In these new days of fighting light, Brecon manuals, regarding Project Payne, generally refer to all load carrying solutions based on belt systems. But, are we leaving out the venerable chest rig?
On a personal level, as a crow, I remember seeing some of my full screws carrying HM supplies chest rigs in the bottom of their bergens. This is because it was great for recces* and fighting in built-up areas (FIBUA).
*Recce /ˈrɛki/ is a military term that has been borrowed by media production in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, derived from “reconnaissance” in the noun sense and “reconnoitre” in the verb sense.
Now, I’m not referring to older systems such as the Arktis 42 chest rig worn in Northern Ireland. But the newer, more modular systems that have been around for a fair few years and have never taken off in the British army (like a Haley Strategic or Mayflower rig).
The army seems to have beaten out the use of chest rigs for jobs which they would be ideally suited. Rigs such as the Arktis 42 came into use mainly in Ulster due to the poor quality 58 Pattern Webbing not being able to cut the mustard. However 58 Pattern was still in use, but stripped down to the minimum amount of pouches dependant on the task.
These chest rigs still were de rigueur in the days of the Balkans, even with the arrival of the Personal Load Carrying Equipment (PLCE). This was due to a vast amount of patrol tasking. So being mounted and a majority of dismounted patrols being similar to what the average British soldier may have experienced in Ulster. The image of the squaddie clad in a DPM wind proof smock using a chest rig and NI day sack was synonymous with the 90’s. The chest rig was ideally suited for mounted patrols in a Snatch Land Rover in Ulster or in a Warrior in Bosnia.
The basic complement of three mag pouches and three utility pouches mounted on the front gave the troops the ability to have a free back for carrying a daysack, or the vast plethora of Electronic Counter Measures kit. You carried only what you needed for your job.
Specialist units such as the Special Air Service (SAS) or the Close Observation Platoon used specially tailored vests, usually due to them carrying different weapon systems and communications equipment. The belt kit still lived on as troops in taskings in South Armagh relied on it’s ability to be used easier with a bergen. History lesson aside, where has it gone and is it coming back?
It seems like this piece of kit could work really well with the new VIRTUS body armour. The geniuses who designed it only put seven rows of MOLLE on the front, negating the ability to mount a decent amount of pouches. If this is a deliberate design to stop us from mounting, what could become secondary frag? You tell me.
With the short comings of the first version of VIRTUS equipment becoming more apparent and certain RSM’s getting to grips with ‘fight light’, could now be the time to bring chest rigs out of retirement?
Ammo, water and comms win battles. Is carrying your jet boil on an advance to contact going to win you the battle? No. But would a small chest rig with your mags in and a Camelbak on your back give you a lighter load and more manoeuvrability? Yes. Or maybe you just want to live out your dream of being a Troopie on Fireforce with some stolen soldier’s chest rig. At the end of the day, how you set up your kit is half looking good and half usefulness. If your back’s in clip from sitting on your belt kit for days going across the prairie in the back of a Warrior, I strongly advise you to give chest rigs a second look.
At the end of the day if you look good and feel good, you’ll fight good.
This Kit Pest Review was written by Callum J Bickerton. Hopefully you enjoyed it and if you have any thoughts or comments related to this article then leave a comment!
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