Chinese state-run media said Tuesday General Ma Xiaotian will take over control of the nation's air force from General Xu Qiliang.
Reports out of China say Xu will likely be promoted to vice chairman of the country's powerful Central Military Committee.
The moves come as China is set to begin its once-a-decade leadership transfer, a secretive, behind-the-scenes process that is undertaken without a popular vote.
Under current President Hu Jintao, China has embarked on an expansive military modernization program, seeking to upgrade the 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army.
The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies says since 2000 China's military spending has quadrupled to $89.9 billion in 2011. But the study said this number, based on official figures, may be low, noting some independent estimates put the figure as high as $140 billion.
China now ranks second behind the United States in total defense spending. As a result, many of China's neighbors have increased their defenses, especially as they respond to what they see as China's increased assertiveness in defending its maritime claims.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.