Canadaire Sabre F.4/North American F-86E(M)
The North American F-86 “Sabre” was one of the world’s most famous and successful jet fighters of the late forties to the middle fifties. The design originated with the straightwing FJ-1 Fury fighter for the US Navy, which was developed without the sweptwing technology obtained from the Germans at the end of World War II, and which was only built in small quantities. In 1947, the first sweptwing North American prototype was flown, designated XP-86 by the USAF. By the time the plane was in production, it became the F-86A under the new designation system. By 1950, Canadair was also building the F-86E model, and this became the standard fighter for many of the world’s air forces in the ensuing years. The USAF and other air forces used the F-86A, F-86D, F-86E, F-86F, F-86H, and F-86K models for a number of years until they were eventually replaced by the “Century Series” of fighters, the F-100, F-101, F-102 and F-104. Only a few are left today, with some are being flown by warbird enthusiasts who have lots of money for gas.
F-86’s were used during the Korean War, when they confronted Russian flown MiG-15’s over North Korea, achieving a respectable 14-1 kill ratio over the Soviet fighter, although this was probably more the result of better pilot training and tactics rather than the performance of the aircraft itself. Later, F-86’s were used for advanced fighter pilot training, and many were issued to Air National Guard units in the middle fifties. As a young boy, I remember the F-86E’s operated from what is now Detroit Metro Airport by a unit of the Michigan Air National Guard, and I was surprised to learn that these were F-86E-6-CAN types, built by Canadair in Canada.
There is a lot of material available on this aircraft, but with the instructions alone, you can build a good model. I would suspect that aftermarket decals will appear shortly, as this kit has a lot of conversion potential, especially for USAF models. There is a Profile Publication No. 186 that deals with the Canadair Sabres.
It was refreshing to see a kit of this airplane done by Airfix, as their only other F-86 was an old kit of the radar equipped F-86D, produced in 1975 and long out of production. Their original kit had raised panel lines, typical of the era, and appears to be relatively accurate. Looking at mine, I will build it someday.
The new offering, -- and it is a completely new issue -- is typical of the newer Airfix issues, such as their Bf-109G and Spitfires. Containing 63 parts, it has recessed panel lines and some configuration options, including open or closed air brakes and extra bomb racks and bombs, which evidently are not to be used for this particular model, as they are not mentioned in the instructions. There is no sprue diagram included in the 11 printed pages in the instructions, but the drawings are clear, showing assembly steps and what the assembled units should look like before final assembly.
Full color four view drawings show how the model should be painted in the two decal options given, an RAF Sabre F.4 of No. 112 Squadron in Germany during 1955, and a Yugoslav F-86E operated during 1965. The RAF version was painted in tri-color camouflage, while the Yugoslavian example was silver overall. The RAF camouflage diagram stipulates the use of dark sea grey, dark green, PRU blue, and “oak” (probably sky) , but the drawing is a little hard to read due to the dark hue of the color shades. Paint references are given by name, with some FS numbers. The PRU blue underside color looked a little dark to me, so I used RAF azure blue, and it looks pretty good to me. A separate four view gives the locations of the maintenance markings.
The kit is cast in light grey plastic, and there is a small amount of flash that has to be removed. Sprue attachment points must be carefully trimmed, as they sometimes tend to be in awkward places, like wing leading edges. The tires are flattened on one side, so watch for this when attaching the wheels. The nose gear is especially flimsy, but once installed, it held the weight of the model. The kit includes a piece in the nose marked “3 grams”, but when I filled this with fine buckshot, I didn’t feel that the model would balance properly, so I constructed a compartment in the nose where more weight could be added. Now, my model is grossly overweight, but it doesn’t sit down on its tail.
The cockpit interior includes a seat, control stick, floor with rudder pedals, and an instrument panel with decal, along with a fairly detailed looking rear cockpit surface. There are decal side control panels, but no gun sight, so this will have to be scratchbuilt. Panel lines are petite and probably a little deeper than they need to be, but on the finished model, they are acceptable. The parts fit together fairly well, with only a little putty required in the fuselage-wing joint area. One issue is the nose intake cap, which fits poorly, and requires some trimming and filling to get it right. Also, there are two nose wheels included, and unless you check the part number, you won’t know which one to use. All control surfaces fit well and are easily aligned, and the landing gear is easy to install. In short, this kit is detailed enough for the serious modeler, but also simple enough for a relatively inexperienced modeler to come up with a nice model.
Painting and Finishing
This kit presents no problems in painting and finishing. I did the bottom color first after masking off the sky fuselage band. I then painted the fuselage dark grey and dark green in that order. You can probably get away without weathering this model, as these planes were probably kept in pretty “spiffy” condition during their operational careers. Decals are of excellent quality, although the process is somewhat tedious, as there are so many small markings to locate and place. In short, it was a lot of fun to build.
The decal sheet provides three sections. One provides the common markings, mostly stencils giving instructions to maintenance personnel, while the other two have the RAF and Yugoslav markings. The decals are of excellent quality, and go on easily without the need for any special purpose decal solutions.
Decal application is rather tedious, however, and I would suggest following the instruction sheet and applying the decals one at a time. A magnifying glass would be very helpful in this step.
This is a very good kit, and Airfix is to be commended for releasing it. I would expect a series of issues of variations from this basic kit; and maybe even a reissue of the F-86D with upgrades. The aftermarket decals that are sure to come will be very welcome to modelers who like airplanes of this era. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Airfix and IPMS/USA for the review sample.