updated 7/27/2004 9:49:02 AM ET 2004-07-27T13:49:02

Lockheed Martin said Tuesday that a surge in combat aircraft sales helped push earnings up 22 percent in the second quarter, overshadowing higher pension costs and beating Wall Street expectations for the defense giant.

The company earned $296 million, or 66 cents per share, for the quarter, up from $242 million, or 54 cents per share, at the same time a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had predicted Lockheed would earn 61 cents per share.

Lockheed reported second quarter sales of $8.78 billion, a 14 percent increase over last year's second quarter figure of $7.71 billion that was mostly attributable to higher sales of fighter jets.

"We thought it was one of the best quarters we've had in a while," said Christopher Kubasik, Lockheed's chief financial officer.

The company's aeronautics division, which produces combat aircraft and transport planes, saw a 31 percent spike in sales. Driving that growth was Lockheed's F-16 fighter jet program, which delivered 22 planes in the second quarter compared to 12 in the second quarter of 2003.

Pension costs continued to weigh on Lockheed. The company reported $148 million in pension related expenses in the quarter, compared to $68 million last year. Lockheed projects that pensions costs will be about $600 million for the year, distributed evenly across the four quarters.

Lockheed maintained its earnings forecast for the year, saying it expects to make between $2.50 and $2.60 per share on earnings of $2 billion to $2.2 billion. That's below the forecast of some analysts, who had predicted 2004 results of $2.63 per share.

During the first six months of 2004, Lockheed earned $587 million, or $1.31 per share, on sales of $17.12 billion. In the first half of 2003, earnings were $492 million, or $1.09, on sales of $14.77 billion.

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