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BERLIN, Oct 11 (Reuters) - A tender worth around 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) for four warships for the German navy has been delayed by around six months to ensure quality standards are met, according to a copy of a defence ministry letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
The new MKS 180 multi-role combat ships are expected to be delivered from 2023. They are intended to be capable of attacking targets on land and underwater and providing aerial protection to other vessels.
In the letter to the German parliament's budget committee, Deputy Defence Minister Markus Gruebel said it would take longer to conclude the agreement with bidders than it took with previous procurement projects due to higher quality standards.
"This means that a final agreement will be available around half a year later, likely at the end of 2017," he said in the letter.
The tender for the four ships is one of Germany's biggest arms projects, alongside a contract for the MEADS missile defence system, built by the European defence group MBDA and Lockheed Martin Corp, for around 4 billion euros.
The defence ministry wants six of the new warships in all, although a decision on buying the other two is unlikely to be made before 2030.
Luerssen and TKMS, Blohm+Voss and the Dutch group Damen shipyards as well as German Naval Yards and Britain's BAE Systems are among the three remaining bidder consortiums for the tender, according to security sources.
$1 = 0.8928 euros Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Catherine Evans