The defense industry has done extremely well lately, and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) has seen its share price rise substantially. Even before the 2016 U.S. presidential election signaled a higher priority for defense spending in the future, Lockheed was able to use its command of key programs like the F-35 fighter jet to help it triple its stock price between early 2013 and last fall. Further gains have resulted from optimism about prospective new projects. With the stock price climbing above $300 per share, some believe a stock split is long overdue.

Let's look more closely at Lockheed Martin and whether it's likely to complete a stock split in the near future.

A look at Lockheed Martin's past stock splits

Stock splits haven't been all that common for Lockheed Martin in past years, but the company has made moves to reduce its share price on a couple of occasions. Below, you'll find the dates and split ratios for the stock splits Lockheed Martin has done:

Date of Split

Split Ratio

Sept. 9, 1983

3 for 1

Dec. 1, 1998

2 for 1

Data source: Lockheed Martin investor relations.

As you can see, the company has tended to go a long time between making decisions to split its shares. That has to do in large part with the way the stock has behaved over time. Back in 1983, the stock climbed above the $100 per share mark, and that prompted the defense contractor to do a 3-for-1 split that sent its share price back down into the $30s. Even with favorable stock market performance, it took a long time for Lockheed to work its way back up to triple digits, and that in large part explains why the company went 15 years without doing a split.

The same game plan played out in 1998. With the stock climbing above $100 per share, Lockheed decided to do a more conventional 2-for-1 split. The stock didn't manage to make enough headway before the bear market of 2000 took the market down, and it took nearly another 10 years for Lockheed to reach $100. Even then, the recession of 2008 and accompanying financial crisis took Lockheed's share price lower, and it wasn't until 2013 that the stock finally sustained triple-digit levels for good.

F-35 fighter in the sky launching a missile.

Image source: Lockheed Martin.

Things are looking up for Lockheed

There's no question that Lockheed Martin has benefited from favorable industry conditions recently. In its most recent quarterly report, the defense contractor said sales and profits from continuing operations both grew at a 10% pace, and it also raised its expectations for earnings for the full 2017 year. Sales of F-35 fighter jets are expected to play a major role in its future success, with one possible deal involving as many as 440 F-35s to be sold within the next three years. Lockheed has done a good job of cutting production costs on the fighter jet, and that could help boost profits even further than investors had initially expected.

More generally, the prospects for future defense spending are looking stronger. Heightened geopolitical uncertainty has come from North Korea's development of a nuclear deterrent, and that has prompted the U.S. to take a more aggressive stance toward its defense. Other nations are likely to follow suit, and that could further boost Lockheed Martin's business going forward.

Is now the time for another stock split?

Even with all of the positives for the stock, there's no assurance that the behavior of the share price will prompt Lockheed to change its recent stance and do a stock split. Even if it were to split its shares at its most aggressive ratio of 3-for-1, a split now would only take Lockheed stock back down to $100 per share -- the old threshold at which the company considered splits.

It appears that Lockheed has chosen to follow in the footsteps of most other companies in the stock market, electing not to do stock splits in favor of letting its rising share price act as a reflection of its long-term success. Indeed, several other defense contractors have seen their stock prices rise to triple digits without taking stock-split-related action, and Lockheed might want to have the distinction of having the highest share price in its sector.

It wouldn't be out of character for Lockheed Martin to split its shares at this price level, but it's far from a certain thing. Lockheed might well decide never to do another split. Without any compelling reason to do so, Lockheed shareholders should be content with the huge gains the stock has delivered in recent years and see any future split announcement as being far less important than the favorable business conditions under which the defense contractor is operating right now.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.