General Electric Co. has become the Pentagon's prime design contractor for an initial "Star Wars" missile defense system, receiving a $235.9 million contract for five years of research.

The award, announced Thursday, is one of the largest Star Wars contracts to date. Under the contract, GE's Aerospace Division in Philadelphia will oversee research work on the five key technologies now being considered for a Star Wars system.

The award capped a five-month competition that pitted GE against General Dynamics Corp. The competition was limited to companies that were not working as prime contractors on the five technologies identified for an initial "Star Wars" system.