The Army is indeed working a new Medium Rucksack. However, despite reports to the contrary it is still in development and will be, at least at this point a Government design.
The Army envisions a pack of about 3400 cubic inches with a load capacity of about 60 pounds. Prototypes have already been produced based on an in-depth Soldier load analysis conducted over the Summer and information obtained by Soldier Systems Daily indicates that they are pretty satisfied with the bag. What is left is the frame, a problem that also plagues the Marine Corps in their on-again-off-again quest for a new pack. As long as our personnel are wearing armor the interface between man and load is problematic due to the introduction of the armor plate on the back of the wearer. Add to this an external hydration bladder and the load begins to teeter back and forth along the long axis of the back. This is why it is so important that they concentrate on this interface.
Interestingly, yesterday when we mused what type of frame the new pack would have we were right on all counts. Three different frame designs will be tested including an external frame based on the current MOLLE frame yet smaller than even the 1606 Airborne frame, an “internal” frame consisting of foam stiffening, and a hybrid design designed in-house at Natick. Regardless of frame it will have a very minimal waistbelt, probably consisting solely of 1.5 inch nylon webbing and a side-release buckle. This is much akin the waistbelts found on the old ALICE pack. Additionally, the packs will be manufactured from 1000D due to durability concerns.
One hundred test units of each frame style will be produced and tested at Fort Bragg in February and March. No photos have been released of the pack bag nor of any of the frame designs although I have a suspicion that at least the bag will look something like the SOF Assault Pack.
It is important to note that the Army desires that the new Large Airborne Assault Pack and the Medium Rucksack turn out to be the same pack but the requirements are currently quite different. For example, the sizes are somewhat different and the airborne community requires that the air items be built into the assault packs design. Unless acquisition officials are able to reconcile the two requirements they will remain separate.
There is only one Sources Sought Notice on the street and that is for the Large Airborne Assault Pack. The Army has not solicited any industry input for its Medium Rucksack project, at least yet.