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:
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.