OTTAWA — The air force is planning to test an expanded, more flexible response time for search and rescue along the East Coast in the coming year, even as long-delayed plans for new aircraft remain in a holding pattern.

National Defence has been quietly evaluating the merits of positioning its helicopters and fixed-wing planes to respond within 30 minutes of an emergency call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

An around-the-clock half-hour response time is an idea the air force has long dismissed as too costly and manpower-intensive.

But in the wake of a harsh auditor general’s report in the spring of 2013, National Defence began a series of assessments with different squadrons around the country, including bases in Trenton, Ont., Winnipeg, and Victoria, B.C.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show the evaluation will be expanded to Halifax this summer.

The Harper government was expected to issue a call for tenders last year in the decade-long program to buy new fixed-wing search planes, but that didn’t happen, and a proposal is still months away.