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Aces of Aviation

North American F-86E Sabre of Francis S. Gabreski

North American F-86E Sabre of Francis S. Gabreski

North American F-86E Sabre piloted by Colonel Francis S. Gabreski, in command of the 51st Fighter Wing of the USAF, in South Korea.

Wingspan: 11.32 meters.

Length: 11.44 meters.

Height: 4.59 meters.

Engine[s]: General Electric J47-GE-13 of 2360 kilograms of thrust.

Maximum speed: 1090 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 14385 meters.

Range: 1030 kilometers.

Armament: Six Browning M3 12.7-millimeter machine guns.

Colonel Francis S. Gabreski was one of the seven pilots who reached the category of Ace both in the Second World War and the Korean War. Born the 28th January 1919 in Oil City, Pennsylvania, "Gabby" Gabreski was destined in Wheeler Field, Hawaii, as Lieutenant in the 45th Pursuit Squadron of the US Army Corps, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In October 1942 he was called to return to United States, where he joined the 61st Squadron of the 56th Fighter Group, piloting the new Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

When arriving to England, Gabreski was promoted to the rank of Major and received the command of the 61st Squadron. Between June 1943 and the 20th July 1944 - when he crashed near Koblenz and was taken prisoner by the Germans - he destroyed 28 enemy aircraft in the sky, which turned him into the American pilot with the highest record of victories in the European theater of operations.

When returning to United States in 1945, Gabreski became Test Pilot of the Air Force, in the Wright-Patterson airbase, but in the late 1946 he left the active service to join the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. However, he soon returned to the USAF, being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and receiving the command of the 55th Fighter Squadron. In the early 1951, Gabreski was sent to Korea as commander of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, the first unit which piloted the North American F-86A Sabre in the war zone. In October of that year he had destroyed three Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, the turbojet fighter used by the Communists.

When the number of enemy turbojet fighters over Korea increased in 1951, it was decided to put into service a new wing equipped with the F-86, replacing in the 51st Fighter Wing the older Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star turbojet fighters by the new F-86E fighter-bombers. Promoted then to the rank of Colonel, Gabreski took the command of the 51st Fighter Wing, which was ready to enter action the 1st December. He downed his fourth MiG-15 in January 1952, his fifth one the 1st April and his sixth one thirteen days later. The following victory, which was a shared one, raised his total record in the Korean War to 5.5 enemy turbojet aircraft destroyed.