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Whiskey Project secures US Defense Innovation Unit contract

The Whiskey Project Group has announced a US$12.5 million (AU$19.4 million) contract with the US Defense Innovation Unit to provide an initial supply of vessels for rapid experimentation and concept development by elements of the United States Marine Corps.

Australia’s Ambassador to the United States, HE Hon Dr Kevin Rudd, AC celebrating The Whiskey Project Group’s contract with the US Defense Innovation Unit in Washington, DC. (Pictured L-R, Sarah Cullens, Precision Public Affairs, Aditi Kumar, Defense Innovation Unit, Darren Schuback, The Whiskey Project Group, Ambassador Kevin Rudd, Ryan Carmichael, The Whiskey Project Group

The announcement follows a months-long competitive evaluation process, which will see The Whiskey Project Group (TWPG) supply a number of both its eight-metre Whiskey Alpha and 11-metre Whiskey Bravo vessels, the first of these vessels are due for delivery late this year.

Company 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.

TWPG founder and chief executive officer Darren Schuback said, “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.

“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,” Schuback added.

Australia’s ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Dr Kevin 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. (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,” ambassador Rudd added.

The Defense Innovation Unit launched a public solicitation in August 2022 seeking 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.

The US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) strengthens national security by accelerating the adoption of commercial technology throughout the military and bolstering allied and national security innovation bases. DIU partners with organisations across the Department of Defense (DOD)to rapidly prototype and field dual-use capabilities that solve operational challenges at speed and scale.

DIU is the only DOD organisation focused exclusively on fielding and scaling commercial technology across the US military at commercial speeds.

TWPG combines Australian maritime special operations experience and decades of New Zealand design excellence, with domestic and global supply chains of highly-specialised marine and military technology manufacturers. TWPG watercraft are purpose-built to perform in the most challenging conditions, drawing on the veteran founders’ special operations experience in contemporary maritime and littoral warfare.

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.