Unsuccessful attempts to sell the grounded fleet of Skyhawk strike aircraft have cost taxpayers more than $2 million in consultancy and legal fees, it was reported tonight.

The Skyhawks have been on the market since 2001, when the previous government scrapped the Air Force's strike wing, with an initial asking price of $155 million.

No buyer was found for the 17 aircraft, but so far more than $1.3 million has been spent on consultancy fees and over $500,000 has been paid to lawyers.

TV One News, quoting figures obtained under the Official Information Act, said that when the cost of other services was added the total was $2.1 million.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said the previous government set up the contracts and the figures ran from 2001 to the present.

The current government kept on trying to sell the Skyhawks, and has paid consultants $280,000 in the last two years.

"Lots of people make inquiries. I want to see a cheque in the mail," Dr Mapp said.

If the Skyhawks aren't sold by Christmas they will be taken off the market and given to museums.

- NZPA