IDEX 2017: Thales New F90 Export, Distribution of F90s Through Caracal

The Firearm Blog would like to extend its thanks to reader and contributor Giorgio, who lent his journalistic services to us at this years IDEX conference in Abu Dhabi in February. Thanks, Giorgio!

At the 2017 International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), Caracal presented several new weapons which they are currently or will soon be license-producing or distribution. The first of these is the export variant of the Thales F90, which is evidently going to be distributed via Caracal into the region:

The Thales F90 Export, compared with the original F90 (bottom). Image credit: the Strategie-Technik blog, used with permission.

 

Thales new F90 export rifle differs considerably from the previously displayed F90s and EF88s that we have seen. The front end appears to be basically identical to the previous rifles, but the rear end is completely different. The new F90 chassis is considerably smaller than the previous version, and comes with the addition of a new magazine release location in front of the trigger guard, somewhat like the familiar AR-15. A lower and more ergonomically placed ambidextrous bolt catch should – in conjunction with the new magazine release – allow for more rapid reloads. Just behind that is a new set of QD sling mounting points, one on each side. The construction lower itself has been changed too; gone is the vibration welding of all previous AUG variants, and in its place the two stock halves are screwed together, similar to how the P90 and F2000 are put together. This likely reduces cost, as vibration welding can be imprecise and lead to a higher rejection rate than the uglier but functional bolt together method. Finally, the F90 export variant uses the near-ubiquitous AR-15 pattern of magazine, instead of the translucent polymer AUG pattern.

EDIT: Sources tell me these are in fact early prototypes of the F90 NATO variant, and production versions will have vibration-welded halves like the AUS F90 and AUG. Also, the forward magazine release does not interfere with the grenade launcher mounting.

Photos of the new Thales F90 export at the Thales booth, courtesy of SITTA (Le Service des Informations Tactiques et Techniques des Armements), used with permission:

In the next post, we’ll get into two other firearms that will be distributed through Caracal, including one notable handgun that is being license-produced right in the UAE.

About IDEX: The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) is the largest defence and firearms exhibition in the Middle East. It has been held bi-annually since 1993, and boasted an attendance over 100,000 in 2017 (for comparison, the 2017 SHOT Show had an attendance of about 65,000). IDEX is a general defense show rather than firearms-specific, but due to its huge size and regional importance it is often the scene for many small arms-related announcements.



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 nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Nigel Tegg

    I wonder if the ADF will get the new and improved version, or you know the usual story… the old EF88…

    • James in Australia

      I thought it was the ADF driving the update?

      • Nigel Tegg

        Wouldn’t be surprised, I dare say from what I see here that seems to be the case, guys have been screaming to have the bottom part of the butt removed because it was unnecessary and got in the way of plates. Same with the magazine catch and bolt release but that’s probably industry driven.

        However units are only just getting the new EF88 now, so I doubt they would hand those back in already with the packing grease still on it and get this new one. Possibly the units that don’t have the EF88 might get these when it becomes their turn to be updated but who knows, I’m not holding my breath.

        • Dave

          It’ll be the usual issued once deployed scheme probably. It has been with the EF88, where once a unit goes through final deployment readiness training, they get new gear to keep through and after their deployment while their old stuff gets cycled back.

  • FormFactor

    I would highly prefer a short circular MLOCK handquard, with smooth transition angle into the gripquard….. Would be much nicer than this strage front.

  • I wonder if Thales has delayed the import of the original F90 / ATRAX into the US in order to offer this model instead?

    While I personally really like AUG mags, it’s undeniable that the use of AR mags, plus the improved controls, would make this a much better seller both in the US and abroad.

    My other question is whether the slightly redesigned cutlass handguard and forward magazine release will still allow for the mounting of the integral 40mm grenade launcher that the original F90 was designed around?

    • Mmmtacos

      I have to agree with you on the AUG mags: I like them, and factory ones aren’t even that expensive. Nevermind that now Magpul makes AUG mags as well.

      Of course there’s a benefit to using STANAG magazines. There has been the “NATO” stock for the AUG that allows you to use them but IIRC they lacked ambi capabilities like the stock AUG does and there’s no bolt release (the bolt does lock open, but you have to use the CH to release it).

    • John

      Doesn’t look like it. It’s probably why they put the magazine release in that spot in the first place, so they wouldn’t have to offer a grenade launcher (and run into extra U.S. regulations.)

