The past year has kept the aerospace and defense sector subdued, but increases in spending and other global factors may make this sector’s exchange traded funds (ETFs) a top gun.

In the past month, the aerospace and defense sector has seen some gains in performance and more analysts are feeling bullish on the sector, according to Spade Index. Scott Sacknoff, the index provider for Spade Indexes, which is the underlying index for the PowerShares Aerospace and Defense (NYSEArca: PPA), points out that the sector has been tracking the S&P 500 closely for most of this year. “Things that move the market move the defense sector.”

Some positive factors going for it include:

  • Troops in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama is sending an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to combat the growing threat of hard-core insurgents and Taliban foot soldiers, reports Al Pessin for VOANews.
  • War Tax. Congress is flirting with the idea of a special tax on high-income Americans to help pay for the war efforts.
  • Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. The Boeing Co.’s (NYSE: BA) 787 passenger jet “Dreamliner” made its maiden test flight on Tuesday, reports William Hennigan for The Los Angeles Times. The company promises that the Dreamliner will burn less fuel and last longer than other flying aircrafts. Airlines have already ordered 840 Dreamliners worth $140 billion, which made this aircraft the fastest-selling new commercial jetliner in history.
  • Growing threats. Conflict doesn’t magically disappear and there will be a need to combat new threats by increasing offensive weapons. [Are A&D ETFs set to take off?]
  • Economic expansion. Improvements in the economy will lead to job creation, economic growth and improved tax revenue that would help defense spending.

Sacknoff says that there are plenty of differences between perception and reality when it comes to the aerospace and defense sector. Sacknoff says that people tend to compare defense sector cycles alongside the U.S. economy. “The problem with making comparisons is that people tend to think we’re in a safer environment, and the world is not necessarily a safer place.”

A few cases in point: More troops are going to Afghanistan and a pullout, which could take awhile, isn’t expected to begin until 2012. We’re also still in Iraq. Iran seems unwilling to listen to the United States’ warnings, there are computer hackers working day and night to get into the government’s computers. “There’s still a lot of risk in the world,” he says.