F-86K History

F-86K Export Interceptor
On 22nd January 1953, Air Materiel Command (AMC) issued a request for a Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP) interceptor, in order to begin equipping NATO countries. Despite firm stipulations that the aircraft would have a two-man crew, NAA looked to designing a simplified version of the F-86D, which would also incorporate fire control equipment in place of the still-secret Hughes E-4 system. This equipment, known as the MG-4 fire control system, was designed and built by NAA's Electro-Mechanical Division at Downey.

MG-4 Fire Control System installation in the F-86K nose section.


The MG-4 was linked to an AN/APA-84 computer, which would provide intercept information to a cockpit-mounted scope in the same manner as the F-86D. To give a back-up to this system, the aircraft would also mount an A-4 gun/bomb/rocket sight for manual control. North American's designers had no problems in modifying the design to accept the specified four, 20-mm cannon armament in place of the rocket system, but differences in weight between the two installations required an 8-inch (203 mm) forward fuselage extension to regain the centre of gravity position.

F86K side-view showing the staggered 8-inch insert added forward of station 187.4 (upper fuselage) and forward of 221 at the bottom. This was done to avoid lengthening the mainwheel bay.-

In most other respects, the new aircraft, accepted by AMC as the F-86K, differed little from the F-86D, and was fitted with an afterburning J47-GE-33 engine of 7,650-lb. (3469 kg) thrust.

F-86K powerplant - the J47-GE-33


In order to furnish two prototypes of the F-86K, Contract AF-25402 was signed on 14th May 1953 and allotted two F-86D-40 aircraft from the Inglewood production line to be converted to YF-86K prototypes. As NA-205s, the first of these machines, 52-3630, was flown at Los Angeles on 15th July 1954. NAA test pilot Raymond Morris flew the aircraft on this occasion, being initially unarmed and powered by a J47-GE-17B.

The number 1 YF-86K 52-3630 (left) and the number two machine, 52-3804 (right). As rolled out, the no.1 aircraft carried no armament, the second machine just the rear two cannon.

Armament for production versions would be a group of four 20-mm M-24A1 cannon with 132 rounds per gun, firing at 700 rounds per minute. The cannon armament was installed on either side of the cockpit, much the same as the day fighter F-86A/E/F installation. A new access panel was set into each side of the fuselage.


Right-hand F-86K armament showing ammunition containers above and the two 20mm cannon below

The second prototype, 52-3804, was completed initially with just the lower pair of cannon, but later in the test programme, both sets were fitted. It is interesting to note that the upper pair of cannon, which had their gun muzzles adjacent to the engine air intake, were fitted with the gas-dispersing C-shaped fitting as seen on GunVal F-86Fs and cannon-armed F-86Hs. The lower and thus rearmost cannon, with its muzzle a good 30 inches (762 mm) aft of the intake, was not configured in this way. However, to further purge gas from the gun compartment, five prominent ducts were cut into the main access panel. Both prototypes were retained for testing by North American, eventually being scrapped at McLellan AFB in 1957.

FIAT in Italy signed a license production agreement on 16th May 1953, under which F-86Ks would be built at the company's Turin-Caselle plant from US-supplied components. Further to this agreement, on 18th May, MDAP funds were committed for NAA to supply 50 sets of F-86K parts under Contract AF-25402, signed on 28th June 1954. These aircraft would be assigned USAF serials, but after assembly they would wear Italian Matricola Militare (MM) serial numbers.

F-86K production underway at Turin-Caselle. The tail section in the foreground is having hydraulic functional checks prior to installation onto the production line.

Meanwhile, NAA was contracted under AF-26479 on 18th December 1953 to initiate construction of 120 NA-213 F-86Ks, to cater for delivery of aircraft to Norway and the Netherlands. FIAT-assembled machines would then equip the French and German air forces, as well as that of the Italians.

