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US Army MOLLE 4000 – Your New Airborne Ruck

When the 82nd called in a request, Natick delivered. The response: the latest iteration of the Army’s airborne rucksack, the Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) 4000. Formatted to address the needs of the 82nd Airborne Division, the mid-sized rucksack has been designed, tested, and is now slated for limited distribution. Fabricated with both sewn-on and removable pouches, the MOLLE 4000 should be versatile enough for Army-wide utilization of the system.

Operations Sergeant, Human Resources Development Division (HRDD), Staff Sgt. Anthony Sandoval, demonstrates the redesigned Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) 4000. Developed by Load Carriage Systems, Product Manager, Solider Clothing and Individual Equipment at Natick, Soldier Systems Center, the mid-size ruck has a larger top flap and more spacious leg storage pockets than previous versions of MOLLE. Additionally, the MOLLE 4000 has an internal radio/equipment pocket and a lengthened back pad for increased comfort. (Photo Credit: Mr. David Kamm (RDECOM))

“The beauty is, we designed a rucksack specifically for the airborne community, however, non-airborne units can use this rucksack just as effectively by just not being issued the airborne harness components, ” said Rich Landry, Individual Equipment Designer with Load Carriage Systems, Product Manager, Solider Clothing and Individual Equipment.

A former Pathfinder with the 82nd, Landry understands the needs of the Airborne community. Through communication with the 82nd, and other Army units, Landry obtained the feedback necessary to improve the rucksack, a critical tool for deployed Soldiers. This final design borrows elements from the old ALICE pack, and earlier versions of MOLLE. After listening to critiques of previous equipment, Landry determined adjusting weight distribution was key.

“One of the critical design issues is, you must distribute the weight onto the hips, the ideal load carrying surface on the body. The original ALICE pack only distributed the weight onto the shoulders and lower back — which was a real problem. Then we started talking about the science of load carriage. And that’s what MOLLE is all about. Getting the weight off the shoulders and onto the hips — a modular approach to the design of the rucksack.”

Members of the 82nd had even more specific requests. “One of the requirements that the 82nd had was that the harness that attaches the rucksack to the parachutist be sewn directly to the pack — because they didn’t want to lose any of the parts of it. This was the one requirement we didn’t agree with. We decided it would be better and more practical if the harness that supports the pack to the parachutists harness is removable but can be set up in a configuration that is seamless in how it attaches, and therefore, doesn’t require a long rigging process. Normally rigging a rucksack up to this type of harness can be a 5 min or longer process, depending on the Soldier. With this, it’s about a 1 min. process. But, it’s still completely removable when need be,” said Landry.

With a durable, yet light-weight frame, sewn-in pouches for organization of equipment, a pouch for airborne components (harness and lowering line), and MOLLE-webbing for attaching additional pouches, Landry believes the versatile MOLLE 4000 is both balanced and adaptable.

The MOLLE 4000 will begin fielding later this year. Around 6,000 packs are expected to be distributed to members of the 82nd Airborne Division. A large contingent of the conventional deployed force is also expected to receive a full-scale fielding of the rucksack in the near future.

By K. Houston Waters, US Army

42 Responses to “US Army MOLLE 4000 – Your New Airborne Ruck”

  1. Neil says:

    My BN was fielded these packs about a year and a half ago for testing and evaluation. Half of those received were 500D material and the other half was 1000D. In my opinion, these truly are excellent rucksacks and I would be happy to see their adoption beyond the airborne community. The size is just right; the medium ruck often is too small and the standard MOLLE larger than needed. One of my favorite features of the MOLLE 4000: the frame doesn’t squeak with every step you take, unlike the plastic frame in the original MOLLE. They also nailed the weight distribution with this pack—of my 4 Army-issued rucks, this was by far the most comfortable to wear for long movements.

