Airbus announced Monday (12 April) that it is shaking up its top defence and technology posts and making changes to its Executive Committee led by Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury. Dirk Hoke, head of the Defence & Space division, and Chief Technology Officer Grazia Vittadini, will both step down on 1 July, Airbus said. Hoke had been leading efforts to co-develop a European fighter with France’s Dassault Aviation and will be replaced by production chief Michael Schoellhorn, whose role as chief operating officer will be filled by military aircraft head Alberto Gutierrez. Hoke and Vittadini are both leaving to pursue opportunities outside the aerospace group, Airbus said without providing details.

“As we emerge from COVID-19 and look forward to the next phases in the development of our civil and military activities, we are making important changes to the leadership team. I warmly thank Dirk for his leadership at the helm of Defence and Space over the last five years and the achievements obtained under his watch. I also want to sincerely thank Grazia for her key contributions and personal engagement over the last years. I wish them both all the best in their future endeavours,” said CEO Faury. “These changes will allow us to further address our challenges and deliver on our ambitions, as well as increasing the ‘Team Airbus’ dynamic with deeper collaboration between our different businesses and functions across borders.”

The move comes days after Airbus and Dassault Aviation reached a critical deal after weeks of tense discussions over the share of work on the Future Combat Air System – a Franco-German-Spanish fighter project, according to a Reuters report. The deal still faces political uncertainty in a German election year and national differences over technology rights, but is seen as a milestone for Europe’s largest defence project.

Airbus is also merging technology and engineering as a result of a cascade of changes resulting from the departures, putting long-term and current research under one roof. The military aircraft unit will be run by Jean-Brice Dumont, whose current job as head of engineering will be merged with Vittadini’s technology role under a single new engineering boss, Sabine Klauke, who moves from defence to the wider role, Reuters reported. Previously, engineering functions had been split between two positions on the top management committee in a throwback to a disjointed structure abandoned in 2013, leading to what several sources described as turf battles over resources.


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Matthew Driskill is the web editor of Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter and the Editor of Asian Aviation. He is based in Singapore. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.


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