Joseph Frederick Sowar, 79, a retired Navy commander and Federal Aviation Administration official, died of leukemia Jan. 22 at his home in Vienna.

He retired in 1983 as deputy program manager of the FAA's "next generation" weather radar program. During 18 years at the agency, he was chief of the aviation weather systems branch and was instrumental in deploying the national Doppler weather radar system.

Mr. Sowar was born in Marion, Ind., and grew up in Coldwater, Ohio.

He attended Ohio State University and graduated from George Washington University.

He served as a naval aviator during World War II, flying night missions from aircraft carriers in the Pacific. He flew with a Navy squadron during the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and flew in support of the 6th Fleet during the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. During the Cuban missile crisis, he helped set up air defenses for the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

He was assigned to the FAA by the Navy in 1965 and continued there after retiring from the military three years later.

He later worked for Stephens Engineering.

His honors included two Air Medals and the Navy Commendation Medal. Mr. Sowar was a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna and coached Little League baseball in McLean.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Mary B. Sowar of Vienna; five children, Douglas Sowar of Temple, Ga., Timothy Sowar of Franklin, W.Va., Jonathan Sowar of Fairfax, Steven Sowar of Manassas and Nancy White of Warm Springs, Ga.; a brother; a sister; 16 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.