New executive added to F-35 management team

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Lockheed Martin reinforced its F-35 joint strike fighter management team Monday by bringing in a new senior executive whose experience has mostly been with the company’s naval weapons systems.

The appointment of Orlando Carvalho as F-35 vice president and deputy was part of a broader reshuffling of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics management team in Fort Worth overseeing development of the new warplane.

Eric Branyan, who has been serving in the F-35 deputy position, will become vice president and program manager. Both men will report directly to Larry Lawson, F-35 executive vice president and general manager, who oversees the plane’s engineering, testing and production.

Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said the moves mean that Branyan will have primary responsibility for managing the day-to-day production of new aircraft. Carvalho “has a fantastic record of managing complex programs,” Stout said, and extensive experience in software, systems engineering and international business.

“As we move into higher production and ultimately full-rate production on the F-35,” Stout said, “we want to make sure we have all the best athletes on the program we can bring from Lockheed Martin.”

Launched in 2001, the F-35 program has fallen badly behind schedule in development, testing and production.

It has far overrun initial cost estimates and several subsequent estimates, requiring the Defense Department to repeatedly reschedule the program and allocate billions of additional dollars.

Members of the Senate Armed Service Committee expressed outrage at the continued delays and cost increases at a recent hearing on the program.

Lockheed has made progress in the past year toward getting test airplanes completed and flying the most basic of tests. But much critical development work involving weapons and targeting software has yet to be performed and tested.

Pentagon and other government experts have warned that this phase of the program is often more complex and troublesome.

Carvalho has been employed by Lockheed for more than 30 years. He was previously president of Lockheed’s Mission Systems & Sensors unit, essentially a separate division of the company. Before that appointment, he held a number of management posts in the naval weapons systems area of the company, including development and production of the Navy’s Aegis anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missile system.

In other moves, John Larson, who was previously vice president and program manager, will become vice president of program management over all Lockheed Martin Aeronautics programs. Susan Kiehl, who previously held that post, was named vice president over improving and implementing Lockheed’s earned value management process, a government-mandated system of monitoring costs and schedule progress.

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