One will go to Tauranga aviation museum Classic Flyers, one ' />

Six of the Air Force's mothballed Skyhawk fighter bomber fleet have found new homes.

One will go to Tauranga aviation museum Classic Flyers, one to Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim, two will go to the Air Force Museum at Wigram and another to the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland and one will be sent to the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum in Nowra, New South Wales, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said today.

Homes for the remaining three aircraft will be announced as decisions are made.

Dr Mapp said earlier this month that up to nine of the 17 Skyhawks had been earmarked for display in appropriate museums, on permanent loan from the Government.

"The Skyhawks are a significant part of New Zealand's military aviation history. The Government is ensuring that all New Zealanders will have the opportunity to enjoy seeing them up close in the years to come."

On Tuesday the Ministry of Defence put eight of the Skyhawks up for sale by tender, along with 20 spare engines and truck loads of spares.

The Skyhawks were mothballed by the Labour Government in 2001 when it disbanded the Air Combat Force and 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.

On Tuesday the eight aircraft were offered for sale by tender on an "as is, where is basis without any warranty as to fitness for purpose or air worthiness".

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 cannot 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 1160km/h 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.

They were not included in the tender package offered today but an announcement about them is expected soon.

- NZPA