The first NAA-built F-86K, 54-1231, was flown on 8th March 1955, and this aircraft was also retained by North American as the production-standard aircraft.

54-1231, NAA's first production F-86K, was retained by the company until 1960 when it was delivered to Norway as a final replacement for 54-1235, which was lost prior to handover.

Deliveries were completed in December 1955, with sixty being shipped out to the Royal Norwegian Air Force and fifty-nine to the Royal Netherlands Air Force. On 23rd May, just over two months after the first NAA-built production model flew, NAA representative Col. Arthur DeBolt took FIAT's first machine into the air from Turin.

(missing photo)
FIAT's first F-86K (53-8273) rolls out for first flight on 23rd May 1955. (Howard Levy)

Further contracts were subsequently signed with FIAT for F-86K assembly: seventy under NA-221 (Contract AF-28086, signed 8th September 1955), fifty-six NA-232s (Contract AF-30742, signed 31st May 1956) and forty-five NA-242s (amended Contract AF-30742, signed 4th September 1956). Significantly, the last forty-five aircraft were fitted with the extended-span wing as used on the F-86F-40 and F-86L models.

FIAT-assembled F-86Ks began to be assigned to Italian AF units in November 1955, and the last Turin-built Sabre was received by the German Luftwaffe in June 1958. Ironically, by this time, it had been agreed that the F-86D and its fire control system was suitable for export. Service details of the F-86K are covered later.

Specifications - F-86K:
Empty Weight 13,367 lb. (6061 kg)
Combat Weight 16,252 lb. (7370 kg)
Max. Takeoff Weight 20,171 lb. (9147 kg)

Wingspan 37 feet 1 inch (11.3 m) - 39 feet 1 inch (11.92 m) for extended wing
Length 40 feet 11 inches (12.49 m)
Height 15 feet (4.5 m)
Wing Area 287.9 sq. feet (26.78 m?) - 313.4 sq. feet (29.15 m?) for extended wing

(One General Electric J47-GE-33 of 7,650 lb. (3469 kg) thrust with afterburner)

Maximum speed 692 mph (1113 km/h) at sea level
612 mph at 40,000 feet (984 km/h at 12192 m)
Initial Climb Rate 12,000 feet per minute. (3657 m/min)
Service Ceiling 49,600 feet. (15118 m)
Combat Range 272 miles (437 km)
Ferry Range 744 miles (1197 km)

F-86K Production:

Serial No. Model Construction Numbers

52-3630 YF-86K NA-205-1 (NAA)
52-3804 YF-86K NA-205-2 (NAA)
53-8273 to 8322 F-86K NA-207-1 to 50 (FIAT)(MM 6185 to 6234)
54-1231 to 1350 F-86K NA-213-1 to 120 (NAA)
55-4811 to 4880 F-86K NA-221-1 to 70 (FIAT)
55-4881 to 4936 F-86K NA-232-1 to 56 (FIAT)
56-4116 to 4160 F-86K NA-242-1 to 50 (FIAT)

Service Use


Following W.W.II, French industry took some time to recover, and this was especially true in the aircraft manufacturing industries. Thus, to begin rebuilding the French Air Force - the Armee de l'Air - many foreign types were purchased, and in 1951, F-84Gs and T-33 trainers started to arrive from the United States, and later on, F-84Fs and F-100Ds began to equip French squadrons. These machines were supplied under MDAP as France was a NATO member at this point. (France withdrew from NATO in 1966, much to the chagrin of member nations, not least the United States).

In the interceptor role, France had planned to deploy the Dassault Mirage, the prototype of which flew in 1955. However, delays in getting the production Mirage IIIC and Vautour IIN into service saw the Armee de l'Air looking to buy an interim aircraft off the shelf. The F-86K was chosen for this requirement.

