A military pack must help the soldier or marine perform his or her mission effectively with a minimum of interference or discomfort. The system must provide the land warrior enhanced tactical awareness, lethality and survivability. Such a pack must be convenient, light, sturdy, reasonably comfortable, capable of carrying a variety of necessary items, and made of materials that will withstand weather and abrasion.
In World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War various backpacks were based on systems of suspenders and belts to which could be attached various items of equipment. Many variations were employed. Such systems might be summarized as one of the later versions, the traditional All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE) pack.
During those earlier conflicts numerous shortcomings were noted for ALICE and other backpacks furnished to the fighting men. In 1988 a possible replacement built around the concept of a load-bearing vest labeled Individual Integrated Fighting System (IIFS). In more recent times this system has been enhanced to provide for such diverse needs as computers, radios, protective gear and ammunition. In modern combat being able to carry substantial amounts of ammunition while moving on the ground can be crucial.
The IIFS can be configured for these numerous purposes and many others.
Since 2007 the requirements for counter-insurgency have prompted additional improvements. The weight of the load-carrying vest has been reduced without sacrifice in strength or adaptability. The modularized system has been designed to provide for flexibility in attachments depending on the mission and the tasks associated with that mission. The individual wearing the pack is provided with the most modern means of knowing his or her position and situation. Ways of responding to that situation are maximized.
Fighting Load Components
Modern counter insurgency requires that the individual fighter knows where he is and what his companions are doing. Most of this communication system is carried in the helmet, which also provides ballistic protection. This communication system includes sensors and a computer connected to the Global Positioning System (GPS) and a pedometer dead reckoning system that tracks the movement of the individual when GPS is unavailable such as when in buildings. The power supply for these systems might be disposable or rechargeable batteries as the mission might require and such spare batteries must be readily available when replacement is required.
Ammunition carrying pockets attached to the vest can accommodate grenades, mortar rounds, and/or magazines for the carbine, depending on the weapon being borne by the individual. A fighting team may want to have all these capabilities, so the contents of the individual vest packs may vary depending on the role of the individual and the mission in which he or she is engaged. In many situations these munitions will need to be in the front of the carrying apparatus, rather than on the back, hence the value of the load-carrying vest.
Existance Load Components
A field pack including a sleeping bag and other equipment might be attached to the load-carrying vest. Additional provisions are made for attaching an entrenching tool carrier, a case of first aid dressings, a water canteen cover and other required equipment. All these options for the IIFS give the individual fighter resources for the complex tasks asked of him or her.