Sabre 6 (F-86) Decommissioned

Operational history

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

The F-86 entered service with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 1954 with the first batch of 120 aircraft. Most of the aircraft were of the F-86F-40 configuration except for a few F-86F-35s. The F-86 was operated by nine PAF squadrons at various times. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 the F-86 became the mainstay of the PAF and provided a qualitative edge against a larger Indian Air Force (IAF).

In the air-to-air combat of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the PAF Sabres claimed to have shot down 15 IAF aircraft, comprising nine Hunters, four Vampires and two Gnats. India however, admitted a loss of 14 combat aircraft to the PAF’s F-86s. The F-86s of the PAF had the advantage of being armed with AIM-9B/GAR-8 Sidewinder missiles whereas none of its Indian adversaries had this capability. Despite this, the IAF claimed to have shot down four PAF Sabres in air-to-air combat.This claim is disputed by the PAF who admit to having lost 7 F-86s Sabres during the whole 23 days but only three of them during air-to-air battles.

The PAF Sabres performed well in ground attack with claims of destroying around 36 aircraft on the ground at Indian airfields at Halwara, Kalaikunda, Baghdogra, Srinagar and Pathankot. India only acknowledges 22 aircraft lost on the ground to strikes partly attributed to the PAF’s F-86s and its bomber B-57 Canberra.

Pakistani F-86s were also used against advancing columns of the Indian army when No. 19 Squadron Sabres engaged the Indian Army using 5 in (127 mm) rockets along with their six .50 in (12.7 mm) M3 Browning machine guns. According to Pakistan reports, Indian armor bore the brunt of this particular attack at Wagah. The Number 14 PAF Squadron earned the nickname “Tailchoppers” in PAF for their F-86 operations and actions during the 1965 war.

During the war, United States barred the sales of the F-86 to Pakistan. Nonetheless, Pakistan maintained its F-86 fleet through sales of around 90 Iranian Sabres and Sabre Mk 6 CL-13s (Canadian-made F-86 Sabres) which formed the backbone of the operations during the Bangladesh Liberation War, 1971. Despite its formidable performance, the F-86 proved vulnerable to the diminutive Folland Gnat, which proved to be fast, nimble and hard to see. The IAF Gnats, given the nickname “Sabre Slayer,” claimed to have downed seven PAF Sab

Pakistan Air Force F-86 Flying Ace Sqn Ldr Muhammad Mahmood Alam, officially credited with five kills in air-to-air combat, three of them in less than a minute.


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