F-86 Sabre in Pakistan AF markings
During the fifty years, the PAF has had in its inventory over eighteen combat airplanes, from the British WW2 Tempest to the F-16 which the PAF flies today. Between these models there have been several British, American, French, and Chinese-built multi-role airplanes.
Of all the fighters that the PAF has operated, the most popular, by far, has been the F-86. This superb airplane remained in the inventory of the PAF for twenty three years, from 1956 to 1979. During that period, all told, the PAF inducted some 240 F-86s. Despite eighteen years having passed since the last Sabres were taken off flying status, Pakistani senior pilots still speak fondly of the F-86, its agility, handling qualities and exploits in peace and war.
During the mid-1960s, the PAF managed to bolster its dwindling Sabre force by purchasing ninety ex-Luftwaffe F-86Es. These used machines had the more powerful Canadian Orenda 14 engines that could take the plane to well over 50,000 feet. The F-86E too became a favorite, one of them even shooting down a MiG-21 that tried to turn with it.
The Official History of the PAF pays this tribute to the Sabre: It was perhaps the finest of the generation of jet fighters which still permitted classic dog fights between adversaries, where the skill and determination of the fighter pilot remained the sole deciding factor."
Photos and text © by Ahson Aftab