    • GAND!S says:

      I aint no high speed, door kicking, ground pounding, smooth operator; but how is the medium ruck too small? Don’t get me wrong, I am all about new gear that improves previous gear; but the medium ruck was created as a 3 day pack since the small Molle was not usable as a 3 day pack. The large Molle was created to carry a person’s main load. As I understand it, this is an alternate for the large Molle in the airborne community and, consequently, just happens to be smaller. I think the roles of all the Molle bags are being confused.

      The medium ruck is just fine for the purpose it was created for.

      • Cpt obvious says:

        @GAND!S you missed the main purpose of this ruck. Its not made for normal soldiers. Its primarily for the airborne or ranger community as mentioned. Yes eventually normal units can order them if allowed. Which im sure they will want to(cuz they wanna feel special too). This ruck is made for paratroopers who need a ruck specially designed for airborne operations. Rig/derig fast, actually travel far with a ruck, carry a sh!tload of weight (cuz yeah I’ve seen my samoan soldier drop of a plane with a ruck weighin over 115lbs. I have the proto of this as is hella much more comfortable than the molle ii, which i also like. Hell. I plan to keep the demo to use for hunting in the future. Dont hate a ruck that is not designed for YOU(LEG). Its designed for us(airborne).

  2. Dev says:

    This still uses the 1606 frame?

  3. Eddie says:

    Still not going to stop ALICE packs from being around 100 years from now.

  4. Maroon Beret says:

    I heard the USAF is getting their own version with wheels, a handle, an internal teddy bear pocket, an external sippy cup holder, with color choice of fuchsia, teal, and day glo orange. The version for C-130 pilots will have a add-on MOLLE pocket for a bridal gown, or to stash their testicles. I was hoping they would have given them an eyeglass pouch instead so they can carry glasses to see the DZ.

  5. SPEC9 says:

    The pack still seems too tall. Shorter troopers may have issues when rigged for jumping. That waist belt sure looks like it would get in the way of other load carrying gear. Got any other pictures of the pack’s frame, suspension system, interior?

    • arche says:

      You’re onto something. A minimum height standard for all USDOD combat arms MOS, say 5’10”, would solve several problems.

      • Yawnz says:

        And would probably open up others, namely getting people to fill those MOS slots in the first place.

      • Che Guevara's Open Chest Wound says:

        No one less than 5’10”? I’d bet Leonard Funk, Audie Murphy and Roy Benavidez would love to hear you pontificate on how they’re too short for the Infantry.

        • Eddie says:

          Probably the same kind of guys who think fat kids can’t play football. Tsk tsk.

        • Kirk says:

          It would probably turn up some interesting questions, were we actually to look into a lot of this crap. I’d love to know, for example, just how many big guys get permanently broken and unserviceable before they hit the ten-year mark in combat arms, and why it is that I noticed so many short wiry dudes who were really prevalent in the SF community at around the 20-year mark…

          Long-term? I bet there’s some interesting data out there about just how much size and weight cost, in terms of VA benefits and health care. The smaller guys may be a better bargain, in terms of longevity and health.

          Of course, since we don’t look at this stuff, we’ll never know…

          I’d love to see the Army and Marines do some real research in this field, starting with a recruit class, and then following it up through the course of however many of them make careers of it. There are probably a lot of folks who wind up broken before the ten-year mark, and whose breakage could probably be ascribed to poor gear, or a combination of that and bad genetics. I don’t think we really have a good handle on what makes for a good career soldier, at all.

          And, we damn sure should, by this point. Our recruiting and selection efforts ought to be based on that, too.

  6. Wraith11B says:

    So, when are they going to be able to use the waist belt? We didn’t get to at Infantry OSUT, and I never used one when I was in the field… so…

  7. Redbeard says:

    I checked this out while in development. It is incredibly burly, with heavy fabric and a reinforced plastic frame. It should hold up well. It was heavy and overbuilt, but way better than the ALICE and will probably suits basic airborne needs.

