Modern soldiers and marines are infinitely more sophisticated fighting machines than their predecessors, requiring ‘load-carrying’ equipment that is fluid, adaptable and comfortable enough to be used in the complex, challenging environments of modern warfare.
The current state-of-the-art LCE is the MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) system. First introduced in 1997, it is widely deployed today in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like most modern products, MOLLE is the result of a long process of market research, technical development, prototyping and testing. Surprisingly, however, much of the initial inspiration for MOLLE came from the commercial off-the-shelf backpack, whose higher, narrower volume provided a better load centre than MOLLE’s predecessor, ALICE (All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) – crucial when you remember that a modern soldier’s load can be as much as 120lb (54kg). Among the innovations of the MOLLE pack are an anatomically shaped plastic internal frame and an improved suspension system with heavily padded shoulder straps.
The pack, or ‘ruck’, itself is only the main part of a complex modular system that includes what is for the civilian a bewildering array of pouches and fittings.
These are attached to a core load-bearing nylon-mesh vest using an innovative webbing system known as PALS – the Pouch Attachment Ladder System. Acronyms and all, the soldiers ‘bag’ has come a long way since the canvas haversack of World War I.