The head of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program plans to retire, ending a decade-plus run in charge of the most expensive weapon program in DoD history.
Tom Burbage will step down from his role at the end of March, Lockheed spokeswoman Laura Siebert confirmed to Defense News.
“After 32 years of working with Lockheed Martin and legacy divisions, Tom Burbage has decided to retire,” Siebert wrote in an email. “His impact to the F-35 Program and other areas of Aeronautics is immeasurable.”
“At this time, nothing has been announced,” regarding Burbage’s replacement, Siebert wrote.
The news was initially reported by Aviation Week.
Burbage’s decision to retire comes after recent shakeups, both at Lockheed and with the F-35 program. New CEO Marillyn Hewson took control of the company at the start of 2013 after a sex scandal forced CEO-in-waiting Christopher Kubasik from the role. In late December, Gen. Christopher Bogdan became the new chief of DoD’s JSF program, months after he stated that the relationship between Lockheed and the joint program office was the “worst I’ve ever seen.”
The move also comes at a sensitive time for the F-35 program, both domestically and internationally. The jet has suffered recent setbacks, including a widely cited report of problems from the military’s annual testing report and the decision by partner nation Canada to reconsider whether to purchase their block of F-35s.
Most recently, all F-35B jump-jet variants were grounded after a Jan. 16 test flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was aborted due to engine problems. That issue has been identified as improperly crimped lines in the fueldraulic system of the jet, a situation that one person with knowledge of the situation expects to have taken care of by “early February.”
There have been recent successes, however. Burbage oversaw the completion of DoD’s purchase of a fifth block of fighters in early December, then quickly reached a tentative agreement for a sixth block before the end of 2012.
Burbage is currently in the U.K. for meetings on the jet. The F-35 Joint Program Office could not provide an immediate statement on Burbage’s retirement.