contractor Thales Australia has entered into a collaboration with Deakin University and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) to develop a lightweight composite overwrap for gun barrels. The six-month, $234,023 research and development (R&D) project will deliver a carbon fibre overwrap that will reduce the thickness of the gun barrel, resulting in a lighter product with increased precision.

(PHOTO: Thales)

Commenting on the project, Graham Evenden, Thales Australia’s Director Integrated Weapons & Sensors, said the research collaboration would enable Thales to advance its in-country composite manufacturing capabilities. “Currently, the intermediate modulus carbon fibres suited to the overwrap are only available from overseas supply chains that face frequent disruptions. By developing these fibres on Australian soil, Thales is establishing an innovative capability that can be applied to other small arms products across civil and defence sectors,” he said. “Thales will also work hand in glove with Deakin to train and upskill staff at our Lithgow Arms facility to work with composites, further contributing to sustainable growth within Australia’s manufacturing sector.”

Prof Russell Varley, Professor of Composite Materials at Deakin University, said the IMCRC activate collaboration would draw on local knowledge and expertise to meet the growing global demand for lightweight, high-performance components. “Deakin, through its Carbon Nexus research centre, is excited to support Thales in the development of new carbon fibre materials which, once approved, will be used to produce a composite demonstrator at Thales Australia’s Lithgow manufacturing facility,” he said.

Dr Matthew Young, Manufacturing Innovation Manager at IMCRC, said Thales and Deakin’s R&D would act as a testbed for future developments of Australian manufactured bespoke carbon fibres. “This collaboration will develop a niche, high-quality product with significant export opportunities. By partnering with an Australian world-class research facility on composite materials, this project will directly support growth within a key national manufacturing priority area,” he said. “It’s a prime example of the role shorter-term R&D collaborations can play in strengthening the future of defence manufacturing within Australia.”

This announcement follows Thales Australia’s recent $6.5 million commitment to transform its Lithgow Arms facility into a modern manufacturing and integration hub for the design, development and precision manufacture of next generation weapons systems.

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