A new unit was formed to receive these Sabres, 13e Escadre de Chasse Tout Temps (ECTT - All Weather Fighter Wing). The unit was activated on 1st March 1955 at Lahr AB in West Germany under the leadership of Commandant Risso. However, delivery of the first F-86Ks did not begin until some time later, and initially eight T-33s were assigned so that crews could begin blind flying instrument training. To familiarise themselves with the F-86K, five 13e ECTT pilots were also detached to Istrana AB in Italy, while ground personnel were trained by four USAF instructors who set up a Field Training Detachment at Lahr. Finally, in June 1956, two Erco MB-18 flight simulators arrived at Lahr so that flight training could be carried out.

This situation continued until 4th September 1956 when the first of sixty FIAT-built F-86Ks (55-4814) arrived at Lahr, being officially accepted by the French the following day. The delivery of F-86Ks triggered the formation of two Escadrons (squadrons) within 13e ECTT on 1st October; Escadron 1 'Artois' with commanding officer Capitaine Fonvielle and Escadron 2 'Alpes' under Capitaine Brisset. In French service, these units were known as EC.1/13 and EC.2/13 respectively, denoting their assignment to 13e ECTT.

By the end of 1956 the unit had flown 189 hours in the F-86K, comprising 196 missions. On 1st April 1957, 13e ECTT moved into a new purpose-built base at Colmar-Mayenheim in France, at this time possessing fifty-three of the planned sixty machines. Delivery was completed in June with the arrival of 55-4816 and 4818 at Colmar.

(missing photo)
55-4814 in the early '13-G' codes of EC.2/13 'Alpes'.
This aircraft was scrapped after an undercarriage collapse
on 28 Feb 62.

To differentiate between the two Escadrons, the aircraft were assigned individual codes; EC.1/13 using 13-GA to GZ and EC.2/13 having 13-HA-to HZ. In practice however, these code allocations were reversed, and rather than completely repaint all codes, it was decided in late 1958 that a stroke of the paint brush would change EC.2/13's '13-G' to '13-Q' and EC.1/13 '13-H' to '13-P', thus restoring the alphabetic order of the squadron codes. This only gave fifty-two code permutations, and aircraft that were 'spare' took on codes in the '13-SA' range.

Armee de l'Air F-86Ks were immediately involved in NATO exercises, participating in 'Counter Punch' in late 1957, followed by 'Rebecca' in which 13e ECTT took up a 24-hour alert posture. By the end of 1957, more than 2,000 hours had been flown on the F-86K fleet. This was tempered by the first loss of a French F-86K when on 13th April 1957 55-4842 landed short at Colmar, causing the left undercarriage leg to break, Pilot Lt. Cavat was uninjured, but the Sabre was uneconomical to repair.
A further landing accident on 11th June involved 55-4855, the aircraft running off the runway at Colmar. This time no damage was incurred.

Sadly, the start of 1958 also marked the first and only fatal F-86K accident in French service. On 7th January a radio mechanic was sucked into the intake of a running Sabre and killed. At the end of May 1958, exercise 'Full Play' began, to simulate a large-scale attack by atom bombers. F-86Ks were the main adversary and at the end of the exercise on 5th June had flown 174 sorties by day and fifty at night. The concentrated flying schedule was continued when 13e ECTT deployed to Cazaux on 16th June for gunnery practice. The F-86Ks fired at targets trailed by Ouragan and B-26 aircraft.

On the night of 3rd November 1958, EC.2/13 was just reaching the end of a mass night sortie. No doubt eager to get back safely on the ground, Lt. Hervouet landed wheels-up at Colmar. The crash started a small fire and also blocked the runway, Hervouet managing to jump clear while the fire was put out. However, with the runway blocked, the airborne remainder of the squadron was forced to divert into Lahr, where the night's misfortune was compounded when the nosewheel of Capt. Mayot's F-86K broke on landing. Mayot was uninjured, and fortunately both Sabres, 55-4867 and 4843 respectively, were repaired.

(missing photo)
F-86K 55-4876 of EC.1/13 'Artois'.
This aircraft was scrapped at Chateauroux in 1963.

