WASHINGTON— Leadership of the F-35 program office is expected to change hands this year, with the current deputy director taking the reins of the program.
Navy Rear. Adm. Mat Winter, currently the F-35 deputy program executive officer, will be named head of the program when Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan retires this summer, the Pentagon announced. Winter will also be promoted to vice admiral.
Winter joined the F-35 office in 2016. Before that he served as the chief of Naval Research.
The F-35 will not be Winter's first experience managing a controversial, high-profile program of record. As the Navy's program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, he oversaw the development of the X-47, a stealthy unmanned aircraft that could autonomously launch from a carrier. He also was responsible for the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, which was cancelled after myriad problems including schedule slippage and changing requirements. UCLASS has now translated into a Navy program of record for an unmanned, carrier-launched tanker.
Winter has held several jobs inside the F-35 program office, even before his current job as deputy PEO. According to his Navy biography, he was executive assistant of the F-35 program director and chief engineer for joint strike fighter integrated flight and propulsion control.
Bogdan came aboard as JPO head in 2012, at a time when the F-35 program had earned itself a reputation as a programatic black hole, behind schedule and significantly overcost. In his first public comments after taking the job, Bogdan put the blame for that largely on the industrial partners, famously saying the relationship between the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin was "the worst I've ever seen."
Shortly after that speech, the relationship between Lockheed and Bogdan began to improve. Still, Bogdan carved out a reputation for himself as a hard-nosed negotiator, one who was canny in using public statements to keep pressure on Lockheed. Under his watch, the program got itself largely back on track, while costs have continued to come down.
During his tenure, the F-35 achieved initial operating capability for the Marines in 2015 and the Air Force in 2016, with the Navy still to go. It also added several new customers among international partners.
Update 3/28 5:45 pm EST to clarify background.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.