The Department of Defense announced 14 new contracts Tuesday, worth a combined $727.6 million. Of these, the contract won by General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) wasn't the biggest -- that title went to London's Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems, recipient of a $225 million award to supply airplane parts -- but General Dynamics' award was interesting.

Winning a $49 million contract Tuesday, General Dynamics was tasked with performing research into "directed energy weapon effectiveness and safety, directed energy bio-mechanisms, radio frequency bio-effects modeling and simulation, and human effectiveness analysis and integration" under the U.S. Air Force's Directed Energy Bio-effects Research (DEBR) program.

According to the Air Force Research Laboratory's website (link opens in PDF), DEBR aims to quantify the effects of directed energy weapons (optical radiation, radio frequency radiation, microwave radiation, and electromagnetic propagation) in order to "develop non-lethal weapons and the defensive means to protect our own men and women from this type of weapon." As an example of the types of weapons that might be researched, and their purpose for development, USAF cites Raytheon's Active Denial System, which uses millimeter wave energy to repel hostile crowds by creating a sensation described as "a [lit] light bulb being pressed against the skin."

General Dynamics' work on this and similar projects will now be funded through March 2, 2020.

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