Lithgow is expected to continue to play a vital role in the collaboration between Thales Australia and Belgium-based FN Herstal.
Marking the 60th anniversary of close collaboration between the parties, a Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed in order to enter into a strategic relationship for further collaboration potential in areas such as the research, design, development and manufacture of small arms in Australia.
In a statement, Thales said the Memorandum of Understanding aimed to define the perimeter and principles of a strategic alliance with a view to examine, over future steps, potential areas of cooperation in each specific segment of the small arms field.
“Together, we will deliver a superior sovereign small arms capability to the Australian Defence Force, while growing a robust and resilient industrial capability in regional NSW,” Thales Graham Evenden, director integrated weapons and sensors business said.
“Our agreement also recognises both companies’ trusted and enduring relationship with Defence, with the manufacture of FN Herstal’s SLR in 1950’s and F89 FN MINIMI in 1980’s.
“The Lithgow factory has played an essential role in the continuous manufacture of Defence’s small arms, including F88 Austeyr and F90. Thales is very proud of our history in Lithgow.”
As a result of this alliance Thales Australia and FN Herstal will also look at potential new opportunities for local activities as part of FN Herstal’s global supply chain, generating economic benefit here in Australia.
The agreement also acknowledges a long term relationship between Thales Australia and FN Herstal, with the proof firing of the first, FN Herstal designed 7.62 SLR - FN FAL, Lithgow factory made L1A1 self-loading rifle occurring in October 1958. Approximately 22,000 L1A1’s were manufactured under licence by the then Lithgow Small Arms Factory.
The combination of two global small arms companies, Thales Australia and FN Herstal, would provide Australia with a unique and enduring sovereign capability in small arms design, development and manufacture.