By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON, March 18 Lockheed Martin Corp
, the Pentagon's largest supplier, has named Orlando
Carvalho the new head of aeronautics in place of Larry Lawson,
the defense contractor said on Monday.
Carvalho, 54, will take over immediately as executive vice
president of the aeronautics business area. Lawson, 55, was set
to retire on April 5, the company said.
Defense industry analysts said the change was part of an
effort by Lockheed to improve its often tense relationship with
the Pentagon over the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
jet program, the largest U.S. weapons program.
"This is part of an effort by the company to put its
relationship with the Pentagon on a better footing," said Loren
Thompson, a Virginia-based defense consultant.
Lawson moved into his position about a year ago, after
heading the F-35 program and before that Lockheed's F-22 fighter
He was seen not only as a tough negotiator, but one who
could be argumentative, according to industry executives who
worked with him over the past two decades.
Lawson's departure comes just weeks after the Pentagon's
F-35 program chief, Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan,
accused Lockheed and another contractor of trying to "squeeze
every nickel" out of the U.S. government for the planes.
Marillyn Hewson, who took over as CEO of Lockheed in
January, has sought to repair frayed relations with the Pentagon
after Bogdan earlier described the relationship as "the worst
I've ever seen."
Defense officials told Reuters that Carvalho has been lauded
for bringing a more personable approach to his negotiations with
Carvalho previously led Lockheed Martin's mission systems
and sensors business before joining aeronautics in 2011, where
he has been responsible for the performance of all aspects of
the F-35 Lightning II program.
He is scheduled to appear on Tuesday at Nellis Air Force
Base near Las Vegas, representing Lockheed at a ceremony to mark
the arrival of four F-35 jets and the start of operational
testing at the base.
Lockheed also named Lorraine Martin, 50, as vice president
and general manager of the F-35 program. She has recently worked
closely with Carvalho on the F-35 system development program.