- Yes, I would.
- No, I would not.
The F-86 Sabre is a well known aircraft among the War Thunder playerbase. But what about its cousin from down under? Yes, Australia operated Sabres, and not just any Sabres. The Mk.32 represents the final variant of Australia’s Avon Sabres with enhanced interception and ground attack capability and is one of the most potent F-86 versions to ever be produced. Similar in many regards to the Hunter F.1, but in a Sabre airframe, the CA-27 brings the best of both worlds to the battlefield.
Genesis of the CAC Sabre
The history of the CA-27 begins with an operational requirement from the RAAF just before the Korean War. The arms race that had started in World War II wasn’t slowing down any time soon, and while the Nene-powered Vampires the RAAF employed were a significant leap forward compared to the Mustang, it was a World War II design in a Cold War world. The replacement options were limited - Australia’s advanced CA-23 project was mired in a political mess, F-86 production was fully allocated to the USAF, and the Hawker Hunter wouldn’t be ready as soon as the RAAF wanted.
The Rolls Royce Avon, the beating heart of the CAC Sabre.
The solution came from Sir Lawrence Wackett, an influential and forward-thinking personality in the aviation industry. As one of the most powerful figures in the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, he shrewdly decided on a bit of a compromise. His company would acquire a license to build the F-86 as well as a license for the Rolls-Royce Avon jet engine, redesigning the Sabre airframe to accept the Avon rather than wait for the Hunter to be ready. The process would require significant changes to the intake and overall fuselage, making it distinct from its ancestor. Development began in 1951, with the prototype flying in 1953 and managing to break the sound barrier just one month after its first flight.
Sabre Mk.32 in flight with Sidewinder missiles equipped.
The CA-27 began its duties as a clear-weather interceptor and fighter/bomber with the RAAF in 1954. Ironically, this was about the same time the Hunter entered service with the RAF, but it would still be a year or two before Hawker could begin delivering Hunters to export customers. The mating of the Avon engine with the Sabre airframe produced very good results, adding a significant amount of thrust without adding too much weight. In addition, unlike the majority of Sabres, the CA-27 had an appropriate armament for the jet age: two 30mm ADEN cannon in the nose provided the firepower the plane needed to take down its foes.
History and description of the Mk.32
The Mk.32 variant was the last to enter service, with a more reliable Avon Mk.26 engine and a revised wing with extra stations. Compared to the previous variant, the Mk.31, the Mk.32 featured a new outboard station exclusively for drop tanks, allowing the aircraft to carry its full ordnance and extra fuel at the same time. At the same time, there was an extra rocket rail per wing, the purpose of which was to allow the aircraft to carry a full load of rockets while carrying drop tanks on the outer pylons. Because of the way the firing circuit for the rockets was wired with this new pylon, carrying the full ten rocket stations’ worth of rockets was not expected since the inner and outermost rocket stations fired in parallel. However, it wasn’t impossible to do so. The other major change for the Mk.32 weapons wise was the fitting of two dedicated pylons for AIM-9B Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Firestreaks were trialed, but found to require an unacceptable level of modification to integrate due to the Sabre having no room for the required electronics.
Besides showing the new weapons stations of the type, this photo of a Mk.32 illustrates the much larger footprint the intake has on this version of the Sabre.
In service, Mk.32 Sabres deployed to many areas in southeast Asia to assist Australia’s allies. In the late 50’s, RAAF Sabres undertook ground attack operations against communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency, supporting Great Britain. After this, they stayed in the area, providing air defense over the Malaysian border during conflicts with Indonesia. Another detachment of Sabres was sent to Ubon air base in Thailand to help against more communist insurgents, and when the Vietnam War occurred, RAAF Sabres provided air cover for the very same base when it was being used by the United States.
A Sabre Mk.32 flying in Malaysian colors after being transferred to the RMAF.
With the Dassault Mirage IIIO occupying Australia’s need for both an interceptor and fighter-bomber beginning in 1964, the CA-27s remaining days in service were numbered, generally being used for training and second-line air defense like in Vietnam. A small batch of ten Mk.32 Sabres was given to Malaysia in 1969, though they were phased out relatively quickly. Indonesia accepted a batch of 23, including one Mk.31 Sabre, which they would use from the early 70’s to the early 80’s. Overall, the service life of the CA-27 spanned nearly three decades across several air forces.
CAC CA-27 Sabre Mk.32
- Span: 37 ft 1 in (11.3 m)
- Length: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
- Height: 14 ft 5 in (4.4 m)
Empty weight: 12,000 lb (5,443 kg)
Gross weight (clean): 15,960 lb (7,239 kg)
MTOW: 21,210 lb (9,621 kg)
Propulsion: 1 x Rolls-Royce Avon Mk.26 (7,250 lbf (3,289 kgf) static thrust @ 8,100 RPM)
Max speed (standard atmosphere):
- 695 mph (1,119 km/h) at sea level
- 614 mph (988 km/h) at 35,000 feet (10,668 m)
Service ceiling: 52,000 ft (15,849 m)
- 2 x ADEN 30mm autocannons (162 rounds/gun, 324 rounds total)
- Up to 2 x 100 lb AN-M30 bombs
- Up to 2 x 250 lb G.P. or M.C. bombs
- Up to 2 x 250 lb AN-M57 bombs
- Up to 2 x 500 lb G.P. or M.C. bombs
- Up to 2 x 500 lb AN-M64 bombs
- Up to 2 x 1,000 lb G.P. or M.C. bombs
- Up to 2 x 1,000 lb AN-M65 bombs
- Napalm tanks:
- Up to 2 x BLU-1 napalm bombs
- Up to 30 x RP-3 3-inch rockets (SAP, AP, practice, etc.)
- Up to 20 x HVAR 5-inch rockets
- Up to 20 x Matra T10 5-inch rockets
- Up to 10 x LAU-32 launcher (7 x Mighty Mouse 2.75" FFAR, 70 total)
- Up to 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder air-to-air missile
- Drop tanks:
- Up to 4 x 100-gallon (379 litre) drop tanks
- Up to 2 x 167-gallon (632 litre) drop tanks
- AN/APG-56 ranging radar
Unpainted Indonesian Air Force Sabre Mk.32
RAAF Sabre in “Black Diamonds” aerobatics livery
Royal Malaysian Air Force Sabre Mk.32
Ex-RAAF and IAF Sabre Mk.32 representing F-86F s/n 52-4629 at the Palm Springs Air Museum
Unpainted RAAF Mk.32 with solid red nose
Non-standard gate guardian livery for RMAF Sabre
Unpainted RMAF livery
Non-standard gate guardian livery for IAF Sabre
Another non-standard livery for IAF Sabre
An example of a typical “painted” livery for an IAF sabre
Why it should be in game
The Mk.32 Sabre is a treat to behold and most likely to fly as well. With its upgraded engine, the Avon Sabre approaches the Orenda-powered CL-13A/B in performance and carries one of the hardest hitting weapons fits available for the F-86 family (barring the F-86H experimentally modified to carry AIM-95s). It’s no surprise that the Avon Sabre remained in service for as long as it did, even when the whole world, Australia included, was desperate to race into the supersonic era. As a bonus, the Mk.32 Sabre has a plethora of amazing paint schemes that it can be depicted in, providing opportunities for skin creators and players to enjoy a new platform’s visuals.