Kiwi Skyhawk (photo : Doug Mackay)
Approval from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for the New Zealand government to sell the RNZAF’s retired fleet of 17 A-4K Skyhawks expired on September 22 without the completion of a sale.
The NZ government had hoped to sell the aircraft as well as 17 MB-339 Macchi jet trainers to Arizona based Tactical Air Services (TAS), but the company has been unsuccessful in obtaining the required NZ$150m (A$116m) required to complete the deal. NZ Prime Minister John Key said on September 21 that the deal was “challenging” and that it was unlikely TAS could come up with the cash for the aircraft, despite a sale to TAS being announced as far back as 2005.
“At some point you’ve just got to say, ‘you’ve had your time,”‘ Defence Minister Wayne Mapp added, saying the aircraft would likely be scrapped, broken up for spares, or placed in museums. While it was still possible for the US authorities to extend the deadline, it is unlikely another buyer will be found for the 45 year old Skyhawks, some of which are former RAN aircraft.
The NZ government has reportedly spent more than NZ$34m (A$26m) keeping the mothballed Skyhawks at Woodbourne near Blenheim since they were retired in December 2001, although in recent years they have been stored outside and have reportedly deteriorated. The Macchis have been stored and occasionally flown at Ohakea Air Base, and have recently been crated up for storage.
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Christmas is Coming for Skyhawks
28 September 2010
The New Zealand government will give a United States company until to Christmas to come up with money to buy its Skyhawks, after the company was granted extended import approval by its own authorities.
Tactical Air Services (TAS) got an import permit from the US State Department a year ago, as is needed for the purchase of such equipment. That approval was due to expire yesterday, but Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said a 12 month extension had been granted.
TAS has for several years had its sights set on buying 17 Skyhawks and 17 Aermacchi trainer jets from the Defence Force, but has not been able to wrap up a deal.
Mapp and Prime Minister John Key this week all but wrote off any chance of a sale going through, and Mapp said today while the Government was now prepared to wait until Christmas, hopes of a sale were still slim.
"They have had that permit to import for 12 months, they didn't come up with a credible contract during that period of time," he said.
After Christmas the government would take "other options".
While there could potentially be a market for the 1980s Aermacchis, the 1965 Skyhawks would more than likely end up as museum pieces.
Key even said this week Australia had shown interest in getting one to put on display and that it would be a "nice gesture" to hand one over.
The jets were decommissioned by the Labour government in 2001 but have still cost the taxpayer millions to maintain and keep in a saleable condition.
The Skyhawks were more recently wrapped in latex so they could be weather-proof and kept outdoors without too much expense, but Mapp said they couldn't stay in that state for much longer.
He said TAS had been in touch this week with the Defence Force insisting it would come up with a deal. "But they've said that before."
Labour had the jets on the books at $155 million and said in 2005 a deal had been done with TAS to sell them. That deal fell through because of the time it took for the state department to grant import approval, and the economic crisis has since made it difficult for the company to find the big investor needed.