During 1959 all F-86Ks began to be routed through FIAT in Turin for IRAN (Inspect and Repair As Necessary) overhaul and modification of mainplanes to 'F-40' specification with extended leading edges and increased span. At about the same time, many French F-86Ks had a long red/white/red band applied to each fuselage side in an effort to increase their visibility in the air. This had a valid purpose; despite the application of these markings on 28th October 1961, 55-4855 and 55-4867 collided in flight, though both machines and pilots recovered safely to base. Another problem encountered by French F-86Ks was that of engine failure, sometimes caused by fuel system faults. This resulted in five crashes, four pilots ejecting successfully, and another surviving the subsequent forced landing.

Further modification began at FIAT in June 1960 with the fitting of Sidewinder missile launch rails; at least twenty-nine aircraft eventually being converted, starting with 55-4820. This modification extended the useful life of the aircraft, but In June 1961 at a fighter meet at Colmar, two new Mirage IIICs were unveiled in 13e ECTT markings; the writing was on the wall for the French F-86Ks. But it was not until January 1962 that EC.1/13 relinquished its Sabres, passing them to EC.2/13 to begin Mirage conversion. EC.2/13 then also gave up its F-86Ks in April, but at this time it was decided to form a third Escadron, EC.3/13, to operate the Sabres while the Mirage conversion was completed. EC.3/13 took over the '13-SA to SZ' code range.

The transfer of a number of French F-86Ks to Italy began in early 1962 with the departure of thirteen aircraft to 51 Aerobrigata on 27th January; a further nine departed on 13th July.

The F-86K remained in service until 4th October 1962 when, their usefulness at an end, they were transferred to USAF control under the terms of MDAP. At the beginning of June 1963, fifteen airworthy F-86Ks were transferred to Chateauroux for storage, joining sixteen further F-86Ks already at the base. In March 1964 all these aircraft were destroyed by explosives. Only one aircraft survived in France; 55-4841, which was given to the French and placed on display at the entrance to Colmar AB. It is now proudly displayed in the Mus?e de l'Air in Paris.


At the end of the war, Germany's front-line aircraft of the air force - the Luftwaffe - were either destroyed or shipped overseas for investigation by the former Allied powers. When the German surrender was signed on 7th May 1945, literally overnight all military activity was curtailed and many talented designers were either seconded to research projects abroad, or moved voluntarily to other countries to continue their work.

At a NATO meeting in Paris on 23rd October 1954, member states agreed to allow the formation of a new German army, navy and air force. When it came to rebuilding Germany's armed forces, the aircraft procured for the new Luftwaffe were all purchased from overseas as a result of the post-War provisions. Nonetheless, progress was rapid. Luftwaffe planning was initially for 20 wings to be formed, including four of day fighters and three all-weather fighter wings by 1960. A number of aircraft types were investigated to fill these roles, including F-86F and F-100D in the former and the F-94 Starfire in the latter. Eventually, the choice came down to Canadair Sabres in the day fighter mission and F-86Ks as all-weather interceptors.

Personnel for the new Luftwaffe were mainly drawn from wartime pilots and ground crews, though they had all invariably had little aircraft experience in the intervening ten years. To make a start, six pilots, including Johannes Steinhof were trained in the United States, culminating in F-86F flight training at Nellis AFB. However, during 1955, 7330th Flying Training Wing at Furstenfeldbruck AB began USAF-based training of Luftwaffe pilots, using USAFE F-86Fs.

The Luftwaffe was able to begin its own dedicated Sabre flying training in 1957 when the first German aircraft arrived from the Royal Canadian Air Force. These machines, seventy-five Sabre 5s, were delivered from 18th February 1957. These aircraft equipped Waffenschule 10 (WS10) , a training school formed at Oldenburg to convert potential Luftwaffe Sabre pilots for the tactical fighters - Canadair Sabre 6s and FIAT-built F-86Ks.

