FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin named Jeff Babione the new executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Program, succeeding Lorraine Martin.
Babione will assume the role of program leader for the F-35 on January 1, 2016. The announcement comes as Lorraine Martin, who currently holds the post, will instead be appointed to the newly created position of deputy executive vice president, Mission System and Training.
As the F-35 program continues to receive mixed reactions from defense officials and political leaders, Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, says Babione's leadership will be good for the future of the next-generation multi-role fighter.
"Jeff is a seasoned leader who is uniquely qualified to lead the F-35 team through this critical phase of the program," Carvalho said in a statement. "He brings a deep understanding of the F-35 program, strong customer relationships and a collaborative leadership style that will ensure we continue the positive momentum of the program."
As program leader, Babione will be tasked to lead the development, production, and sustainment for the three F-35 variants on the market. Currently, 13 military services have procured the aircraft.
Recently, the F-35 program came under further scrutiny when it was discovered the jet's ejection seats may be prone to life-threatening malfunctions. The U.S. Air Force has since banned lighter weight pilots from piloting the aircraft.
The F-35 program became a political issue in the 2015 Canadian election for Prime Minister. The Liberal Party, which emerged victorious over the Conservatives, campaigned against the F-35 program entirely.