A Navy two-star has been nominated to take over the F-35 program office, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis tapped Navy Rear Adm. Mathias Winter, current deputy program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II program, for promotion to the rank of vice admiral and for assignment as head of the program.
If confirmed, Winter would replace Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, who has led the F-35 program since December 2012.
Winter, a 32-year naval aviator, has been with the Joint Program Office since December. He had previously served as the Navy's program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, and as the director of Innovation Technology Requirements and Test & Evaluation. Most recently, Winter had overseen the Office of Naval Research.
After nearly 34 years of service, Bogdan plans to retire from his current position this spring, an official with knowledge of planning told Military.com. Bogdan, who began in the F-35 program in July 2012 as a deputy program executive officer, has overseen a dramatic turnaround for the program during his tenure.
Amid outrage at massive cost overruns and delays, the program underwent a massive restructuring in 2011 under then-defense Secretary Robert Gates. That move slowed production ramp-up and delayed aircraft buys, allowing the defense department to save billions and for program officials to proceed more deliberately with development.
Speaking to reporters at the F-35 Joint Program Office headquarters in December, Bogdan repeatedly highlighted the contrast between the state of the 2011 program and the program's achievements today.
"Since 2011, we have basically been on schedule. Since 2011, we have basically been on budget," he said. "We are delivering now today 50-plus airplanes a year that in the hands of the warfighter make a huge, huge difference."
The past 48 months alone have seen some major program milestones. The Marines' F-35B jump jet variant reached initial operational capability in July 2015, and the Air Force's F-35A variant followed suit in August 2016. In January, the first F-35B squadron deployed forward to Japan in preparation for an upcoming shipboard pump in the Pacific.
If confirmed, Winter would likely be at the helm when his service's Joint Strike Fighter variant, the carrier-compatible F-35C, reaches initial operational capability in early 2019.