Boeing [BA] yesterday said it would take a $250 million pre-tax charge in its second quarter earnings results due to previously acknowledged delays on an aircraft program it is developing for Australia but the company maintained its earnings guidance for this year, saying performance and productivity throughout the company will offset the charge by year-end.

Boeing said that the charge is primarily due to subsystem development issues on the electronic warfare and ground support systems combined with more time needed for integration testing on the Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft program, known as Wedgetail. The first two of Australia’s six aircraft will be delivered in July 2009 with interim capability, four months behind the previous schedule. All six aircraft will be delivered in 2010 with full capability.

Boeing said that significant progress has been made on radar development and overall system integration. The company also said that the delay for Australia isn’t expected to affect deliveries to any other AEW&C customers.

The charge will amount to 22 cents earnings per share (EPS). Boeing’s earnings forecast for 2008 is between $5.70 and $5.85 EPS. Guidance for 2009 remains at $6.80 to $7.00.

JP Morgan aerospace and defense analyst Joe Nadol said that Boeing’s guidance has been well below his own and consensus estimates, leaving "contingency cushion" in place. He believes that Northrop Grumman [NOC], which provides the Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array radar for Wedgetail for the Australia and Turkey programs, is likely to take a $40 million charge on the project at some point.

Boeing will report second quarter financial results on July 23.