The contracts came just months after the U.S. accused China of trying to blind military pilots in Africa and the Pacific.
The U.S. Air Force is planning to spend nearly $200 million on special glasses and visors to protect pilots’ eyes from dangerous lasers like the ones the Pentagon accuses China of firing into the cockpits of U.S. warplanes.
The Pentagon said the equipment is needed to protect aircrews from “emerging laser threats” in a contract announcement late last month. A laser shined into a cockpit can distract and potentially blind a pilot.
The new devices “shall provide protection sufficient to prevent permanent eye damage and protection against the temporary effects of laser weapons/devices,” a May contracting document states.
Two companies — Gentex and Teledyne Scientific & Imaging — received $98.3 million deals to deliver the new eye protection through 2024. The new glasses and visors must work with pilots’ current helmets.