Germany Cancels STH Heavy Transport Helicopter Competition

Heavy Transport Helicopter: Cancellation of the Award Procedure

(Source: German Ministry of Defence; issued Sept. 29, 2020)

(Unofficial translation by

The German Ministry of Defence has canceled its tender to replace its Sikorsky CH-53G transport helicopters as both bids were unaffordable, but plans to relaunch the competition with simpler specifications, closer to off-the-shelf standards, to reduce costs. (GE Army photo)

We hereby inform you that the award procedure in the "Heavy Transport Helicopter (STH)" project has been canceled.

As part of the ongoing award process, it was recognized that the project would be unlikely to be implemented within the budgeted budget while meeting all requirements. The awarding authority of the Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use of the Federal Armed Forces assessed the available offers as uneconomical and for this reason canceled the award procedure.

The now necessary re-examination of the project will have an impact on the previous schedule. A contract conclusion in 2021 under the current framework conditions cannot be achieved. The aim remains to replace the previous CH-53G model in good time.


The air force needs modern helicopters for the demanding tasks in training, exercise and operations. For this reason, at the end of 2017, the then General Inspector made the decision to replace the aging CH-53G. The end of the useful life of this weapon system will be reached in 2030.

In order to enable uninterrupted maintenance of capabilities, a competitive tender was initiated early and the providers were asked to submit offers in June 2019. The realization of the STH project has a very high priority for the German Armed Forces, as the ability to air transport is of outstanding importance for the mobility and responsiveness of the armed forces as well as for aid and support services.

The project will therefore be continued with changed specifications.


Citing Cost, Germany Abandons its Heavy-Lift Helicopter Competition

(Source: Forecast International; posted Sept. 29, 2020)

By Daniel Darling

The German Defense Ministry has opted to scrap its current competition for a heavy transport helicopter intended to serve as a replacement for the Bundeswehr’s aging fleet of 1970s-legacy VFW-Sikorsky CH-53GA/GS Stallions.

The decision to terminate the acquisition project came down to cost concerns as the Defense Ministry – which had touted the effort to procure an off-the-shelf platform as a fast and economical way to acquire high-end capability without “gold-plating” its requirement – concluded that the two submitted bids were “uneconomical” in Germany’s current COVID-era budgetary climate.

A down-select between the two bids – involving the Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion – had been expected this year with a contract to follow in 2021.

Instead, the German Heavy Transport Helicopter Program (Schwere Transporthubschrauber, or STH) for 40-60 units becomes a dead letter.

The citing of costs as a rationale for terminating a program touted only a year ago as affordable and non-splashy is both embarrassing and a severe setback for the German Defense Ministry’s effort to modernize a poorly-equipped Bundeswehr.

Despite its claims of a model procurement project, the Defense Ministry instead sought additional requirements throughout the process, including a decades-long maintenance agreement that would hold the contracting bidder to guaranteed serviceability benchmarks.

Not only does the project’s cancellation leave the German military without a heavy transport helicopter solution on the near-horizon (originally the plan was for first deliveries of the winning bid to begin in 2023), but it raises the specter of whether this merely represents a ripple in a deeper pond relating to future large-capital German defense projects.

While the Defense Ministry still aims to replace the military’s CH-53GA/GS Stallions in a “timely manner” – however that elastic-sounding timeline figures in Berlin’s calculations – it will be done with changed specifications and the pushing out of delivery and initial operational dates. Meanwhile, the current CH-53 Stallion fleet will reach the end of its operational life in 2030.

The German government has consistently reiterated its goal of having the defense budget “rising to” 1.5 percent of GDP by 2025 as a means of fending off NATO critics – most loudly, but not solely, the Trump administration – who continue to see Berlin as a laggard when it comes to contributing to the common defense effort of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

The latest announcement from the Defense Ministry certainly does nothing to reassure Germany’s frustrated allies that a fully-capable, mission-ready Bundeswehr will soon emerge.


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