August 14, 2012: Strategy page
Eleven years after retiring its last combat aircraft (17 A-4K Skyhawk light bombers and 17 MB-339 jet trainers), New Zealand has finally found a buyer for some of these aircraft. An American firm, that trains military pilots, has bought eight A-4K Skyhawks for about a million dollars each. The other nine Skyhawks had already been donated to museums. Nine MB-339 jet trainers were also sold to the American firm for about the same price. The remaining MB-339s had also gone to museums or monuments.
New Zealand had earlier been offered as much as $9 million for each of 17 Skyhawks but was unable to get U.S. approval for that sale. Meanwhile, it has cost New Zealand over three million dollars a year to store and maintain the 17 A-4Ks and 17 MB-339s since 2001. Back then New Zealand decided it no longer needed jet combat aircraft. There was a proposal to lease some U.S. F-16s for a decade, but most New Zealanders didn't see sufficient reason to keep maintaining that kind of aircraft. All New Zealand has now is P-3 maritime patrol aircraft (armed with depth charges and torpedoes) and some armed helicopters. New Zealand is a tiny country (population 4.4 million) whose nearest neighbors are Australia (1,500 kilometers to the northeast) some sparsely populated Polynesian islands (1,000 kilometers to the north) and Antarctica ( 5,000 kilometers). South America is over 5,000 kilometers to the east. Everything else seems to be more than 5,000 kilometers away. So who needs jet fighters?