The federal Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare, has officially marked 100 years of Australian small arms manufacturing during a ceremony at the Thales Australia facility in Lithgow, NSW.
The Minister took the time to meet Thales employees, and also received a detailed briefing on the company’s latest offering, the new F90 weapon.
Since 1912, .303, SLR and Austeyr rifles made at Lithgow have supported Australia’s soldiers on countless operations around the world – from Gallipoli, Fromelles and Pozières to North Africa, Borneo and Kokoda, and from Korea, Malaya and Vietnam to East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Lithgow facility employs around 140 people and is a significant national defence capability of strategic importance to Australia,” said Chris Jenkins, Thales Australia’s CEO.
“We welcome the Minister and the Department of Defence’s support for our work here over many years, and their recognition of the vital role Lithgow has played in Australia’s military history. We also recognise the thousands of soldiers who have carried these weapons into battle, and served their country so well in numerous conflicts.”
Originally conceived as a facility to make weapons designed elsewhere, over recent years Thales has invested in expanding Lithgow’s capabilities beyond manufacturing and in-service support of third-party weapons to add extensive design and testing expertise.
This has resulted in Thales developing an Enhanced F88 rifle for Australia’s LAND 125 program, as well as the launch earlier this year of the new F90. The lightweight, innovative and adaptable F90 range includes a rifle variant weighing just 3.25kg, with high levels of reliability and rapid target acquisition time. The bullpup design enables a longer barrel and associated higher muzzle velocity for greater stopping power within a compact overall length. The company is currently pursuing export opportunities for the F90 under its ‘Lithgow Arms’ brand.