The frosty morning air is shattered by a “hunting party” of F-86 Sabres of the U.S. 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, as they blast off the runway at Kimpo airfield, South Korea. Led by Gabby Gabreski, they are headed north to the Yalu River, and MiG Alley.
Quick to react to the Communist invasion of South Korea, American fighter pilots, many already World War II Aces, were more than able to meet the North Korean challenge flying their trusty P-51 Mustangs, and two new jets, the F-80 Shooting Star and the F9F Panther. All that changed one bright November day: a patrol of P-51s were pounced upon by shiny new swept wing fighters bearing the Red Star of the Chinese Air Force, and as the flight of Russian-built MiG-15s hurtled past at near supersonic speed, it became evident that America would have to move its new F-86 Sabre into the front-line.
When the two new planes finally met in combat over Korea, so alike was their configuration and performance that it was difficult to tell them apart. The MiG’s high rate of climb and service ceiling gave it an advantage, but the maneuverability and rock-steady response of the F-86 was an edge in a dog fight. The real difference was the pilots!
Fighting with the disadvantage of having to fly 200 miles to the battle zone, the skill and courage of the F-86 pilots has become legend. With speeds often nudging the sound barrier, and performing combat maneuvers at 600 mph imposing crushing G-forces, the F-86 pilots ran up a spectacular kill ratio of 8:1 against the MiGs.
Robert Watts provides a superb view of the classic F-86 Sabre, and his memorable portrayal appeals to students of aviation history, jet fighter enthusiasts, and collectors alike.
Each print is signed by the award winning artist and FOUR truly legendary fighter Aces who flew and fought the F-86 Sabre in the Korean Air War.
Colonel ROBERT BALDWIN
Baldwin took part in 75 combat missions in World War II flying P-38s and P-40s in Europe between 1943-45. In 1952 he joined the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in Korea and was promoted to Commander after 3 missions. He flew a total of 85 combat missions and has 800 hours on the F-86 achieving 5 victories in the Korean conflict.
Major General FREDERICK ‘BOOTS’ BLESSE
Fred Blesse’s first combat missions in Korea were flown in the P-51 where he completed 67 missions in the Mustang. This was followed by 35 missions flying the F-80 and 121 missions in the F-86. In all, he flew 233 combat missions in the Korean conflict, achieving 10 aerial victories making him the current leading Ace from that war. He later flew 157 missions in the F-4 in Vietnam.
Colonel FRANCIS ‘GABBY’ GABRESKI
“Gabby” Gabreski arrived in England with the 56th in 1943, and became an Ace before the end of the year. Flying the P-47 Gabreski’s score stood at 28 when, on his 166th mission, he hit the ground in a low-level straffing mission, crash landed and was taken prisoner. In Korea he became an Ace for the second time leading the F-86 Sabres of the 51st F1W.
Lieutenant Colonel EDWIN HELLER
Ed Heller joined the Service in 1942 and during World War II flew both the P-51 and P-47 in the European Theater with the 352nd Fighter Group, becoming an Ace with 5½ victories. Flying the F-86 with the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in Korea he scored a further 3½ victories before being shot down, resulting in two and a half years as a prisoner of war of the Chinese.