US Defense Innovation Unit selects ground-breaking Australian military watercraft

Line of Defence Magazine - Update

Australia’s Ambassador to the US, HE Hon Dr Kevin Rudd, AC celebrating The Whiskey Project Group’s contract with the US Defense Innovation Unit in Washington, DC. Image supplied.

Australian specialist and tactical watercraft manufacturer The Whiskey Project Group (TWPG) awarded contract with the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) for an initial supply of vessels for rapid experimentation and concept development by the US Marine Corps.

Following a months-long competitive evaluation process, TWPG has been awarded a USD12.5 million (AUD$19.4 million) contract to supply a number of both its 8-metre Whiskey Alpha and 11-metre Whiskey Bravo vessels. The first of these vessels are due for delivery late this year.

The Whiskey Project Group executives travelled to the USA last month to announce the export contract alongside Australia’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr Kevin Rudd and US Defense Innovation Unit officials, during the G’Day USA Defence Industry Dialogue in Washington, DC.

“From day one, The Whiskey Project Group’s mission was to redefine tactical watercraft and create a new generation of safer, completely networked, combat-ready platforms, based on our own naval special operations experience,” said TWPG Founder and CEO Darren Schuback.

“We’re appreciative of the US Department of Defense and DIU’s focus on innovation-sharing opportunities with allies like Australia. The contracting process leveraged by DIU makes it easier for private sector companies to rapidly fill capability gaps faced by troops and combatant commanders,” Mr Schuback said.

Speaking at a defence industry reception inside the newly built Australian Embassy, Dr Rudd said “Australia’s defence science and technology industry sector is one about which I have enormous confidence for the future.”

“What a marvellous story this represents,” said Dr Rudd. “(Darren) only got out of the white uniform in 2019 and had an idea about what he could do — based on his own experience — in designing the boat which was most necessary for commando- and marine-type operations.

“And then in a space of three years turns that idea into a reality — backed first, by the Defence Innovation Hub out of the Australian government back home, and now entering into an agreement with the Defense Innovation Unit here in the United States”.

In August 2022, the DIU opened a public solicitation for expeditionary small boats that could be used to conduct littoral and distributed operations, capable of performing reconnaissance, sensing and tactical manoeuvre, and provide maritime logistics support.

TWPG are currently engaged in a number of existing Australian defence procurement programs and will look to participate in LAND 8710-3 to support the Australian Army’s re-configured littoral manoeuvre brigade.

Named after the military callsign for specialist water operators, The Whiskey Project Group was founded by former Australian Navy Clearance Divers (Frogmen) who set out to create the watercraft they wished they’d had.

TWPG comprises several proven trans-Tasman maritime technology and naval architecture companies delivering end-to-end design, engineering, manufacturing, maintenance and sustainment of high-performance military and emergency services watercraft.

The Whiskey Project Group will reveal its latest watercraft, the Whiskey Bravo – Strike, for the first time at INDOPAC, Tuesday 7 November. Innovative vessel type to undergo experimentation and concept development by USMC.