    • ReadyOrNot

      I have echoed the same sentiment about the mags as well! Had IWI introduced the Tavor with propriety mags, it may not have sold as well as it had in the US. I hope up see the STANAG version with all the features hit the market soon.

  • Joby

    I hope the prices on these arent too crazy. There really needs to be a sub $1k bullpup that isn’t an AK/SKS stock kit

    • Major Tom

      Agreed.

    • UWOTM8

      This isn’t going to be sub $1k, probably not even close. Though I’ve heard it may be a little under the Tavor, about 1500-1600

      • JumpIf NotZero

        “The AR15 would be $2000 if it came out today”

        How does no one seem to understand this. There is no possible way that COST is sub 1k on these after import.

    • Flounder

      I would love to see that but I seriously doubt anyone would ever bring that to the market. Heck, with the price of AK’s now a days you can just barely convert one for under 1000.

      I would be stunned if it was sub 2k. I would also be super happy.

    • Cal S.

      Classic firearms just had a deal on the Kel Tec RDB for $999. They’re​ sold out, but it won’t be long before they’re like that in more places.

      Just remember, the KSG had an introduction MSRP of like $1,200. Now, it can be found for $699-799.

  • Joe

    Looks good, but deleting the QCB was a terrible decision. Great gun if you’re tall, given the LOP.

    • Twilight sparkle

      If you’re in a bad enough firefight where you need to change the barrel on a standard issue style rifle do you really think you’re actually going to have enough time to change that barrel? I mean I know Steyr tried to do an hbar variant to fill the role of a saw but magazine fed squad automatic weapons don’t tend to be very well favored because of their lack of suppression ability.

      • Saint ‘N Sinner

        That’s why most of these are piston cranked. Much easier on bbl life and if done correct (Like POF & LWRC) there’s not heat or powder residue build up. Most piston barrels are good for over 20,000 rounds. Even on a bad day in my AO I never fired that many rounds from one rifle.

    • roguetechie

      If for no other reason than the really amazing original AUG foregrip went away too because of it, I agree with you completely!

      Also, who in God’s name thought that the hunchback look was a good idea!?

      I’d like to congratulate Thales on turning the original aesthetically pleasing AUG rifle into a hunchbacked cheese grating monstrosity!

      When it comes to firearms design I’m very much a proponent of function over form, but I honestly do not believe that anything they have done to the original design could only be done by completely destroying the original sleek and functional design!

    • Marlon

      Best idea ever. To render the firearm safe in ADF service the barrel was removed and inspected. Those mating surfaces wear over time and there’s some very, very questionable zeros when pulling them out of the armoury.

      It’s not used in the field and most of the time the cav guys get the C and that’s what their armoury is full of anyway.

  • Denny

    There is no easy way around B-pup. The LoP is just awful.
    Other than that, I am not sure if anyone can do better AUG.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I don’t think you need to abbreviate bullpup.

      • roguetechie

        As if that’s the least of this comment’s sins…

      • DW

        It is apt: short front, long rear.
        … Yeah, I declare sarcasm

    • roguetechie

      Well… MSAR did it better, and they were kinda hit and miss…

      Then there’s Corvus defense, who have proven that an updated AUG does not have to equally beaten with the ugly stick until a Viking berserker is completely spent and ready for a sandwich and a nap!

  • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

    Fun fact: This gun will be in the next Aliens movie.

    • Jake Jerome

      No gun will ever surpass the coolness of the M41A Pulse Rifle!

      • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

        Damn right!

    • As far as an off the shelf rifle, it’s a pretty good choice to represent a forerunner to the M41A (as this movie is a Prequel.)

      While it’s not in 10×24 caseless, the F90 does feature an integral grenade launcher, and the transparent magazines serve as a round counter – although mag capacity tops out at 42, and not the 99 of the M41A.

    • Y-man

      Will it shoot Plasma pulses or Heat Rays?

  • LGonDISQUS
    • supergun

      LOL. Better looking than a Kel Tec.

  • Jim N Jenna SK

    What’s with the butt stock? I like the change from th previous f90

  • Sense Offender

    I would take AUG mags over AR to not give up a last round bolt hold open and they have not stated if these new prototypes have this feature.

  • Colonel K

    Looks butt-heavy.

  • Richard Lutz

    Bullpups suck! Non-adjustable stock, a muzzle uncomfortably close to your ears, and an inabilitity to readily swap it to your weak shoulder for shooting around corners (aside from the ludicrously complex FS2000), which helps explain why the NZ military replaced their F88 rifles with an LMT made AR variant. The fat lady has sung!