WASHINGTON — Michele Evans, who led Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics business since 2018, died on Jan. 1, the company announced Saturday.

Evans took a leave of absence that began Dec. 1 “to address health issues unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic,” according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by the company. She previously took medical leave in September 2019 due to a cancer diagnosis, according to Reuters.

Greg Ulmer, who leads the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, has filled in as head of Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics unit in the interim.

“Throughout her career, Michele led some of the most important programs that ensure the security of our nation and its allies and help make our world a safer place,” Lockheed CEO Jim Taiclet said. “She embodied our company’s values in spirit and action every day — to do what’s right, respect others, and perform with excellence. Her example was an inspiration to those of us fortunate enough to have worked with her closely, and her leadership in the aerospace and defense industry will have a lasting impact for years to come.”

Evans spent 34 years working at Lockheed and, before her medical issues, was seen as a top contender to replace Marillyn Hewson as the company’s chief executive.

Before becoming vice president of the Aeronautics division, Evans held multiple executive positions in the company’s Rotary and Mission Systems business area, serving as vice president and general manager of integrated warfare systems and sensors as well as vice president for C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).

Earlier in her career, she managed avionics programs for the C-130 and F-35 aircraft.