Deploying Marines to receive new chest rigs

New one-piece system consolidates gear
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Aug 9, 2010 10:14:03 EDT

By early 2011, Marines deploying to Afghanistan will likely be outfitted with new chest rigs that will allow them to quickly and easily transfer equipment from one body armor system to another.

The Marine Corps plans to buy up to nearly 410,000 chest rigs that hold equipment in a single one-piece system rather than in individual pouches.
The concept was developed by Marine officials this year after operating forces in Afghanistan submitted an urgent statement of need, Marine officials said. The rigs will consolidate rifle magazines, radios, grenades, pyrotechnics and other items so they can be detached from body armor and easily moved to another vest in seconds.

Units deploying to Afghanistan expected to have first priority on a first wave of 108,000 units. The Plans, Policies and Operations division at Marine Corps headquarters will decide which units can field the equipment first, said Bill Johnson-Miles, a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command, out of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

The chest rig request was made after the Corps began fielding both the modular tactical vest and lighter-weight scalable plate carrier to Marines in Afghanistan in 2008, officials said. Commanders currently set the requirements for which vests their Marines use. The bulky, but more protective, MTV is used in the most hostile environments, and the plate carrier is used in hot-weather. When a commander calls for a swap, Marines must transfer the pouches individually.

While Marines in Afghanistan are frequently allowed to use the more protective MTV if they want to, most opt for the plate carrier when it is allowed.

SYSCOM launched a contract competition for the rigs in May, with interested contractors required to submit samples by July 26. The command held an event June 11 in Stafford, Va., in which contractors were allowed to see a sample of what the Corps is seeking.
The Corps did not disclose which companies attended, or may be in the running to win the competition. Each contractor was required to submit at least four rigs to the Corps for testing.

According to Marine documents outlining the competition, the rigs must carry six rifle magazines, a GPS device and a radio, plus other gear. It also must have a quick-release system similar to what vests have.
“It provides the user with an alternate method of carrying the combat load on a body armor system and can also be used in a ‘stand-alone’ configuration with a detachable harness,” the documents say.

The Corps may ultimately buy up to 409,754 rigs, in order to replace items that are broken or worn out during combat use in future years, Johnson-Miles said.