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.
Were other rifles tested instead of just re-re-re-re releasing the steyr? I have never had a reliable weapon when i have used a steyr….
Now i am in socom and using an m4, the comfortability whilst shooting whether in armour or not has increased, i am now able to customise the weapon to suit my particular shooting style, the light weight of the weapon fully loaded also with lights sights and peq is still better than a steyr, the ease of operating those customisations without the need to move my hands,and be able to shoot my rifle ambidextrous, and the ability to change my mag with the press of a small button with one finger instead of my whole hand.
All these things prove that the steyr is a functional weapon in this day and age. When we changed out from the SLR the steyr was a very good rifle due to its futuristic capabilities, but nowadays the weapon market has produced some very good infantry rifles, much better than the steyr. I understand the steyr is iconic to the australian defence force, but we should look into other rifles like the magpul acr, scar, or hk416, all with barrels 14 inches or shorter.
This is my personal opinion from a person who has used both weapon systems and more, and personally hope that if i go back to an RAR, i hope i am using a 417 instead of a steyr.
[I moved your comment to the ARES blog, which is actively moderated.]
Whilst the F90 will address several of the issues you raise, obviously different shooters have different preferences. The trend in most NATO and allied SOF is towards (or remaining with) traditionally configured rifles. One of the other issues will be cost, of course, and some of the rifles you mention are high on that spectrum. Whilst the F90 is certainly a step up from the F88 series (F88SA2 included), there are those who suggest moving from a bullpup configuration.
I feel the bullpup format is a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ design. It is ideal for conscript and low budget armies. (China and IDF) But for small, elite military forces like Australia’s, it is not the cheapest option.
So it’s no coincidence Australia is leading the development of the bullpup platform. Trying to make it into an elite platform. Compactness is the most important advantage of the platform, so hopefully the 14 inch barrel version is adopted as standard.