A U.S. aircraft was damaged after it came under fire in Afghanistan last week, defense officials said.

Small arms fire struck the Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon on Oct. 13 in Paktia province and damaged one of the aircraft's stabilizers, the movable surfaces at the back of the aircraft that helps control flight direction, defense officials said.

As a "precautionary measure," the pilot jettisoned two fuel tanks and three munitions before landing safely, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday.

The F-16 pilot was not harmed by the enemy fire, said Capt. Bryan Bouchard, a spokesman for the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing in Afghanistan.

"Our pilots routinely face ground threats such as surface-to-air fire, however they are well-trained and prepared to respond to any threat or attack," Bouchard said in an email Monday.

U.S. combat sorties have grown more infrequent since the U.S. officially ended its combat mission in December.

About 9,800 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and the U.S. continues to provide airstrikes in support of the Afghan security forces.

Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.

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