  8. Something says:

    People are saying this is the perfect size but it’s the exact same size as the old MOLLE II rucksack if you take the sustainment pouches off. Seems like the same or similar form factor as well. Seems like an incremental upgrade with the larger top flap (great change) and modifying the old divider/U Zip feature. I wish they’d eschew the bottom access zip in favor of a full length vertical access zip down the center or sides like the Mystery Ranch top loaders utilize.

    Not saying this is a bad change, but I would really like to see a pack like this one with the ability to use the ALICE frame. The Army could issue it with the 1606 even, just make ALICE and option. The ALICE bag itself isn’t anything to write home about, but the frame honestly works really well over body armor whereas the 1606 doesn’t. All it would take is a sewn in flap near the top of the bag to make it compatible, and that would open up the use of several aftermarket frames. Modularity and options.

    • Mac679 says:

      Bottom access zipper isn’t for access to the main compartment. It’s for storage of air items, negating the need with previous rucks, for a paratrooper to completely de-rig their rucksack on the drop zone.

    • Pete says:

      MOLLE II is 4000 ci for the main pouch + 500 ea for the two sustainment pouches for a total of 5000 ci
      The last MOLLE 4000 was ~ 3600 CI for the main, plus the remainder in the outside pouch, so it is in fact a tad smaller.

      One of the issues with the last version though was that that outer accessory pouch was zippered and the top flap compression straps ran over the zipper which rather negates the advantage of an outer pouch. This new one seems to go back to the old ALICE 3 lower pouch system which allows the compression straps to not interfere with access to those pouches – this is a definite improvement.

      Other issues I have with the gen 1 MOLLE4K are:
      – cinch system for the storm flap sucks – simple barrel nut doesn’t hold – needs to go back to ALICE style 550 lock
      – PALS webbing is incomplete and takes away from potential utility. Especially on the top flap – ie for mounting of AG bags.
      -The sides are kind of a weird size height wise – you can’t do a 2qt or E-Tool & a sustainment on each side (too short), but there is no other sustainment type side pouch that comes with it – given the current push to reduce width of airborne rucks, I get it, but a lot of us like side pouches.
      -Top flap map pouch needs to be bigger.

      Some things it got right:
      – Nice, large top carry handle (but it could really use side ones as well)
      – Antenna zip
      – Side compression straps

      As for the Harness, I prefer to use the old Harness Single Point Release with it. Here’s why: 1. I don’t rig and de-rig very often. 2. The Airborne Timeline is plenty long. And 3. If it was ever for real, that s**t is staying with the chute anyways – it may only be a few lbs, but pounds is pain

    • Luke says:

      Given the frame sleeve design, it should be totally backward compatible with an ALICE frame, the FILBE is and uses the same frame and a very similar sleeve.

  9. WagenCAV says:

    Has anyone addressed the fact that current versions of this pack are still produced in multicam? How’s the Army going to square that with the fact that scorpion OCP is still only producing limited bits of gear and only in limited runs; ie the gen iii level 5&6 tips but not bottoms; small quantities of the rifleman sets but not standard fru yet, etc.

  10. Linz says:

    Now demo it over loaded LBE or body armour.
    Then adopt the prone position.

    • lcpl1066 says:

      The prone position while pulling security wearing nods.

      • Kirk says:

        Don’t forget the helmet, either…

        • JC says:

          Plus tie-downs and dummy cordage…

          • Kirk says:

            I think it would be smart to revisit every design periodically after it’s fielded, examine how the hell it’s actually being used in the field, and then look at making mods to reflect that usage, along with reinforce proven points of wear. We have a bad habit of just freezing the damn designs, and leaving it at that. I mean, seriously–Look at the ALICE Large. Did we make any real, substantive changes to that thing, aside from updating some of the hardware? And, yet… If you looked at the old ones turned in to CIF, they almost all had the top pad pulling out from the body of the pack. As well, the pockets were never really changed, even though they were essentially useless to most of us… Those upper three little ones? WTF were they good for? Extra aid dressings?

            Gear should be designed in an iterative, evolutionary manner, and constantly adapted to changing circumstances and needs.

