Ten days ago, Thales Australia secured a contract from the Australian Department of Defence to enter low-rate initial production (LRIP) for the company’s F90 assault rifle. Chambered for 5.56 x 45 mm, the F90 is likely to replace Australia’s in-service F88 series (including the current F88SA2) assault rifles under the Land 125 Phase 3C programme. Provisional Design Acceptance was awarded to the F90 in April (June for the GLA), as the result of a series of extensive tests which saw over a million rounds fired. Design acceptance was originally anticipated for December 2013.
ARES director N.R. Jenzen-Jones has previously published an assessment of the EF88 (F90) rifle following a test and evaluation of the system in late 2012. Since that time, a few minor improvements and alterations have been made to the rifle:
- The optional bolt catch release has been incorporated;
- A case deflector has been added;
- The GLA is now the Steyr Mannlicher SL40, rather than the Madritsch Weapon Technology ML40AUS (the ML40AUS was previously the subject of some engineering concerns);
- The size of the gas vent in the barrel has been reduced;
- The butt plate design has been adjusted; and
- The rifles will now be produced in black, rather than the two-tone green and tan colour scheme originally seen
The rifle is now in LRIP at Thales’ production facility in Lithgow, under what company officials are referring to as a “de-risking exercise designed to smooth the transition in production from the existing in-service weapon to the F90.”
Photo courtesy of Thales Australia.