The Department of Defense (DoD) in Canberra announced early this week that it will procure an additional 8,500 Enhanced F88 (EF88) Austeyr 5.56 mm rifles to supplement the 30,000 rifles of the same type Thales Australia has been delivering to the Australian Defense Force (ADF) under an August 2015 contract.
Australian Minister for Defense Linda Reynolds said in a statement that the acquisition of the additional EF88s will not only improve the overall capability of the ADF but also provide a “welcome boost to the workforce in regional Australia”, pointing out that the rifles will be manufactured at the Thales Australia site in Lithgow, New South Wales. The additional rifles, which are being delivered under the lethality element of the "Soldier Modernization Programme", will enable increased access to the EF88 across the full and part-time force, particularly the army’s 2nd Division, said the minister.
Janes.com notes that the announcement comes after the Australian DoD awarded Thales Australia an AUD100 million (USD70 million) contract in August 2015 for the production of 30,000 units of the F90 bullpup assault rifle – which is known as the EF88 rifle in ADF service – and approximately 2,500 units of the Steyr Mannlicher SL40 integrated grenade launcher, both of which would be supplied over a period of six years.
According to Armyrecognition.com, ancillary attachments for the EF88 rifle include enhanced day sights, image intensifiers, thermal imaging sights, forward grips (with bipod), forward grips (basic), weapon stabilizers, visual illumination devices, one o'clock offset rails, and laser-aiming illumination and ranging devices. The EF88 rifle can be quickly reconfigured to meet specific mission roles by utilizing these weapon ancillaries.
The key differences between the EF88 and the F88 rifle it is replacing are: a fixed, lighter barrel; improved gas plug adjustment; double-action, side-opening grenade launcher; NATO-STD Accessory Rail for laser aimers; improved trigger guard grip access; improved access to GLA trigger; extended ejection port and recessed covers; non-slip butt plate; modified hammer pack to improve reliability and facilitate silent cocking; improved cheek weld; improved red dot grenade launcher sight; extended NATO-STD top rail-in-line accessories; reduced overall mass; improved balance; NATO-STD rail-grips, bipods and visual illumination devices; folding cocking handle that is less vulnerable to damage, and bolt release catch-faster magazine exchange.