June 30, 2016 8:19 AM EDT

When money’s tight, even the Pentagon has to improvise. That’s why Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has created the Strategic Capabilities Office. It’s a small shop inside the military’s huge bureaucracy designed to tweak, cheaply and speedily, today’s weapons for tomorrow’s wars. Peeks at its secret work reveal, among other efforts, a software rewrite that turns a missile that was designed to protect U.S. warships from attack into one capable of sinking enemy vessels. Another launches swarms of soda-can-size drones from U.S. warplanes, which could be used to flummox enemies’ surveillance–or surreptitiously spy on them.

This appears in the July 11, 2016 issue of TIME.

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