Grunts and infantry-like Marines will be the first to get their hands on a new lightweight plate carrier that’s been in the works for the last several years, according to Marine Corps Systems Command.

The Corps says it has started fielding the new plate carrier — dubbed Plate Carrier Generation III — which is 25 percent lighter than the legacy plate carrier fielded in 2011.

“The PC Gen. III improves the Marines’ ability to shoot and move by eliminating excess bulk from the design, and cutting out the shoulders for a better rifle stock weld,” Lt. Col. Bryan Leahy, individual armor team lead at Systems Command, said in a news release.

The new lighter plate carrier is part of the Corps’ goal to reduce the load burden carried by grunts.

The Corps has been in the hunt for lighter body armor as the force tries to reduce the weight burden and combat load carried by Marines and grunts, which a government watchdog report said can be as high as 119 pounds.

“When you lighten the load, Marines can get to their destinations faster and they’re going to have more endurance, which increases their lethality,” Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in the release.

In 2016, the Corps carried out a study to analyze the legacy plate carrier and the new lightweight system on various obstacle courses and a 15 km hike.

The study highlighted that Marines performed better with the new lighter carrier and had improved mobility and weapons handling, Konicki said in the release.

The Corps is also gearing up to field its new lightweight body armor plates, designed to be worn in the Corps’ low intensity or counterinsurgency style conflicts.

The new body armor plates will protect “against the preponderance of likely threats while improving mobility” and will reduce the hard body armor weight burden on Marines by 38 percent, Maj. Ken Kunze, a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command, previously told Marine Corps Times

The new lightweight carrier is going to the infantry first and then infantry-like Marines. After, the new armor carrier will be fielded to supporting units.

The Corps expects full operational capability of the new PC GEN. III carrier by fiscal year 2023.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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