Navy Names New Executive Director of Aviation Warfare Center at its Pax River Headquarters

July 15, 2021

The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) welcomed Stephen E. Cricchi as the new civilian executive director at its Pax River headquarters, July 14.

“Our warfare centers ensure our Navy and Marine Corps aviators remain equipped with the world’s most technically advanced and lethal capability,” said NAWCAD Commander Rear Adm. John S. Lemmon. “Steve has contributed so much to naval aviation throughout his career – I look forward to teaming with him in his new role.”

Cricchi joins the Navy’s largest warfare center after 36 years of civil service most recently in his role as Director of Engineering and Cyber Warfare at NAVAIR. At NAWCAD, he will lead more than 10,000 military, civilian, and contractor employees across four geolocations to advance capability and operational readiness for naval aviation and our warfighters. NAWCAD is Southern Maryland’s largest employer.

“I’m incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity to lead this talented organization of engineers, scientists, testers, pilots, and other business professionals,” said Cricchi. “It’s an important job, with an even more important mission, and I can’t wait to get started.”

The Senior Executive Service member is an aerospace engineering graduate of the University of Virginia and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. His early career started as a T-45 project coordinator, and progressed through a number of roles including Chief Test Engineer at NAWCAD’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, Director of Flight Test Engineering at NAVAIR, and various other positions of technical and business leadership across the Naval Aviation Enterprise. He takes NAWCAD’s helm from Leslie Taylor, the command’s first-ever female executive director.

“I am extremely confident leaving this warfare center in the highly capable hands of Mr. Cricchi. He will continue to evolve the command which is at the heart of protecting and defending our nation,” said Taylor. “Serving the Navy by leading NAWCAD is one my fondest career accomplishments.”

Taylor, who holds 36 years of civil service, led NAWCAD for six years through significant mission accomplishments, numerous DOD and Navy cost-savings initiatives, a command reorganization, and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a West Virginia Institute of Technology graduate with a bachelor’s in civil engineering and Johns Hopkins University professor who started as a weapons tester and later progressed to lead naval aviation’s flight test programs. She is lauded for her significant emphasis to make NAWCAD a more diverse and inclusive workplace. NAVAIR recently named Taylor its new Vice Commander.

NAWCAD advances capability and operational readiness for naval aviation and our warfighters. The warfare center is where naval aviation takes flight through research, development, test, evaluation, and sustainment of both fielded and not-yet fielded naval platforms and technologies that ensure America’s Sailors and Marines always go into conflict with significant advantage. With sites in Patuxent River, Maryland, Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida, the command is the Navy’s largest warfare center with a diverse force of military, civilians, and contractors building the Navy of today, the Navy of tomorrow, and the Navy after next.

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