(missing phtoto)
Streaming its brake 'chute, this JG75 F-86K was previously 55-4920. It was one of only a handful of short-span K's to serve with the Luftwaffe. It was damaged beyond repair in October 1959.

With about sixty-five aircraft on hand, WS10 used the Sabre 5s until 1959 when brand-new Sabre 6s began to arrive from Canadair. The unit then flew these aircraft until March 1962 when Luftwaffe day fighter Sabre training was ceased.

All F-86Ks for the NATO countries were delivered in USAF markings (they had been supplied under MDAP). 56-4123, seen upon arrival in Germany became JE-111 with JG75 and later passed to Venezuela.

While the day fighter units were coming to operational effectiveness, the delivery of 88 F-86Ks from FIAT began in 1957. Arriving at Oberpfaffenhofen from Italy in pairs, the first two were flown in on 22nd July, with delivery completed just less than a year later on 23rd June 1958. Prior to delivery, all F-86Ks were inspected and Luftwaffe makings applied by the Dornier company. All these aircraft had carried USAF markings for the ferry flight, and in the event, only fifty-seven actually entered Luftwaffe service. The remaining F-86Ks were crated, still in USAF colours until disposed of with the operational aircraft.

WS10 began F-86K training in July 1959, enabling pilots to then proceed to JG74 and JG75, the two units formed to operate the type. WS10 ceased all Sabre training in July 1962. JG75 was formed at Oldenburg in October 1960, but moved to Leipheim that same month. The unit's aircraft carried 'JE' codes, but they were short-lived, and on 5th May 1961 JG75 disbanded and passed its Sabres to JG74, the only other wing to operate the F-86K. Activating at Neuberg in April 1961, JG74 was assigned to NATO in October of the following year.

Camouflaged 'JD' coded F-86K of JG74. JD-249 was ex-56-4158 and later became '5627' with the Venezuelan AF.

All unit aircraft were camouflaged, the scheme having been introduced during late 1960. Thus, only a few of JG75's aircraft were thus painted before the wing disbanded. Luftwaffe use of the F-86K was fairly brief. Slated for conversion to the F-104G Starfighter, JG74 performed its last F-86K flight on 5th January 1966. Surviving aircraft and the crated spares - still in USAF colours - were passed to the Venezuelan Air Force.

(missing photo)
Something of a teaser, this shot of a camouflaged JG75 machine appears at first to show the aircraft being scrapped or dismantled. However, no 'JE-2**' coded machines are listed as being scrapped, and it may well therefore illustrate a maintenance SNAFU (Peter Sickinger).


In 1951 the Dutch parliament approved a plan whereby an independent air force would be created as part of the country's new NATO commitment. The plan initially suggested that nine day fighter squadrons plus six night fighter, six fighter bomber and four observation/communications squadrons would be required. However, later in 1951 NATO air force arrangements were revised, and the Paris Plan, approved in February 1952 put forward an increase of aircraft assigned to each squadron, at the same time reducing the number of actual squadrons. Thus, the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu), created on 27th March 1953, would feature six day fighter squadrons and three all-weather squadrons.

Initial equipment of the KLu comprised Gloster Meteor F.8 fighters and F-84G fighter bombers, the latter marking the arrival of the first MDAP-funded aircraft. Finally, in 1954, the all-weather requirement was filled with the decision to equip the KLu with F-86K Sabres. This proved to be a controversial move; many high-ranking politicians and air force officers had expected a two-seat machine to be chosen.

In order to prepare the air force for Sabre operations, 700 squadron was formed at Soesterburg on 1st August 1955 to begin training, the unit initially calling upon three Meteor trainers to keep aircrews current. At the same time, 328 Squadron at Woensdrecht was disbanded and personnel transferred into Soesterburg to form 702 Sqn. Even at this late date, navigators were being trained in anticipation of the arrival of two-seat interceptors. 702 Sqn transferred to Twenthe in December 1955 in order to accept the first KLu F-86Ks, and on 1st June 1956, 701 Squadron formed at Twenthe, completing the trio of Dutch Sabre units.

