20 April 2011
RNZAF A-4 Skyhawk (photo : Philip Rickerby)
If you fancy yourself as a budding jet fighter pilot, now is the time to dig deep.
The Ministry of Defence is putting eight Skyhawk fighter bombers up for sale by tender, along with 20 spare engines and truck loads of spares.
The Skyhawks are part of the fleet of 17 which was mothballed by the Labour Government in 2001 but which failed to sell in spite of a world-wide marketing programme. The other nine have been offered to aviation museums, mostly around New Zealand, with one going to Australia.
When the Labour Government disbanded the Air Combat Force in 2001, it also canned an earlier National Government deal to replace the Skyhawks with a fleet of F16 fighters.
The Skyhawks were on the market for nearly 10 years but in spite of one potential American purchaser signing a contract to buy them for $155 million, no money changed hands. The sale fell over and the aircraft chalked up a maintenance bill of more than $34 million.
Last year the Government abandoned plans to sell them as a going concern and earlier this month Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said eight of the fleet would be given to aviation museums and one to an air base in Australia.
Today the rest of the fleet was offered for sale by tender on an "as is, where is basis without any warranty as to fitness for purpose or air worthiness".
The Skyhawks have been in storage since early 2002, initially in a hangar but more recently outside, covered in white protective plastic.
The Skyhawk package includes five single seaters and three two seaters used for training, up to 20 spare J52 engines, an extensive inventory of ground support equipment and tooling, technical training and maintenance books.
The Ministry of Defence said while it preferred to sell all the aircraft and spares to one buyer, it might also divide the package and sell selected parts to different buyers.
It set a deadline of 4pm on May 16 to register for the tender package. The sale can not be completed until the buyer has the approval of the US State Department.
The Government bought 14 new Skyhawks in 1970 and 10 more second-hand aircraft from Australia in 1984. Several crashed over the years.
They were flown by No 75 Squadron in New Zealand but in 1991 three single seaters and three dual-seat aircraft were assigned to No 2 Squadron at the Nowra naval base in New South Wales.
They were highly regarded by the Australian Navy because they were fast, small and well flown and posed a significant challenge to the air defences on Australian warships during exercises.
The Skyhawks had a top speed of 1160kmh and a range of 3200km. They could carry a combat payload of 3700kg of rockets, bombs, missiles and cannon ammunition.
The Government is also selling its 17 Italian-made Aermacchi jet training aircraft which were taken out of commission at the same time as the Skyhawks in 2001.
They were not included in the tender package offered today but an announcement about them is expected soon.