Lithgow business making Diggers' new rifle, carrying on a 100-year relationship

Mike Duffy

FIRST ON 7: The new weapon Australian soldiers will carry into battle is made in a factory 150km west of Sydney – the same one that has made Australia's weapons for 100 years.

The Austeyr that served Diggers in Afghanistan is being retired; to be replaced by the Aussie designed F90.

The F90 - the ADF's new assault rifle. Source: 7 News

The rifle will be produced at the Thales Lithgow Small Arms Factory where defence force rifles have been produced for almost every military engagement since World War I.

The F90 is lighter and more user-friendly than its predecessor.

It's also the work of some dedicated locals who have embraced Australia's small arms manufacturing like a family tradition.

Thales worker Wayne Gurney. Source: 7 News

"I started in 1983, my brother grandfather, my father, his brother, and then my wife started about 10 years ago," Thales worker Wayne Gurney told 7 News.

Defence has placed an order of $100 million for 30,000 rifles and 2500 grenade launchers from the Thales factory, carrying on a long and healthy relationship.

"It is Australian and it goes back to our Anzacs," said Mr Gurney about the factory that employed more than 6,000 people at its peak.

Testing the weapon 150km west of Sydney. Source: 7 News

"It comes down to us that the product we make works every time, to keep those guys safe and there's a little bit of us in each one of those weapons."

Anyone interested in learning more about Thales' long history and other smaller weapons should visit the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum located in a former Thales factory building in Lithgow.

An interesting 'gun' kept at the Smalls Arms Factory. It's believed to be a Nazi SS officer's belt buckle from World War II. Source: Nicholas McCallum
There are only a few of the weaponised buckles in the world. Source: Nicholas McCallum