The Australian Government has announced that the Australian Defense Force will receive a further 8,500 EF88 rifles. This comes on top of the 30,000 already ordered and procured from the Thales owned Lithgow Arms. The move comes as Australia announced a major realignment of their defense policy, we covered this in more detail over at Overt Defense.
The effort to develop an ‘Enhanced’ F88 began in the early 2010s with the first rifles displayed in 2012. In 2015 we learned that Australia was seeking to deploy 30,000 of the new rifles and by June 2015 the first EF88s were undergoing field trials with 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. In 2017 the Australian Defense Force unveiled its tiered issue scheme explaining which troops would be equipped with the improved rifles first and what attachments and accessories would be issued depending on mounted/dismounted and squad roles.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, said:
The rifles will be manufactured at the Thales Australia site in Lithgow, New South Wales which employs around 130 Australians. This acquisition is just another example of the nationwide benefits of the Morrison Government’s unprecedented investment in defence capability, particularly in rural and regional Australia. It also demonstrates our ongoing commitment to building a strong and sustainable defence industry.
The rifles are to be delivered under the lethality element of the Australian Army’s Soldier Modernisation Program. While no contract value has been disclosed the original order for 30,000 rifles came in at AUD100 million or $70 million.
The procurement of a new batch of EF88s will allow increased issue of the EF88 across the full and part-time force elements of the Australian Army – particularly Army’s 2nd Division
The impact of the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic continues to be felt even in the defense industry and Reynolds explained that “this Government is doing all we can to help the Australian economy recover from COVID-19. The purchase of these additional EF88 weapon systems will provide certainty to the workforce at Lithgow and support jobs in regional Australia.”
The EF88 completed its first operational deployment back in 2018, with ADF elements deployed with Task Group Taji 5 in Iraq. The task force commander, Colonel Steve D’arcy, noted at the time that “the EF88 has proven itself as an extremely reliable, accurate and versatile weapon which has gained the praise of not only Australian personnel but also our New Zealand counterparts and coalition partners.”