Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has announced the government has placed an order for an additional 8,500 world-class, Australian-made Enhanced F88 weapon systems from Thales Australia.
Delivery of the Enhanced F88 (EF88) to the ADF began in 2015, with two versions produced at Lithgow, NSW – a standard rifle with a 20-inch barrel, plus a carbine with a 16-inch barrel. The EF88 is a modified version of the original Austrian Steyr AUG.
The order supplements the 30,000 weapons that Thales Australia was originally scheduled deliver to Defence over the six years leading up to 2021.
Minister Reynolds said that the additional acquisition of rifles will not only improve the overall capability of the Australian Defence Force, but will also provide a welcome boost to the workforce in regional Australia.
“The rifles will be manufactured at the Thales Australia site in Lithgow, New South Wales, which employs around 130 Australians,” Minister Reynolds said.
“This acquisition is just another example of the nationwide benefits of the Morrison government’s unprecedented investment in defence capability, particularly in rural and regional Australia.”
Thales Australia welcomed the government's commitment to acquiring the additional rifles, with a Thales spokesperson stating, “Thales’ highest priority is ensuring that Defence has the capability that it needs, and maintaining advanced manufacturing of small arms in Lithgow is a key element of this vital sovereign capability.
“Over the last three years, Thales’ small arms business has directly supported a supply chain of 300 Australian firms, achieving around 95 per cent Australian content in the EF88.”
The additional orders will be delivered under the Soldier Modernisation Program, and will enable "increased access" to the F88 for Army's 2nd Division. The purchase will also allow the ADF to phase out older weapons at an earlier than expected date.
Thales is strongly committed to continuing the 110-year heritage of small arms manufacturing in Lithgow, with more than $70 million invested over the past 10 years in equipment, site facilities and R&D.
Thales’ Lithgow Arms employs approximately 150 people and provides a unique offering to the Small Arms and Munitions Sovereign Industrial Capability – through its world-class research, design, development, manufacturing and sustainment services.