How Ukraine became a testbed for Western weapons and battlefield innovation

Last fall, as Ukraine won back large swaths of territory in a series of counterattacks, it pounded Russian forces with American-made artillery and rockets. Guiding some of that

artillery was a homemade targeting system that Ukraine developed on the battlefield. A piece of Ukrainian-made software has turned readily available tablet computers and

smartphones into sophisticated targeting tools that are now used widely across the Ukrainian military. The result is a mobile app that feeds satellite and other

intelligence imagery into a real-time targeting algorithm that helps units near the front direct fire onto specific targets. And because it’s an app, not a piece of hardware, it’s

easy to quickly update and upgrade, and available to a wide range of personnel. US officials familiar with the tool say it has been highly effective at directing Ukrainian

artillery fire onto Russian targets. The targeting app is among dozens of examples of battlefield innovations that Ukraine has come up with over nearly a year of war,

often finding cheap fixes to expensive problems. Small, plastic drones, buzzing quietly overhead, drop grenades and other ordinance on Russian troops. 3D printers now make

spare parts so soldiers can repair heavy equipment in the field. Technicians have converted ordinary pickup trucks into mobile missile launchers. Engineers have figured out how to

strap sophisticated US missiles onto older Soviet fighter jets such as the MiG-29, helping keep the Ukrainian air force flying after nine months of war. Ukraine has even

developed its own anti-ship weapon, the Neptune, based off Soviet rocket designs that can target the Russian fleet from almost 200 miles away.