The Australian Department of Defence has received second pass approval from the Federal Government for the LAND 125 Phase 3C - Soldier Enhancement Version 2-Lethality project.
Valued at approximately $467m, the project provides a new Austeyr F88 rifle, which is the enhanced F88, and advanced ancillary devices to help improve effectiveness for soldiers involved in close combat.
Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the approval augments ADF's close combat and general combat capability by modernising the ergonomics and balance of the rifle, and also increases the mounting options for ancillary devices, such as optic sights, laser aiming devices, and grenade launcher attachments.
Andrews said: "This enables personnel to more effectively identify and engage targets with improved precision and discrimination, and enables ADF personnel to operate more safely and effectively on the battlefield."
Thales Australia recently won a $100m contract to design and supply enhanced F88 Austeyr rifles to the soldiers.
The new rifle will be manufactured and receive heavy grade repair at a facility in Lithgow New South Wales, which currently employs 140 personnel.
According to Andrews, the signing of the contract will result in ten direct manufacturing positions being created.
Used by ADF since 1988, the F88 rifle had undergone refurbishments that have gradually enhanced its capability over the last decade.
A modified version of the Steyr AUG A1, the F88 Austeyr features a bayonet lug, a 1:7 in rifling pitch seen in the M16A2 rifle, and an automatic lockout selector that can physically disable the fully automatic position of the two-stage trigger mechanism found on the standard AUG.
The Steyr AUG rifle and its variants have also been inducted by the armed forces of Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Pakistan, as well as the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Image: An Australian infantryman with the F88S Austeyr rifle in Afghanistan. Photo: courtesy of ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs Office from Kabul, Afghanistan.