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Govt Considers Other Options For Fighter Planes

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Heather Roy
Heather Roy

A tortuously long sale process for New Zealand's fighter jets may end up with them being used for spare parts should the intended buyer fail to raise the cash.

The 17 Skyhawk fighter jets were put up for sale after the Labour government decommissioned the air force's combat wing in 2001.

A private US company tentatively agreed to buy them and 17 Aermacchi jets in September 2005 for $155 million but United States Government approval processes stalled the sale.

The Dominion-Post reported today that Associate Defence Minister Heather Roy was considering other options in case Arizona's Tactical Air Services (TAS) failed to raise the cash.

If the sale goes ahead the Government could have to pay up to $35m to overhaul the planes.

Final signoff was given in October and TAS agreed to continue with the purchase after inspecting the Aermacchis.

Mrs Roy said the company was already satisfied the Skyhawks were fit for purchase but had yet to come up with the money.

"TAS have to come up with the money, and I'll only be confident when I see a signed sales and purchase agreement, which is why I'm exploring other options."

There had been interest from another US buyer but that would mean another long wait for US Government approval. Other options included making the Skyhawks available for ground engineers to practise on at Woodbourne air base near Blenheim, where they are in storage.

They could also be used for spare parts or, as a last resort, sold as scrap metal.

The Aermacchis could be reintroduced to train pilots, although selling them separately was also a possibility as it did not require US approval.

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