            • SSD says:

              ALICE was developed during the Cold War. Everything is getting a refreash every few years now and Modular systems allow the service to introduce components without replacing an entire system.

              • Kirk says:

                The point I’m getting at is that every replacement has been a “fresh look” design, and we keep somehow going back to ALICE as something that just, y’know… Worked.

                Someone should have taken a look at what all the mods were that guys were paying to put on their gear, like out at Tactical Tailor and a few other places. Logan Coffey was making decent money for awhile, just based on his mod package for the ALICE Large. Instead of doing the MOLLE rucks as “fresh, new” designs, maybe it would have been smarter to look at what Logan and the other guys in that field were doing, and changing the design little by little, instead of trying for some uber-ruck that would be perfect.

                This same mentality is visible in the small arms realm, as well–Nobody is advocating for small, incremental improvements. Instead, we want to “leapfrog to the 21st Century” with 100%, 200% improvements in “lethality and hit potential”.

                Maybe instead of aiming for the stars, we should try aiming for something a bit closer in, like say that next ridge over…?

                • SSD says:

                  But ALICE doesn’t work. It’s a train wreck. The only thing going for it was that it was cheap.

            • Linz says:

              Look at what some of the Australian gear mfg have done with the Alice concept.
              Initially, the issue pack (AUSPACK) was pretty bad- so straight Alice med/lge were very preferable. The deficiencies in those were corrected- my first Alice was a Tropical Haversack that I butchered by hand. The next was a Alice Large that was put in for customization along with a few thousand others. Once it was sorted what users wanted, Platatac, Sord, Combat Ready etc started to put them out as standard. MOLLE was eventually incorporated plus better frame systems.

  11. Dave says:

    How much does it weigh empty?

    Is the frame the same kind of plastic?

    The shoulder straps look the same. So does the kidney pad… which makes me skeptical that will distribute weight that well.

    • Terry Baldwin says:


      I have handled one of the earlier prototypes. There does appear to have been some changes in the suspension. The one I have seen first hand had an envelope type of pad on the rucksack itself similar to the ALICE. The two shoulder straps were separate and attach to the top of the frame and not the bag itself. Again, similar to the ALICE.

      As near as I can tell that is still the case in the production version. The prototype used the standard molle waist pad/belt. This one is different. It appears to be a multicam version of the USMC FILBE pad. Note that the belt is adjusted from buckles on each side (forward pull) rather than from the center buckle out.

      As I said, without more pictures of the harness and frame it is hard to be sure what else has stayed the same and what is different.


      • Dave says:

        I noticed the center pull straps on the belt. Big fan of those.

        Maybe this will be a general issue for grunts one day. The narrower profile would be useful anywhere. I’d like to weigh an empty one. Hopefully they cut some weight from the 8.5 pound large MOLLE.

        • Luke says:

          Don’t count on it, I bet it is within 8oz of the large MOLLE. The frame and simpler straps shave a few oz, the external pockets add a few etc.

  12. ArmyAmmoGuy says:

    I know the guy in the photo and a few of the other grunts at RDECOM… they love what they do and do their best to ensure the engineers there don’t screw it up and waste more of our tax dollars

  13. Brett says:

    Did they settle on 1000D or 500D?

  14. ibrahim acar says:

    very nice backpack. made professionally

  15. L84Cabo says:

    “One of the critical design issues is, you must distribute the weight onto the hips, the ideal load carrying surface on the body. The original ALICE pack only distributed the weight onto the shoulders and lower back — which was a real problem.

    I feel so very sorry for anyone that had to carry an ALICE pack. It’s astounding that it’s 2018 and they’re only just now figuring this out. The backpacking community sorted this out some 50+ years ago. Who the heck is building these things for the military and where are they getting their pack building knowledge/experience from?

  16. David Hicks says:

    When will this rucksack be available to the general public and how much will it cost? I believe this is the backpack I have been looking for all of my life.