Pentagon names new program chief to oversee Lockheed’s F-35

Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan has been direvctor of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office since 2012.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan has been direvctor of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office since 2012. AP

A familiar face at the Pentagon who has overseen the F-35 program for the military for several years is retiring, meaning Lockheed Martin will have a new chief to deal with.

This week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that Navy Rear Adm. Mathias Winter has been nominated to become vice admiral and program director for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to replace Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan.

Bogdan has been a strong supporter of the F-35 program, but also administered tough love, overseeing a restructuring designed to drive down the cost of the nation’s most expensive weapons program.

That goal has only become more important since the election, as then-President-elect Donald Trump famously tweeted that the program was “out of control” and put a target on the aircraft’s price.

According to a Defense News report, Winter came to the F-35 office last year and serves as Bogdan’s deputy program executive director. He previously served as chief of Naval Research and earlier spent time in the F-35 office as as executive assistant and chief engineer.

Bogdan, who has made many trips to Fort Worth to meet with Lockheed executives and attend rollout ceremonies, has been the F-35 program chief since 2012. Early on, he described the relationship between the Pentagon and Lockheed as “the worst I’ve ever seen.” But following management changes in Fort Worth, he has complemented the company on making progress and has overseen the plane achieving initial operating capability status at both the Marines and the Air Force.

Bogdan’s retirement was not a surprise to insiders, The Wall Street Journal reported, though the head of another Trump target was also changed with Maj. Gen. Duke Richard appointed to head the Air Force One project.

Lockheed is entering a critical time in the program as it ramps up production of the F-35. The company built 50 F-35s in west Fort Worth last year and expects to build 160 a year by 2019.

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko