'Prototype warfare': Innovation, optimisation, and the experimental way of warfare

Marijn Hoijtink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In recent years, the concept of 'prototype warfare' has been adopted by Western militaries to accelerate the experimental development, acquisition, and deployment of emerging technologies in warfare. Building on scholarship at the intersection of Science and Technology Studies and International Relations investigating the broader discursive and material infrastructures that underpin contemporary logics of war, and taking a specific interest in the relationship between science, technology, and war, this article points out how prototype warfare captures the emergence of a new regime of warfare, which I term the experimental way of warfare. While warfare has always been defined by experimental activity, what is particular in the current context is how experimentation spans across an increasingly wide range of military practices, operating on the basis of a highly speculative understanding of experimentation that embraces failure as a productive force. Tracing the concept of prototype warfare across Western military discourse and practice, and zooming in on how prototype warfare takes experimentation directly into the battlefield, the article concludes by outlining how prototype warfare reconfigures and normalises military intervention as an opportunity for experimentation, while outsourcing the failures that are a structural condition of the experimental way of warfare to others, 'over there'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-336
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of International Security
Issue number3
Early online date17 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the British International Studies Association.


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Experimentation
  • Innovation
  • Military
  • Technology


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