The All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment, or ALICE, was introduced into United States Army service in 1974 to replace the M-1956 Load-Carrying Equipment [LCE] and M-1967 Modernized Load-Carrying Equipment [MLCE].
Nylon's light weight and durable qualities lead the United States Army to consider the M-1967 Modernized Load-Carrying Equipment for United States Army-wide adoption. A study was undertaken in the early 1970s to identify any shortcomings and to propose improvements for a new load-carrying equipment system to replace the M-1956 LCE and M-1967 MLCE. The new system was developed by the United States Army Materiel Command and extensively tested at the United States Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia.
While this new load-carrying system was being tested and developed it was initially given the prototype designation M-1972 Individual Load-Carrying Equipment [ILCE] but once finalized it was designated the All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment or ALICE system [the use of year model designation ceases]. The system was adopted in 1974, and issue began the following year, though the small arms ammunition cases were released in late 1973 since no other 30-round ammunition magazine small arms ammunition cases were available [for the Rifle, 5.56 Millimeter, M16A1] in quantity. The designation LC-1 or LC-2 [load carrying] is used to additionally identify component items.
The ALICE system retains the concept of separate fighting and existence loads that was refined in the mid-1950s during the development of the M-1956 LCE. The most important point in the fighting and existence loads concept is that an infantry rifleman should carry only the items necessary to complete the immediate mission at hand. The load an infantry rifleman carries should not include any other item that can be carried another way. Because the type of mission, terrain, and environmental conditions will influence the clothing and individual equipment requirements, the unit commander may prescribe to the infantry rifleman the essential items. The prime purpose of the fighting and existence loads concept is to lighten an infantry rifleman's load.
The typical individual fighting load is made up of essential items of clothing, individual equipment, small arms, and small arms ammunition that are carried by, and are essential to, the effectiveness of the combat infantry rifleman and the accomplishment of the immediate mission of the unit when the infantry rifleman is on foot. Normally these items are carried on the individual equipment belt and individual equipment belt suspenders.
The typical individual existence load consists of items other than those in the individual fighting load which are required to sustain or protect the infantry rifleman, which may be necessary for the infantry rifleman's increased personal and environmental protection, and which the infantry rifleman normally would not carry. When possible, the individual existence load items are transported by means other than man-carry. Otherwise both the fighting and existence loads are carried by the infantry rifleman. Individual existence load items are usually carried in the field pack.
The ALICE system remains in United States Army service to date with various components of the system being used in conjunction with the myriad of load-carrying systems in use. In 1988 the ALICE system was originally slated to be replaced by the Individual Integrated Fighting System or IIFS, but this has yet to occur.
ALICE systems have become increasingly popular in the recreational sport of airsoft and paintball for their high quality materials, customization features, and the fact that they are readily available at many military surplus stores. Though not as popular in the sport retailers as the MOLLE system is or cross draw vests, many use the ALICE system as their load carrying unit of choice for having relatively low prices and replicating military gear with the same features as other customizable load bearing units.
The ALICE system fighting load comprises the following components:
Belt, Individual Equipment - The individual equipment belt is constructed of Army Shade 7 olive drab nylon webbing with black chemical finish adjusting buckles, keepers, and a belt buckle. The medium size belt [NSN 8465-00-001-6488] is for soldiers with waists measuring under 30 inches [76.2 cm] and size large [NSN 8465-00-001-6487] is for those with waists measuring 30 inches [76.2 cm] or over. The individual equipment belt is adjusted from each end by means of clamp-type buckles which slide on the individual equipment belt when open. The individual equipment items are attached by interlocking slide keepers or are hooked through eyelets along the bottom of the individual equipment belt. The eyelets along the top of the individual equipment belt are for attaching the individual equipment belt suspenders.
In 1981 the new Belt, Individual Equipment, LC-2 is introduced with the green plastic quick-release buckle and is assigned the National Stock Number 8465-01-120-0674 [medium] and 8465-01-120-0675 [large].
Carrier, Entrenching Tool - The entrenching tool carrier is molded of ethylene-vinyl acetate [EVA] and the top flap is secured by means of two metal snap fasteners. It attaches to the individual equipment belt by means of two keepers with interlocking slides. The entrenching tool carrier is designed to accommodate the lightweight collapsible 'Entrenching Tool, Hand [NSN 5120-00-878-5932''].
