A veteran-owned maritime design and manufacturing firm has secured funding to develop next-generation watercraft for the Navy.
The Commonwealth government has invested $7.35 million in NSW-based SME, The Whiskey Project, via the Defence Innovation Hub.
The investment aims to support the development of new watercraft, which build on the capabilities of existing models, like the Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs), currently deployed by the Royal Australia Navy for interception and boarding activities.
The Whiskey Project’s watercraft are expected to incorporate composite material technology and a novel ‘sea blade’ hull, designed to provide enhanced stability and reduced shock and vibration.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price welcomed the investment, which she said forms part of the government's broader commitment to enhancing sovereign industrial capability.
“This sort of investment in Australian defence industry is critical to growing a sustainable and globally competitive sovereign defence industry,” Minister Price said.
“This investment will support The Whiskey Project’s development of local naval design and manufacturing know-how that translates to an advantage for the Australian Defence Force and strengthens our performance in maritime operations.”
Minister Price continued: “Investments like this are an example of the Morrison government’s commitment to nurturing Australian defence innovation, while supporting veteran-owned businesses who bring the expertise and experience to solve Defence’s tactical and strategic challenges.”
Darren Schuback, managing director and co-founder of The Whiskey Project Group, thanked the government for its support.
“We are deeply grateful to the Minister for Defence Industry and her office, for their unwavering commitment to The Whiskey Project’s vision to create next generation tactical watercraft that will provide optimal performance and protection for those who risk their lives in the strategic maritime environment,” he said.
“Significantly, our Whiskey watercraft are designed in Australia and built in Australia by Australian regional manufacturers.
“They demonstrate effect-centric design thinking of true innovation, and will provide Australia and our Defence personnel with a capability advantage, a human performance advantage and a sovereign advantage.”
Ryan Carmichael, the SME’s chief operating officer and co-founder, added, “We are extremely grateful to the Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Melissa Price MP and her office for their partnership and ongoing support of The Whiskey Project Group.
“Whiskey range of watercraft are fit-for-purpose multi-mission vessels that integrate leading Defence technologies for improved human performance, operational effectiveness, and asset versatility.”
Carmichael said the contract would also support the transmission of knowledge across critical sovereign capability, helping to enhance a range of technologies, including advanced manufacturing, C4ISR and maritime autonomous systems.
He concluding by noting that local communities across The Whiskey Project Group’s supply chains would benefit from “increased employment opportunities, upskilling and new-skilling in trades and technologies”.
The Defence Innovation Hub has now awarded almost $280 million in innovation contracts since launching in December 2016.
In September 2020, the federal government invested an additional $32 million in the hub to provide further cash flow support to SMEs amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.