The past and present of ALICE military equipment

Past life-LINCLOE-LCE project

Project Background

The direct origin of ALICE equipment can be traced back to a single-soldier equipment research and development project of the US Army in the 1960s. The purpose of this project is to reduce the load of soldiers from the equipment. The name of the project is called "Lightweight Individual Clothing and Equipment" (LINCLOE, lightweight individual clothing and equipment). The LINCLOE project covers all aspects of individual equipment, such as helmets, clothing, boots, etc. (to say one more thing, LINCLOE also includes a titanium alloy helmet research project, but it has not been mass-produced), and is related to what we are introducing today Yes, it is the sub-item of equipment, namely LINCLOE-LCE (LINCLOE Load-Carrying Equipment).

In the 1960s, American armed forces intervened in Southeast Asia. Soon the military discovered that the M1956 equipment originally designed for combat in temperate and frigid zones did not perform well in the hot and humid Southeast Asia: the main body of the M1956 equipment was made of pure cotton canvas, and its own weight was very large. The water absorption becomes heavier, and it is not easy to dry, and it will become moldy after a long time. Therefore, the U.S. military at that time needed a lighter and non-absorbent fabric making equipment. This demand was fed back to the Army Equipment Command, and the project was established as LINCLOE, and in April 1966, the Natick Laboratory was commissioned to start the research. By this time, the Vietnam War had started for more than half a year.

Natick Laboratory is a research and development unit under the US Army Equipment Command, which is mainly responsible for the research and development of individual equipment. It is named after its headquarters in Natick, Massachusetts.

However, in front of the engineers in the Natick laboratory is an almost harsh index: the LINCLOE fixture subsystem, or LINCLOE-LCE, has very strict weight indicators: the military requires the total weight of the finished fixture system to be less than 3.3 pounds ( About 1.5 kg), the weight of the backpack with the outer frame support system is less than 3 pounds (about 1.36 kg). For comparison, the lightweight rucksack at the time weighed about 1.5kg, or 3.3 pounds, and had a capacity of about 40L. This was already the lightest outer frame backpack with the same capacity at that time and now, and the LINCLOE-LCE project index requires the finished backpack to be lighter and larger than the lightweight backpack.

military desert camouflage backpack system

In contrast, even today’s outdoor products that take lightweight and carrying systems as their first pursuit, their weight cannot reach the targets set by the LINCLOE-LCE project.

The first phase of the project (1966~1970)

However, the indicator is the indicator. Since the commission is accepted, we must try our best to satisfy it. But it has to be said that from the point of view of the follow-up development of the project, this demanding index data has made R&D work go wrong in some aspects.

In 1966, in order to set a general direction for the research on lightweight equipment and establish a comparison, the US military used the design of the M-1956 load-bearing equipment as a prototype and produced more than 500 sets of nylon versions of the equipment. This batch of nylon version of M-1956 is called M-1956 LLCE (Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment).

Military Woodland Camouflage Alice Jungle Backpack

In order to meet the urgent need for lightweight nylon equipment, the US Army mass-produced the M-1956 LLCE after testing and minor improvements. In 1968, it was distributed to Vietnam Army units. This is the M-1967 LLCE. However, the distribution of new nylon equipment did not affect the progress of the LINCLOE-LCE project, because M-1967 LLCE is actually just a stopgap measure, and its weight cannot meet the indicators set by the LINCLOE-LCE project, and the project itself is not too big. relationship.

In the first phase of the LINCLOE-LCE project, the engineers at Natick Labs had a lot of brainstorming. It may be affected by the M79 grenade vest issued at the time. Based on the vest-shaped structure, they designed a series of vest-like equipment. It also includes an M-60 machine gunner vest.

But when it comes to the rifleman equipment used by infantrymen, it is obvious that Natick’s engineers have some "own ideas" and designed such a kit:

This thing, which looks like two archery chest protectors symmetrically joined together, is the main plan of infantry equipment taken out by Natick Lab. Its design purpose is to use the trunk area to increase the carrying capacity of ammunition. But I don't know for what reason, the rifleman's vest is not a conventional waistcoat vest, but is designed like this.

