Lithgow / Thales F90
The Thales F90 assault rifle is based on the long-running Austrian Steyr AUG bullpup series.
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The Thales Lithgow F90 is the export designation given to the EF88 ("Enhanced F88") product model of the Australian LAND 125 program, the EF88 itself representing an overall improved version of the F88 assault rifle - this the standard weapon of the Australian Army. The F90 is a further evolution of the F88 line and brings about a lightweight finish, increased reliability and improved quick-reaction/first-hit accuracy. F90 represents the base assault rifle form while F90(G) incorporates a 40mm grenade launcher, the F90M becoming a dedicated marksman form, the F90M(G) a hybrid of the F90(G) and F90M(G), and the F90CQB a "Close-Quarters Battle" assault carbine.
As with many other modern assault weapons, the F90 takes on a "bullpup" configuration which concentrates the action and feed behind the trigger group while allowing use of a full-length barrel in the process. This allows for a more controlled higher muzzle velocity with additional penetrating force for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. The bullpup arrangement achieves a shorter, more compact overall form not seen in traditionally-arranged rifles such as the American M16 and Soviet/Russian Kalashnikov variants. Limitations of the bullpup arrangement include a fixed, oversized stock and the possibility that the operator may run his/her hand in front of the barrel when firing.
With the development of the F90, Thales has included a forward-thinking approach that will lead to broadened tactical capabilities of the base weapon system. The design includes three Picatinny-style rail sections as well as support for an optional, side-loading 40mm grenade-launching unit. There is a folding foregrip to aid in support of the weapon when firing. The weapon's battlefield applications are then considerably increased in that it can be used as a standard-issue assault rifle, a grenadier's weapon, a Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) or a close-quarters assault weapon. The marksman model will feature a longer barrel length for more precision-minded work as well as support for various specialized optics to suit the shooter. The F90CQB model will be given a shorter barrel and serve as a carbine for when size is a detriment in combat (i.e. confined spaces).
The F90 base weapon unit weighs 3.25kg compared to the F90(G) at 4.1kg, the F90M at 3.39kg, the F90M(G) at 4.34kg and the F90CQB at 3.15kg. The F90/F90(G) is given a barrel length of 16" compared to the F90M at 20" and the F90CQB at 14.17". Overall lengths vary as a result: the F90/F90(G) at 27.55", the F90M/F90M(G) at 31.57" and the F90CQB at 25.7".