Lithgow's iconic small arms factory and its owner Thales Australia has announced that it will produce 8,500 rifles for the Australian Defence Force.
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In an announcement posted online, the Morrison Government will boost the Army's weapon systems capability with the purchase of an additional 8,500, Enhanced F88 (EF88) weapon systems.
The Lithgow designed and manufactured EF88 rifle is said to deliver a capability advantage for Australian soldiers through increased range and accuracy.
This will supplement the 30,000 weapons that Thales Australia will deliver to Defence Australia.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said this additional acquisition of rifles will not only improve the overall capability of the Australian Defence Force, but will also provide a welcome boost to the workforce in regional Australia.
"The rifles will be manufactured at the Thales Australia site in Lithgow, New South Wales which employs around 130 Australians," Minister Reynolds said.
"This acquisition is just another example of the nationwide benefits of the Morrison Government's unprecedented investment in defence capability, particularly in rural and regional Australia.
"It also demonstrates our ongoing commitment to building a strong and sustainable defence industry.
"This Government is doing all we can to help the Australian economy recover from COVID-19. The purchase of these additional EF88 weapon systems will provide certainty to the workforce at Lithgow and support jobs in regional Australia."
While the Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee, has welcomed the announcement that the rifles will be manufactured in Lithgow, he has reissued his call for defence companies, Thales and Nioa, to publicly state their position on the future of local arms manufacturing and the Small Arms Factory in Lithgow.
The two companies are believed to be competing for the rifle component of a recent Department of Defence tender for the provision of a wide array of defence equipment.
"I am calling on both companies to publicly state their position with respect to the future of local arms manufacturing and the Small Arms Factory in Lithgow (now known as Lithgow Arms)," Mr Gee said.
"I will personally oppose and campaign against any company that does not categorically and publicly confirm that, if they win the contract, they will be manufacturing in Lithgow.
"While this latest acquisition of rifles is a very positive step in the right direction, we still need both companies to confirm their long-term intentions and provide certainty for the Small Arms Factory in Lithgow and the Lithgow community.
"I will also issue this warning: Don't mess with the Lithgow community - it will not end well."
The Lithgow Mercury has reached out to Thales for additional comment.
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