Germany has postponed the start of an acquisition of new heavy-lift helicopters for its air force, throwing the timeline for retiring the service's ageing Sikorsky CH-53G fleet into doubt.

Berlin had been expected to launch the procurement this year, choosing between the new CH-53K and Boeing's CH-47 Chinook. However, both potential bidders were notified in late September that the process had been put on hold.

CH-53K ILA - Messe Berlin

Messe Berlin

In a letter to the two manufacturers, Germany's BAAINBw federal procurement body says the acquisition is "postponed until further notice".

A formal request for proposals had been expected by the end of September, but the relevant budget has yet to be authorised by the German parliament, preventing the process from advancing.

CH-47F ILA - Messe Berlin

Messe Berlin

Previous timelines for the expected 60-unit buy envisaged a contract award in 2020, with the first aircraft to arrive in 2023.

The current fleet of elderly CH-53G/GA/GS helicopters is due to be phased out from 2025.