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A decision on tenders for the air force's fleet of mothballed Skyhawks fighter bombers is only weeks away.

The Skyhawks have been in storage for nearly a decade after the Labour Government decommissioned the 17 aircraft and 17 Aermacchi jet trainers in 2001.

Earlier this year the Government announced it was abandoning plans to sell the aircraft as a going concern. It said nine would go to museums and aviation parks, in New Zealand and Australia, but the other eight would be sold by tender.

The five single seaters and three dual-seat Skyhawks would be sold on an "as is where is basis without any warranty as to the fitness for purpose air worthiness," said the tender documents.

Tenders for the Skyhawks closed on Monday.

Ian Brunton, from the Ministry of Defence, said a panel was reviewing all tenders documents.

He would not say how many tenders had been received, where they were from or what they contained.

"There are people who have made bids, no question about that."

He said the final decision would be weeks, rather than months, away.

The deal involves the eight aircraft, 20 spare J52 engines and many other parts.

Over the years the Government had tried to sell the Skyhawk and Aermacchi fleets but had only one serious buyer, an American company which wanted to use them to train pilots for the United States Air Force.

That $155m deal fell through when the buyer failed repeatedly to confirm the purchase or pay a deposit.

The buyer would also have needed the approval of the United States State Department because of some of the avionics in the aircraft.

The Skyhawks were mostly flown in New Zealand but from 1991 a fleet of six was based in Nowra near Sydney to train with the Royal Australian Navy. They were highly regarded by the Australians because they were small, fast, and highly manoeuvrable.

The Skyhawks were bought new in 1970 with some second-hand aircraft added to the fleet in 1984. They fired their guns only once in anger when a pilot was ordered to fire over the bows of a foreign fishing vessel which was trying to get out of New Zealand water after being detected fishing illegally.

- NZPA