service ceiling, its guns had a longer effective range, and the six weapons could put more shells onto the target during any given interval. However, within its weapons’ effective range the CAC Mk. 32’s two larger calibre and heavier cannon shells were more lethal.

Sadly, few airworthy examples remain operational. In Australia the Temora Aviation Museum periodically flies its beautiful unarmed CAC Mk. 32, and Vintage Wings of Canada/Les ailes d’époque du Canada regularly thrills crowds with its stunning and also unarmed ‘Golden Hawks’ Canadair.

'Hawk One'. Photo: Peter Handley Vintage Wings of Canada

‘Hawk One’.
Photo: Peter Handley
Vintage Wings of Canada

Notably, the Mk. 5 ‘Hawk One’ has been retrofitted with wings possessing leading edge slats and an Orenda 14 engine. Therefore, the aircraft resembles and performs much like a Sabre 6.

Perhaps the debate over the ‘best Sabre’ will never die. Suffice it to say that Canada and Australia can and should take pride in having produced the best Sabre Jets. As a result the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force were therefore able to operate the ultimate variants of this legendary aeroplane.

Readers are encouraged to make viewing of either aircraft a priority and are invited and encouraged to provide feedback and opinions.

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The author (John Stemple) thanks J.R. Alley & R.Y. Costain of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association, Pierre Clément of Vintage Wings of Canada/Les ailes d’époque du Canada, and photographers Peter Handley and Gustavo Corujo.

Sources, Suggested Readings & Viewings

A Channel News: Hawk One in the Comox Valley

ADEN cannon
http://www.economicexpert.com/a/ADEN:cannon.htm

ADEN cannon

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/ADEN_cannon

ADEN cannon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADEN_cannon

Aden Mk 4

http://www.probertencyclopaedia.com/cgi-bin/res.pl?keyword=Aden+Mk+4

Aircraft Registry – Sabre

http://warbirdregistry.org/jetregistry/f86registry/f86registry.html

Browning M3

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Browning_M3#Browning_M3_Aircraft

Browning M3 Machine Gun

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=15061

CA-27 Mk 32 (F-86) Sabre Jet Flying at Temora Nov 2011

CAC Sabre

CAC Sabre

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAC_Sabre

Canadair Sabre

http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_fighters/p86_22.html

Could You Fly a Sabre? The challenge of handling a 1950s MiG killer

http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/could-you-fly-a-sabre-76642301/?no-ist

Davis, Larry, F-86 Sabre in Action – Aircraft No. 33, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1978.

F-86 Sabre Golden Hawk

F-86 Sabre Plots Association

http://sabre-pilots.org/

F-86 Sabre Jet

http://www.boeing.com/boeing/history/bna/f86.page

Golden Centennaire Flying with Hawk One

Golden Hawk F-86 Sabre Visits Edmonton Airfest 2011

Great Planes: North American Sabre

Green, William and Gordon Swanborough, The Complete Book of Fighters, New York: Smithmark, 1994, p. 106.

Hawk Broll: Canadian Centennial of Flight

Hawk One

http://blog.hawkone.ca/fr/hawk-one/

Hawk One visit to Victoria, BC

History of a Dogfighter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmb5lxMsdKIJoos, Gerhard, The Canadair Sabre (Profile Publications No. 186), Leatherhead, England: Profile Publications, Ltd., 1967.

Joos, Gerhard, The Canadair Sabre (Profile Publications No. 186), Leatherhead, England: Profile Publications, Ltd., 1967.

List of Surviving Sabre Aircraft

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_surviving_Sabre_aircraft

Milberry, Larry, The Canadair Sabre, Toronto: CANAV Books, 1986.

North American F-86 (Day-Fighter A, E AND F Models)

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=2297

Orenda Engines

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orenda_Engines

Rolls-Royce Avon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolls-Royce_Avon

Sabre playing at Temora 2010

Temora Aviation Museum

https://www.facebook.com/temoraaviationmuseum

The Golden Hawks

Golden Hawks F-86 Sabre @ The Gatineau Airshow

The Golden Hawks

http://blog.hawkone.ca/the-golden-hawks/

The Sabre

http://blog.hawkone.ca/the-sabre/

The Ultimate MiG-Killer, the F-86F

http://sabre-pilots.org/classics/v14killer.htm

Valiant Air Command

http://vacwarbirds.org/AirplaneGallery/F86Sabre/index.html

Vintage Wings of Canada/Les ailes d’époque du Canada

http://www.vintagewings.ca/

Wilson, Stewart, North American F-86 Sabre, Bungendore, New South Wales, Australia: Notebook Publications, 2002.

Wing and a Prayer – Sabre F-86 – A Fighter Pilot’s Fighter

http://historyoflight.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/sabre-f-86-a-fighter-pilots-fighter/

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