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Field Rations 25 ~ US MRE Part 5 ~ FP-LRP

In this fifth part of the US Army Meal Ready to Eat, or MRE, series we take look at the Food Packet – Long Range Patrol (FP-LRP) variant, writes Bob Morrison.

My Part 3 article in this series covered the Meal Cold Weather or MCW, focussing on a ration pack which I brought home from the multinational Exercise BATTLE GRIFFIN 2005 in Norway; this ration was, and still is, issued to US Forces deployed to, or training in, cold climates or mountain environments where both a high calorific value is necessary and fresh water is in abundance. Unlike the standard MRE, which as its name suggests is pretty much ready to eat straight out the pack, though water is needed to reconstitute beverages, the MCW has freeze-dried components which could not realistically be eaten without adding hot water and cooking for several minutes.

The Food Packet Long Range Patrol ration is a derivative of the Meal Cold Weather version MRE packed in a beige outer bag [©BM]

From 2010, as part of the Assault Special Purpose Improvement Project to meet the Joint Service requirements of the US Marine Corps and the US Army Special Operations Forces, the US DoD started issuing the MCW in an alternative beige (tan) outer bag as the Food Packet-Long Range Patrol (FP-LRP) ration. In addition to providing a minimum of 4500 calories per day if three LRP pouches were issued, each individual meal was designed to give an average of 1540 calories balanced to also allow its use as “a restricted calorie ration meant for Special Operations, where resupply is not available and weight and volume are critical factors” and in these circumstances it is “approved for use at an issue of one packet per man per day for up to ten days”.

According to official sources: “the USMC and SOF require appropriate nutritional and operational characteristics for extreme cold environments. They require a restricted calorie ration with a long shelf life that can be used during initial Assault, Special Operations, and Long-Range Reconnaissance missions.” The combination Food Packet – MCW/LRP is said to meet these requirements.

LRP contents as packed into the beige (tan or sand) coloured outer packaging [©BM]

This lightweight ration includes both ready-to-eat components and a freeze-dried main course, or entrée, that supposedly can be eaten dry if necessary; though personally, I would not like to try this even if I had clean water to wash it down with. The individual meal pouches for each of the twelve menus contain both the dehydrated entrée and a variety of candy, crackers, cookies, nuts, sports bars, spreads and powdered beverages (included to encourage water consumption) along with an accessory packet and a plastic spoon.

The MCW/LRP has been declared as compatible with other US operational ration feeding systems, including both the Unitized Group Ration, which feeds fifty troops, and the individual MRE, but is primarily intended to be used as a separate meal in cold weather scenarios. Its shelf life is a minimum of three years when stored at 27°C or six months at 38°C, but in storage tests significantly extended shelf life for the entrée has been demonstrated.

Clockwise from top left: Scrambled Egg main meal -freeze dried; Instant Oatmeal breakfast; commercial brand Jelly Candy; bottle-shaped beverage powder pouches [©BM]

The meal we are focussing on was sent back by our man Carl Schulze following an autumn 2012 embed with US Forces in Afghanistan and is Menu No.12 ~ one of the three ‘breakfast’ menus and the one which has Western-Style Scrambled Eggs With Ham Peppers & Cheese as the main course and Maple & Brown Sugar flavoured Instant Oatmeal as starter. About a week after it arrived Carl phoned to ask if I had taken the plunge and when I confirmed that I had indeed reconstituted and eaten both the flavoured porridge and the freeze-dried scrambled egg concoction he sighed and said: “You Glaswegians really are hard men!”.

To prepare the Food Packet – Long Range Patrol the soldier will require 0.5 litres of clean water for each of the meat main courses, or each of the egg and cereal items, plus up to 0.7 litres for the beverage pouches dependent on menu mix, so a minimum of 1.2 litres has to be allocated for reconstitution, plus more will be needed for the coffee sachet included in the accessory packet. For cold climate operations or exercises the collection of water should not pose too much of a problem, but one has to wonder if the weight saving brought about by carrying dehydrated rations actually makes much sense in arid theatres when over a litre of precious water has to also be carried, or sourced, to reconstitute the meal pouches.

The Unfrosted Toaster Pastry is similar to the Pop Tart included in some MRE packs [©BM]

As the combination Food Packet MCW/LRP is a derivative of the RCW, which shared several secondary components with the MRE, most of the contents of the new ration should be quite familiar. Our Menu 12 LRP example contained: Instant Oatmeal, for the starter; Scrambled Eggs, for the entrée; a pack of Chuckles commercial brand fruit jellies, in a beige outer; an Unfrosted Toaster Pastry, very similar to a Pot Tart; Chocolate Dairyshake Powder; Cocoa Beverage Powder; Accessory Pack F (with coffee); and a brown plastic spoon.

Our pack contents were slightly different from the official Menu List, but this is not unusual as occasionally a substitution has to be made on logistics grounds and it is also not unusual for a specific item to be replaced by something which the end-users better prefer; both scenarios meaning that an another item has to be added, subtracted or replaced to maintain the calorific and dietary needs balance.

Accessories are contained in a shrink-wrapped bag and the spoon is packed separately [©BM]

A three year contract to supply MCW/LRP rations was issued in June 2015, with third annual delivery expected late 2018 or early 2019, but in May 2017 it was stated that the LRP element was discontinued. On the most recent listing I have been able to find the twelve entrée pouches for MCW/LRP Menus 1 to 12 were: Spicy Oriental Chicken with Rice; Beef Stroganoff with Noodles; Sweet & Sour Pork with Rice; Turkey Tetrazzini; Chicken & Rice; Lasagna with Meat & Sauce; Beef Stew; Spaghetti with Meat Sauce; Beef Terriyaki with Rice; Western Omelet; Scrambled Eggs with Bacon; and Western Omelet.

On the whole we would say that the Food Packet – Long Range Patrol is edible and acceptable, but much more fiddly to prepare than the standard MRE. As for whether or not those Special Operations Forces or Special Ops Capable troops really could be expected to survive and fight effectively on just 1540 calories a day is another matter.

{ images © Bob Morrison }

Contents of the accessory pack plus standard spoon [©BM]


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