Manufactured under license from Steyr-Mannlicher of Austria, the F-88 AUSteyr Bullpup Assault Rifle is (as the name suggests) if the Steyr AUG given some extra touches to make it Australian (and it appears, soon to be New Zealander as well), as well as to suit local manufacturing methods. The F-88 is manufactured at Thales’ Lithgow Small Arms Facility and is currently Australia’s standard individual weapon. Originally, the Australians used what they called the F-88, which is simply an AUG A1 manufactured in Australia.
The “plain vanilla” F-88 Assault Rifle is primarily now used by rear-area troops and Australian Cadet Corps (for training). It should be noted that units such as the Australian SAS are using a combination of the M-16, M-4, and F-88A1/A2/GLA; the F-88 has showed some increased sensitivity to water and melted snow in Afghanistan, and some of the SAS troopers feel that the F-88 series’ bullpup layout is too awkward and lacks natural pointing qualities.
|F-88A1 AUSteyr With GLA|
The Australians primarily use a variation of the AUG A1 version; the F-88A1 AUSteyr Bullpup Assault Rifle is topped by a MIL-STD-1913 rail which, while it can use the carrying handle/optical sight tube of the AUG, normally is topped with an integral optical sight of Australian make that is useful both during day conditions and at night using an illuminated reticule. It is also fairly long; a consistent complaint among Australian troops is that the end of the rail is very near the rearward throw of the charging handle, which can lead to knucklebusting and skinned fingers. It does, however, allow for a large number of accessories to be mounted above the receiver, however.
An IR sight is also common during night operations (though not included in the cost below). (The F-88A1 is also called the F-88S.) Unlike the AUG, the bayonet of the F-88A1 AUSteyr Bullpup Assault Rifle is mounted below the barrel. The F-88A2 AUSteyr Bullpup Assault Rifle is a version that can use NATO MIL-SPEC magazines as well as the Steyr-designed translucent polymer magazines, but otherwise conforms to the F-88A1. The F-88GLA is an F-88A1 or F-88A2 with the addition of an interbar assembly allowing it to mount an M-203PI 40mm grenade launcher (also manufactured in Australia under license from the US), and the foregrip assembly removed. The F-88GLA also has a quadrant sight attached to the carrying handle of MIL-STD-1913 rail, and a Firepoint red-dot sight is also attached for quick shots. (For game purposes, it is otherwise identical to the F-88A1 or F-88A2.
Other variants include the F-88C AUSteyr, a carbine version with a 16-inch barrel instead of a 20-inch barrel. This makes for a very compact weapon. It is primarily issued to vehicle crews in reconnaissance regiments and other reconnaissance units. The F-88T is a 22 Long Rifle-firing version of the F-88 designed for low-cost marksmanship training, and is designed to mimic the weight, size, and balance of the standard F-88. The F-88S-A1C is the carbine equivalent of the F-88A2, with the addition of a MIL-STD-1913 rail above the receiver and the ability to use NATO Mil-Spec magazines.
A new version, the F-88A4 AUSteyr Bullpup Assault Rifle, is being tested; this version has multiple MIL-STD-1913 rails around extended handguards, including a bottom rail stressed for the attachment of an M-203 with a RIS (Rail Interface System, referring to a MIL-STD-1913 rail). This will also allow rapid mounting and dismounting of the grenade launcher as needed. It is possible that the Australians will switch to a version of the US M-320 Grenade Launcher in the same time period.