The decade-long saga of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 17 mothballed Skyhawk fighter-bombers has come to an end, with nine being given away to museums and some being sold as spare parts.

The Skyhawks had 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.

But attempts to sell the fleet had failed to attract a buyer.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp today said he would offer eight of the jets to public museums in New Zealand and one to Australia.

"We have decided to secure this piece of our aviation history for future generations of New Zealanders to enjoy."

Dr Mapp said four museums have already been chosen. Two, one single-seat and one two-seat, would go to the Air Force Museum at Wigram, near Christchurch.

A third jet would go to the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, and another would go to the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Arm Museum at Nowra, New South Wales.

Dr Mapp said negotiations were under way with other museums for five Skyhawks, which would be allocated on long-term loan.

There were also negotiations with Safe Air Blenheim to sell them tools and equipment to refurbish J-52 engines for international customers.

"The remaining airframes, engines, spares, ground support equipment, role- specific equipment, and documentation and publications will be sold separately through a request for proposals process.

"It is quite likely that the remaining aircraft will be reduced to spares. There has already been interest in this prospect, which is more in line with the realities of today's marketplace."

Dr Mapp said the first four Skyhawks would be prepared for display immediately.

"For years there were unrealistic expectations about the value of these aircraft.

"As a result, they have languished at Woodbourne for a decade. Today's announcement marks an end to uncertainty and is welcome news for aviation enthusiasts throughout New Zealand," he said.

In December, Dr Mapp said the Skyhawks and 17 Aermacchis had cost $34m to store and maintain since they were decommissioned by the Labour government in 2001.