Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) said its earnings and revenue increased in the fourth quarter, helped by strong U.S. military spending and lower pension costs.

The defense contractor, whose products include warships, the B-2 stealth bomber (search) and the Global Hawk (search) unmanned reconnaissance plane, Wednesday said net income rose 31 percent to $294 million, or 80 a share, during the period, from $224 million, or 61 cents a share, a year earlier.

Income from continuing operations in the latest quarter was 81 cents a share, matching the average forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call. A year ago, earnings from continuing operations were 50 cents per share.

Revenue at the Los Angeles-based company increased 10 percent to $7.85 billion, from $7.15 billion a year ago. Sales were helped by strength in electronic systems and ships. The latest sales figure topped analysts' average estimate of $7.56 billion.

Northrop Grumman, one of the Pentagon's biggest defense contractors, has benefited in the last few years from the government's increased military spending. The company — as well as rivals Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Boeing Co. (BA) — could take a hit if the government goes through with proposed cuts in U.S. defense spending this year.

This year, Northrop Grumman expects to grow sales to between $31 billion and $31.5 billion, increase earnings per share from continuing operations to between $3.45 and $3.60, and generate cash from operations of $2.2 billion to $2.5 billion.

Analysts have been forecasting 2005 profit of $3.53 per share on sales of $31.57 billion.

For all of 2004, Northrop Grumman earned $1.11 billion, or $3.03 a share, from operations on sales of $29.9 billion. In the previous year, it earned $866 million, or $2.32 a share, on $26.4 billion in revenue.