I don't know about you, but I derive a certain inner sense of well-being when a company that makes products that are designed to explode uses phrases like "mission assurance" and "process discipline." Call me crazy, but let's face it: Some things in life are, well, serious. So you'll be glad to hear that defense contractor Raytheon (NYSE:RTN) punctuated its first-quarter earnings call with a discussion about how employees are focused on quality, and Raytheon's products stand for "no doubt."

Amid those solemn declarations, the company managed to deliver a very upbeat review of the results, as net income rose 30% on a sales gain of 6%. Digging deeper, the results were even better. Excluding discontinued operations and the effect of an accounting change in the previous year, income from continuing operations rose 94% to $196 million this year from $101 million last year. That translates into EPS from continuing operations of $0.43 per share, $0.10 per share higher than the consensus forecast of analysts.

Raytheon also raised earnings guidance by $0.05 for the full year, to a new range of $1.85 to $1.95 from a previous range of $1.80 to $1.90. The nickel improvement is expected to come primarily from higher profits in core business operations and lower interest expense. The dividend was increased 10% to $0.22 per quarter from $0.20, and the company is continuing to buy back its shares, purchasing 1.4 million shares during the first quarter. Order backlogs continue to grow, ending the first quarter at $32.8 billion, up 5% compared with the same period last year.

Other defense contractors are also reporting solid first-quarter gains, as Northrop Grumann (NYSE:NOC) posted a 73% increase in net income, and Goodrich (NYSE:GR) managed a 23% improvement. Both also raised their earnings outlook for the year.

For our readers, I will admit it can be a challenge to buy the shares of these companies while following the Warren Buffett rule of never buying into a business you can't understand. But several of these players are investing in technologies that are worth keeping an eye on, like gestural interface at Raytheon. And as Rich Smith pointed out in January, the enterprise value-to-free cash flow levels for several of the top defense contractors look pretty reasonable. If the war on terrorism remains a high priority for our national leaders, and what's to make us think it won't, someone is going to make a profit on it.

Raytheon has solid cash flows, a large backlog of government contracts, and pays a dividend over 2% -- not too shabby. It might be worth considering Raytheon for your team.

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Fool contributor Timothy M. Otte doesn't own the stock of any companies mentioned in this article.