Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS) has appointed a top executive from newly-acquired Aurora Flight Sciences to lead the compnay’s elite technology development and rapid prototyping unit called the Phantom Works.

Mark Cherry, formerly chief operating officer of Aurora Flight Sciences, in the coming weeks will replace Darryl Davis, who moves to a “company-wide programme management role” after leading Phantom Works for a decade, Boeing says.

Boeing appointed Cherry to Phantom Works to “integrate advanced technologies and processes into solutions that our customers want and that can grow our business”, says Leanne Caret, president and chief executive of BDS.

Aurora Flight Sciences produces composite fuselage structures for the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk and Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion, but also is committed to developing innovative new technologies for aerospace, especially in the fields of autonomy, electric propulsion, aerodynamics and lightweight structures.

His appointment comes as the US Defense Department calls on contractors to mimic Silicon Valley’s approach to innovation, with new smaller advances in capability fielded faster and cheaper than the traditional defence model.

Cherry’s appointment comes less than two weeks after Boeing announced an agreement to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences, with the Virginia-based business continuing to report as a standalone unit directly to chief technology officer Greg Hyslop.

Cherry came to Aurora Flight Sciences after leadership positions at United Technologies, Sikorsky Aircraft, Teradyne and Boston Consulting Group. He also served as an officer in the US Air Force.

He will be succeeded in his chief operating officer role at Aurora Flight Sciences by Matthew Hutchison, who is currently vice-president of engineering.

As Cherry moves to Phantom Works, the move “further strengthens the ties between Aurora and Boeing”, says Aurora Flight Sciences chairman and chief executive John Langford.