My personal kit is an Osprey Mk4 and Mk7 helmet, so I took the opportunity to take a quick look over the most current Virtus gear.
From what I know, the origins of the systems that support your torso armour on your belt began with SOF teams in Afghan and Iraq who would spend extremely long periods wearing their PCs and other gear. Cutting one snake’s head off, jumping back on a bird then moving right on to the next target, doing this day in, day out for months upon months. Obviously this puts a serious burden and wear on the shoulders and back with the armour, ammo, radios etc all hanging off the shoulder straps. Bearing some of the weight on to the belt spreads that weight on to the hips and more directly to the legs in to the ground, legs of course being generally better suited for lifting and carrying heavier weights than the upper body in general.
I’ve not spoken to anyone yet who’s spent a lot of time in the kit, there are some less favourable news stories from the middle of last year with changes apparently being made by Source, but I’ve no updates on that. Personally; as heavy as the Mk4 is when loaded with the full compliment of soft armour and plates (plus of course the hindrance to shouldering a rifle stock), mine is actually pretty well stitched throughout and twisting movements, changing firing stance/position or getting in to vehicles is easy enough. I am a bit surprised by the lack of PALS on the sides of VIRTUS, seeing as everyone I’ve seen religiously mounts every pouch to the sides of Osprey due to the fear of the effects of IED we live under post Op Herrick, but I presume the idea is to put more mags and other kit on the belt rather than the vest in the new system.
The Virtus/Mk8 helmet is quite a modern setup all around. The military will always lag behind somewhat, but the gap between what’s issued and what’s the latest commercially available design has narrowed in the past few years. There will also always be significant differences in what’s generally issued vs what SOF run with, but that’s primarily because they emphasise mobility over protection. I’d say we’re only about 1 significant step behind now. My only hope is things will keep progressing that way, because in this ‘peace time’ without any really large deployments of personnel, kit is so often left by the wayside to become obsolete and it’s too late to change or update right before the next fight comes along. All things considered I’ve been pretty happy with my Mk7 once the additional supplementary pads were put in, far more stable than my 6 and 6a. My Ops-Core FAST Carbon in factory setup is frankly a head torture device, my issued helmet is considerably more comfortable, even when I wore it for a bit of time on deployment. That experience has left me a little wary of headband dial systems on helmets, but the suspended mesh does look like it’ll be a lot better than the so-called ‘pads’ in the FAST.