As the LINCLOE-LCE project indicators also include backpacks, Natick Lab also came up with its own backpack plan. They designed two kinds of backpacks. However, their design ideas for backpacks are also quite characteristic: the backpack is divided into two separate parts: the bag body and the outer frame carrying system. The backpack body is fastened to the back frame through a pair of complex metal fittings. There are two sizes of The backpacks share the same set of back frames, and the backpack body does not have its own straps and must be used together with the back frames.

In addition to the above-mentioned large items, Natick also spent a lot of attention on some details in order to cope with the demanding weight index of LINCLOE-LCE. One of them is to replace some of the steel sliding iron clips on the back of the package with plastic parts, and all the copper snaps are replaced with plastic snaps to reduce the weight of the fixture.

But these things need to pass the test in the end. In July 1969, the new equipment plan designed by Natick Labs was delivered to the Army Logistics Center in Richmond, Virginia, and delivered to the following units for testing:

Army Infantry Board (US Army Infantry Board, USAIB, located in Fort Benning, Georgia)

The Army Tropic Test Center (USATTC, located in Fort Clayton in the Panama Canal Zone at the time, now the area belongs to the Republic of Panama)

Army Polar Test Center (US Army Arctic Test Center, USAATC, located in Fort Gully, Alaska)

General Equipment Test Activity (GETA, located in Fort Lee, Virginia)

Since Natick’s laboratory equipment is basically vest-type equipment, the nylon version of M1956 LLCE equipment mentioned above was also arranged as a traditional LCE equipment to participate in the test as a control group. This is the first test of the LINCLOE-LCE project, which was carried out later in the second half of 1969.

Although the Natick Lab's plan is quite innovative, the reality is cruel. At the beginning of the test, each test unit found that there were a lot of problems with the Natick Lab’s solution:

The strength of all plastic parts replaced in order to reduce weight failed the test and all were damaged;

The rucksack was also found to have flaws in design and workmanship, among which the complicated locking mechanism was the biggest problem;

The unique-looking rifleman's vest was directly eliminated. The test unit generally believed that the vest designed by Natick Labs was not as good as the traditional LCE solution of the control group.

During the test, a lot of damage occurred to the sample equipment participating in the test, which caused the embarrassment that the test could not be carried out for a while. On March 25, 1970, the test was officially suspended, and the first test of the LINCLOE-LCE project ended in a hurry, only to come to the regrettable conclusion that "the current program cannot pass the acceptance test".

Military Jungle Pack

The second phase of the project (1970~1973)

In fact, there were so many problems in the first test, and it was not all of Natick's lab. Many of the designs and replacements in the first set of Natick Labs were just to meet the stringent weight indicators set by the LINCLOE-LCE project. In order to meet these lightweight requirements, many metal buckles on the fixture have to be replaced with plastic products, but the strength of these components is reduced as a result, they become easily damaged, and a series of subsequent problems are also caused. After the first test, the Natick Laboratory clearly pointed out this point in a report to the top of the Department of the Army. In addition, the report also reported the next step of the work plan: and the actual use of the equipment to re-develop realistic data indicators, and then redesign the equipment program based on this, the plan is to complete production in May 1970 and deliver to Fort Benning in June Conduct evaluation and testing.

The Army Combat Development Command can’t wait, they are the end users of the LINCLOE project. As it was unable to bear the lengthy approval and application procedures, the leadership of the Army Combat Development Command decided to communicate directly with the Equipment Command and the Natick Laboratory. Prior to this, the implementation and feedback process of the LINCLOE-LCE project was like this: The Development Command puts forward the requirements → reports to the Ministry of the Army → the Ministry of the Army quantifies the requirements into specific indicators and establishes the project → assigns the project to the equipment command → the equipment command sends the indicators to the Natick laboratory for design and development → delivers the developed things to Fort Benning test. However, this bureaucratic process had problems at the beginning. The leaders in the Office of the War Department had too much brainstorming and lacked practical experience at the grassroots level. They set the targets too harshly, leading to the formulation of a series of subsequent plans. And product research and development went on a crooked road.

Therefore, the Combat Development Command decided to leave the Department of War and communicate directly with the research and development unit Natick Laboratory. Based on the previous test results and actual conditions, the Equipment Command and the Combat Development Command have re-drawn a new performance index requirement for the LICLOE-LCE project, mainly modifying the weight index. The agreed new targets were reported to the War Department in September and were approved the following month, but the War Department has requirements for this. The War Department said that you have to use tests to prove that the new indicators you have worked out are reliable. After all, I paid for it in the end.

