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The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has invited tenders from prospective buyers for the air force’s surplus UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters.

The package comprises of ten Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Iroquois helicopters and associated holdings. It is being sold on an ‘as is, where is’ basis, without any warranty as to fitness for purpose or airworthiness in their current state,’ reports Stuff.co.nz.

While NZDF aims to sell the entire package to a single buyer, partial bids are also expected to be considered if that represented best value to the government.

A NZDF spokesman told the publication that the organisation was aware of significant commercial interest in the fleet, but does not know the market value of what are nearly 50-year-old military helicopters so is testing the market through a closed tender process.

"The US State Department must approve the sale of helicopters."

The spokesperson said: "After almost 50 years of continuous service the Iroquois has been a great asset to New Zealand with many service personnel and civilians having had contact with them in both military support and search and rescue."

Despite their age, the US State Department must approve the sale of helicopters, four of which were in long-term storage, while the rest would remain in active use until their planned retirement in July.

The NZDF is also planning to donate four complete airframes to museums across the country.

The ageing RNZAF Iroquois fleet is being replaced by eight NH90 advanced medium utility helicopters, which are capable of undertaking a wide variety of roles both at home and abroad.

Bell Helicopter is the manufacturer of the H-1H Iroquois helicopters. The aircraft are used by RNZAF’s No. 3 Squadron for tactical air transport, search and rescue and counter-terrorist operations, as well as to support humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.

Image: A Royal New Zealand Air Force’s UH-1H Iroquois helicopter in flight. Photo: courtesy of 111 Emergency.