Thales Australia (Stand S6-110) has launched a new variant of its 5.56mm F90 rifle. The original F90 has been in service with the Australian Defence Force since late 2015, and the company has delivered around 15,000 of the 30,000 on order. The weapon has performed very well in operations, and is now being offered in an improved and NATO-compatible form for armies in Europe. For instance, Thales has answered an RFI from Germany.
Whereas ADF weapons use an AUG magazine, inherited from the weapon’s derivation as a major upgrade of the F88 Austeyr rifle, there are a number of nations who have shown interest in a version that can accept NATO magazines as standard for the M4 and M16 weapons.
The resultant F90 MBR (modular bullpup rifle) has a new butt stock that can accept the M4/16 magazine, which holds 30 rounds. The upgrade provides considerable interoperability in the NATO context. Thales has also taken the opportunity to enhance the weapon, notably to cater for ambidextrous operations.
There is a forward magazine release on both left and right sides, complemented by a rear magazine release, while a bolt release catch is also included on both sides. Another important change is that the gas block is compliant with US ‘over the beach’ requirements, and the gun is able to be fired right after being immersed in water.
F90 MBR comes with three interchangeable barrel lengths of 14-, 16- and 20in. The barrels are synchronised with the individual gun stock and zeroed with the sight system. This allows the barrel to be changed and the gun ready for firing with optimum performance. There are three Picatinny rails for mounting accessories and an underslung grenade launcher, and Thales is prototyping a slip-on rail extension system.
In operation the existing F90 has proved accurate to around 600m when fitted with the 20in barrel and a forward grip.