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USMC Pack could debut downrange by October

May. 16, 2011 - 08:37AM   |   Last Updated: May. 16, 2011 - 08:37AM  |  
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The USMC pack

Expect it to carry at least 120 pounds and look similar to the Army’s. An overview of other likely features, according to an April message Marine officials provided to the defense industry:
• Large main pack weighing no more than 10 pounds. Its size has not been released, but it must use a lightweight, high-strength, polymer frame, include adjustable shoulder harnesses, a hip belt and a main bag with two compartments separated by a removable shelf. The bag will have a lid with a pocket for storage, be covered in webbing to allow for the attachment of modular pouches and have large sleeves on both sides to carry long objects like mortars or skis. It must be able to carry a radio internally.
• A smaller assault pack with a total of 2,350 cubic inches of storage space will have a main pocket and a second pocket on the front of the pack. It will also be covered in webbing, must be able to attach to the top of the main bag and must be able to carry a radio internally.
• An assault pouch that can be mounted on webbing and have a hole in the bottom for water drainage.
• Two sustainment pouches with 500 cubic inches of storage space that can be mounted onto webbing and hold food.
• A hydration system that can hold 6 liters of fluid and will allow Marines to drink while on the move. It can be worn as part of the pack or alone with its own shoulder straps.
Source: Federal Business Opportunities

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The Marine Corps' search for a new standard-issue pack is complete. Officials have settled on a final design for the USMC Pack, which Marines will begin wearing downrange as early as October, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Reilly, the pack's program manager at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va.

The pack will look a lot like the gear carried by Army personnel and feature shoulder straps that fit better with and without body armor, offer more adaptable storage, and accommodate pouches with more webbing than the Improved Load Bearing Equipment system Marines use now.

By 2013, all Marines should be issued one.

"The USMC Pack will replace the ILBE in its entirety, providing Marines with a simple and effective load-carriage system that can easily be customized to support their mission, with or without body armor," Reilly said.

Field testing concluded in Hawaii in February. Members of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, evaluated the new gear ahead of their mid-April deployment to Afghanistan. Their feedback resulted in a few last-minute revisions to the prototype, Reilly said.

The shoulder-yoke design was changed to "provide increased comfort and adjustability," a larger sleeping bag compartment was created, and webbing was added on outer surfaces to accommodate more modular pouches. The pack's lid also was modified for additional storage, and weight was cut by removing extra buckles and straps, and using a lighter form of Cordura fabric, which is favored by the military and many law enforcement organizations for its durability.

The evaluation by 1/3 was the last of three. Initial tests were conducted last summer by members of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion and 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, both out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. After experimenting with it in the field, these Marines called for a larger assault pack, removable pouches, an external frame and a simpler design — all features that have been incorporated into the final product.

The USMC Pack should be similar to the Army's Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, better known as MOLLE, according to SYSCOM officials. Marines used the MOLLE until 2004. However, it was prone to breaking, so the Corps scrapped it.

MOLLE has since undergone significant upgrades. The pack soldiers now use has a beefed-up frame that resists cracking, plus tougher zippers and waistbands.

Marines have used ILBE since 2004, but it's never fit well with body armor and has been criticized for causing back, shoulder and knee pain. In a 2009 survey of 770 Marines and corpsmen, the pack was rated "completely unacceptable."

Officials plan to award a contract for the new pack to two companies by the end of this year. They will supply the Marine Corps with up to 245,721 packs.

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