A small Australian boat with an American communication module in tests for an urgent need for the Marine Corps
WASHINGTON – The mashup of a small, security-designed Australian boat and a U.S. suite of sensors and communications that helped Marines secure Kabul airport during the August evacuation could help fill a gap capability gap as the US Marine Corps plans to distribute operations in the Pacific.
Australian company Whiskey Project is showcasing its Multi-Mission Reconnaissance Vehicle (MMRC) as a way to meet the Marines’ needs to “sense first, see first, strike first” – in a craft with a signature weak enough to it is difficult to detect, but has powerful organic and remote sensors and a set of communications that can report to decision makers, according to company officials.
Darren Schuback, managing director of the Whiskey Project, told Defense News in an Oct. 11 interview at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference that he was looking to build a better small boat after serving for 25 years in the Australian Navy as a diver and seeing first-hand the injuries that accompany driving in small combat craft.
“After witnessing a number of them, and specifically investigating one of them, I quickly realized that this was not just an issue Australia was facing: it was actually a problem that was a global problem, ”he said.
After undertaking a feasibility study that included mapping safety issues with traditional small boats and potential mission sets and then designing a craft with them in mind, he now presents the MMRC as a way to conduct traditional rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) missions. such as visit, embarkation, search and seizure in blue water (VBSS) as well as traditional combat craft missions such as river operations. The boat, he said, reduced shock to personnel on board by 40%, incorporated ballistic protection and kept crew and passengers drier than a RHIB, among other improvements.
The real power of the machine is the payload it carries: the Whiskey Horizon Strike package developed by Aries Defense, an American company specializing in the integration of new hardware and software with existing military technology.
Douglas Pillsbury, managing director of Aries Defense, said in the interview his company had previously integrated sensors for ground troops into existing tactical networks, allowing commanders returning to headquarters to see what the troops were doing. were witnesses on patrol. Now he is bringing this system to the maritime environment by associating it with the Whiskey Project MMRC.
Calling the artificial intelligence-based Whiskey Horizon Strike the ‘brain in the boat’, Pillsbury said it allows active and passive sensors to collect information and display it in two existing tactical tablets mounted on the boat. : the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld and the Android Tactical Assault Kit application on a tablet.
From there, situational awareness information can be transmitted to small units ashore, sailors on a vessel further away from the adversary, or planners in a headquarters via existing radio connections – an L3Harris Technologies radio. , TrellisWare or Persistent Systems, for example. The communications package can even share the same information with headquarters and allied forces at the same time on two different channels, he said.
Before integrating the sensor and communications package on the boat, Pillsbury said, the Marine Corps tested a version of this package at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in March. He said the protest was “very successful, and we got an excellent after action review from the military on it.”
Thanks to Aries’ defense work with Marine Corps Systems Command, the set underwent several development and operational tests this year and was even dispatched with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit when elements of the MEU were dispatched to assist. to evacuate Americans and Afghans from Kabul in August.
Pillsbury said his system helps provide security and surveillance around the airport during the non-combatant evacuation operation, giving the service a sense of how the system works in a real environment.
Another formal test event coming up in December with the Marine Corps Systems Command and the Naval Information Warfare Center could lead to this package being put in place to meet the existing monitoring needs of the Marine Corps.
“We’ve done some of the formal testing of this capability, but what’s exciting is the scalability and where we can go with the technology. Everything on the boat is already connected to the recording programs, so this reduces the risk to the US military as all the technology is already built into the communication systems and protocols that they already use, so that we instantly integrates into what their [concepts of operations] are, ”Pillsbury said, adding that the integration would be just as seamless when the package goes to sea on the Whiskey Project MMRC.
Pillsbury said the boat and the whole mission complement each other; because the ship is so stealthy, it can approach an enemy position and raise its sensor-laden mast to see over the horizon and report. Or, he said, for a more advanced threat, the boat could hang back a bit and send its drone 400 feet into the air for over-the-horizon detection.
“We are witnessing a significant shift in focus not only from the United States, but from all of its partner countries in the region, with the pressure on the Indo-Pacific region. There is a big comeback in the maritime world, ”said Schuback.
The Marine Corps has urgently announced that the Whiskey Project will target with its MMRC, and this week it will demonstrate the craft at Camp Lejeune, NC
Schuback said it’s not clear exactly when the Marine Corps will decide how to meet the urgent need.
He added that the company is also under contract with the Australian Defense Force to develop and deliver a number of these devices over the next year and a half.
Megan Eckstein is the naval war reporter for Defense News. She has been covering military news since 2009, focusing on US Navy and Marine Corps operations, procurement programs, and budgets. She has reported on four geographic fleets and is happiest reporting stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumnus.