Australia’s next-gen rifle, the  EF-88

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After a few failed attempts, the Australian Army has finally decided on their next-gen rifle. They will be upgrading their Austeyr F88 (Australia’s Steyr AUG variant) to make is more modular, ambidextrous, lighter and easier to accessorize. New ammunition (presumably a modern 5.56mm load), an underbarrel 40mm grenade launcher and electronic control system will be developed alongside the rifle. The upgrade will be done by Thales Australia.

The full list of upgrades are

  1. Longer top rail, introduction of side and bottom rails – significantly increases the number of weapon ancillaries that can be attached.
  2. Designed for Interoperable Ammunition – designed for optimal performance with new interoperable F1A1 5.56mm ammunition.
  3. Length of Pull has been shortened by 15mm – improves the ability of the operator to handle the weapon while wearing body armor.
  4. Modular Lower Fore End – enables operator to change ancillaries and roles in the field.
  5. Floating Barrel – removal of attachment point from barrel increases the accuracy and reliability of the weapon.
  6. Fluted Barrel – reduction in barrel weight and increase in performance.
  7. Folding Cocking Handle – improvement in ergonomics and correction of vulnerability in current design.
  8. Improved Butt design – increased strength to improve safety, ejection port cover recessed to improved operator interface and reliability.
  9. Provision for Electronic Architecture – to allow centralized control and power management of ancillary devices.
  10. Bolt-together Butt – to allow access to fit, maintain and repair the Electronic Architecture components.
  11. Improved Butt Plate – Improves operator interface and correction of vulnerability in current design.
  12. Improved Grenade Launcher Mount – improves the balance of the weapon, reducing operator fatigue and increasing accuracy.
  13. Side-opening Grenade Launcher – can fire all currently available 40mm low velocity grenades (current M203 Launcher is limited).
  14. Improved Grenade Launcher safety – reduces possibility of unauthorized discharge and danger to operator in the event of misfire.

The RIC (Rifle Input Control) is Thales new electronic control system. The RIC has five buttons. The operator punches in “chords” (combinations) to control devices, not unlike punching button combinations on a Playstation or Xbox.

It looks like Australia will have a great rifle once this project is completed.

[ Many thanks to Rohan & Brandon for emailing us the infomation. ]



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • A couple of observations:

    The Grenade Launcher appears to be a modified GL-1 / FN40GL / SCAR Mk13 type

    The L1A1 ammo is SS109 (M855) with single base propellant. It is made by ADI (Australian Defence Industries), formerly the Government Ammunition Factory.

    • mrref

      ADI = Thales Australia.

      The French bought ADI a few years ago.

      • noob

        True facts. however the Aussie govt retains the right to renationalise under certain conditions. I think that’s the deal with all foreign owned Defense contractors in au.

  • iMick

    Glad we stuck with the bullbup. If you have to run 5.56 gotta have 20″ of barrel, especially when we are out of iraq and generally back in more open soldering environs in Afghanistan.

    • MJN

      Hey iMick we have been out of Iraq for 12 months for about 6 MPs and over 4 years for infantry.

  • Brian P.

    I think I see a finger on the trigger. :/

    • Sven Weichbrodt

      If you ever met our Minister of Defence, Steve Smith, your finger would be on the trigger as well. He has a style of speech that can only be described as post-monotone. I’m not sure if the gentleman holding the rifle is threatening him or contemplating self harm.

      Either way I am very glad to read that the ADF is finally receiving a significant upgrade to a weapon system that has gone beyond being described as “long in the tooth”.

      Informal and unconfirmed comments coming from ADF troops in Afghanistan is that the current Steyr is little more than a joke so I hope EF88 is rolled out quickly and not stalled by the usual bureaucratic rigmarole systemic in Canberra.

    • bima86

      I zoomed in on the photo, his index finger isn’t on the trigger.

    • Cameron

      I’m going to /assume/ the rifle is completely unloaded at that time, and that, if his finger is on the trigger, it’s to demonstrate some kind of function: ergonomics, trigger pull, etc.

    • I think it’s the wood paneling. If you look at the zoom-in, note that what would have been his finger has no finger nail on it.

    • gusto

      No finger on trigger.I know that bloke and served under him in Infantry.

      A clear view

      http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?187069-Australian-Defence-Force-Thread/page71

  • More rails, Hurray…

  • S O

    Why not 40 mm MV?

    • Recoil is much heavier, which can cause problems with UGLs (as opposed to heavyweight revolver GLs).

      • S O

        The line of recoil still goes through the buttplate, the weight of the rifle incl. magazine needs to be added to the UBGL weight for consideration of felt recoil (MGL weight isn’t that much higher), buttplate improvements of the last 30 years (recoil buffering pad) help a bit, sights can be programmed or exchanged … what’s the problem?

      • The 40mm Medium Velocity situation is rather complicated. There is no standard specification, different manufacturers have adopted their own solutions with grenade weights and muzzle velocities which vary quite a lot. They can broadly be divided into two groups:

        – Extended Range rounds (from Arcus and STK) which are designed for use in existing UGLs. They use standard LV grenades (165-180g) with a modest velocity increase, and the maximum ballistic range only goes up to 600 metres.

        – Medium Velocity rounds (Chemring, RDM, RWM) which fire heavier grenades of 200-240g, increasing the maximum range to 700-800 metres. These have a lot more recoil, making them not only uncomfortable to shoot but also potentially damaging to the UGL/rifle connection. These are best used in heavy, multi-shot grenade launchers (in fact some are being designed so they can’t be fired in a standard LV launcher). RWM are developing GLs (both self-loading and UGL) with very efficient recoil-absorbing mechanisms for use with their rounds.

  • mrref

    No great surprise for continuing with the Steyr AUG platform. Australia has the tooling and licenses for local production.

    • noob

      Interesting though, the trigger guard (if it can be called that, it’s so huge!) curve has been altered to accomodate the trigger of the gl so that means brand new stock moulds. Those cost a lot.

      also the stock is bolt together for maint of the electronics – that means no need for the vibration welding tooling that used to join the halves. Wonder what we’re going to do with all those vibration welding stations?

      • Paul

        It’s shorter & a different shape in several other places too, so they’d need new moulds for the casing anyway.

  • Sian

    Interesting. I thought the Aussies were going with the metal storm 3-shot UGL system. I guess that just put too much weight on the rifle?

  • Doesitmatter?

    I am surprised hearing critical voice on performance of AuSteyer. I believe in time of its introduction as ArmeeGewehr77 it was (and I believe still is) by far the best bullpup rifle in existence. SA80 does not come even close and Famas is quite far from being famous.

  • Alex-mac

    Also Thales and Steyr are teaming up. So the EF88 will be pushed in Europe, no doubt as the replacement for the FAMAS. It will also eventually make it’s way to civilians.

    • StickShift

      So this is the future of the AUG. It would be nice if some of these improvements made it onto the civilian models.

      • Lance

        Many improvements coming to the US M-4 will be from civilian improvements. Many improvements to current designs have come from commercial rather than military projects.

      • Alex-mac

        I think of this as the future Steyr Aug A4, so although it began as an Australian military rifle modernization program, the company has teamed up with Steyr and we should see all these developments be rebranded under the Steyr Aug name, eventually making their way into civilian hands.
        http://www.thalesgroup.com/Press_Releases/Countries/Australia/2012/20120125_-_Thales_and_Steyr_Mannlicher_sign_cooperation_agreement/

        I can’t help think this team up is also a push for military contracts. Obviously France with it’s FAMAS since Thales is french owned, but also others like Argentina (FN FAL replacement) and Malaysia (switched to M4 from the Aug six years ago).

      • Gerald

        The future of the AUG?

        I looked carefully through the list of planned improvements, and aside from the following, I did not see a single one that has not already become a feature on the AUG A3:

        3) Decreased length of pull by 15mm. That is about 1/2 of an inch shorter. Not a magnificient or dramatic change. Having looked inside of the AUG A3, I can tell you that there is plenty of room to shorten it further behind the trigger pack, but I don’t see this as a game changer, rather a matter of preference.

        5) The floating barrel is not a true free-floating barrel, the AUG design requires that gas be tapped on the right hand side of the barrel. No matter what, there will always be a gas port mid-way down the length of the barrel, on almost any semi-auto rifle. The only thing removed was the sling attachment, which never should have been mounted to the barrel in the first place.

        6) Fluted barrel is one of the few improvements absent on the AUG A3, but this is only a weight-saving measure, and does not improve accuracy or reliability.

        8,10,11) “correction of vulnerability in current design” Seems like the Austeyr was having problems with it’s buttplate that were fixed, but I don’t see this as an improvement over the original Steyr, rather as fixing something that was wrong with the F88.

        9)Provision for Electronic Architecture – This seems like the only real improvement over the original AUG. Whether or not having a centralized electronics system is a good idea or not is something that only time will tell. Generally this requires purpose-designed proprietary components that tends to limit the options availible, but at the same time, there is no denying the convenience.

        Overall though, it looks like an awesome weapon, with a lot of points going for it. I am a fan of AUG-pattern rifles, and I am glad that Australia decided to update their design, rather than ditch the aging F88 for something newer. I think they made the right choice, but I see this more as Australia bringing the F88 up to the same standards as the AUG A3, not an improvement of the design. I’m glad they are giving the weapon a massive overhaul, and hope to see these fielded sometime in the near furute.

        It would be nice to see the M4-pattern rifles given electronics and grenade-launcher upgrades for the new millenium as well, but I’m not holding my breath.

      • Alex-mac

        @Gerald
        In regards to the advances over the Steyr Aug A3 it’s 3 things. Weight savings, superior UGL integration and electronic control system.
        – Is half a pound lighter than it’s predecessor.
        – The UGL integration is probably the best in the world right now and is 2 pounds lighter than it’s UGL equipped predecessor.
        – The kord electronic control system will allow the operation of the torch located inside the handguard, as well as any other devices.
        The A3 is heavier than it’s predecessor, it’s UGL integration is comparatively poor and it has no electronic control system. All these points may not be a big deal for your average civilian, but they are a big deal for militaries. Hopefully we’ll see more civilian relevant upgrades in the future.

  • jagersmith

    Still no STANAG/AR magazine capability?

    • Chev

      Why would an Australian rifle need STANAG cross compatability? STANAG is not the be all and end all of magazine designs.

    • TwoZero

      If anything, the STANAG(M16 30 rounder) would be a step back in design.

      The m16 magwell was not designed for a 30 rounder in mind – that is why you see the kink midway through instead of the more reliable true curve of the aug/g36 type magazines.

      Political expiediency, or pipe dreams of mixed forces compatibility are the only reasons why any one would choose a deliberatly inferior mag design for thier supposedly upgraded service rifle.

    • Marc

      USGI magazines were never adopted for NATO standardization (no STANAG, despite the common misconception). And frankly, there’s better.

    • W

      AUG magazines have always been known for superior reliability than AR15 type magazines. It shouldnt be a surprise to anyone why Germany’s G36 also has a proprietary magazine.

      and on the note of the AR15 magazine curvature, yes, they were never originally designed for 30 rounders; only being essentially lengthened 20 rounders that are “good enough”. Newer magazines such as lancer and Pmag are more consistent in their curvature, this aids reliability.

    • gusto

      Yes this issue has been brought up by a number of Aussie soldiers as it enables the sharing of ammo in a firefight if your on patrol with your mates from other armies…like in the Ghan.

    • Alex-mac

      In the case of emergency ammo resupply, the time saved in already loaded compatible magazines is worth it. But otherwise it’s not that big a deal. In anycase apparently there’s an attachment to load AR mags, so they can use that if they are pressed for time.

      The Steyr Aug mag is good enough compared to the G.I mag to warrant this small inconvenience. It MIGHT be worth it if the standard AR mag were PMAGS or a polymer mag of equivalent quality.

  • lex

    I love that UGL design, very elegant and looks very quick to switch.

  • Davey

    Let’s break this down a bit:
    1. Bullpups have a huge inherent downside – they put your face adjacent to the chamber. We all know that KABOOMs never happen, right?

    2. The upgrade will improve the ambidextrous qualities of the rifle, but the RIC system is not ambidextrous. Either a right-handed or a left-handed unit will be installed.

    3. The RIC is intended to be the human-machine interface (HMI) for a collection of electronic devices carried or worn by a soldier. Placing it near the front end of a rifle makes it easy to be manipulated by the support hand, BUT… it’s a darned risky place to such a device. It will be interesting to see how well the electronics package survives combat!

    • Burst

      Ehhhhhh… It’s a military weapon, and is thus going to be fed 100% factory ammo. It might be reasonable for civilian owners of BP systems to do the same.

      While the RIC is righty-only, it’s no more glaring an omission than… oh, a side opening grenade launcher, say.

    • AMX

      Re. point 1:
      Any AUG built in the last 30 years (A1 and newer) is safe for the shooter, even when firing with a bullet stuck in the barrel.
      (Some early-production AUGs blew up for that reason, so that requirement was added in the early 80ies)

    • Duray

      Kabooms happen. Firearm engineers know this. What that kaboom does depends on how the firearm is designed. Bolt action rifles put the chamber in front of the shooter, yet Paul Mauser lost an eye to a case rupture in one of his landmark designs, and altered the design to protect the shooter’s face from escaping gasses. I’m sure the designers if the AUG and every other bullpup are well aware of this and design their firearms accordingly, i.e. pressure follows the path of least resistance, so make that path down, or sideways, or forward, as the case may be. Perhaps you know of an example of a person killed or maimed by a malfunctioning bullpup?

      • jdun1911

        While I never seen a bullpup KB! before I have no doubt that if it happens it will take shooter face off. Putting you face above the chamber is a bad idea and bad design.

        If anyone have pictures of AUG KB! let us know.

      • STK’s SAR-21 bullpup features a Kevlar cheekpiece which provides effective protection, deflecting the fragments and gases away from the shooter. There was a photo on the web a few years ago showing one after a chamber explosion – the cheekpice was intact. I can’t recall now whether it was the result of deliberate test or was an accident.

        I am told by someone who’s fired one that the SAR-21 also has a built-in cartridge deflector which keeps the hot brass away from the face if it is fired left-handed.

      • Bandito762

        Seems to me it is just as dangerous as firing an ak with potentially hot rounds. You know, having a bolt carrier go through your face…

      • Joe Schmoe

        @ Tony –

        Indeed.

        Modern bullpups such as the SAR-21 and the Tavor have integrated Kevlar, etc, protection against overpressure explosions from hitting the user. They also have brass deflectors which allow the weapon to be fired in the off-hand with no problem.

      • jdun1911

        Show me the data package where it states Kevlar is used to help contain KB!. The reason AR contains KB! pretty well because of it’s harden milled aluminum receivers. With that said if you put your cheek over the chamber you will get injured and burns.

        Which is better suited to contain a KB!? Harden aluminum or Kevlar?

      • Joe Schmoe

        @ Jdun –

        A simple Google search contains all your answers:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAR_21
        “The rifle incorporates various patented safety features, such as a Kevlar cheek plate and overpressure vent that protects the shooter in the event of a chamber explosion or catastrophic failure.”

        http://www.stengg.com/upload/805FZ25kCHnhWIBPg9K.pdf
        http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/weapons/4273222

    • SpudGun

      Considering that at least three large Western military nations have been fielding bullpups with their armies for 20+ years and all of these armies have seen combat, I think we would have heard if there were any major KB failures blowing soldiers faces off regularly.

      But like Jdun, I’d like to know if any civilians have over pressured their bullpups and what happened – that is, if they’re still able to use the computer by not being dead and such.

    • TATim

      I’ve had one serious malfunction the whole time I’ve used the L85. My face is still intact, take that for what it is worth.

    • John Doe

      Designers know about kabooms and account for them. Keltec slapped on a lot of extra metal around the chamber of their RFB. I’m pretty sure they know what they’re doing.

  • Vitor

    Nice improvements, specially barrel wise.

    • noob

      i wonder if they recommend a nomex glove now the vfg is gone. how else to pull a hot barrel?

  • Alex-mac

    Another cool thing is that it’s half a pound lighter than the original Aug, and lighter than the SCAR L even though it has a longer barrel. (20 vs 18)

    The only thing that bothers me is they appear to have done nothing to make it easier to shoot on the off shoulder, like add a shell case deflector for example.

    • noob

      if you’re worried about leftie operation, there are a number of brass deflectors on the market, that install without tools and cost about $30

      http://manticorearms.com/Brass-Buster-brass-deflector-MA-200BK.htm

      the video of it in operation seems to show the concept works okay from the left shoulder

      • Alex-mac

        Looks uncomfortable and not very strongly attached. But I guess you could tie it to your rifle so you won’t lose it and it’s better than risking a malfunction. (via an ejected shell bouncing back into the ejection port)

  • Lance

    Logical step just like the US Army is making a new generation M-4 for future use. Good idea save money.

  • John Doe

    Yet the M4 is still stuck with ambidextrous capability. There are southpaws in the military. I’m still a tad scared of bullpups (the chamber is next to your face, I know it’s safe, but it scares me), but it scares me more to watch hot brass fly out right in front of my face. I’d love to see the M4 to experience a major overhaul in the A2 variant. A long-stroke gas piston would be nice too.

    • drewogatory

      Eh, I don’t know why it bothers you. It’s light years better than before the bump when the slick sides would eject the brass right down the front of your shirt. After a few hundred rounds I used to look like Willam Defoe after Madonna poured hot wax all over him. Learned to keep my collar buttoned tight pretty quickly.

      • John Doe

        I guess it’s an irrational fear then. It’s like watching pro chefs chop vegetables and thinking, “This guy is gonna chop his fingers off”, even though you know he won’t.

    • W

      it seems to me that a overwhelming majority (if not all) of all M16s and M4s have a brass deflector now. I like the AR15 platform because you can rapidly shift from primary to support side if necessary. From my experience with a AUG, this same transition is less than ideal.

      John Doe, the only company I know that makes a long stroke gas piston is Primary Weapons Systems, which make outstanding quality AR15s. Given modern technologies that were previously unavailable, long stroke gas piston is just as accurate as short stroke, or even, dare i say it, direct impingement in assault rifles. i too favor the long stroke piston, primarily because it reduces mechanical variables that would otherwise affect a short stroke counterpart.

    • Paul

      story about a new bullpup: comments about M4 :-p

  • Charles222

    Yes, all M4s have brass deflectors. I’m a southpaw as well and I’ve never been hit by brass. Brass winds up roughly right-front to me.

  • Alex-mac

    Some improvement suggestions –
    =Much longer forward grip attachment. This would increase the amount of fore grip hold locations, which increases shooting positions, which increases shooting comfort and thus long range accuracy. Also preferably angled like the magpul angled fore grip.
    =Grip checkering of some sort everywhere necessary for increased grip purchase.
    =Slightly smaller grip circumference for a better grip especially with gloves, the wearing of which is becoming the norm. These improvements will be felt with a fully loaded much heavier weapon. (loaded grenade launcher and magazine, torch, IR laser, more than one optic and especially with the multi shot/airburst grenade launcher additions planned for the future)
    =Trigger that’s less tall for the same above reasons
    = Slightly shorter barrel (19 inches) for better CQB handling with little impact on long range ballistics.
    = A better flash hider. (shorter/lighter/integrated muzzle brake feature)

  • Carlos U.

    Improvement step 1: Fix that horrible trigger. See M-17 (GREAT trigger).

    • Alex-mac

      Very true. In this case, an improved trigger will effect accuracy more than a fully floated barrel. The F88 is already a submoa weapon so it’s the trigger that’s to blame for troops not realizing it’s potential.

      Since they went to the trouble of free floating the barrel, I’d be surprised if they didn’t do something to the trigger.

      If negligent discharges with a lighter trigger pull are a concern, they should make the trigger less tall. That will aid the use of ones index finger as a makeshift trigger guard. (something already widely practiced)

  • Alex-mac

    People should keep in mind the above pictures are over 2 years old (01/22/10), so this is more of the first prototype and a bare minimium features list. I’ve heard they are working on a length of pull system via spacers or some other method. Manufacturing is expected to begin in 2013, so we’ll see the final design then.

  • Pat

    Will have to think about this model.
    http://www.rankopedia.com/CandidatePix/73360.gif

  • Mason

    The F88 has an annoying habit of double feeding. Guess you can’t really fix that?

  • Stacy Clarkson

    I have shot a Steyr AUG back in the 90s,it has a good feel…..We have 2 ars one in 5.56,and one in 243, a Stag model 8T 5.56 for a Christmas gift in 2013….

  • aussie soldier

    Never had trouble in my years in aussie army with live ammo double feeds or brass ejected in face being lefty it ejects forward of you and the double system trigger is great. Suggest you armchair know alls join up or shut up

  • Mick

    I hope they make some in 6.8 SPC cal. would be nice for wild pig hunting!