Review: Shrike’s F-86 Sabre is a warbird for everyone

Shrike Simulations, a sub-brand of Blackbird Simulations (which itself was formerly known as Milviz), is preparing to launch its new aircraft for MSFS. After the PA-30 Twin Comanche and the MD 530F helicopter, Shrike is now releasing its model of the F-86 Sabre, a swept-wing fighter that played an important role in the Korean War and subsequent years.

The F-86 will be available this coming Saturday, March 30th, but I’ve had the opportunity to try out the plane beforehand and see how it fits into the current landscape of classic warplanes for MSFS.

It’s important to note upfront that Shrike operates as an affiliated brand emphasizing accessibility, in contrast with Blackbird’s focus on high-fidelity aircraft for a more hardcore audience. Shrike aims to offer more streamlined aircraft, focusing less on the intricacies of detailed system simulations and advanced aircraft functionalities. In the creators’ words, Shrike focuses on bringing easy-to-use planes to a wider audience at an affordable price.

That said, Shrike still aims to meet certain expectations, so it’s safe to expect a well-modeled aircraft, with high-quality textures, and thus perfectly adapted to the current demands in MSFS in terms of graphics and visual realism.

And that’s exactly what I found in the last few days while flying the F-86 in the simulator. The real-world plane would hardly ever win beauty contests, that’s for sure, and this somewhat ungainly aspect is perfectly translated into Shrike’s virtual version. It’s hard not to look at the F-86 and not see an open-mouthed fish, as if ready to swallow its opponents, a typical characteristic of aeronautical engineering at that time, which was still trying to figure out the best way to mount a jet engine on a small combat aircraft.

While not the most beautiful fighter of its time, the F-86 is impeccably represented in MSFS. Shrike has done an exemplary job recreating this iconic air ace in the modern graphics engine of MSFS, both in terms of the 3D model, interior and exterior, and textures.

Shrike includes various liveries that represent different operators, with a natural focus on those operated by the USAF. The level of detail is impressive everywhere, thanks to the use of high-resolution textures and decals, which ensure excellent legibility of the text on the fuselage regardless of the reading distance.

Inside the cockpit, get ready to be surrounded by a striking representation of a well-used F-86 cockpit, with missing paint, scratches, a few dents here and there, and other details that show that this plane is indeed well impacted by its operational use over several years.

So, everything is right in the visual of the Shrike F-86 Sabre; the quality standard is quite high, even compared to the best on the market.

As for the sounds, you’ll be surprised at how quiet the cockpit is. The slow and very realistic engine spool-up time is perfectly replicated, not only in the way it sounds but also, obviously, in the way it impacts aircraft performance. But pushing that engine to full throttle isn’t as impactful as one might expect inside the aircraft.

Still, the F-86’s soundtrack seems very appropriate, without glaring flaws. The sound set is comprehensive and even includes excellent exterior and flyby sounds. We also know that an incoming update will improve this experience even further in wheel breaking, canopy opening and closing, engine sound tuning, and more.

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As we learned, Shrike differs from Blackbird in some respects, and one of them is in the accessibility and ease with which the user sits in the virtual cockpit and takes to the skies. Complicated engine starting procedures are left to Blackbird Simulations to implement on their niche aircraft because Shrike does not shy away from simplifying things.

And so, getting the F-86 in the air is indeed not at all complicated. A good comparison here is to imagine how the stock planes of MSFS also follow a more or less simplified form of start-up, and we understand that this is the level of simulation complexity that Shrike intends to offer.

Fortunately, Shrike added some features that make the whole package more interesting. For example, the gunsight can be activated, and we can even shoot the .50 caliber machine guns mounted on the nose. Obviously, we can’t hit anything with this armament, but the visual and sound effects are undoubtedly interesting.

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Speaking of armament, it’s important to note, as always, that the version that will be available in the Marketplace will not have weapons available. For versions purchased through Shrike’s website, it will be possible to activate different weapon loadouts through the respective MSFS menu. It’s also possible to carry additional fuel tanks for those who want to fly for longer periods. All of this stuff can be jettisoned, which is a nice touch.

For a more “civil” use of the F-86, it’s possible to replace the gunsight with a more modern panel with GPS, which facilitates navigation, especially for more casual users.

These more casual pilots will certainly find plenty of reasons to fly this F-86, as it’s more of a “fun” aircraft than an in-depth simulation. The F-86 is quick to get up and running and is indeed quite fun! Moreover, it’s challenging and not comparable to an “arcade” flight model, as one might expect given the “accessibility” tag with which it’s sold. It’s important to remember that there is still a “Blackbird” pedigree here and it shows in the flight model of the F-86.

In flight, the F-86 proves to be very interesting. It’s a plane capable of supersonic transonic speeds and altitudes exceeding 50,000 feet, but at the same time, it’s not a very agile aircraft, especially at low speeds. Landing the F-86 can be nerve-wracking, as it lands at very high speeds where you don’t feel much authority from the control surfaces. It’s challenging, so you need to be alert!

In summary, we are looking at a very interesting new release from Shrike, which brings us a classic of military aviation at an affordable price, well-represented visually, without any glaring flaws. It may not be particularly enthralling, which is to be expected given Shrike’s motto, but for those who like this plane and its history, there’s no mistake: the Shrike F-86 Sabre is very good and fun to fly!

The Shrike F-86 Sabre will be available on March 30 exclusively through Shrike’s website for $19.95 USD. It will also be available on the MSFS Marketplace for PC and Xbox sometime after this initial release.