Case, Field First Aid Dressing - The field first aid dressing case is constructed of Army Shade 106 olive green water repellent treated 7.25 ounce [206 g] nylon duck. It is 8½ inches [21.6 cm] long with flap open; approximately 4½ inches [11.4 cm] wide, and forms a 4 inch [10.2 cm] deep pocket. It has a metal snap-type fastener closure and is attached to the individual equipment belt or individual equipment belt suspenders by a keeper with interlocking slide. The field first aid dressing case is designed to accommodate either the Dressing, First Aid, Field [NSN 6510-00-159-4883] or the Compass, Magnetic, Unmounted [NSN 6605-00-151-5337].
The field first aid dressing case is originally assigned the National Stock Number 8465-00-001-6473, but it is decided to retain the National Stock Number for the M-1967 MLCE field first aid dressing case.
Case, Small Arms Ammunition - The small arms ammunition case is designed to accommodate three 30-round Magazine, Cartridge [NSN 1005-00-921-5004] used with the Rifle, 5.56 Millimeter, M16A1. It is constructed of nylon duck and webbing with polyester sheet stiffeners in the front, rear and lid of the small arms ammunition case. Each cartridge magazine is held in place by means of 3/4-inch [1.91 cm] wide webbing spacers which cross the top of the small arms ammunition case. The lid is closed by means of a plastic latch. Grenade carrying pockets are located on each side of the small arms ammunition case which are secured by means of a nylon web strap and metal snap fastener. A tab with a metal eyelet is located at the top back of the small arms ammunition case to which the individual equipment belt suspenders are attached. The small arms ammunition case is attached to the individual equipment belt by keepers with interlocking slides.
Cover, Water Canteen - The water canteen cover is fabricated of nylon cloth and webbing and acrylic pile liner material. The two-flap closure is secured by means of metal snap fasteners. There is a small pocket on the front of the cover for carrying water purification tablets. The lid of this small pocket is secured by means of hook and pile fastener tape. The cover attaches to the individual equipment belt by means of two keepers with interlocking slides. The water canteen cover is designed to accommodate the Canteen, Water [NSN 8465-00-889-3477].
The water canteen cover is originally assigned the National Stock Number 8465-00-001-6472, but it is decided to retain the National Stock Number of the M-1967 MLCE water canteen cover. In 1975 the LC-1 designation for the water canteen cover is changed to LC-2 due to some minor design changes. The National Stock Number remains the same.
Suspenders, Individual Equipment Belt - The individual equipment belt suspenders are Y shaped with three adjusting straps, but four points of attachment to the individual equipment belt and small arms ammunition cases. The shoulder straps are padded with spacer cloth. Each shoulder strap has a web loop and a non-slip buckle on each of the straps in the front and one at the back through which the adjusting straps pass. There are rectangular wire loops located between the web loops and the buckles on the front of the straps. The 1-inch [2.54 cm] wide adjusting straps have side-retaining snap hooks at one end. The back adjusting strap has an inverted V of which each end has a side-retaining snaphook. Each of the adjusting straps has a loop around it made of 1-inch [2.54 cm] elastic material. In 1991 the individual equipment belt suspenders are redesignated LC-2 with no apparent modifications.
The ALICE system existence load comprises the following components:
Field Pack [medium] - The field pack is made of water repellent treated nylon duck and webbing, spacer fabric, and metal hardware. The main compartment closes by means of a drawstring secured by a plastic cord clamp. A radio pocket is located against the back on the inside. Three pockets on the outside with strap and buckle adjustable closures and with snap fasteners for quick access are provided for miscellaneous items. The top flap has a pocket with a hook and pile fastener tape sealed closure. Equipment hangers are located above each outside pocket and on each side. Drainage eyelets are provided in the bottom of the main compartment and the outside pockets. An envelope pocket is located at the top, back of the pack and padded with spacer cloth, into which the field pack frame is inserted when the field pack is used on the field pack frame. Buckles and straps at each side near the bottom are used for anchoring the field pack to the field pack frame. Two rectangular wire loops located at the top back of the field pack and D rings on each side at the bottom of the field pack are used to provide shoulder strap attachment when the field pack is carried without the field pack frame. A waterproof bag is located in the main compartment and each of the three outside pockets for keeping the equipment dry.
Field Pack [large] - The construction and materials in the large field pack are similar to the medium field pack with the differences being: it is much larger in size; the center outside pocket is larger than the other two main outside pockets; and the addition of three small outside pockets above the larger pockets.
Frame, Field Pack - The field pack frame is used as a mount for either the medium field pack or the large field pack. The frame, when requisitioned, comes with all straps. The frame is of aluminum construction.
Shelf, Cargo Support - The cargo support shelf is used to support bulky loads such as water, gasoline, and ammunition cans, field rations, and radios. The shelf is of aluminum construction.
In 1977 the following existence load equipment items are introduced as replacements after modifications due to defects in the original equipment's design: