Thales Introduces Police Semiautomatic F90

News from IWA 2016, Lithgow Arms, the small arms division of Australian defense conglomerate Thales, and former government arsenal, has announced that they will be offering a semiautomatic version of their F90 military rifle for the law enforcement/police market, as a patrol rifle. The F90 was developed by Thales to replace the AUG F88 Austeyr bullpup rifle, upon which it is based.


Lithgow Arms F90-LE, image source

There’s no mention yet of the F90-LE, as the semiauto-only variant is called, being available for civilian markets, nor of the possibility of the rifle being imported to the United States. However, I think anything is possible, if the demand is high enough.

The F90 is improved versus the Steyr AUG in that it has a lightened, fluted free-floated non-removable barrel, full-length top Picatinny rail, and a redesigned plastic housing with improved cheek weld and provisions for an attachable 40mm grenade launcher, also designed by Thales.

The F90 will replace the aging F88 version of the Austrian Steyr bullpup rifle, which was adopted in 1988 by both the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces and which was also produced by Thales. Unlike the Australians, the New Zealand Defence Force are replacing their Steyr rifles with Lewis Machine & Tool’s new MARS-L rifle, based on the venerable AR-15.


Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • DW

    Bullpup isn’t dead. Wake up Nathan! /joke

  • Goody

    Thales is French.

    Also Y U NO run an article on the Lithgow crossovers? The center fire seems to be a boring Tikka clone (but with 3 lug layout) but the 22lr fields an action with some excellent target features, huge locking surface, hammer forged & cerakoted barrel, 3 lug and an interesting stock.

    • dave

      despite what uv heard there actually quite bad, currently they have tons of problems with QC and it seems their action just isn’t capable of functioning properly theirs a reason why there always being bailed out by the government.

      • Tassiebush

        I’ve heard they’re a good rifle but let down by a bad trigger.

        • dave

          also common is ejecting, feeding and some times shooting properly

      • Goody

        Yeah I’ve heard some guys have had issues mainly with fte and bad mags. Mine has the old mag and it works well enough for a general purpose rifle. Sort of expected for a mil contractor in a country that hates guns. The good ones though will give Anschutz 64s a run for their money.

        A few other manufacturers have started up now though, to follow the precedent. Which spells great news, for the future of shooting is always in question here.

    • toms

      Thales has only been French for 2 years. It was an aussie company for years.

      • FourString

        What the hell are you talking about. Thales has been ingrained in the French military and civilian infrastructure for several decades.

      • David Underhill

        Lithgow small arms has been fully owned by the french parent since 2008. It was 50& owned by them for several years before that.

    • Whoopsie, you’re right, I should have written “Thales Australia”.

      • FourString

        Lol I work for Thales. So when I had read the byline I admittedly was like, dafuq

      • FourString

        Since I ‘do things’ w/ them, i was scratching my head for the longest time after reading that..

  • Non-removable barrel? The quick change barrel system was one of the highlights in the AUG design.

    • micmac80

      But also something 99.99+% of users never need

      • Anomanom

        I use that function any time i clean it. Makes cleaning the barrel super easy.

      • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

        Still, rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Seems convenient enough.

        • micmac80

          If you are a buying guns for military or LE and fixed barrel saves cost and weight .,you can bet they skip the barrel change in a heartbeat.

      • But for full auto use highly recommended.

    • Vitor Roma

      It has a quickly removable upper AR style, not as cool as the quick change barrel but good enough.

    • DW

      It was removed because 1. they don’t use it 2. saves weight and money
      It’s still detachable, just not QD like a LMG.

    • jono102

      Its never served a purpose apart from it happening to be a currently desirable (civilian market driven) “IT” feature for and made things like maintenance a little easier.
      Of the countries who have/had long barrel LMG/Marksman varients I haven’t observed any with a second barrel to make a QCB system of any use for sustained automatic fire. A big issue for the LSW varient is the fact the bipod is in the barrel, so it would be a c*nt carrying out barrel changes to begin with. I’m pretty sure most soldiers would laugh at the thought of carrying spare barrels for rifle.
      In my service carrying a steyr, that feature has been an aid but never been a war winner.

    • wshottorp

      I believe constantly removing of the barrel eventually wore out the receiver and caused accuracy problems. Also, putting in a new upper receiver in an AUG is easily done so the Australian Army wasn’t fighting to keep QC barrel feature.

  • Pete Sheppard

    I cringe every time I see those huge ‘trigger guards’. They seem to be an open invitation for *something* to get inside and press the trigger. HOWEVER, since they are still used, I suppose there isn’t much of a problem. I still don’t like it, though.

    • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

      At least an AUG has a double-stage trigger. It’s stuff like the Tavor (Which, as far as I know, doesn’t have one. I’m not sure) that really makes me feel uneasy.

      • Evan

        My understanding of the military AUG trigger is that if you press it to one level, it fires semiauto, then if you press it down further, it fires full auto. No selector switch like on an AR, instead semi/full auto is controlled by how much pressure is applied to the trigger. I don’t even know what you’d call that.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Correct, firing a full auto AUG is… Weird.

        • Jake Barnes

          There is a safe-semi-full selection though. So on semi, you can’t push the trigger back far enough to shoot full auto.

          Source: NZDF solider.

          • Nseagoon

            That is true for the NZDF version but the aussie one works different.
            Safety is two position and the full auto block is elsewhere.

            Their one is like the NZDF one on full auto.

          • Ionosphere

            What’s the point then?

          • FourString

            Refer to the P90

          • FourString

            That sounds kind of like a P90. On that subgun, doesn’t FN bill it almost as a feature, having a semi capability/accuracy on full auto switch haha

        • BillyBoR

          On the Aussie AUGs there’s trigger lockout similar to what you find on power tools. Soldiers were finding it hard to do fast semi-auto shots with the two-stage trigger.

    • Evan

      It’s a by-product of Austria’s terrain (alpine terrain). It was a solution for the older style “winter triggers” seen on guns like the SIG 510. They’d also originally hoped for it to be exported to the Scandinavian countries, and elsewhere, but that didn’t really happen. It also has a cross bolt safety, that gray block behind the trigger in the pics.

    • Kivaari

      I agree. The other variant of the Tavor has a conventional grip and trigger guard. I wouldn’t buy one without conventional features.

  • kregano

    Doesn’t look as nice as the AUG A3, but hey, if they import it into the US, I wouldn’t mind one of those coming my way.

    • abecido

      I would buy one of these in a minute if it came on the US market at around Tavor pricing. I doubt it will ever happen. It would require a dedication to the civilian market, the will to navigate the hostile and absurd import regulations, and a tolerance for risk. Why even think about making the effort when an election catastrophe might erase the market?

      • FarmerB

        I could just see the Aussie govt having a “quiet chat” in Thales ear about NOT selling this thing to civvies. Still, some will leak out. Hopefully 🙂

        • FarmerB

          Actually, we’ve been in touch, and it looks like they are working on a civvie version – although 12 months or so out.

  • Jimmy Hung

    Does anyone know what optic is in the first picture?

  • Wetcoaster

    Wouldn’t import into the US run afoul of the non-sporting restriction unless it was made in-country, much like IWI was free to export Tavors to Canada but had to build them in the US?

    • ChierDuChien

      Yep. And Hillary can hardly allow an Australian Assault Rifle to be imported into the USA since she favors Australian-Style Gun Control – that would make her a hypocrite.

  • John

    The woman is cute, the gun is obviously coming to the U.S., and that’s all I wanted to say.

  • would love to see one of these in the us

  • webrebateu4u

    The BETA2 is a better gun but I heard the porn industry plans on using the VHS2 for on screen props.

  • Look at how long the LOP is! Look at it!

    • micmac80

      No data on the LOP but buttstock is adjustable in lenght some 5cm/2in

      • Yes, it’s adjustable from something like 14″ to 16″.

        Just because something “has” an adjustable stock doesn’t mean that stock is adjustable through useful lengths of pull. I could modify an AUG to have an adjustable stock, too, and it would look a lot like the VHS-2: It would be useless, because the first position would still be incredibly long.

      • OK, I’m doing this since the VHS-2 has been brought up about 500 times since I published my bullpup article. Here is why it’s not the savior of the bullpup concept:

        That is the VHS-2 to scale with an M16A2. The VHS-2 has the stock collapsed, yet the pistol grip is still 2-3 inches forward of the pistol grip on the M16A2. That means the VHS-2 has a collapsed LOP of about 16″, and an extended LOP of about an unholy 18″.

        The Croatians must be giant monsterpeople, because that’s the only explanation for this bizarre rifle and its bizarre stock design.

        • Joe

          The fatal flaw of most bullpups is the LOP. Can you compare the LOP of those available in the US?

    • DW

      then grow up!
      …that was a pun

  • FourString

    On the whole, isn’t Thales French rather than Australian…?

  • Anty

    An AR-15 and AUG are simple and elegant designs that have been refined over the years. The VHS2 looks a mess, it looks like BatmanVSuperman.

  • Richard Lutz

    Could be very successful in the US marketplace, but would only be available to a few Aussie civilians with a Class D licence like some professional shooters unless they liberalize their gun laws (if so there would likely be a magazine capacity restriction).

  • Mark Farris

    Man but I really really want one-