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May 2014 magazine cover
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A live-fire test on a North American F-86. During the Vietnam War, engineers looked for ways to toughen aircraft against ground fire and surface-to-air missiles. (U.S. Navy)

Shoot 'Em Up

Sometimes you have to destroy the aircraft in order to save it.

Just how big was proven in early March, when U.S. and Afghan forces attacked al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts in one of the biggest battles of the Afghan war. Seven Apache helicopters provided close air support. The Apache had been subjected to—and redesigned based on—live-fire testing. All seven helicopters were hit. And all seven managed to limp home.

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