The CAC Sabre, sometimes known as the Avon Sabre or CA-27, is an Australian variant of the North American Aviation F-86F Sabre fighter aircraft. The F-86F was redesigned and built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC).
In 1951, CAC obtained a licence agreement to build the F-86. It was decided to power the aircraft using a licence-built version of the Rolls-Royce Avon R.A.7. This involved a re-design of the fuselage as the Avon was shorter, wider and lighter than the General Electric J47 that powered the North American-built aircraft. Because of the engine change the type is often referred to as the Avon Sabre. To accommodate the Avon, over 60% of the fuselage was redesigned along with a 25% increase in the size of the air intake. Another major revision was in replacing the F-86F's six machine guns with two 30mm Aden cannons, while other changes were also made to the cockpit and to provide an increased fuel capacity.
A94-964 and A94-982 (Mk 32) in Thailand in the early 1960s.
A94-901 (Mk 30), the first production CAC Sabre, in the colours of the "Black Panthers" aerobatics team of 76 Sqn RAAF.
CAC Sabre Mk 32 (A94-983) on display at the Temora Aviation Museum
The Indonesian Air Force Museum exhibits this Mk 32 example (TS-8603, RAAF serial A94-368) in Indonesian markings.
The prototype aircraft (designated CA-26 Sabre) first flew on 3 August 1953. The production aircraft were designated the CA-27 Sabre and first deliveries to the Royal Australian Air Force began in 1954. The first batch of aircraft were powered by the Avon 20 engine and were designated the Sabre Mk 30. Between 1957 and 1958 this batch had the wing slats removed and were redesignated Sabre Mk 31. These Sabres were supplemented by 20 new-build aircraft. The last batch of aircraft were designated Sabre Mk 32 and used the Avon 26 engine, of which 69 were built up to 1961.
The RAAF operated the CA-27 from 1956 to 1971.
In 1958–60, CAC Sabres completed numerous ground attack sorties against communist insurgents in Malaya, during the Malayan Emergency, with No. 3 Squadron RAAF and No. 77 Squadron RAAF. Following the Emergency, they remained in Malaysia at RAAF Butterworth. From August 1964 onwards these aircraft responded several times to incursions by Indonesian MiG-21 fighters. However, the Indonesian aircraft always turned back before crossing the international boundary.
In 1962, a detachment of eight CA-27s, which was later expanded and designated No. 79 Squadron RAAF (79 Sqn), was sent from Butterworth to RAAF Ubon, Ubon, Thailand, to assist the Thai and Laotian governments in actions against communist insurgents. Australia and Thailand were allies of South Vietnam and the United States during the Vietnam War, and 79 Sqn performed air defence for United States Air Force attack and bomber aircraft based at Ubon. The squadron never engaged North Vietnamese aircraft or ground forces and was withdrawn in 1968.
Former RAAF CAC Sabres were operated by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (TUDM) between 1969 and 1972. Following the establishment of better relations with Indonesia, 23 CAC Sabres were donated to the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) between 1973 and 1975; five of these were former Malaysian aircraft.
In Australia one aircraft, RAAF Sabre A94-983, has recently been restored to flying condition, and is involved in flying displays at the Temora Aviation Museum in New South Wales.