15 May 2024

Delivery of small watercraft to US Marine Corps a big feather in Aussie firm's cap

| Andrew McLaughlin
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navy watercraft

An 11-metre Whiskey Bravo watercraft at speed. Photo: TWPG.

Australian small-boat manufacturer The Whiskey Project Group (TWPG) has delivered two 11-metre Whiskey Bravo Multi-Mission Reconnaissance Craft (MMRC) to the US Marine Corps (USMC).

The boats were ordered in 2023 by the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) for rapid experimentation and concept development by the USMC. The order came after a comprehensive competitive evaluation process in which TWPG was awarded a $US20.5 million ($A33.8 million) contract to supply several of its eight-metre Whiskey Alpha and 11-metre Whiskey Bravo vessels.

They will be operated at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, south-east of Los Angeles in California, and the trials will include analysing critical mission-specific payloads built for USMC operational theatres, and completing a series of multi-scenario combat operations.

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TWPG co-founder and CEO Darren Schuback said: “From the very outset, The Whiskey Project Group’s mission was to redefine tactical watercraft and create a new generation of safer, completely networked, combat-ready, fit-for-purpose platforms, based on our own naval special operations experience.

“We’re extremely appreciative of the US Department of Defense and USMC’s focus on innovation-sharing opportunities with life-long allies like Australia.

“The contracting process enabled by DIU makes it easier for private-sector companies to rapidly fill real-time capability gaps faced by war fighters and combatant commanders.”

TWPG is based at Yamba on the NSW north coast, and through its Naiad and Yamba Welding & Engineering subsidiaries has more than 50 years’ experience in end-to-end design, manufacturing, maintenance and sustainment of high-performance and specialist watercraft.

The company supplies fast watercraft to state Marine Rescue units, pilot boat operators, NSW Maritime Services, and a 12.5-metre Regional Support Craft to the Australian Army’s Regional Force Surveillance Group.

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The company is named after the military call sign for specialist water operators, and was founded by former Royal Australian Navy clearance divers (frogmen) who set out to create the watercraft they wish they’d had.

Australia’s Ambassador to the US Dr Kevin Rudd praised the speed at which TWPG has been able to design and supply the watercraft.

“What a marvellous story this represents,” he said.

“[Darren Schuback] only got out of 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 Defense 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.”

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