The ubiquitous shipping pallets that most civilian goods are transported on can support up to 4,600 pounds and are made from wood or plastic. They are designed to be transported from point A to point B via forklift.
By Dbenbenn - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
By unknown, CC BY-SA 3.0
Civilian-use pallets are unsuitable for military applications, which require greater durability, higher weight capacities and a more compact storage size. Thus the standard air cargo pallet for both the U.S. Air Force and the UK's Royal Air Force is of a very different design and made from different materials:
That's the 463L (also called the HCU6/E) military air cargo pallet. Rather than wood or plastic, it's made from aluminum extrusions formed into a grid, skinned in aluminum, and bordered by aluminum extrusions that support tie-down points.
Rendering by Dale Bohannon
The 463L can support 10,000 pounds, and while it's wider than a civilian pallet (88" x 108", vs. 40" x 48"), they're far flatter (2.25", vs. 6") and feature no wasteful negative space, making them more efficient to store on racks.
Airman 1st Class Sanna Shabbir, 60th Aerial Port Squadron cargo processing specialist, at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., installs a Radio Frequency Identification tracker onto a 463L pallet Nov. 28, 2012. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower, via Travis Air Force Base
Separate side and top nets have been designed for the 463L...
...and can be connected to the 22 tie-down points ringing the perimeter.
Additionally, a variety of chains and straps can be used.
While the pallets can be transported across the tarmac by forklift-equipped vehicles...
RAF Finnings Dan 9680MD Counterbalance Fork Lift truck. Image by Think Defence
...loading them into the plane is done with people-power.
Note that the loading floor is kitted out with rolling tracks.
Members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force load a 463L pallet of supplies on a C-141B Starlifter from the 8th Airlift Squadron, McChord Air Force Base, Washington. Image by SRA Jerry Morrison, Jr., USAF.
The 463Ls can also be daisy-chained to hold larger loads.
If you'd like to have a 463L of your own, a company called ACL Airshop has over 2,000 used ones in stock, "ready for immediate delivery around the globe."
The prices are unlisted, but you'll surely pay an arm and a leg for shipping; these things weigh about 290 pounds each!
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They weigh 300lbs, but can hold 10,000lbs each... that's a 33:1 strength to weight ratio. So they're pretty light.