A few years ago the British Army got very excited about it’s latest toy; the VIRTUS “fight light” soldier system, brought in to replace the OSPREY system of the Herrick years. Almost immediately those of us who had experience with kit available on the private market gave a collective sigh of disappointment. Source Hydration, creators of the “Scalable Tactical Vest” (STV) and other VIRTUS components clearly cut corners and loaded the vest with the usual outdated gimmicks to dangle in front of the MOD and please the civilians.
As a result of the STV’s terrible design, many of us who are forced to use it have spent the last few years desperately trying to make it more taskworthy, and also make it look “cooler”, or at least more like a plate carrier you would expect to see in 2019. The vest I have in front of me today belongs to a colleague, SH, who’s vest actually featured in the first ever post on my page, and has gone through several changes to arrive at the setup it is today.
The main flaws we had to get around were:
- Odd 7 Molle columns on the front platebag
- Awkward and inconvenient buckle closing system
- Lack of Molle real estate on the sides
Tackling the maddening choice to use 7 molle rows (as opposed to 6/8 to carry 3/4 magazines) on the front platebag was the first action we took with the vests, realising pretty quickly that with the use of Molle adapted swift clips we could hang a Haley Strategic D3CR and use the side closing clips to secure it. This concept was refined on SH’s vest with the use of a Spiritus Mk3 Chassis and a custom velcro panel by Mael Eoin. On my own vest I moved to use a C2R Litelok triple magazine pouch, as it has the requisite 7 Molle arms. The next generation of improvements for both our vests will feature Crye AVS front flaps, with the use of a velcro panel and the absurd Molle placement, the arms on an AVS fap will actually fit directly onto the STV.
The next hurdle to get over was the poor closing system of two (off brand/not ITW) side release buckles, that often become twisted, loosen themselves off and are easily broken. To get over this, and using the velcro front panel under the Spiritus, S used a Crye AVS 2 band cummerbund, locked into place with Blackhawk speed clips on the back of the vest. This system is solid and works well, and provides a Molle option all the way around the vest for radios and other ancilliaries that may have been cluttered up on the front of the vest. While this setup does make the quick release system on the STV unusable, this is no great loss as the QR system doesn’t really line up with current doctrine, and so serves only to make the shoulders uncomfortably wide.
Finally the back plate has simply been fitted with a set of Flimmuur zip adaptors, and a Crye zip on pack. This gives the user the option to carry water and large radios without the need for a full daysack, and also covers the attachment system for the cummerbund to prevent it being knocked out of place.
Overall whilst the VIRTUS STV is far from decent, with a design fresh out of the early 2000’s, it can be made to be at least useable and I’m sure with time we will find more solutions to improve it.
Thanks to SH for letting me borrow his vest, and also for being the guinea pig for my ideas trying to improve issued kit.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask either on the blog or on Instagram @thegeardocrow. Thanks for reading.