According to Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus who flew the F-16 and the F-35, there is no way the older fighters can compete with an F-35. Pleus said that even upgraded Falcons and Hornets will never match an F-35.

“You cannot take an airplane like an F-16 and really make it stealthy,” Pleus said in an interview with on Wednesday at the Pentagon. “The airplane is the shape of the airplane, the size is the size of the airplane,” he said.

“The radar cross-section of an F-18 is the radar cross-section of an F-18 — you can’t change that,” he added. “Low observable technology, the ability to evade radar if you will, is something that has to be designed into the airplane from the very beginning.”

“The idea is, the F-35 was developed to go into a highly contested area, both air-to-air threats and surface-to-air threats, drop its bombs, hit the targets it’s supposed to, and then come home — and that is the entire fifth-generation package,” he said. – DoDBUZZ

U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe

So there you have it straight from a former F-16 pilot. The answer to the big question we all wanted to know! Well, maybe. We should note that Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus directs the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program integration office. That would not make him biased would it?

Clearly, the F-35 has capabilities the Falcon or Hornet will never have. Stealth. Being able to enter enemy airspace, drop your bombs and leave undetected is vital. The F-35, in theory should be able to do that. With modern air defenses being so powerful maybe a bigger question is will the F-16 or F-18 survive long enough in theater to be viable?