USMC Awards FILBE Pack Contract to Eagle and Propper (and Mystery Ranch*)

News of the Marine Corps’ FILBE pack contract flew in under the radar late last week. SYSCOM awarded a pair of contracts Friday, one for $50.1 million to Eagle Industries and another worth $47.5 million to Propper. Reading into the award brief, it’s clear that FILBE’s carrying a healthy dose of Mystery Ranch DNA*.

I called up to the Ranch this morning and got a few details on the award and the bag that Grunts will be shouldering next year.

Dana Gleason, the head honcho up at Mystery Ranch, spoke with me about their involvement with FILBE. Mystery Ranch ended up getting brought in as a subcontractor on a separate USMC contract to optimize and build a set of FILBE prototypes for testing.  He told me: “We had a certain amount of time to play with it and look at the critical elements that were part of the system. We were there to optimize it as much as possible for the Corps. We were not there to try to turn it into something entirely different than its basic roots.” The Corps would ultimately incorporate features of the tested prototype into the final FILBE design.

The FILBE is three parts: the main pack, the assault pack and the hydration pack (which will contain a USMC specific version of Camelbak’s milspec Antidote hydration reservoir). The main pack grew out of Natick’s  Airborne Pack System and is based on the ALICE frame-sized, government-owned, Downeast 1606 frame. Mystery Ranch took the Airborne Pack System & FILBE drawings and worked to optimize the main and assault pack designs for a month and is proud to see the Corps has adopted a few of the design enhancements. Shown at right is the Mystery Ranch version of FILBE mounted on their NICE BBS frame as opposed to the Downeast 1606 frame the Marines will field.

Gleason describes Mystery Ranch’s touches to the design by saying “anybody that looks at the hipbelt will go ‘oh, there’s some MOLLE in there,’ until they discover that we put a lumbar pad behind the back of the hip belt that stabilizes things ever so much more and locks [the pack] directly into to the frame.”

Other features:

  • Stretchy material on the front face of the belt against the hips that cushions better than previous versions.
  • Mystery Cinch in addition to a standard sternum strap.
  • Forward pulling adjustment straps on the waist belt.
  • Adjustable upper yoke that allows for true sprung lift on the shoulder pads.
  • Upper yoke serves as a subframe for the bag itself if anything happens to the main frame.
  • Weather resistant, spindrift style closure on top as opposed to the old-school multiple grommet-and-cord closure.
  • 500d Cordura construction with 1000d reinforcement.
  • Adaptable to fit several frames including ALICE, Mystery Ranch NICE and the Downeast 1606 frames.

“We saved weight, though it’s not really light,” Gleason said when I asked how much the bag weighs. He hints FILBE is not the bag you’d want to take on the Appalachian Trail. “Its basic genes still come from MOLLE. We built it in 500d Cordura with a differential cut bottom and a few reinforcing pieces of 1000d Cordura, especially in the assault ruck.” Taken directly from the US DoD Contract briefs posted 9/16/2011:

Eagle Industries Unlimited, Inc., Fenton, Mo., is being awarded a $50,184,913 delivery order, 0001, under previously awarded firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-11-D-3071) for Marine Corps packs, training materials, and data reports. Work will be performed in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico (52 percent), and Lares, Puerto Rico (48 percent), and is expected to be completed Sept. 15, 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $50,184,913 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract resulted from an unrestricted competition. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Propper International, Inc., Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, is being awarded a $47,527,535 delivery order, 0001, under previously awarded firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-11-D-3070) for Marine Corps packs, training materials, and data reports. Work will be performed in Puerto Rico (81.5 percent), and Bozeman, Mont. (18.5 percent), and is expected to be completed Sept. 15, 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $47,527,535 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract resulted from an unrestricted competition. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.