A factory in Lithgow, a small city near the mountains of Australia, is building the high-quality assault rifles being used by elite Ukrainian troops. Ukraine’s ambassador would like to see the ties between Lithgow and currently occupied Berdyansk grow.
An announcement was made late last week that Lithgow Arms, a part of Thales Australia, an international defense industry company, has now successfully supplied its locally developed and produced Australian Combat Assault Rifle (ACAR) to Ukraine.
In cooperation with the Australian Department of Defence, an unspecified quantity of ACARs were shipped to Ukraine in early July as part of a weapons and munitions package, according to Defence Technology Review.
With a population of some 21,000 people, Lithgow is about three hours west of Sydney, in the foothills of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains. A thriving mining town with growing healthcare sectors, it is also home to Thales Australia’s small arms manufacturer, Lithgow Arms.
Recently returned from a major meeting of Ukrainian diplomats with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, told Kyiv Post that he was very grateful for Australia’s support.
The ambassador also commented on his personal experience of Australia’s country towns.
“Whenever I travel to regional Australia, I notice how strongly local Australians in these towns and cities support Ukraine’s independence and war against Russian aggression,” the diplomat said.
“I know that Ukrainians are so deeply moved and heartened by mainstream Aussies helping them – whether it’s working in a great plant in Lithgow or donating for humanitarian causes,” he added.
The Ambassador further suggested that, starting with the supply of ACARs, there was potential for a broader relationship between Lithgow and Ukrainian cities.
“It would be great to further build the community-to-community ties between Lithgow and, say, a city in Ukraine that will soon be liberated, like Berdyansk,” Myroshnychenko said.
Lithgow’s Mayor, Maree Statham, has been contacted by Kyiv Post for her views about the Lithgow connection to Ukraine’s battle for democracy.
For the last 110 years, Lithgow Arms, formerly known as the Lithgow Small Arms Factory has made the rifles, machine guns, cannon barrels and other equipment that allows Australia to be self-reliant with regard to small arms.
Australian soldiers – known as “diggers” or “ANZACs” – have carried weapons made in Lithgow into battle during both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, a spokeswoman for Thales told Kyiv Post.
During World War I alone, the factory produced more than 100,000 Lee-Enfield rifles that were part of the action in the tragic trenches of Gallipoli and France alike.
Through continual modernization, Lithgow Arms, which currently employs 160 highly skilled local people, has come to produce state-of-the-art weapons such as the ACAR, which are now an official part of Australia’s assistance to Ukraine.
Australia has provided some $465 million in military aid to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. The “Land Down Under” is considered one of the largest givers to Ukraine outside of NATO members and it is ranked 19th globally by the Kiel Institute for the Economy’s Ukraine Support Tracker.
Australia’s contribution includes 120 Bushmaster infantry fighting vehicles, which are highly regarded by Ukrainian armed forces for their mobility, versatility and safety.
Industry media reported that the ACARs have been provided in both 5.56mm and 7.62mm caliber formats. The ACAR generally holds a 30-bullet clip.
Informal feedback on the ACAR has to date been positive, Thales said. In addition to supplying the Australian Army, the manufacturer hopes to explore export opportunities of Australia’s first “AR-type” weapon in overseas military, paramilitary and law enforcement sectors.
The use of the ACAR, which is yet to go into mass production, specifically in Ukraine is potentially part of demonstrating the new weapon’s capabilities in actual combat. Such a “show and tell” strategy is also being followed by many other international defense manufacturers. That often includes the active partnership of the Ukrainian government and military, including through the dedicated platform Brave1 defense technology platform.
Currently, the standard issue rifle for Ukrainian ground forces is the Soviet-era AK-74, which are renowned for their durability, but not their accuracy. However, there are more than a dozen assault rifle types in use by Ukrainian forces.
The wide range of rifles in action reflects: a) the mission type of a given military unit, such as special forces or marines; and b) what has been donated by Ukraine’s allies to meet requirements – be they basic or advanced (such as the ACAR).
The latter include American M4s, Czech BRENs, Belgian SCARs, and Polish GROTs.
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