Back in the late 80s, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) adopted the F88 “Austeyr”—an Aussie version of the Austrian Steyr AUG bullpup—to replace its L1A1 self-loading rifles. Fast forward a couple of decades, and defense contractor Thales has developed an updated version for the ADF called the Enhanced F88 (EF88). That rifle has just completed its first operational deployment, with Army soldiers giving it the thumbs up.

According to Defence Connect, the EF88 saw action with Task Group Taji 5 troops deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Okra. It’s been said that the EF88 Steyr withstood the brutal heat and dusty conditions in Iraq with zero issues.

Major Timothy Soper, commander of the Task Group Taji Logistics Company, touted the EF88 for its superior design, accuracy and lethality.

“The tiered design approach applied to the EF88 has resulted in a common system capable of being tailored to land combatant role and task,” Maj. Soper said. “Pre-deployment and deployed combat shooting training has seen enhanced accuracy and increased lethality through improved effective ranges across the variety of Task Group Taji services, Corps and trades.”

The EF88 was first introduced into service for select units in mid-2016, but Task Group Taji 5 was the first to deploy with it. Col. Steve D’Arcy, the commander of Task Group Taji 5, sang its praises.

“Our personnel carry the EF88 as their primary weapon system on a day-to-day basis,” Col. D’Arcy said. “The EF88 has proven itself as an extremely reliable, accurate and versatile weapon which has gained the praise of not only Australian personnel but also our New Zealand counterparts and coalition partners.”

The EF88 is available to ADF forces in a standard 20-inch-barreled rifle model, plus a carbine variant with a 16-inch barrel. The barrel is fixed. Also included in the package is an improved—when compared with the F88—gas plug attachment; NATO-STD accessory rail; improved trigger guard grip access; improved GLA trigger access; extended ejection port and recessed covers; non-slip buttplate; modified hammer pack to improve reliability and facilitate silent cocking; improved cheek weld; extended NATO-STD top rail; folding cocking handle; and a bolt release catch.

Another major feature is the fact that the system is lighter in weight than the F88/Steyr AUG by around .5kg (1.1 pound), and when installed with a double-action, side-loading, forged steel 40mm Steyr SL40 grenade launcher, it’s 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) lighter than the F88.

“The big winners from our customer’s point of view were the rifle’s weight and the grenade launcher,” Graham Evenden, Thales Australia’s director of Integrated Weapons and Sensors, said in a press release announcing the EF88. “We did something really interesting with this and it’s a key feature. The in-service F88 SA2 had a grenade launcher that needed to be attached by an armourer. By contrast, the F90 includes a side-loading 40mm grenade launcher that attaches quickly on a rail so any soldier can do it in a couple of seconds.

“The launcher’s trigger goes through the rifle’s triggerguard and is placed just in front of the rifle’s trigger. This means the soldier does not have to move his hands or change the grip to fire the grenade, which is so much easier. The grenade launcher itself is equipped with a lightweight robust quadrant sight that ensures rapid target acquisition, can be used at night, and is compatible with night vision goggles.”

[h/t The Firearm Blog]