The superlative Canadair Sabre was the RAF’s first swept-wing jet fighter. Malcolm V Lowe relates the story of this important 1950s warplane.

Key Collection 92 Sqn F.4 Sabres
Above: A very neat formation of Sabre F.4 airframes from Fighter Command’s 92 Squadron. This unit together with 66 Squadron was stationed at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, and had been Meteor F.8 squadrons prior to flying the Canadian-made Sabres. (Key Collection)

By the early 1950s it was becoming obvious that the RAF’s day-fighter strength of ‘straight-wing’ Gloster Meteor and de Havilland Vampire airframes was being left far behind by more modern types. The Korean War of 1950-53 clearly demonstrated that a completely new warplane was needed, and the British aircraft industry eventually met this need with the iconic Hawker Hunter and (to a lesser extent) the Supermarine Swift. Both types were ‘swept-wing’ fighters of considerable potential, but until they were ready for frontline service the RAF needed a stop-gap.

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