Thales Australia has signed a contract with Austrian rifle manufacturer Steyr Mannlicher to “refresh” their longstanding relationship in the defence markets.
Under the new cooperation agreement, the two manufacturers will work together to generate opportunities to produce and market Australian-made and -designed products through building common supply chain for product research and development, and also delivery, the OM Journal reported.
According to a statement released by Thales, the new agreement will see the company take the formal lead in the defence manufacturing sector in Australia and New Zealand.
Thales has already been signed to build the next-generation Steyr Mannlicher F88 assault rifle for the Australian military under the LAND 125 3C program.
Under the LAND 125 program, Thales received $8m federal government upgrade program to improve firing capabilities of Steyr F88 rifles used by the military and manufactured at the company’s NSW Lithgow Arms Factory. The Project Land 125 is a $448.6m army weapons upgrade program.
The $8m funding has been put towards the development of a new lighter weight and better balanced F88 Austeyr rifle. The F88 Austeyr rifle is being used by Australian troops in Afghanistan.
The new F88 Austeyr rifle will be fitted with NATO standard Picatinny rails which will allow upgraded versions to be fitted with sensors, illuminators, sights and aiming devices, such as thermal imaging optics.
It will also be fitted with an integrated grenade launcher attachment and sight, which will make it more efficient for use on the battlefield.
Thales Australia specialises in delivering and upgrading infantry weapons. The company has made invested significant investments in weapons development in Australia. Most recently, Thales received the go-ahead from the Victorian government to further develop Hawkei light protected vehicle in December last year.
The new cooperation agreement with Steyr is expected to boost to Thales’ Soldier Systems business and generate more streamlined, cost-effective solutions to defence clients.
Thales’ Soldier System Centre, located at its Lithgow plant, has been manufacturing weapons and ammunition for the Australian Defence Force since 1912.
Last year, Thales produced its 800th Thales Bushmaster vehicle. The 800th vehicle rolled off the company’s Bendigo factory production line in July. The company would have built 838 Bushmasters in Bendigo for the federal government once it delivers the 101 new vehicles the government ordered last year. Total purchase cost of the 101 Bushmasters is valued at $133m.