Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson discusses ways to communicate with the White House as a defense company.

WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense company, will have a new top executive come June.

The company announced Monday that James Taiclet, 59, has been selected president and CEO of the company, succeeding Marillyn Hewson in those roles.

Taiclet, while a member of Lockheed’s board since 2018, has not worked directly inside the company before; he has served as chairman, president and CEO of American Tower Corporation, a wireless and broadcast communications infrastructure company based in Boston, Massachusetts, since 2004.

Previously, he worked as president of Honeywell Aerospace Services and vice president of engine services at Pratt & Whitney. Taiclet is also a retired U.S. Air Force officer, whose biography cites more than 5,000 flying hours, including as part of the first Gulf War.

“I know it is the right time to transition the leadership of Lockheed Martin. The corporation is strong, as evidenced by our outstanding financial results last year and a record backlog of business. We have a bright future — particularly with Jim and our outstanding leadership team at the helm,” Hewson said in a statement. “I’m pleased the board agreed with my recommendation. As Lockheed Martin’s next CEO, Jim will lead the company forward in its next phase of growth and value creation.”

In a post on LinkedIn, Hewson said that Taiclet “has impressed [her] with his sharp intellect, keen business acumen, and strong knowledge of our industry" and that she was leaving her corner office in good hands.

Hewson took over the company in 2013, the first woman to lead Lockheed. Her ascension came as a surprise, following the sudden removal of then-Chief Operating Officer Chris Kubasik, who had been in line for the top job. Since coming into power, Hewson successfully guided the company through the U.S. budget sequestration and a major acquisition of helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky, along with getting the F-35 fighter program largely on track.

“I’m honored to be asked to succeed one of the most respected CEOs in America. While serving on Lockheed Martin’s board, I’ve not only been impressed by the company’s continued growth as a leader in aerospace & defense but also by the dedication and commitment of Marillyn and Lockheed Martin employees to deliver for its customers,” Taiclet said in a statement. “As a military veteran, I understand the mission of this great company to provide global security and innovative solutions for the brave men and women who protect our freedom.”

Taiclet’s rise to the role of Lockheed’s CEO may have been enabled due to a leave of absence by Michele Evans, Lockheed’s head of aeronautics, who temporarily stepped back from that position in September due to an undisclosed medical issue. Evans, age 53, was considered a rising star in the pool of Lockheed executives, having rose through the ranks of Lockheed’s aeronautics, sustainment, and integrated warfare systems and sensors divisions. She was widely considered a possible successor to Hewson.

As follow-on moves, Frank St. John, 53, was elected by the board to serve as chief operating officer of Lockheed; St. John is currently executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Rotary and Mission Systems division. Replacing him is Stephanie Hill, 55, the current senior vice president for Enterprise Business Transformation.

All the moves are effective June 15.

According to the Defense News Top 100 list, Lockheed Martin has been the top defense contractor in the world for 20 straight years. Lockheed’s $50.5 billion in defense revenue in fiscal 2018 represented about 10 percent of the Top 100’s total defense revenues, and dramatically outpaced the No. 2 company on the list, Boeing, which brought in $34 billion in defense revenue.

Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.