If you want details on the midyear earnings Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) reported Tuesday, take your pick -- Reuters, AP, or TheStreet.com will be happy to oblige you. Here at the Fool, we'll take a wider-angle look at Lockheed to see how things stand year to date, and how management expects the rest of the year to shape up.

Where are we?
So far this year, Lockheed has accomplished the neat trick of turning 6% sales growth into 10% better profit than in the first half of 2007, and 14% more profit per diluted share.

How'd it do that?
Credit the better EPS results to Lockheed's continuing share buyback program; management has anted up almost $2 billion so far this year to reduce its outstanding share count by 18.6 million, or more than 4%. But even without the lower share count, Lockheed was on the right path to profits. Each of its four key divisions -- aeronautics, electronics, information, and space -- showed improvements in operating profitability this year, ranging from the modest 20-basis-point rise in information to the monster 190-b.p. improvement in space. Overall, operating profit margins tacked on an extra 130 b.p., averaging out at 12.1% firmwide.

For the record, that's well ahead of Lockheed's own trend; its trailing-12-month operating margin comes in at slightly less than 11%. But the lift received by this year's first-half results still puts the company comfortably ahead of L-3 Communications (NYSE:LLL), Boeing (NYSE:BA), and Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), in that order. And if Lockheed can maintain its momentum through the rest of this year, it's on track to overtake General Dynamics (NYSE:GD), which continues to earn 11%-plus margins.

Where do we go from here?
So how likely is Lockheed to maintain forward momentum? Well, according to management's newly re-raised guidance, sales this year should top out somewhere around $42.4 billion, producing roughly $4.9 billion in earnings (before taxes). Leave your calculators in your pockets -- that works out to an 11.6% operating margin, handily besting nearly all comers.

Foolish takeaway
Summing up, Lockheed offers us a chance to own one of the world's largest defense contractors, and nearly the most profitable firm in the space (excepting hybrids like Textron (NYSE:TXT), for example). Better yet, it's selling for a 15 P/E, and it's expected to grow at just less than 12% per year over the next half-decade.

Lockheed also generates significant amounts of free cash flow. Put it all together, stir well, and Lockheed looks to me like Warren Buffett's proverbial "great company at a good price." Buy it, Fools.

Catch up on recent Lockheed news:

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of Boeing. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.