Thales to develop new carbon fibres for overwrapped gun barrels


Production of carbon fibre. Image: Deakin Carbon Nexus/IMCRC.

The Australian defence contractor, Thales Australia, will collaborate with Deakin University and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) to develop a lightweight composite overwrap for gun barrels. 

The six-month, $234,023 research and development project will deliver a carbon fibre overwrap to reduce the thickness of the gun barrel, resulting in a lighter product with increased precision. 

Commenting on the project, Graham Evenden, Thales Australia’s director Integrated Weapons & Sensors, said the research collaboration would advance Thales’ in-country composite manufacturing capabilities. 

“Currently, the intermediate modulus carbon fibres suited to the overwrap are only available from overseas supply chains that face frequent disruptions. By developing these fibres on Australian soil, Thales is establishing an innovative capability that can be applied to other small arms products across civil and defence sectors,” Evenden said. 

“Thales will also work hand in glove with Deakin to train and upskill staff at our Lithgow Arms facility to work with composites, further contributing to sustainable growth within Australia’s manufacturing sector.” 

According to Deakin University Professor of Composite Materials, Russell Varley, the IMCRC activate collaboration would draw on local knowledge and expertise to meet the growing global demand for lightweight, high-performance components. 

“Deakin, through its Carbon Nexus research centre, is excited to support Thales in the development of new carbon fibre materials which, once approved, will be used to produce a composite demonstrator at Thales Australia’s Lithgow manufacturing facility,” Varley said. 

Thales and Deakin’s R&D will act as a testbed for future developments of Australian manufactured bespoke carbon fibres, IMCRC Manufacturing Innovation manager Dr Matthew Young said. 

“This collaboration will develop a niche, high-quality product with significant export opportunities,” he said. 

“By partnering with an Australian world-class research facility on composite materials, this project will directly support growth within a key national manufacturing priority area. It’s a prime example of the role shorter-term R&D collaborations can play in strengthening the future of defence manufacturing within Australia.” 

This announcement follows Thales Australia’s recent $6.5 million commitment to transform its Lithgow Arms facility into a modern manufacturing and integration hub for the design, development and precision manufacture of next generation weapons systems.