Bill Swanson. Raytheon handout.
Bill Swanson. Raytheon handout.

Raytheon Co., the Waltham-based defense contractor, said Wednesday that its board of directors has elected Dr. Thomas A. Kennedy, age 58, to serve as the chief executive, effective March 31.

Kennedy will succeed William H. Swanson, who has served as CEO since 2003, Raytheon said in a press release. Swanson told the board of his intention to step down from his position as CEO in March, following his 65th birthday next month.

After March, Swanson will continue to serve as chairman of the board while the company completes the transition to the new CEO.

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Kennedy, a 30-year veteran of Raytheon, has served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Raytheon since April 2013.

Raytheo, with 2012 sales of $24 billion, has 68,000 employees worldwide.