Marines training in the Arctic region of Norway last year reported that many of the Corps’ standard-issue FILBE pack frames were cracking and breaking because of the intense cold and harsh winter environment.

The cold weather-related problems have caught the Corps by surprise and could stall plans to next year issue new ruck frames for all Marines.

The failure of the hard plastic frames also calls into question U.S. preparedness for Arctic operations against adversaries like Russia and China, and whether officials in the Marine Corps had properly vetted the equipment for cold weather operations.

“We are aware of the issue and we are actively working on it,” said Capt. Jolanta Krempin, a program officer at Marine Corps Systems Command, which oversees the development and fielding of warfighting equipment.

The problems first emerged in after-action reports filed by Marines who deployed to Norway last May as part of the Black Sea Rotational Force. Additional complaints of pack frame failures came again this January from the Marine Corps Mountain Training Facility in Bridgeport, California.

It is not the first time officials have complained about pack frame breakages from the FILBE packs, which were first issued to Marines in 2011 as part of the ILBE series of rucks that included a durable plastic pack frame.

In 2014, anecdotal stories trickled in of pack frames cracking during airborne operations and at Marine Corps schools, where packs are frequently swapped between students and repeatedly used for training. “Marines were asking to buy different packs because the frames were breaking,” said one engineer from Marine Corps Systems Command, also known as SYSCOM.

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Photo courtesy of Master Sgt. Chad McMeen/Marine Corps