Last October, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikocv said in an interview with Politico that “we have a combat testing field in Ukraine during this war.” He clarified that his comments referred to evaluating the various 155mm artillery weapons systems used by the Ukrainian military in their ongoing efforts to turn back the Russian invasion. Still, his sentiment reflects an increasingly prominent aspect of the war: its role as a testbed for Western weaponry and tactics, a trial run for new technologies and strategies in the relative absence of 21st-century near-peer military conflict.

Ukraine, for their part, eagerly embraces its role as beta testers for its western allies’ weaponry: Reznikocv’s comments implicitly encourage NATO countries and military contractors to take advantage of the chance to deploy their shiny new weapons systems in modern conflict, an unsurprising openness from a country facing a far more significant, notoriously stubborn Russian military under the autocratic tutelage of President Putin. In the slow, brutal conflict that the war of attrition in Ukraine is shaping into, powerful Western weaponry has the potential to tip the scales toward the Ukrainian defense. It also gives Western militaries a chance to sandbox new technologies vicariously.

Recognizing the allure of Ukraine’s proxy battlefield is not a new idea. Lara Jakes details Western weapons and training being tested in Ukraine in her recent New York Times article “For Western Weapons, the Ukraine War Is a Beta Test,” where she quotes Ukrainian vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov as explicitly stating that “Ukraine is the best test ground, as we have the opportunity to test all hypotheses in battle and introduce revolutionary change in military tech and modern warfare” to a NATO conference last year. Fedorov’s comments were presented in praise of their newly employed information system, Delta. This state-of-the-art software program collects and distributes real-time battlefield information to the Ukrainian military command. Ukraine developed the Delta system alongside foreign allies to augment readily available information on enemy forces and efficiently coordinate defense forces, returning a more detailed situational picture to NATO members supporting Ukraine.

As Fedorov suggested, Ukraine reaped significant benefits from integrating the Delta system into their military strategy (for example, assisting in Ukraine’s ousting of Russian forces from Kherson), the success that stoked Western allies’ hopes for the use of similar information systems in future conflicts. Thibault Fouillet, France’s Foundation For Strategic Research researcher, describes the Ukrainian military as a “MacGyver Army” able to adapt quickly and find innovative solutions. Ukraine is fortunate and versatile enough to pursue these solutions with cutting-edge military technologies and theories provided by Western allies and military contractors, a significant upgrade from the paperclips and duct tape used by the inventive hero of the old television show.