The Sabre

Chosen by the RCAF to be its next frontline day fighter in August 1949, the F-86 Sabre served in Western Europe from the early days of the Cold War until it was replaced by the CF-104 Starfighter beginning in 1962. Built under license from aircraft manufacturer North American Aviation of the United States, all Canadian Sabres were built by Canadair Ltd at its Cartierville, Quebec plant near Montreal. Modelled after North American’s F-86A, the prototype Sabre 1 (19101) made its first test flight at RCAF Station Dorval on August 9, 1950 piloted by Canadair’s chief test pilot, Al Lilly.

Original production models of the Sabre were thereafter designated the Canadair CL-13 Sabre 2 and closely matched the North American F-86E-1 in design and performance. The first Sabre 2 (19102) made its maiden flight on January 31, 1951. By August 1952, Canadair had built 350 Sabre 2s for the RCAF.

Ultimately, Canadair built six variants of the Sabre, the Sabre 2, 4, 5 and 6 all seeing service with the RCAF in Europe. The most famous and capable Sabre was the CL-13B Sabre 6. Powered by the Canadian- built Orenda 14 engine which produced 7,275 pounds of thrust, the aircraft had a top speed of 710 mph (1,140 km/h) and a service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,700 metres). The first Sabre 6 bore the serial number 23371 and took flight on October 19, 1954. When the last F-86 Sabre rolled off the assembly line at Canadair on October 9, 1958, the company had manufactured a total of 1,815 Sabres, of which 1,183 had been delivered to the RCAF.

At the height of its operational service, over 300 RCAF Sabres were based on the European continent as part of Canada’s collective defence contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Spread throughout 12 Squadrons on 4 Wings, all four operational variants of the aircraft saw service in three countries in the interceptor day fighter role – 1 (F) Wing North Luffenham, England, latterly Marville, France; 2 (F) Wing Grostenquin, France; 3 (F) Wing Zweibrücken, West Germany, latterly Lahr, West Germany; and 4 (F) Wing Baden-Soellingen, West Germany.

Click here to download a more complete history of Canadair Sabre 23314 along with a list of the RCAF pilots known to have flown her – from 1 Wing Marville, France where she served with 441(F) Sqn to RCAF Stn Trenton, Ontario where the jet was used as a training aircraft by the Golden Hawks.