Systems Engineering (SE)

Acquiring Capabilities Within a Prototype Warfare Mindset

by Matthew A. Horning


Prototype Warfare represents a paradigm shift in how the US Department of Defense (DoD) executes acquisition of defense systems in a manner that is significantly faster than traditional acquisition. The idea was initially presented in a whitepaper entitled “Mission Engineering and Prototype Warfare: Operationalizing Technology Faster to Stay Ahead of the Threat” that was introduced in at GVSETS 2018. This paper organizes prototype warfare into three classes of systems, each with their own acquisition path toward putting Prototype Warfare on the battlefield. These approaches do not come without risks, issues, and downfalls, but a renaissance in traditional acquisition processes do not come risk free either. By rethinking how we determine operational needs, engineer new systems, and place systems in service, there are opportunities to provide radically new capabilities to the hands of the warfighter on timescales measured in weeks or months, not years.