Army ready to adopt new backpack

"Medium ruck" designed for Afghanistan fighting conditions

January 7, 2010

The Army is set to field a new combat backpack that meets the emerging needs of soldiers fighting in the steep terrain and remote outposts of Afghanistan.

The so-called “medium ruck” uses technology from today’s mountaineering equipment and tactical packs and combines it with the specific needs of soldiers doing rotations of up to three days at observation posts, long patrols, or helicopter assaults where a trip back to the forward operating base may not happen for up to 72 hours. The new 3,000 cubic-inch-capacity backpack will offer soldiers better options for missions that don’t require the 5,000 cubic-inch-capacity, modular, lightweight load-bearing equipment (“MOLLE”) rucksack or the 2,000 cubic inch “assault pack.”

The Army’s equipment engineers began looking into developing a mid-range pack last February after talking to soldiers who said there was a need for an intermediate-sized rucksack. They set to work on putting together the perfect midsized rucksack (which they called “the Af-Pack”) that combined some of the most appealing features of the commercial packs soldiers actually used and matched them with emerging requirements coming from the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga.

Three prototypes have been developed so far, but engineers have yet to settle on a particular frame to help stabilize the pack’s load. The medium ruck will have two separate horizontally aligned pockets on the front, each with separate pockets and dividers inside. The sides of the pack sport MOLLE webbing to accommodate add-on pouches and accessories, while the bulk of the pack is comprised of one main, top-loading compartment. Engineers are still evaluating whether the pack should have a hybrid suspension system that uses a rigid backing – one that is just foam and another that actually has a cavity built into it to fit better on a combat-loaded soldier. Engineers want to deploy the three prototypes to the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan for testing and select a final design by the fall of 2010.

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