As the rifleman's vest scheme was killed, the subsequent rifleman outfit design of Natick Lab turned to the traditional LCE outfit. According to the new performance indicators and feedback suggestions from the first test, the two rear straps of the strap in the M1956 LLCE were changed to a bifurcated strap, making the entire strap a "Y" shape (I have to say I Personally, I don’t like this change. The H-shaped bearing structure is more stable than the Y-shaped). Other improvements include correcting the design problems of the rucksack scheme, adding a medium-sized rucksack with a capacity of two-thirds of the large rucksack, and changing the fragile plastic snaps and plastic connectors back to metal parts.

In October 1970, the Army Logistics Center produced 300 kits for testing and evaluation based on this version. The 300 kits were sent to the following units for testing:

Army Infantry Board (US Army Infantry Board, USAIB, located in Fort Benning, Georgia)

’US Army Arctic Test Center (USAATC, located in Fort Gully, Alaska)

US Marine Corps stationed in Quantico

US Army 10th Speical Force Group (US Army 10th Speical Force Group) in Devonsburg

However, some durability problems of the backpack were discovered at the beginning of the test. After the repair and replacement, the test officially began in November 1970.

This test lasted more than a year, from the end of 1970 to the beginning of 1972, there was an episode in between. If you observe carefully, you will find that the three magazine positions in the second edition LINCLOE-LCE scheme above have their own small lids. The purpose of this design is to keep the remaining magazines in place when there are less than three magazines in the magazine bag, reducing the sound of collisions. But this design seriously hindered the removal of the magazine, so in the final version it was simplified to two separate webbing belts without a cover. However, the Marine Corps couldn't wait for the end of the LINCLOE-LCE project test. In 1972, it approved the purchase of a magazine bag for this test model to supplement the 30-round magazine bag for the M16 rifle that it badly needed.

Back to the LINCLOE-LCE project. The testing of the second edition of the Natick laboratory's equipment program ended in March 1972, and a meeting was held in early April to summarize the problems found during the testing. Fortunately, this test is generally successful. All the problems and deficiencies are concentrated in the design details and craftsmanship. It is easy to improve. The main points are as follows:

Change the spring buckle on the Y belt to a simple ladder buckle;

Improve the quick release buckle of the backpack and shoulder strap;

Change the waist pad of the rucksack from the ladder buckle to the screw tightening;

Remove the small cover in the magazine bag and replace it with two simple webbing separations to improve the sewing process;

Change the strap hanging loop on the top of the backpack body from one to two;

Improve the production process of the back frame to make it stronger.

Natick Lab re-produced fifty sets of equipment in accordance with these revised suggestions and handed them to Fort Benning for testing. This test ended in early August 1972. The test conclusion confirmed the design of most equipment. However, the M60 ammunition vest in the original plan was eliminated in this test, and the small backpack was also cut off, leaving only the medium and large Rucksack with two capacities. Some other minor modifications are also suggested. However, the problem of the rucksack still exists: the total weight of the rucksack still exceeds the standard, and the main reason is the complex locking device on the rucksack used to fix the rucksack body on the rucksack. Not only does this Rauchi have a heavy weight, it also often fails. Soldiers will make a clicking sound when they are carrying it. Fort Benning’s advice is that it’s best to think of a way to get rid of this unlucky thing.

According to the revised recommendations for this test, Natick Lab finally produced five sets of equipment, which were submitted to the Army Infantry Association for review. The rucksacks in these five sets have modified the combination method according to Fort Benning’s proposal. A downwardly opening full-width sleeve is placed on the top of the back frame on the top of the back of the rucksack body, and the bottom of the sleeve (the top of the rucksack) ) There is an opening, and the beam on the top of the back frame is exposed from the opening to connect the strap-this is the design of the later ALICE backpack.

From my personal point of view, in the entire LINCLOE-LCE project, the Natick laboratory’s rucksack design has always been fascinating: unreasonably insist on using a complex locking mechanism to combine the rucksack and the back frame. Generally, the design purpose of this device is to facilitate quick disassembly and assembly, but there is no need for quick disassembly of the rucksack body from the back frame for devices such as rucksacks, and the use of this is not found in the project report. The reason for this device; and Natick Lab was able to come up with a simple and feasible modification plan in a short time, which made people doubt whether there was something tricky about the locking mechanism...

