The Whiskey Project Group

The Whiskey Project Group Ltd is a young Australian-owned tactical watercraft design and manufacturing company, founded by former Defence Force officers to build the boats they’d always wished for.

Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director of Composites Australia Inc.

Co-founders Darren Schuback, Managing Director and Ryan Carmichael Chief Operating Officer, have over 40 years of Defence Force service ranging from counter terrorism to clearance diving. Formed through experience, their ‘grand idea’ was to design, develop, test and bring to market a next generation tactical watercraft that will compete for the $5 billion in planned investment in Australia’s military small watercraft over the next 20 years. The strategy includes a team with the finest talent, using cutting edge design technologies and a robust supply chain.

Darren is a former executive level military officer with over 24 years of operational management experience in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). During his defence  career, he had operational oversight of a warfare operation command centre, a military training institution, naval warships and a special operations counter terrorism unit, and capability management of multiple disciplines within Defence.

Ryan’s career in the Defence and the Public Sector, includes more than 15 years of decorated service as Clearance Diving Officer with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). He has worked globally with both government and industry, and established and commanded Australia’s first operational maritime autonomous systems unit. He also served distinguished tenures embedded with the Australian Special Forces (2nd Commando Regiment) and the Royal Navy (UK).

The Whiskey Project Group’s first boat, the 8.5 metre Whiskey Alpha, was launched in the shadow of the pandemic. It is designed for use by the military, police or other state agencies that require watercraft with multi-role offshore capability in all sea conditions as well as low-speed manoeuvring for ship boarding, recovery or disembarking.

The Whiskey Alpha 85 was built by Brett Van Munster, at his custom racing boatbuilding facility in Morrisett on the shores of Lake Macquarie, NSW. 

A second generation boat builder, Brett said that the boat was a dream build, enabled by “a fantastic and effective core crew and supply chain.” “We used a vacuum consolidated wet preg epoxy which is a cost effective method of building that also provides a good structural outcome. The fibre matrix is a combination of Hexcel’s unidirectional and multiaxial carbon fibre to provide the lightest strongest structure possible. The subfloor framing, cockpit floor and console area among others are ATL’s carbon fibre Duflex™ foam panels that were delivered pre-cut ready to drop into shell to save time. We also used Gurit’s Ampreg™ new 31 resin system in which we have confidence.”

The hull is new technology SeaBlade hull which Brett says is “an amazing ride, the advantages of which include good stability, a high waterplane area, stability and fuel economy.” The hull design is said to reduce the slamming load impact on personnel and equipment by up to 40 percent compared to legacy hulls.

The design and build team included the lead architect from Farr Design, Britton Ward; marine composites engineer and America’s Cup winner Brett Ellis, and computational fluid dynamics system and hull specialists from Navatek Hawaii, a research institute funded by the US Government to build military craft.

The modular layout is fit for a multi-role purpose. Designed so that seats and other operational equipment can be quickly installed, shifted or removed depending on the scenario the team is responding to, ensuring maximum versatility and optimising the larger deck space. The technology platform, from weapons and combat to autonomous systems, creates an interoperable versatility that is futureproof.

Having established and commanded Australia’s first operational maritime autonomous systems unit for the RAN, co-founder Ryan is also
recognised as one of Australia’s experts in the field of unmanned surface vessels and  autonomous Underwater Vehicles. It is therefore no surprise that his experience and knowledge will be applied to future vessels including the Whiskey Bravo that is being developed to operate as optionally crewed.

In a strategic move to secure sovereign design and industrial capability for military and specialist watercraft, the Group recently announced the acquisition of two companies, the boat manufacturer and government supplier Yamba Welding & Engineering (YWE), and  globally renowned maritime design company Naiad.

The team says the “whiskey” in The Whiskey Project’s name comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet, as within Australian Special  operations all water operators have a call sign beginning with ‘w’ (or ‘whiskey’).

Model: Whiskey Alpha 85
Length overall: 9.38m
Length waterline: 8.50m
Beam: 2.90m
Draft: 0.60m
Displacement: 3180–5140kg
Engines: Outboard/inboard stern drive/inboard waterjet
Fuel: 650L
Passengers: 12

Further viewing: