05/06/2013 06:00 EDT | Updated 07/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Opposition says presidential chopper plan highlights broken procurement system

OTTAWA - Both federal opposition parties say a proposal to convert former U.S. presidential helicopters into search and rescue choppers highlights Canada's badly broken military procurement system.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay recently ordered National Defence to take another look at whether some of its nine VH-71 aircraft — purchased from the U.S. for spare parts — can be made fully operational.

The aircraft were bought for $164 million to help keep Canada's fleet of often-broken CH-149 Cormorant rescue choppers in the air.

New Democrat defence critic Jack Harris says the Chretien government didn't buy enough Cormorants to begin with, while the Conservatives have failed to get serious about search and rescue.

Liberal MP Bob Rae says attempts to buy military hardware always take too long and end up way over budget.

The air force is looking into making the choppers airworthy, but must first determine whether they can be outfitted with the electronics necessary for search missions.