Thales’s F90 rifle is to enter Australian Defence Force service, marking a new era for the Australian soldiers and their weapons. The Australian Department of Defence has signed a AUD 100 million (USD 74M) contract with Thales to produce 30,000 rifles, 2,500 SL40 grenade launchers, spare parts and various ancillaries at Thales’s facility in Lithgow, regional NSW.
The F90 is a light, versatile weapon that meets the highest standards of performance and reliability, and has been well-received by soldiers in various trials, announced Thales in a statement.
Kevin Wall, Thales’s Armaments Vice President in Australia, said: “Our soldiers deserve the best possible equipment, and the F90 delivers on all counts. Enhancing the Austeyr is the most cost-effective way to deliver a capability upgrade, and we’ve worked closely with Defence and Army units to design, test and manufacture this world-class weapon. We’re now looking forward to getting it into troops’ hands as quickly as possible.”
“The F90 is born from over 100 years of engineering and manufacturing expertise at Lithgow, and this is the latest chapter in Lithgow Arms’ long contribution to Australian military operations.” In Australian Defence Force (ADF) service, the rifle will be known as the Enhanced F88 (EF88), marking a significant enhancement of the original Austeyr F88.
Two versions will be delivered – a standard rifle with a 20” barrel, plus a carbine with a 16” barrel. Deliveries to the ADF will begin in the next few weeks and phased over six years. Thales is currently exploring export opportunities for the F90 in various markets around the world, while also developing further enhancements for the rifle, which is fitted for but not with electronic architecture including centralised power as a key future-proofing measure.
The F90 assault rifle is available in five variants: F90; F90(G) (grenade launcher variant); F90M (’Marksman’ variant with a longer barrel); F90M(G) and F90CQB (Close Quarters Battle – a carbine). The Marksman variant is the same length as Australia’s in-service F88SA2, but is over 0.5kg lighter, while the equivalent grenadier variant is over 1.6kg lighter.Thales is in cooperation with Austrian company Steyr Mannlicher to pursue specific opportunities, such as the French DGA FAMAS replacement project, utilising Steyr Mannlicher’s manufacturing experience and facilities.