Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson




The F-86H was the last incarnation of the classic USAF Sabre line, and it was a much more potent warplane than the earlier types, capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

As a separate development, a navalised version of the F-86 was produced, at first directly modified from the F-86E, but later a completely new aircraft, with a thin wing of considerably increased chord at the wing roots. In some ways, the final FJ-4 was the most handsome of the Sabre's offspring, and it was in service when the Navy switched from its midnight blue finish to a seagull-type finish, very flattering on all the aircraft that used it, including the F-4 Phantom.

I was starting to consider making some images of FJ-1, FJ-2, FJ-3 and FJ-4 aircraft, but I got distracted by finding a nice image of an F-86H model, so I started on it instead – the Navy Sabres can wait till later.

The Initial Image

The model is lit by a strong yellowish light from behind, and it is so intense that there is serious overexposure on parts of the rear fuselage and fin. There is also a considerable droop in the wings, the tips being about 6 or 9 inches (at full scale) lower than they should be; this droop also causes the tanks to be not only low but also rotated nose up.

Finally, it became apparent as I worked on the internal details that much of the panel work is inaccurate and will need to be re-done from scratch. At least the canopy is closed, so I am spared that reconstruction.

Treatment of the Image

I started with the wings; I chose a point at about 1/3 of the span from the root, selected the whole outer wing, copied it, and then pasted it back on, rotating it upwards till it was at roughly the right attitude. The wing looked better, but I had to do the same procedure on the outermost third part of the wing. I then sweetened the whole wing out, and at last I had a wing that looked right. The tank was then selected with its pylon and finlets, and offered up to the wing after it had been rotated more nose-down, judged entirely by eye.

Re-doing the scribe lines on the fuselage was tedious, made more difficult by my lack of familiarity with the type – I made a new archive folder of F-86H images, which I referred to constantly as I worked my way from the intake through to the tail-pipe. I should mention that I found most of the profiles I referred to were also quite inaccurate, so I ended up looking only a photographs of real aircraft.

I dealt with the lighting issues in several ways; on the grossly burnt-out areas I brushed in a thin wash of grey; on many of the panels I selected, I brushed locally to reduce the burn; and on some panels I changed the colour values to help break up the yellow cast.

Many hours later, I had an image that looked quite well lit and was had fairly accurate detailing. I pasted the airframe onto a low-altitude background, having earlier tried several others that were not convincing.


All the time I was embroiled in this work, my pessimism was growing – I was thinking I'd never get a decent final image after so much intervention.

Well, I got a pleasant surprise with the final mating of the airframe and the backing; I think it really works quite well.

In spite of the more tubby fuselage of the -H Sabre (6 inches deeper than the original types), the aircraft still looks quite sleek. I also like the décor on this ANG aircraft – I suspect that the State of Massachusetts has some arcane association with Ireland.

Watch this space for some Navy types in due course.