The Arlington-based U.S. unit of contracting giant BAE Systems said Tuesday that it has selected Gerard J. DeMuro, formerly of General Dynamics, to serve as its new chief executive.

DeMuro, set to start on Feb. 1, will succeed from Linda Hudson, the first woman to head a major U.S. defense contractor.

He takes over at a challenging time for contractors, including BAE. Hudson’s tenure has been one of contraction for the U.S. firm, not growth, as defense spending declined.

She came to BAE in 2007 to run its land and armaments business, home to the company’s armored vehicles. Since being named CEO in 2009, Hudson has divested some lines of business, reorganized the contractor’s structure and opened a shared services center in North Carolina.

She has led BAE’s expansion of its commercial work, particularly in avionics and shipbuilding. While the contractor has long provided flight and engine controls for companies like General Electric and Boeing, it has more recently also found new customers in Embraer and Bombardier.

In 2012, BAE’s London-based parent company sought to merge with Paris-based European Aeronautic Defence and Space, but that deal came to a halt after European officials failed to agree on terms.

DeMuro has firsthand experience with the rockier environment facing contractors. He left General Dynamics nearly a year ago after the company wrote down the value of its information systems business — which he led — by $2 billion.

Before taking over the information systems unit, he had led General Dynamics Communications Systems and General Dynamics C4 Systems. He also spent close to a decade as a Pentagon acquisition official, according to BAE. The company said he was not available for an interview.

Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant who counts BAE among his clients, said that there are similarities between BAE’s work and that of the General Dynamics unit DeMuro led.

“He already knows the markets and the customers, but he also has a very extensive experience in doing acquisitions, business development and divestitures,” Thompson said.

Hudson will remain an adviser to the company until the end of May to ensure a smooth transition, BAE said. She will also remain on the contractor’s board through April 2015.