Northrop Grumman Corp., fresh from an upset victory over Boeing Co. for an aerial refueling tanker contract, is favored to score a second decision over its larger competitor in a $2 billion U.S. Navy unmanned spy-plane contest, Bloomberg News reports

Northrop's Global Hawk aircraft, used in Iraq and Afghanistan under a $5.7 billion Air Force program, has ``a better than 50 percent chance'' of beating drones from Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. for the Navy order, said Myles Walton, an Oppenheimer & Co. analyst in Boston. The Pentagon may name a choice this week.

Winning the deal would extend Northrop's lead in unpiloted planes over Boeing and Lockheed, which dominate the manned military aircraft market. Global Hawk, which can fly above 60,000 feet for a maximum 36 hours over a target, was used in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It supplied 55 percent of the data used to destroy air defenses while flying only 5 percent of the Air Force's high-altitude surveillance missions.

``Global Hawk is the top-shelf system,'' said Larry Dickerson, a defense analyst at Newtown Connecticut-based Forecast International Inc. who specializes in such craft. ``It's like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini -- a special product to meet a customer's exacting demands -- where cost isn't a concern.''

Landing the Navy contract would increase Los Angeles-based Northrop's earnings per share by 10 cents, or 1.4 percent, in 2011 from the $7.22 Walton projects without the deal. He recommends buying the shares and says that a victory may lift them by $1, or 1.3 percent. Northrop is the third largest U.S. defense contractor, after Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, and Boeing.

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