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Inside the Archive: Sabre

Don’t, whatever you do, confuse the original US Air Force F-86 Sabre with Australia’s variant, the CAC 27 Avon Sabre. Why? Because RAAF had by far the superior model.

Here, a bit of explaining is needed. The original Sabre began its development at the latter stage of WWII, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to meet requirements. Sent back to the drawing board, it was significantly redesigned to incorporate a swept wing and flew for the first time in October 1947. Whatever they did worked: it quickly broke the sound barrier in a shallow dive, making it – arguably –the first aircraft in the world to achieve the feat.

Fast-forward into the ’50s, and Australia handed Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) the task of building its version. Its edition, though, featured a far more powerful Rolls Royce Avon RA.7 turbojet engine, revised cockpit layout, ability to carry cannons over machine guns and a bigger fuel capacity. The result was the Avon Sabre.

The prototype CAC CA-26 Sabre Mk 30 (A94-101) flew on 3 August 1953, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Bill Scott. But less than three weeks later, Scott scaled the aircraft to 12,800 metres, slammed it into a dive and, at 11,000 metres, broke the sound barrier for the first time in this country. In total, 112 Avons were built, and for 10 years, they remained the jewel in the crown of RAAF’s fleet before being phased out and replaced by the Mirage.

HARS Aviation Museum has its own, A94-901, the second Avon Sabre built and the first after the prototype. It served in several squadrons and was part of the No. 76 Squadron RAAF Black Panthers Aerobatic Team from 1961 to 1965, based at Williamtown. It remains there on loan as part of the Boeing de Havilland collection.


  • Gregory Jarosch


    Are there any DVDs of the Australian Sabre?

  • I think the Sabre in Picture # 7 is the one which gave rise to the practice now of ATC always asking RAAF Crew “Check Wheels” when on final approach and the RAAF Crew responding to ATC with the reply “Three Greens”(hopefully) so that RAAF Crew have to visibly check that wheels are down and ATC are told so. Perhaps someone can check and tell me if I am wrong.

  • angelo calleja


    The CAC CA-27, were the best of the breed.

    • Gordon Mackinlay


      My brother in law who flew DH Vampire/ Venom in the RNAZF operationally in Malaya, after he joined the RAAF flew the CA-27 Sabre for over a thousand hours. In his opinion the best of that breed. He later flew the Hawker Hunter with the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces, in the strike role, having the opinion that if he had gone to a real shooting war he would have chosen the FGA-9 Hunter.

  • Neil Radford


    I was at Richmond Air Force Base (I think) early 1955 when I was 10 years old when a Sabre F86 did the dive and broke the sound barrier, will never forget that day. And the low flying Neptune squadron was a buzz too at 50 feet of the deck, great memories

  • Rick


    Amazing sound that they make when taking off its a real Tiger and I would love to take one for a spin >>>

  • David B


    The Story about George Welch in the the Sabre beating the X1 to Mach 1 has been investigated many times and found wanting… No doubt it was done not long after the X1 but this one has become folk lore.

  • Wally James


    A real and the first truly Aussie fast Jet fighter. Loved the sound at low level and high speed over Willamtown.

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