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UPDATE 2-Northrop tops estimates, raises profit forecast again

(Adds analyst comment, shares; General Dynamics' results)

July 26 (Reuters) - Northrop Grumman Corp's quarterly profit and revenue trumped expectations, helped by increased demand for its manned aircraft, and the maker of Global Hawk surveillance planes raised its full-year profit forecast for the second time.

Sales in the aerospace business, which makes manned aircraft, drones and space craft, rose 14 percent to $2.97 billion in the second quarter ended June 30, Northrop said.

The aerospace unit, Northrop's largest, got a boost from higher volumes for manned aircraft programs, including work on the company's E-2D Advanced Hawkeye early warning aircraft.

Vertical Research Partners analyst Robert Stallard said Northrop results were a "biggish beat" with good sales growth.

The weapons maker is expected to also benefit from increased demand for F-35 fighter jets. Northrop supplies the center fuselage for F-35 jets, which forms a significant portion of the aircraft's internal weapons bay and fuel capacity.

The F-35 is the Pentagon's costliest arms program and has been criticized as being too expensive by President Donald Trump.

Larger rival Lockheed Martin Corp, the prime contractor for the F-35 program, last week posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on strong demand for F-35 jets.

For 2017, Northrop now expects earnings per share of $12.10 to $12.40, up from an earlier forecast of $11.80 to $12.10.

Net earnings rose 6.8 percent to $552 million, or $3.15 per share, in the quarter, topping analysts' estimate of $2.87 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total sales rose 6.3 percent to $6.38 billion, breezing past analysts' expectations of $6.21 billion.

Rival General Dynamics Corp, maker of Gulfstream jets, tanks and U.S. Navy ships, also reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday.

Northrop's shares were nearly flat at $264.50 in premarket trading on Wednesday. They have gained 13.5 percent this year compared with the Dow Jones U.S. Defense index's 16 percent rise. (Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto)