A US F-16 on Oct. 13 was hit by small arms fire during a mission in Afghanistan, forcing the pilot to jettison two fuel tanks and three weapons before returning to base, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday. The jet was hit in a stabilizer of one of its munitions during a low-level flight, he added. It was flying in the Sayid Karam district of eastern Paktia province, an area largely under Taliban control, reported Agence France-Presse. Militants posted pictures online posing with the discarded fuel tanks and weapons. Initial reports have ruled out any larger weaponry, such as surface-to-air missiles, involved in the incident, Davis said. A contingent of F-16s from Aviano AB, Italy, are assigned to the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.