The five sets of equipment were handed over to the Army Infantry Committee and were subjected to final testing between November 27 and December 18, 1972. After testing, the new rucksack solved all the problems exposed in the previous rucksack solution. The whole kit system can be checked and accepted. On January 17, 1973, the leaders of all parties involved in the project conducted formal technical acceptance of the LINCLOE-LCE project in the Natick laboratory. After voting by the acceptance group, the following components in the LINCLOE-LCE fixture plan designed by Natick Labs have been tested and improved, and have reached the acceptance criteria and approved for mass production:

Carrying belt, Medium/Large (Belt, Individual Equipment, Size Medium/Large)

Field Pack, Size Medium/Large

Carrying straps (Suspenders)

Carrier, Intrenching Tools (Carrier, Intrenching Tools)

Field Backpack (Frame, Field Pack)

Shelf, Cargo Support

Banding (Stripe, Webbing)

Backpack cover (Cover, Field Pack, Camouflage Pattern)

Case, Small Arms Ammunition

military desert alice jungle backpack set

When the set was finalized, a standard name in the format of "model-year" was assigned: "M-1972". This may be the last standard name of this format assigned by the US military in terms of individual equipment. And the name of this number has not been used for too long, in 1974 it was changed to "All-purposeLightweightIndividualCarryingEquipment"-also known as "ALICE". However, despite this, the name M-1972 has been used for some time on the labels of some ALICE equipment, and even the label or mimeograph of some ALICE equipment produced in the 1980s still uses the name "M-1972". In addition, ALICE is also the last set of LCE-type equipment equipped by the US military. Since then, the new individual equipment of the US military has turned to the vest structure and gradually combined with protection.

At present-the introduction of ALICE equipment components

If there is any essential difference between the ALICE equipment and the LCE equipment used by the US military before, it is that the ALICE equipment makes a clear distinction between "combat load" and "existence load": combat load is and Materials and equipment directly related to combat and missions: weapons and ammunition, protective equipment, first aid supplies, drinking water, and technical equipment needed to perform the mission. These items need to be carried with load-bearing equipment so that they can be obtained as soon as they are needed; and survival load refers to the materials needed for the survival and life of soldiers, such as rations, tents, sleeping utensils and toiletries, and civil tools , Spare drinking water and spare ammunition also fall into this category. These materials are generally not used in combat, but they also need to be carried by the soldiers themselves, installed in backpacks or hung on the outside of the backpacks, and can be quickly thrown away when encountering enemy conditions so as not to hinder the battle. The purpose of introducing this concept is to improve the efficiency of equipment use, enhance the combat effectiveness of soldiers, and improve survival rates.

The concrete implementation of the concept to the actual equipment is to integrate the medium and large backpacks into the equipment system. It sounds simple at first, nothing special. But in fact, many detailed designs of these two backpacks serve this concept, including the capacity ratio of the main compartment and the outer auxiliary compartment, the design of the external hanging points, and the quick-release device of the backpack. Not only that, this concept has also permeated all aspects. The equipment manual issued when enlisting in the army will teach soldiers how to distinguish and pack different supplies. The implementation of this concept is actually a systematic project, not just the introduction of two backpacks.

Medium and large backpacks

I have to say that the backpack in the ALICE outfit can really be said to be an absolute classic military equipment design. Its structure and functions are all derived from pure military requirements, without any redundancy.

for example. Unlike civilian backpacks that increase the capacity by increasing the height of the bag, the ALICE large backpack achieves this goal by increasing the lateral size of the bag. Such a design is of practical significance: ALICE backpacks should be designed for parachuting. When performing parachuting, the paratrooper needs to carry the main parachute bag on the back and the auxiliary parachute bag on the chest. Therefore, the backpack needs to be hung upside down in front of the personnel from the waist height with a special hanger, and the parachutist is released when the parachute is close to the ground. Then, throw it to the ground first. If the backpack is too high, it will hang to the ground after hanging upside down, affecting the movement of personnel in the cabin. Some outdoor backpack pedigree military backpacks equipped by the U.S. military, such as the FPLIF and ILBE main bags, have this problem. The ALICE backpack does not have this problem whether it is large or medium. It is still the most suitable for military parachuting under the same capacity. Military backpack in action.

