Air Force to Spend $31M to Research How Lasers, Energy Weapons Affect Operators

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The service awarded a research contract to General Dynamics IT to gain insights into how directed energy weapons affect the humans using them.

The Air Force has been testing directed energy weapons—i.e., lasers, high-powered electromagnetic and other radiological weapons—and plans to integrate them into its planes and wargames by next year. But the service still isn’t sure how those weapons will affect the people that use them.

Air Force Materiel Command announced the award of a $30.8 million contract to General Dynamics Information Technology to establish a rigorous research and testing methodology to establish “scientifically based health and safety standards,” according to a notice on FedBizOpps.

The contract is not looking at what happens to humans targeted by directed energy weapons, but rather “to promote maximum use of [radio frequency/high-power microwave] technologies while protecting Air Force personnel from radiation hazards and minimizing negative operational impact,” according to solicitation information archived on BidNet.com. “This requires an extensive research program in dosimetry and bioeffects of … radiation.”

The research contract also calls for GDIT to create “exposure assessment tools” that will alert operators when they have had too much contact with certain forms of energy radiation and preempt over-exposure.

The results of this research will be integrated with U.S. and international health and safety standards and adopted by the Air Force Surgeon General for Occupational Health and Environmental Safety.

“Our goal is to provide the USAF with the world's best … radiation bioeffects research and science-based exposure standards, allowing maximum safe exploitation of [directed energy] for national defense,” the solicitation states.