The first fifteen NAA-built F-86Ks arrived in Holland on 1st October 1955 aboard USS Tripoli, and a further eight had been received by the end of the year. Following assembly and test flight, the initial pair of KLu Sabres, 54-1277 and 1278 were accepted by 702 Sqn on 8th December. In total, fifty-six NAA-built F-86Ks were assigned to the Dutch AF, completing delivery in April 1957. A further six FIAT-built examples were accepted in April and May of that year, falling somewhat short of being able to fulfil the ideal 25-aircraft squadron strength. Squadron assignment was roughly nineteen F-86Ks for 700 and 701 Sqns, with 702 Sqn, officially established as the F-86K operational conversion unit on 1st January 1957, having an average strength of sixteen machines. During 1959 KLu Sabre operations were consolidated at Twenthe with the arrival of 700 Sqn from Soesterburg.

ZX-coded F-86K 54-1239 was lost in a flying accident
on 16th March 1961. (JMG Gradidge)

Delivered in natural metal finish, KLu Sabres carried markings to denote squadron assignment in the form of letter/number codes. 700 Sqn aircraft carried '6A-' codes, 701 Sqn aircraft bore 'Y7-' and 702 Sqn 'ZX-' codes, each aircraft being then assigned an individual suffix number. In the early 'Sixties, the code system changed so that all F-86Ks, irrespective of their squadron, carried a 'Q', followed by the 'last three' of the USAF serial number. From 1961, Sidewinder launch rails were also incorporated onto most aircraft, known affectionately as the 'Kaasjager' ('K'-fighter).

Service life of the KLu F-86Ks was relatively short, and a total of thirteen F-86Ks was lost in flying accidents. With the advent of the F-104 Starfighter the Sabre fleet began to wind down, and 702 Sqn, their training commitment complete, disbanded on 1st April 1962. The surviving aircraft were mostly passed to the remaining squadrons, but from 21st June 1962, a number of high-time Sabres were permanently withdrawn from use and sent to FIAT for reconditioning. At the time it was thought that they would be passed on to the Turkish Air Force, but in reality all these aircraft (up to ten) were instead assigned to the Italian AF. Next Dutch unit to disband was 701 Sqn which inactivated during 1963, and 700 Sqn then disbanded on 30th June 1964. The F-86K was officially withdrawn from KLu service on 31st October 1964. Many of the Sabre personnel converted en masse onto the Starfighter, but the old F-86K squadron numbers were never reactivated.


With a relatively small armed force, the Fuerza Aerea Hondurena (FAH) had for many years been supplied only sporadic deliveries of American MDAP aircraft. Following the infamous 1969 'Soccer War' with El Salvador, Honduras endeavoured to build up its air force, and the purchase of eighteen ex-Israeli Dassault MD.450 Ouragan fighter-bombers by El Salvador in 1973 marked the start of a small arms race. The FAH also managed to negotiate a contract for a number of ex-Israeli aircraft, this time for Dassault Super Mystere B2s. But delivery was not immediate, and desperate to obtain fighter aircraft, Honduras decided not to wait for the slow negotiations with the Israelis. Instead, eight ex-Yugoslav Air Force Canadair CL-13 Mk. 4s (F-86E(M) standard) were bought in 1976, just ahead of an Israeli agreement for the supply of the Super Mysteres. At least two F-86Fs were also supplied (possibly from Venezuela) at this time.

