The U.S. Army is set to field the final version of its MOLLE 4000 rucksack later this year.
Developed by U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center at the behest of the 82nd Airborne Division, the MOLLE 4000 features a durable, lightweight frame; sewn-in pouches for equipment organization; a pouch for airborne equipment like a harness and lowering line; and MOLLE webbing for attaching more pouches. The design sports elements from the old ALICE (All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) pack and earlier versions of MOLLE.
Rich Landry, the Individual Equipment Designer with Load Carriage Systems, Product Manager, Solider Clothing and Individual Equipment, said in a news release that— after getting feedback from the 82nd and other Army units—he determined that tweaking the weight distribution was vital.
“One of the critical design issues is, you must distribute the weight onto the hips, the ideal load carrying surface on the body. The original ALICE pack only distributed the weight onto the shoulders and lower back — which was a real problem. Then we started talking about the science of load carriage. And that’s what MOLLE is all about. Getting the weight off the shoulders and onto the hips — a modular approach to the design of the rucksack.”
Changes, Versatility & Fielding
Members of the 82nd had a few additional, and more specific, requests.
“One of the requirements that the 82nd had was that the harness that attaches the rucksack to the parachutist be sewn directly to the pack — because they didn’t want to lose any of the parts of it,” Landry said. “This was the one requirement we didn’t agree with. We decided it would be better and more practical if the harness that supports the pack to the parachutists harness is removable but can be set up in a configuration that is seamless in how it attaches, and therefore, doesn’t require a long rigging process.
“Normally rigging a rucksack up to this type of harness can be a 5 min or longer process, depending on the Soldier. With this, it’s about a 1 min. process. But, it’s still completely removable when need be,” Landry added.
The service also touts the MOLLE 4000 for its versatility; other, non-82nd units can use it as well.
“The beauty is, we designed a rucksack specifically for the airborne community, however, non-airborne units can use this rucksack just as effectively by just not being issued the airborne harness components,” Landry said.
The Army plans on distributing about 6,000 MOLLE 4000 rucksacks to the 82nd later this year. The rucksack will also be fielded by “a large contingent of the conventional deployed force,” the service said. This, it added, will happen at some point “in the near future.”