The French Ration Individuelle Lyophilisée or Freeze-Dried Individual Ration is a bagged 24-hour, 3400 kcal pack issued to specialist units, writes Bob Morrison.
The MENU No. 1 Ration Individuelle Lyophilisée (R.I.L.) illustrated here was given to us by an officer manning the Commissariat des Armées stand at the end of the French Special Forces SOFINS 2023 expo, but as combat rations was not his specialist field he was unfortunately unable to answer a couple of my queries. I was, however, assured that this successor to the Ration Individuelle Lyophilisée Commando (R.I.L.C.) is available to more than just the Special Forces / SpecOps sectors of the French military, if they are engaged on operations or deployments where lighter weight freeze-dried foods are more appropriate than the standard 24-hour Ration de Combat Individuelle Rechauffable or the single meal Ration Individuelle d’Exercice.
Other than freeze-dried (i.e. lyophilised) meal pouches replacing cans, thereby saving quite a bit of weight, there is actually not that much difference between the R.I.L and the traditional R.I.C.R. However there are fewer campaign biscuits with this pack (2×2 as opposed to 8×2) but instead there are four energy bars, of which two are fruit and two are laced with caffeine, instead of one apiece. There are also two more modern fruit purée sachets (fig and date flavours) instead of a fruit jelly bar and a nougat bar. The drinks selection is similar too, though two isotonic drink powder sachets (each requiring 500ml of water) are now included.
Interestingly, especially as hot water is required to reconstitute the main meal pouches, neither a hexamine tablet or FireDragon heating kit (Kit de Rechauffage) nor flameless ration heaters are included. Their omission, along with the savings from using freeze-dried meals, helps bring the overall weight of this bagged ration pack down to just 1120g, compared to almost 1800g for the French-Belgian boxed ration from 2018, though of course the consumer would need to either be confident of obtaining suitable water in the operational theatre or would need to carry plenty with them throughout the day. A strip of six water purification tablets is shown on the contents list on the outside of the pack, but my sample actually contained twelve tablets.
For those interested, the listed contents for MENU No.1 are given on the outside of the tan outer bag, which has a tear-off top with zip lock and will double as a refuse sack, as being:-
- Poultry and Pasta (freeze-dried)
- Pasta, Beef and Vegetables (freeze-dried)
- Deer Pâté (canned)
- Soup (powder)
- Freeze-dried Beef
- Campaign Biscuits
- Chocolate Bun
- Muesli (freeze-dried)
- Date Fruit Purée
- Fig Fruit Purée
- Fruit Flavour Energy Bar (x2)
- Caffeine Energy Bar (x2)
- Isotonic Drink Powder (x2)
- Tea / Coffee / Chocolate
- Water Purifying Tablets (x6)
- Tissues (x10)
Over the course of three days I consumed all the edible items, with the exception of some of the the drinks which were added to my travel larder, and I enjoyed everything; which is unsurprising as the French nation have a reputation for enjoying their food (though how they can stomach foul-smelling pig intestine sausage beats me). The freeze-dried beef was one unusual item in this ration pack, but once I had become used to the texture it was actually okay. As for the freeze-dried main meals, these were very tasty indeed when reconstituted with the correct amount of boiling water, mixed well, and then allowed to stand in the well-formed pouches for the indicated time; don’t be tempted to use lukewarm water and/or eat to soon after mixing, as the results will probably not be as good.
If all goes to plan for the next combat rations foray we will head off to Angola, courtesy of Portuguese suppliers Albacores.
[images © Bob Morrison]