MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- A revolutionary new material from the company that produces service rifle slings could cut several pounds from the weight Marines carry on their backs.
Blue Force Gear, which designed the combat sling Marines use on their service rifles, created a new lightweight, heavy-duty material that could replace every strap on a Marine rifleman's kit. In the process, the material swap would shave between 6 and 8 pounds from the total weight of the products.
The material, called ULTRAcomp, is more durable than the nylon typically featured on vests, packs and pouches, said Stephen Hilliard, Blue Force Gear's director of product development. It's made of high-performance laminate that doesn't tear or absorb as much water as the nylon typically used on those products.
"We see a weight reduction of anywhere from 15 to 20 percent," Hilliard said at the Modern Day Marine expo here. "If you ask any Marine if they like to ditch 6 pounds of useless webbing and layers of fabric while still maintaining durability, every one of them would take it."
There are broader impacts to those weight savings beyond the individual Marine, he added.
"When you look at the bigger picture and think about transporting 100 Marines on an aircraft and you're saving, say, 6 pounds for each, that's 600 pounds less," Hilliard said. "That's less fuel getting burned on the aircraft."
Troops in the special operations community are already using Blue Force Gear's products as a way to cut weight. The company has items in the Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements, or SPEAR program, he said. And Marine Raiders use their own unit funds to buy the lightweight kits.
"Our hope is that when those units intermingle and have intra-service operations, other Marines will say, 'Oh wow, look at all this weight we're saving even though it costs the same,' " Hilliard said. "That trickles on down into all the elements of the services.
"We want every Marine or soldier to get to save the same amount of weight, not just the special guys," he said.