At Thales’ stand during Land Forces 2016, two versions of the F90 rifle are on display – the 407 Carbine variant with a 16in barrel and the 508 with a 20in barrel and mounted rail interface optics. The F90 weapon system – currently known by the ADF as the eF88 – is built on a 30-year-old Steyr design, which Thales was contracted to overhaul the ageing F88 Austeyr rifle, resulting in the creation of the F90. “The core of the weapon system is very solid, but the ergonomics and the adaptability of the system required an update,” Customer Programs Manager for Soldier Systems Matthew Duquemin claimed.
Thales has incorporated a number of changes to the weapon system, including a case deflector to enable off-shoulder shooting without the discharge of bullet casings towards the body. “It’s not in the production models at the moment; it’s currently under closing design stages, and in all likelihood will be a retrofit for the current programme.”
Other changes to the system include a bolt-release catch – which means the rifle no longer has to be re-cocked, enabling quicker magazine changes – and a folding cocking handle. “One of the previous problems with the original Steyr design was the cocking handle was fixed, and that sort of location, if it was treated roughly, had a bit of a tendency to snap off,” Duquemin explained. “The folding cocking handle removes that requirement.”
In addition, both the 16in and 20in barrels will fire 18,000 rounds with no accuracy degradation, meeting the Commonwealth standard. “A significant amount of engineering work was put into refining the design on tolerance and manufacturing methods to really improve the durability and the accuracy of the weapon over time as well.”
The Australian government has purchased 27,000 F90 508 variants, which is to be the standard issue weapon for the Australian army. “We’re about 20% through that delivery, and they’ve just been rolled out to Townsville for the entirety of 3 Brigade there,” Duquemin said.
The 407 Carbine variant, on the other hand, is to be kept primarily for armoured and aviation crews, who will benefit from the more compact design due to their unique operating environments.
Thales can be visited at stand #1J15 at the Land Forces 2016 exhibition.