The medium-sized backpack has a capacity of about 50L, and the large-sized backpack adds about 40%. The two rucksacks are designed with barrel bag structure. There are three auxiliary compartments on the outside, and a radio compartment on the side of the back inside, which can carry a backpack radio. The two kinds of backpacks should be used in conjunction with the back frame, and can also be directly worn on the back. There is also a four-color jungle camouflage version of the medium backpack. There is also a version in the camouflage version. There is an opening on the left side of the main compartment cover to extend the antenna of the radio station carried in the bag.

Back frame and backpack accessories

Military Alice Jungle Frame

The back frame is the backbone of the backpack. The ALICE backpack adopts an outer frame type carrying support system, and the back frame can be easily removed. The main body of the back frame is formed by bending a thick aluminum tube into a box shape. The frame has a cross beam structure to increase the strength, and the upper end of the back frame is bent inward to fit the back. The external frame has many advantages over the internal frame, and good back ventilation is one of them.

The back frame is not only used for backpacks, but also can be used alone as a carrying device. With straps and brackets, you can carry many things, such as oil drums, ammunition boxes, radio stations, etc.

One more thing about the quick release buckle of the backpack and shoulder strap. This thing was only available on the left shoulder in the original version, and then changed to have both sides. Its function is to instantly disconnect the harness and remove the backpack. In the US military engagement process, if a soldier is carrying a backpack, the first thing after an exchange of fire is to unload the backpack after lying down. At this time, you need to use the quick-release shoulder strap. The quick release function is not unique to ALICE backpacks. Backpacks before ALICE, such as the lightweight backpacks and tropical backpacks introduced above, also have quick release shoulder straps.

Suspenders and belts

Belts and harnesses are the basic structure of LCE equipment, and all other equipment needs to rely on them to be used. The back of the Y-shaped strap is bifurcated to form a four-point suspension. The weight of the belt can be distributed to the shoulders.

Then talk about the belt. The belt of the ALICE system has undergone improvements on both sides, with a total of three versions. The length adjustment method and belt buckle are mainly modified.

Magazine bag

Each magazine pack can contain three 30-round M16 magazines, one set is equipped with two magazine packs, which is exactly one ammunition base. The structures on both sides are used to carry M67 fragmentation grenade, generally called "grenade wings". There is no special grenade bag in the ALICE equipment.

military magazine pouch

Kettle bag

The M-1967 LLCE equipment is used, and the four parallel longitudinal lanes on the front in the original design are cancelled. There is insulation felt inside. The small outer pocket is designed to hold vials of water purification tablets.

Compass/first aid kit

It also uses the M-1967 LLCE equipment, a small accessory bag with a simple structure, usually hung on the horizontal webbing outside the Y-belt shoulder pad.

Tri-fold shovel cover

Three-fold shovel cover produced by EVA injection molding process. The built-in three-fold shovel has been used since 1968 and has been used until now.

military water bottle with cover

Other compatible equipment

The ALICE equipment is distributed throughout the U.S. military and has a long time of equipment. Therefore, there are many ALICE-compatible individual equipment in the same period, whether it is a public equipment or a commercial version, the following are just a few of them:

However, it should be noted that these compatible fixtures are not part of ALICE fixture components.

Component naming

Finally, let's talk about naming. Friends who have a little knowledge of ALICE will know that the labels or mimeographs of the equipment in the ALICE system say "LC-1", "LC-2" or earlier "M-1972". Although there is actually no regularity in the naming, it does not mean that the early was M1972, then LC-1, and later LC-2. Exactly the same piece of equipment may have these three names at the same time, but the actual version is exactly the same. In addition, not all equipment will have these three names. For example, magazine bags and large backpacks only have "LC-1", not "LC-2". There is no definite rule, only specific items can be seen in detail.

Actual application and impact

The ALICE equipment was officially distributed in 1973, gradually replacing the M1956 LCE equipment used during the Vietnam War. She accompanied the US military to participate in all military operations from the Vietnam War to today. Even today, when MOLLE system equipment and integrated defense-carrying equipment are fully popular, there are still new ALICE equipment being produced.