BERLIN - Germany's defence ministry is looking into whether it will need to extend its leadership of a NATO joint task force beyond 2023 due to delays by Britain, the next country in line to lead, Table.Media reported on Tuesday, citing German army sources.

Germany's Bundeswehr took over command of the Very High Joint Readiness Task Force (VJTF) for 12 months, which requires the leader to be operational within 48 to 72 hours. Germany is providing up to 2,700 soldiers as lead nation.

According to the sources, Britain will only be able to take over leadership in 2024, several months later than planned, the Table.Media news outlet said.

The VJTF was created after Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and was deployed for the first time for collective defence after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

It was not immediately clear what effect a delay in change of leadership might have on operations.

The leadership position is rotated among members to share the burden that it places on the military, and brigades are bound to the VJTF for three years to help with the stand-up, stand-by and stand-down phases, meaning they are not available for other missions or international obligations.

"There is nothing official I can tell you about this at the moment," a German defence ministry spokesperson told Reuters.

The British defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

(Writing by Miranda Murray and Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Nick Macfie)