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463L master pallet

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The HCU-6/E or 463L Master Pallet is a standardized pallet used for transporting military air cargo. It is the main air-cargo pallet of the United States Air Force, designed to be loaded and offloaded on today's military airlifters as well as many civilian Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) cargo aircraft.


463L system pallet being extracted by a pilot chute from a C-130 Hercules during an airdrop

The "SS-463L" project was developed by a U.S. Air Force committee in 1957 and awarded to the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1959. The "SS-463L Pallet Cargo Handling System" specifications for aircraft (aka "463L") included a "Master Pallet" design to meet a component of the materiel handling specifications of this system. The "Master Pallet" was contracted to the AAR Cadillac Manufacturing Corporation, at one time AAR Cadillac Corp, and now AAR Corporation.

In the 1950s, the U.S. Air Force used a standard designation system for all awarded projects. The "SS" represents (Support System), the "463" represents an assigned general system category, 400-499 series for "Support Systems", and the suffix "L" also represents "Support Systems". Thus, "463L" is the name of the system.

The standard HCU-6/E pallet in the "463L" system was designed and finalized in the early 1960s by the AAR Cadillac Corp. to implement the "SS-463L Pallet Cargo Handling System" now known as "Materials Handling Support System "463L"". The original design of the HCU-6/E pallet met the standards of the Universal Cargo Handling Rail System design in 1962 for the C-130 and C-141 transport aircraft. The new sturdy HCU-6/E pallet was a drastic improvement to the older lightweight balsa wood pallets used by the Air Force in previous years.

Each HCU-6/E pallet is 88 inches (224 cm) wide, 108 inches (274 cm) long, and 2-1/4 inches (5.7 cm) high. The usable space is 84 in (213 cm) by 104 in (264 cm). It can hold up to 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) of cargo at 8 g. Empty, each pallet weighs 290 lb (130 kg), or 355 lb (160 kg) with two side nets and a top net.

Based on the HCU-6/E air cargo Master Pallet, additional components include the HCU-7/E side net, the HCU-15/C top net, and the CGU-1/B Device or cargo strap. MB-1 Devices or MB-2 Devices may be used with appropriate chains.

The "463L Master Pallets" can be unloaded on the ground in peacetime or in combat, or airdropped with a parachute.

They are built of a balsa wood core and surrounded by a thin aluminum skin. There are 22 rings surrounding the edge, each rated at 7,500 lb (3,400 kg).

In 2005 the United States Air Force contracted with Shan Industries' Thermodynamics Division in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to construct the "AIP" Associated Intermodal Platform, allowing the 463L to stay with the plane while the AIP would be used off the plane. The AIP was designed and developed by Robert Lux of Oklahoma and has a pending patent for the pallet which measures 102" x 82" x 8" and is manufactured with the Rotational Molding process using LLDPE (Linear Low Density Polyethylene) and stainless steel.



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