“How’d This Escape?”

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Marine photo / CWO 2nd Class Clinton W. Runyon

A Marine carrying the THOR anti-IED system in Afghanistan using a less-than-ideal backpack.

And they say the Pentagon is slow when it comes to procurement? It moved pretty quickly this week – although it was cancelling a procurement instead of actually buying something.

There’s both good and bad news associated with this tale.

The good news is that someone, somewhere, concluded there was something wrong with what the Pentagon was seeking, so they put a halt to the procurement (the bigger the program, of course, the less likely this is to happen).

The bad news is that someone, somewhere, drafted a 48-page document detailing what the military wanted to buy. Putting such a document together costs a lot of money, and it’s part of the reason Pentagon overhead is so tough to cut: there are corps of bureaucrats, and a lot of contracted civilian workers, churning this stuff out 24/7.

Anyway, on Wednesday at 2:02 p.m., the folks at the Joint Improvised Explosive Defeat Device Organization (JIEDDO) said their outfit “is seeking an urgent need to field a Multi-Cam Redirect backpack that meets all of the prioritized requirements outlined in this solicitation.”

Sounds pretty dire (even if you’re not quite sure what it means), right? After all, JIEDDO is the Pentagon office responsible for defending U.S. troops from improvised explosive devices — IEDs — the most deadly weapon used against them in the post-9/11 wars.

But reading the fine print about the Thor III Counter-Radio-Controlled-IED System Backpack makes the need crystal clear:

THOR III is the Electronic Counter Measure (ECM) system that provides US soldiers with protection from the Radio triggered variant of these devices and the correct carriage of this equipment is critical to maintaining a soldier’s squad’s safety on operations. The present THOR III backpack, as well as being ergonomically sub optimal, has no ability to store the personal equipment required by the soldier to operate over a 24 hour period. This has led to several instances of ‘work arounds’ that have caused the ECM to be ineffective in the event of an IED.

The inability to safely carry the ECM system simultaneously with personal equipment has led to the need to share the soldier’s personal equipment around the remainder of the soldiers within the squad. To highlight the problems this causes, soldiers are presently carrying in the region of 50kg (110lbs) of their own equipment in temperatures around 58 C (138 F). Adding to this burden clearly reduces their ability to fight.

Therefore, Joint Improvised Explosive Defeat Device (JIEDDO) is seeking an urgent need to field a Multi-Cam Redirect backpack that meets all of the prioritized requirements below to the ECM operator in time for the height of the summer fighting season in order to reduce fatigue for both the operator and the squad.

Ergonomically sub optimal? Yikes…sounds dangerous. Tell us what you need so we can get to work on it pronto!

— Maintainability of equipment to passively transfer heat during operation.

— Mounts for GPS antenna and Remote control unit (RCU = L 10.1mm x W 5.1mm x D 2.6mm) on shoulder straps with protection for any external cables (i.e., in order to prevent entanglement cables cannot be worn loose).

— Must be able to integrate battery tray with secure connection for 2 x 2590 batteries and have easy access for battery replacement without removing personal equipment.

— Material: Infra Red compliant and at wear restricting (Cordura 500 or more)

Must also be able to carry:

— Spare set of batteries (2 x 2590 (L 112mm x W 61mm x H 127 mm 1.4kg each).

— Personal equipment for 24 hours (22 litres, Volume of Backpack not including the space for the Thor III system)

— Personal water bladder with ducting for drinking tube.

— Weight: not to exceed 2.2 Kg

— Must remain stable on back while wearing standard issue US Army body armor.

— Must be an ergonomic design so as to minimize the effects of the weight on the user.

— Must have the ability to mount Molle secured ECM within the backpack for individual ECM use (THOR Light).

— Needs optional strap or cinch across the front (chest) to relieve stress on the shoulders. Cinch may be attached to the body armor.

THOR Light? Sounds like a beer for Vikings…

Anyway, at 8:40 a.m. Thursday, 18 hours after posting its “urgent” announcement, JIEDDO had a change of heart:

Solicitation is cancelled to allow the Government to re-evaluate the specifications.

Something tells Battleland this was a hot topic of discussion at JIEDDO headquarters overnight.