The Sabres' arrival coincided with that of the Israeli aircraft. Former Israel Defence Force /Air Force Lt. Col. Shlomo Shapira was assigned to the FAH, under Israel Aircraft Industries charge, to train the Honduran pilots. It appears that the earlier IAI involvement with Iranian F-86Fs came to good use, for Lt-Col. Shapira also trained the Hondurans in the use of the Canadair CL-13 Sabres (and possibly later, the F-86Ks). But with the Super Mysteres forming the main air defence component of the air force, the Sabres were rendered largely superfluous, and were assigned to Escuadrilla de Caza-Bombardeo (simply, 'fighter bomber squadron') at Base Aerea Coronel Hector Caracciolo Moncada, La Ceiba.

It was during this period that four F-86K all-weather fighters were presented to the FAH by the Venezuelan government, and these were also, curiously, assigned to Escuadrilla de Caza-Bombardeo. The F-86Ks carried natural metal finish throughout their short service life, but the F-86Es and Fs soon gained a camouflage paint scheme.

It is not known when the Honduran F-86Ks were retired; it can only be presumed that their complexity and limited numbers precluded all but the briefest of operational use. However, the F-86Es did remain in service into the 1980s, thanks to maintenance support from Venezuela. They were finally retired in 1986.


The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana - AMI) gained Sabre capability in 1955 with the arrival of the first of around 180 ex-RAF Sabre 4s. These aircraft had been upgraded to F-86E (M) standard prior to delivery, and served in the day fighter role.

(missing photo)
Delivery ceremony for the first seven AMI F-86Ks on
25th July 1955.

With FIAT building F-86Ks, it was only natural that the AMI would be first to receive the type in NATO, and 1 Stormo Caccia Ogni Tempo (1st all-weather fighter group) formed at Istrana in late 1955 for this purpose. The first squadron to receive the F-86K was 6 Gruppo, which formed in October 1955, and received its first aircraft on 2nd November. 17 and 23 Gruppi then received the aircraft in 1956, the latter initially operated as a Sezione (flight) of 1 Stormo Caccia Ogni Tempo at Pisa from 1st December 1956, and was finally redesignated as a Gruppo on 30th March 1957.

Some considerable upheaval then affected the Sabre units, not least the conversion of 1 Stormo to guided missile operations in May 1959. This precipitated the move of the F-86Ks to a pair of units previously flying F-84Fs; 21 Gruppo (gaining ex-17 Gruppo Sabres) and 22 Gruppo (taking over 6 Gruppo aircraft). 23 Gruppo remained an F-86K unit, and all three numerically consecutive units were reassigned to 51 Aerobrigata control at Istrana. 21 Gruppo converted to the F-104G in September 1963, passing its F-86Ks to 12 Gruppo.

'1-34', an F-86K from 17 Gruppo COT. This machine
is MM6218/53-8306.

'51-56'/53-8308, an F-86K from 23 Gruppo,
51 Aerobrigata

Meanwhile, the F-86E units were also realigned, 4 Aerobrigata deploying to Grosetto starting in March 1959, with 10 Gruppo being detached to Grazzanise in December 1961. 9 and 10 Gruppi then converted onto F-104s beginning in March 1963. This left 12 Gruppo, which converted onto F-86Ks at Gioia del Colle in September 1963. The 2 Aerobrigata F-86Es were lost in October 1962 with the disbanding of the wing, having moved gruppi to Cameri and Rimini in 1957. However, 13 Gruppo continued as an autonomous squadron, the last in the AMI to operate F-86Es. The unit flew the last AMI F-86E mission at Cameri on 15th August 1965, then moved to Treviso for conversion to the FIAT G.91R.

(missing photo)
55-4829, a green-trimmed 36 Stormo machine seen at
RAF Luqa, Malta.

