Airbus has appointed Alberto Gutierrez to replace Fernando Alonso as head of military aircraft at the airframer's defence and space division in January 2019.

Alonso is retiring, but will stay until the end of March to ensure a smooth transition, Airbus says.

Gutierrez is currently deputy head of military aircraft, and had previous stints as Eurofighter’s chief executive and head of operations for the former Airbus Military.

In his new role reporting to Airbus Defence & Space chief executive Dirk Hoke, Gutierrez will become part of the division's executive committee and will also oversee the airframer's Spanish operations.

Hoke says Gutierrez's "business intimacy is a crucial asset as we look towards exploring a range of new opportunities in the defence business ranging from campaigns on existing platforms like the Eurofighter or the A330 MRTT to new projects like the Future Combat Air System". Gutierrez has a "strong customer focus combined with programme and engineering expertise", he adds.

Alonso, a flight-test engineer, has been with Airbus for 37 years and was part of the crew during the first flights of the A340-200, A319, A380 and A350.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders describes Alsonso as "one of the best people leaders I have ever met in our industry" and credits him as having been "instrumental in recovering the critical A400M situation".

"I thank Fernando for his outstanding engagement and inspiring leadership over all these years," says Enders.