Under attack by a flurry of headlines these past few weeks, you wouldn't expect many members of the military-industrial complex to be reporting stock price gains lately -- and you'd be right.

Good news came few and far between last week, as Raytheon (NYSE:RTN) and Boeing (NYSE:BA) were among the few defense firms checking off the earnings "wins" column. Meanwhile, we saw earnings plunge at a range of rivals:

  • United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), where profits plunged 23%.
  • Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), which saw earnings tumble 20%.
  • And Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), where profits declined 17% year over year.

So great was the rejoicing this morning when General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) formed ranks in the winners' column, rather than the losers'.

Whether it was the General's skin-o'-the-teeth increase in earnings (up only one penny per share over last year, despite an 11% rise in revenue during the same period), or the raised guidance, or the positive comments on corporate jet sales, General D is one of the few companies in the Defense Sphere enjoying a green ticker this morning.

Don't look a gift horse ...
Personally, I don't think there's a whole lot of need to overanalyze this one. To me, General D has two great trends working in its favor -- each sufficing to explain today's investor enthusiasm about the stock.

First, its name notwithstanding, "the General's" fortunes are not tied entirely to the success of the defense industry. By some estimates, the company's Gulfstream brand has the largest market share of business jets sold globally. Worries about that jet business had some investors running from General Dynamics earlier this week.

And while the recession took a bite out of this market for everyone, CEO Jay Johnson now says that new sales booked in the second quarter exceeded cancelled orders "handily." (Which supports statements made by Textron's (NYSE:TXT) CEO on Tuesday.) "Customer defaults" have been chopped in half since the first quarter, and Johnson maintained his sales forecast for large-cabin jets for the coming year.

More important than even this one segment's success, though, General Dynamics' stock is cheap, cheap, cheap. Management predicts it will end the year with $6.10 in reported earnings, giving the General a forward P/E a bit shy of 9. Analysts expect profits to grow nearly that fast over the next five years (i.e. just short of 9% per year.) But seeing as sales grew 11% in Q2, and backlog is up twice that at 22%, I have to tell you, folks: I wouldn't be surprised if General Dynamics does surprise.

Foolish takeaway
I've said it before. I'll say it again. This stock's a winner.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of Boeing, and General Dynamics is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.