Thales signed two MoUs with MKU for the production of F90 assault rifles, in 2018. Credit: Thales Group.
Designated as Enhanced F88 (EF88), the F90 rifle is in service with the Australian Army. Credit: US Army / Spc Audrey Ward.

F90 is a lightweight assault rifle manufactured by Thales Australia to provide soldiers with increased firepower in the battlefield.

The rifle was introduced at the Eurosatory International Land and Air-Land Defence and Security Exhibition in Paris, France, in June 2012.

The Australian Department of Defence awarded an A$100m ($73.6m) contract to Thales Australia for the manufacture and delivery of 30,000 Thales F90 assault rifles, in August 2015. The company delivered 2,500 SL40 grenade launchers, spare parts and a number of ancillaries as part of the agreement.

The rifles, designated as Enhanced F88 (EF88), were employed by the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment of the Australian Army based in Townsville, Queensland, by the end of 2015.

Thales signed two memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreements with MKU for the production of optronics and F90 close quarter battle (CQB) rifles in 2018.

Thales and Kalyani Group entered an agreement for the design, development and production of the F90 assault rifles, in August 2019.

Details of F90 assault rifle

The new-generation F90 gun is an evolution of the Austeyr F88 assault rifle, which is operational in more than 30 countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

F88 was originally designed by Austrian firearms manufacturer Steyr Mannlicher. It was manufactured and upgraded by Thales Australia under licence from Steyr Mannlicher at Lithgow Small Arms Factory in New South Wales.

Thales Australia issued a request for tender seeking suitable surveillance and target acquisition ancillaries for the rifle in early 2014.

Steyr Mannlicher was selected by Thales Australia to supply a 1.25kg SL40 grenade launcher for integration on the ADF’s EF88 in January 2014. The rifle achieved provisional design acceptance in the same year.

The EF88 rifles, ordered by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as part of the Project Land 125 Phase 3C programme, entered low-rate initial production at the Lithgow arms facility in September 2014. They were delivered in two configurations, F90 and F90M.

F90 rifle variants

The rifle has five variants namely F90, F90(G) (grenade launcher variant), F90M (Marksman variant with a longer barrel), F90M(G) and F90CQB (close quarters battle-a carbine).

Design and features of F90 assault rifle

Thales F90’s bullpup design and open architecture allow it to be configured for a wide range of mission profiles. The rifle has an overall length of 700mm and a weight of 3.25kg. It is equipped with a 407mm-long fixed and lighter barrel. The barrel lengths of 3.39kg F90M and 3.15kg F90CQB variants are 508mm and 360mm respectively.

The assault rifle provides troops with superior lethality, high-accuracy and reliability during close quarters combat, as well as longer range shooting. The rifle is also capable of operating under challenging environments.

It is provided with cold hammer forged chrome lined barrels in all configurations for improved barrel life and precision.

Accessories and sights of F90 gun

The assault rifle incorporates a range of improvements, including a folding cocking handle, modified hammer to improve reliability, extended ejection port and improved port covers, upgraded gas plug adjustment, bolt release catch and a modified trigger guard grip access.

It also has an extended Nato standard top rail, Nato standard accessory rail for laser aimers, improved cheek weld, and improved access to grenade launcher assembly.

The weapon also features Nato standard tri-rail system for grips, bipods and visual illumination devices. The butt plate is made from a different polymer and ribbed materials for a positive grip.

The 4.1kg F90(G) and the 4.34kg F90M(G) variants can be attached with an integrated, double-action, side opening 40mm x 46mm-calibre grenade launcher.

An enhanced grenade launcher quadrant sight delivers rapid target acquisition and fast reaction times. It is compatible with night-vision goggles and can support operations during low-light / night conditions.

F90 ammunition

The enhanced rifle can load up to 5.56m calibre of ammunition. It is compatible with all Nato standard ammunition types and successfully underwent testing with F1, F1A1, M855, SS109, M856, and F3A1 cartridges.