The last AMI F-86K had been delivered from the factory on 31st October 1957, but further examples were obtained from France, which passed twenty-two F-86Ks to 51 Aerobrigata, starting in January 1962. By 1967, the Italian AF had three F-86K squadron-sized units remaining, 23 Gruppo having moved to Rimini-Miramare in July 1964 and 12 Gruppo reassigning to the newly-formed 36 Stormo on 1st August 1966. With F-104S deliveries beginning, 22 Gruppo moved to Cameri on 9th June 1969 for conversion to the type, passing its remaining Sabres to 12 and 23 Gruppi. In December 1971, 12 Gruppo also converted to the Starfighter, and any viable F-86Ks were ceded to the only AMI Sabre unit remaining; 23 Gruppo at Rimini-Miramare. With inevitable conversion to the F-104 in sight, 23 Gruppo was assigned to 5 Stormo on 25th March 1973, receiving its first F-104S on 19th March 1973. The last AMI F-86K flight was flown on 27th July 1973 by Capt. Mario Pinna. In service, the F-86Ks had flown 162,396 hours.


'2X'-coded F-86K 54-1267
of 337 Skv.

Starting in September 1955, sixty US-built F-86Ks were supplied to Norway, though one of these aircraft was lost during acceptance trials in America. It was not replaced until early 1960. The RNoAF's F-86K capability suffered another blow on 10th March 1956 when four aircraft were destroyed in a hangar fire at Gardermoen AB near Oslo. These machines were replaced by four FIAT-built F-86Ks during June 1956. The F-86Ks began to equip the squadrons in September 1955 with the formation of 337 Skv at Gardermoen. A second unit, 339 Skv then formed with F-86Ks at Gardermoen in July 1956. These units were then disbanded in September 1963 and merged their aircraft and personnel into 332 and 334 Skv respectively. Two F-86F units had earlier converted onto the F-86K: 332 Skv, which moved into Bodo in the Autumn of 1962 for conversion and then took over 337 Skv F-86Ks, and 334 Skv which converted to F-86Ks in August 1960 and then also gained 339 Skv machines in 1963.

54-1335 was delivered to the RNoAF on 31st August 1956, and served with 334 Skv (seen here) and 339 Skv before being withdrawn on 18th August 1967.

Replacement of the F-86Fs began in April 1963 when 331 Skv received its first F-104G Starfighters, and F-5s also began arriving in early 1966. As they were replaced, F-86Fs were largely put through overhaul and sent on to further MDAP assignment. Many RNoAF F-86Fs served with the Royal Saudi AF, and in a spares capacity with the Portuguese AF.

The F-86Ks were withdrawn beginning in the autumn of 1964 when 332 Skv was disbanded. 334 Skv was then the last RNoAF unit to operate Sabres, and retired its last F-86Ks on 15th July 1967. With little further use, the majority were then scrapped.


'0132' is ex-56-4124 and is possibly one of four later sent
to Honduras.

Serialled '5610', this derelict FAV F-86K was seen at La Carlota.
(PR Foster)

During 1965, the Venezuelan Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Venezolanas - FAV) began negotiations with the West German government for the purchase of all 'seventy-three' surviving Luftwaffe F-86Ks, including the unflown examples. Export licences were approved for fifty-one aircraft (presumably the airworthy ones), and the sale was worth 50,000 UK pounds ($140,000) per aircraft , including spares. It was also reported at the time that the deal included the fitting of recce equipment in some aircraft, but no evidence can be found to substantiate this. A total of seventy-eight F-86Ks was eventually supplied, including many unused, non-flyable aircraft as spares sources. At least four aircraft were impounded at the docks in Cura?ao on delivery and never made it into service - they were eventually scrapped, still in their USAF delivery markings. F-86Ks flew with Escuadras de Caza 34 and 35, and later apparently replaced the F-86Fs of Esc. de Caza 36. Four aircraft are reported to have passed to the Honduran AF in 1969 following overhaul, but it seems more likely that this event occurred some time after 1975. The FAV F-86Ks encountered many maintenance problems, a large number being grounded in July 1969 for hydraulic hose problems. Around twenty-seven were reported to have been written off, with the remainder being withdrawn at Palo Negro circa 1974. Most are still there, slowly rotting away.




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