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Skyhawk Sale Turns On A Split Pin

Posted on 13 Sep 2007

ACT New Zealand National Security Spokesman Heather Roy today demanded that the Government repay the more than $12 million the RNZAF has had to spend on housing and maintaining the still-unsold Skyhawk air combat wing.

"In response to my questions in Parliament today, the Minister showed a lack of understanding of the engineering requirements of these aircraft.  His comparison of current storage and maintenance costs, against historical operating expense is simply a diversionary tactic based on flawed logic," Mrs Roy said.

"The ongoing Skyhawk sale fiasco may have been placed at the feet of the US State Department, but there are clearly other significant obstacles that are preventing the deal from being closed.

"Having spent nearly two years researching this, I've concluded that the lack of activity around the Skyhawk sale is most likely due to the cost the Government would have to cover to meet the terms of the sale agreement signed by former Defence Minister Mark Burton.

"According to answers to my written Parliamentary Questions - and statements from current Defence Minister Phil Goff - the Skyhawks were offered for sale in a state capable of operational re-generation.  This presumably means all consumable parts, and those with a controlled life cycle - referred to as 'rotables', and found in almost every aircraft system - must be 'in service'.  Rotables' serviceability requirements range from repair and overhaul, to testing and re-calibration, and must be carried out by personnel with current ratings using specialist equipment.

"My understanding is that when the jets were de-commissioned in 2001, most of the appropriately-trained personnel left the RNZAF and went overseas - or, at best, are not currently rated.  Further, general consensus seems to be that the test equipment is unserviceable or no longer exists.  Thus, New Zealand would have to re-tool to prepare the jets for delivery - or contract the work to a foreign air force or civilian engineering firm.  Either way, the cost of meeting the contract would likely be most of - if not more than - the sale price.

"If this is the case, the question must be asked: did Mr Burton sign up 'on a wing and a prayer', knowing the cost of contract compliance and hoping for a quick sale?  Or did he sign without properly researching just what it was he was committing taxpayers to?

"No matter which way you look at it, squandering a defence capability as well as millions of dollars is a 'crash and burn' scenario for the Ministers responsible for this mess.  Repaying the RNZAF is the least the Government could do as a first step toward sorting the shambles its Ministers have created," Mrs Roy said.


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