Thales and Army Headquarters have started jointly researching, developing and designing the next generation of Australian close combat weapons – to support Army’s emerging requirements this will include the next generation close combatant assault rifle, light machine gun and associated ammunition.
Supporting Army’s strategy to establish and maintain a capability edge for the dismounted combat capability, the joint research and development program will focus on new, disruptive technologies to radically advance the relationship between soldiers and small arms, ensuring Australian soldiers are equipped to anticipate and defend against contemporary threats.
The research and development program will harness Thales’ existing extensive Australian supply chain, new SMEs, and its network of research organisations.
The project will develop working level prototypes for a Close Combatant Assault Rifle and Light Machine Gun over the next three years, while examining all aspects of a weapon system, including the performance and terminal effects of ammunition. Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), through the Lethality System Program, is co-partner in the project and are involved in the governance arrangements for the development activity.
Colonel Stuart Davies, Director Dismounted Combat Program, Army Headquarters, explained, "This is an exciting initiative with one of our existing industry partners. As we seek to evolve the soldier combat system, the lethality component is a critical sub system."
The aim is to have both weapon systems ready to compete for the close combatant family of weapons in Tranche 2 of the Lethality System project (LAND 159) by late 2023.
"There are many challenges to ensure we have a capability edge over current and emerging threats, and the Australian Army welcomes the opportunity to explore some emerging disruptive technologies associated with complete weapon system design," COL Davies added.
Thales Australia has recently announced it will double the size of its small arms research and development team in Lithgow as it anticipates the future technology requirements of a more digitised battlespace for the Australian Defence Force, and maximises the benefit of new manufacturing processes, novel materials and AI.
Graham Evenden, director soldier weapon systems, expanded on the comments of COL Davies, adding, "We are committed to maintaining the capability advantage of the Australian Army as rapid advances in digital technology bring increasing threats as well as new capabilities."
Thales Australia is a trusted partner of the ADF and is also present in commercial sectors ranging from air traffic management and ground transport systems to security systems and services. Thales Australia employs around 3,800 people directly and supports over 1,700 jobs along its Australian supply chain.
In 2019, Thales Australia spent $522 million with 1,362 Australia suppliers, of which 70 per cent were SMEs.
Thales Australia has a history of patient investment to build advanced in-country capability across manufacturing, critical systems and services.
Close collaborative relationships with local customers, Australian SME suppliers and research institutions combined with technology transfer from our global business enables Thales to tailor high-quality solutions for Australian and export markets, generating revenue of $1.6 billion in exports over the past 10 years.