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.