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SOF Seeks Innovative Load Carriage Products

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At the same time that the U.S. Army is exploring new concepts of carrying tactical equipment on the battlefield, the special operations community is also exploring innovative load carriage products.

Special operations interest was revealed in a recent “sources sought” announcement in which the Program Manager-Special Operations Forces Survival Support & Equipment Systems (PM-SOF SSES) outlined an industry day designed “to identify designers and manufacturers with innovative Special Operations Forces Load Carriage Systems (SOFLCS) products.”

Load Carriage

A Special Forces soldier provides security during a cordon and search of a suspected bomb making facility at a remote village in the Arghandab District Dec. 10, 2009. Program Manager-Special Operations Forces Survival Support & Equipment Systems (PM-SOF SSES) is seeking innovative load carriage system products. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Debra Richardson

“PM-SOF SSES evaluates and fields commercial off the shelf (COTS) SOFLCS products,” it explained. “Legacy items generally conform to Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) specifications. PM-SOF SSES anticipates backward compatibility with the MOLLE dimensions for attachment purposes but will not require adherence to the material specifications of MOLLE products in future items.”

The legacy platform MOLLE dimensions are 1-inch wide horizontal rows (plus or minus 1/8 inch) to weave and attach pouches or other items. The horizontal attachment straps have “bartacks” at 1.5-inch intervals.

The recent announcement provides potential vendors with a list of the primary items found in most load carriage systems “to accommodate the basic needs of the SOF operator.”

Those basic need elements include:

  • both 30-round 5.56mm magazines (polymer or metal) and 20-round 7.62mm SCAR magazines in single mag quick access, single mag positive retention, single pouch, two mags, and triple shingle designs;
  • multi-caliber rifle mag pouches adjustable to hold either 5.56mm or 7.62mm magazines;
  • 9mm 15-round pistol magazine pouches (for M9 or Glock 19) in both quick access and positive retention designs;
  • M67 fragmentary grenade pouch;
  • 40mm grenade pouch (to fit HE rounds as minimum with illumination rounds desired as well);
  • six different utility pouch designs, ranging from a “dump pouch” able to expand to hold approximately six empty 5.56mm magazines to a small utility pouch able to hold a 5590 series military battery;
  • a generic multi-tool pouch;
  • a hydration pouch;
  • a grid reference chest pouch;
  • a radio pouch for the AN/PRC-152 radio;
  • an H-harness with belt (capable of carrying specific loads), and;
  • a modular Rhodesian/chest rig (worn stand-alone or attaching to body armor).

Other elements of SOFLCS interest include both Functional Utility Pack – Assault (FUP-A) and SOF Personal Medical Pouch (PMP).

FUP-A can be worn as a pack or attached to a MOLLE panel, vest or load carriage harness. Minimum carrying capabilities include a 70-ounce hydration bladder; combat helmet and gloves; AN/PRC-117G radio with battery, and high loft jacket. An ability to expand or compress the FUP-A for additional items and/or lower profile is identified as “desired.”

Contents of the SOF PMP range from a one-hand tourniquet to a combat wound pack.

Noting that “Reduction in weight, bulk and water retention from current SOFLCS items is desirable,” the announcement encourages interested vendors to bring one or more examples of each item available to an SOFLCS “industry day” currently slated for Feb. 28, 2013, at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...