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North American F-86E Sabre

Birth of the Sabre.

After World War II, countries built many aircraft designs to try to discover the best ways to use jet engines in fighters. All but one of the new designs by North American, with the exception of the F-86 Sabre, were originally proposed with straight wings. However, captured engineering data from postwar Germany showed the advantages of swept wings. As an aircraft approaches the speed of sound, the leading edges of some parts of the aircraft reach Mach 1 earlier than other parts. Affected sections emit shock waves perpendicular to the aircraft, sapping the aircraft’s speed and causing buffeting. (To people watching the aircraft fly by, these shock waves appear to form a cone around the aircraft.) Once an aircraft passes the sound barrier, this “Mach shock” bleeds off, but getting to that point proved to be difficult. By sweeping the wings back, designers could delay Mach shock on the wings, allowing the aircraft to fly closer to the speed of sound. After...

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