The RF-86F filled an important gap until more capable reconnaissance aircraft became available. The Sabre, originally built as a day fighter, was first modified for reconnaissance during the Korean War. USAF personnel custom-fitted cameras to about a dozen F-86 fighters (known as "Honeybuckets" or "Ashtrays") to replace the slower RF-80 for missions in northwestern North Korea -- "MiG Alley" -- and into Manchuria.
After the Korean War, a handful of F-86Fs received more capable cameras under Project Haymaker. In order to fit the film magazines for the vertically mounted cameras, the aircraft acquired a distinctive bulge on both sides of the forward fuselage. The armament was removed to allow for the cameras, and the RF-86F "Haymakers" had painted-on gun ports to appear as if they were armed.
In March 1954 the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron deployed to Komaki Air Base, Japan, receiving eight newly-modified "Haymakers." With these aircraft, they secretly overflew Soviet, North Korean and communist Chinese territory in the mid-1950s.
The RF-86F "Haymaker" on display (S/N 52-4492) participated in these critical overflight missions. It was transferred to the South Korean air force (ROKAF) in 1958, which flew it into the 1980s. Arriving at the museum in 1998 for restoration, it was placed on display in 2005. It is marked as it appeared while assigned to the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.
Engine: 5,910-lbs. thrust J47-GE-27 jet engine
Maximum speed: Approx. 650 mph
Range: Approx. 1,900 miles
Ceiling: 54,000 ft.
Serial number: 52-4492
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